The Domestication of Souls

A Comparative Approach to Mesoamerican Shamanism

in Social Analysis
Author:
Saúl Millán Professor, National School of Anthropology in Mexico City, Mexico smillan@prodigy.net.mx

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Abstract

Following the distinction between horizontal and vertical shamanism originally proposed by Stephen Hugh-Jones, this article examines the concept of nagualism in different Mesoamerican indigenous societies and the role that animal domestication has played in these conceptions. Through a comparative study of indigenous societies like the Nahua, Huave, and Tzotzil Maya, different relationships between the human and animal worlds are analyzed in order to show the changes in ontological frameworks that took place during the colonial period, through the introduction of extensive livestock farming. As a protective institution, post-colonial nagualism developed in indigenous societies that have domesticated animals because farmers see their relationship with their flocks similarly to the connection between themselves and their protecting spirits.

Contributor Notes

Saúl Millán is a Professor in the Postgraduate Program in Social Anthropology at the National School of Anthropology in Mexico City. He has undertaken extensive fieldwork among the Huave people of Oaxaca and the eastern Nahua of Puebla, focusing on the subjects of ritual, myths, and cosmology. He is the author of Lagunas del tiempo: Representaciones del agua entre los huaves del Istmo de Tehuantepec (Lagoons of time: Representations of water among the Huave of San Mateo del Mar, 2002) and El cuerpo de la nube: Jerarquía y simbolismo ritual en la cosmovisión de un pueblo huave (The body of the cloud: Hierarchy and ritual symbolism in the worldview of a Huave town, 2007). E-mail: smillan@prodigy.net.mx

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Social Analysis

The International Journal of Anthropology

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