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Seated shaman figure
Shamans are people who possess special powers to mediate between the spirit world and everyday life, and it is important for Amazonians that, like this figure, they be seated upright to do so.
The work of the shaman is to cure illness and protect the community by fighting hostile spirits. To make contact with the spirit world the shaman often sits on a special stool, which is often carved into the shape of a fierce creature such as a jaguar, cayman (alligator) or bird of prey. These are the kinds of creatures which give shamans their spiritual powers.
Those Amazonian peoples who use stools regard them as a way of linking themselves to the sky above and the earth below. They feel 'grounded', which is necessary when getting in touch with the spirit world, like this figure who seems to be in a trance, brought about by taking a drink or snuff.
A Tukano elder in the 1900s (photograph by Theodor Koch-Grünberg, 1903-5). He sits on a low wooden stool and smokes a cigar through a decorated holder.
A stool from the Xinguano people such as a shaman might use, in the form of a jaguar, one of the creatures which helps men enter the spirit world (Museum fur Völkerkunde, Vienna).