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South America Religion

Indigenous Peoples' ViewConceptualizing Space-times

The cherished Western dichotomy of space (as in geography) and time (as in history) must be set aside in any understanding of native South American religions in favor of a relativistic conceptualization of space-times. Space-times are ancient, historical, modern, futuristic, local, regional, diasporic, and global. They may exist simultaneously, as when beginning-times-places encompass the present time and people seek movement between the two through ritual activity, song, dance, performative drama, fighting, or political protest. Mythic space-time has many phases, typically including an initial stage in which the inchoate actions of sentient entities bring the earth worlds, sky worlds, and underworlds into being, as seen in the Maya Popol Vuh. Such beginnings may be punctuated with catastrophic fire or flood, out of which all things transform radically. Culture heroes emerge and undergo violent deaths, only to reappear, until finally the beginnings of ancestral times-places emerge in different locations.

According to Lawrence Sullivan, all space-times are framed between the Primordium, which includes the prebeginnings and beginnings of everything, and the Eschaton, wherein lies the end of the world, the collapse of the cosmos, and the formation of a new universe of existence. Such a cosmic brink is often portrayed by people in periodic ritual performances, which underline the spatial sense of the Primordium unfolding in the Center of the universe and the Eschaton existing at its edge.

In the cosmic Primordium separations occur, one after another: the separation of earth and sky and then night and day, where night and the moon come to signal disorder as opposed to day and the sun's east-west order. Then comes the differentiation of all species, including humans, then the differentiation of sex, the functions of blood and semen in fertility, fecundity, and danger therein, which leads to a transformation from primordial incest to regulations of sexual relationships and rules of endogamy and exogamy. Eventually one people become differentiated from another people, specificity of territories emerges with centers and peripheries. Cultural coherence emerges in the origins of war, origins of marriage, origins of trade, and systems of marriage-war-trade wherein individual bodies and collective bodies both abuse and venerate one another. A theme running through all of these transformations is that of consumption: who and what may and may not be consumed by whom and what becomes a system of numinous ineffability.

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Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Reason to RetrovirusSouth America Religion - Indigenous Peoples' View - Conceptualizing Space-times, The Axis Mundi, Shamans And Ritual, European Contact, Conclusion