To Dream, Perchance to Cure

Dreaming and Shamanism in a Brazilian Indigenous Society

in Social Analysis
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Drawing on his extensive psychoanalytic ethnographic work among the Parintintin Indians of Brazil, the author discusses the place of dreaming in Parintintin shamanism. In this culture, dreams are spiritually significant, and there are traditional modes of interpreting them. While dream interpretation was formerly the province of shamans, even ordinary people are considered to have the capacity to use dreams to predict events and sense feelings directed toward them. The article deals primarily with the dreams of an informant who was not a shaman but had an intense interest in this practice. Because his birth had not been 'dreamed' by a shaman, he was not considered to be one; nevertheless, he experienced in dreams the cosmic journey of a shaman. While the informants' dreams manifest yearnings in what could be considered stereotypical forms, the author finds that they do express personal meanings and reflect intimate, unconscious wishes.