Gender and Religion

The original Canela human beings were Sun (Put) and Moon (Putwre) who walked in the savannahs together. Sun found the ideal forms for living, while Moon changed them to create workable forms. One day Sun plunged into a stream's pond and came out with a file of beautiful young Canelas behind him, both men and women. He had made the genders together. Thus, Moon had to do the same thing, but he came out of the water with less than perfect men and women—the origin of physical differences.

Star Woman (Katsee-ti-?khwey) came down from the sky and showed the Canela corn and other vegetables already growing in the woods. A Canela boy stole fire from a female jaguar. Awkhee, a man, brought the concept of social hierarchy to the Canela. He offered the Canela the choice of the shotgun (the Brazilian world) or the bow and arrow (the Indian world), and when the Canela chose the latter, they had to remain subservient to the Brazilian, while the Brazilian had to support the Canela forever.

The Canela have several other culture heroes, all men, who visited the worlds of the skies, ghosts, fish, and alligators, and they came back with festival-pageants as models for the Canela to live by. While Star-Woman is the only female culture hero, they did not rate her stature as different from that of the men. However, Awkhee has special status, because he is the only one whom they call upon today. He is their savior in the messianic movements and, as such, he has become synonymous with God and Jesus.

Canela shamans are largely men, though two women appear in Canela myths and I knew one female shaman during the 1970s. They said that women rarely had the strength to carry out extensive restrictions against certain foods and sex during their postpubertal years so that they seldom obtained sufficient purity of blood to attract ghosts who could make them shamans. Ghosts are recently dead Canela, so when ghosts come back to bother living Canela, their names are usually reported by living shamans. Thus, ghosts are of either sex.

These days, the Canela seem "addicted" to messianic movements to resolve their economic problems instead of relying on hard work in the fields to furnish sufficient staples. They had significant movements in 1963, 1980, 1984, and 1999, and about six lesser movements between 1984 and 1995. The prophet of by far the greatest movement, the one of 1963, was a woman, Maria Khee-khwey, but men led the other three significant movements.

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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