Sunday, 11 March 2012

The Kuna Woman



Yandup Island Lodge is a wonderful, relaxing and spiritual place to stay in the sun, just a short and cheap flight from Panama City.
The Kuna Woman

(The Kuna are one of the many native tribes of Panama)
Story provided by Yandup Island Lodge; digitized by Doug Frizzle, March 2012.

“Your mother will request you to create the art of sowing molas. Your mother will request for you to take care of your uncles and provide a place for them. Your mother is proud when you give away your sweet smile from here to my lap"

IMPORTANCE OF THE WOMAN
For a Kuna mother, a girl is a gift from Baba (The Father God) and Nana (Mother Earth). She constitutes the structure of the house. In many cases she inherits lands and is left responsible for the family. A Kuna mother considers the birth of a girl as "an agued megnoni" (help, relieve) because once she is married the husband will provide for her. While the boy, once he gets married, he detaches from his mother and will live with his wife's family.
The girl is the center of attention inside the house and is responsible to attend his father when he comes back from work. This implies the respect and love a girl must show to her father, mother and rest of the family. The education imparted from mother to daughter chases particular objectives, from early age she must be conscious of her role in the Kuna community. All of this is progressively reinforced with all the ceremonial rituals. The community also participates in the upbringing of the girl from an early age, even before the ceremonies.

IKO INNA
This is the first ceremony celebrated around the girl. When she is ten or fifteen days born they pierce a hole in her nasal septum so she can wear a nose ring (olasu), they also pierce holes in both her ears to place earrings.
The ceremony takes places in a "surba" (sacred precinct) previously build by the family inside the chicha house.

SERGUED
This is the second ceremony a girl has in the kuna society and it takes place when she reaches puberty. It is a big affair that is celebrated with a series of rituals, ceremonies and the preparation of the fermented chicha, accompanied with a very special singer called "gammdur".
The girl's father carefully gathers all the materials to build a "surba" (sacred precinct) inside the house. The surba, according to the kuna tradition, is a sacred place to expand wisdom and knowledge, to strengthen the spirit. Is where the young woman prepares for her future role as a wife and mother.
The girl is locked in the surba for four days. During these days the women carry water from the sea and an experienced woman pours it on her. In the middle of the surba they build a hole which will catch all the water that falls off her.
There are two rituals that act as a prediction to the girl's behaviour and her marriage: the ritual of the crab and the ritual of the sabdur (jagua fruit).
In the first ritual they look for two crabs, a male and a female, if they were easily caught that means she will have easy births. If the crabs are stubborn it means that so will be her marriage. If the male crab fleas from the jar he is in it means her husband will leave her. And if the female crab is the one that fleas it means she will later be adulterous.
In the sabdur ritual, the first thing they do is cut the sabdur in half, the cut must be precise because if it falls to the left it means she will be adulterous in her marriage and if it falls to the right it means he will be. After, they look at the surface of the cut and if the pulp is white the girl is virgin and innocent but if the pulp has black marks it means in some way she has lost her innocence. Starting from this the parents can diagnose the moral upbringing of the girls. All the girl ceremonies are sexually oriented.

INNA MUTIKID
After the puberty ceremony is over it takes a few weeks or months before the parents plan the big chicha party (inna mutikid).
This is the only chicha that is mandatory for all girls.
It is a celebration of the culmination of puberty. Only after this celebration the girls will be fit to carry short hair.

INNA SUIT
Is a luxurious ceremony filled with sacred rituals that last four days. During this ceremony everybody drinks fermented "chicha". Its main objective is that a "gammdur" (singer) gives out a traditional name to a girl and it's also mandatory that an experienced women (ied or barber)cuts the girls hair short, after this ceremony she is ready to wed. The heart of this celebration is the gammdur , the personas who controls the chicha house (gammibe nega). The content of the gammu (flute) is long and the lyrical verses are called "igargan".

Inna Symbols
Some of these sacred elements are:
Gamma (flute): represents the falic Olowaibipilele.
Sianar (heater): where they burn cocoa seeds which symbolizes the uterus of mother earth.
Nasis (maracas): it represents the uterus of the mother earth. And the mangos are the symbol for girls that mother earth gave birth.
Mete (jar): where the fermented chicha is placed, that also represents the uterus of the mother earth.

Number four is a symbol of perfection. Blow smoke from a large cigar, to perfume with cocoa fumes, scissors, maracas and other ritual elements have a sexual connotation that is related to the spirit of the mother earth.

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As an armed forces brat, we lived in Rockcliff (Ottawa), Namao (Edmonton), Southport (Portage La Prairie), Manitoba, and Dad retired to St. Margaret's Bay, NS.
Working with the Federal Govenment for 25 years, Canadian Hydrographic Service, mostly. Now married to Gail Kelly, with two grown children, Luke and Denyse. Retired to my woodlot at Stillwater Lake, NS, on the rainy days I study the life and work of A. Hyatt Verrill 1871-1954.