National Geographic : 1966 Jan
If the plane were not bringing more sup plies, we would indeed be nearing the end. Nights during the dry winter-July to September-are bitterly cold. Inside the large communal houses, each Wauri family keeps a fire crackling. They hang their hammocks close to the blaze. In the house the Indians built for me, I huddle in wool blankets, but still the chill creeps in. This house has no door that can be locked, and in the middle of the night I sense someone standing next to my rubber mattress. It is pitch black. I fumble for my flashlight and ask, "Who is there?" "Corimagua!" says a soft unfamiliar voice. At last I find the light. In its beam stands a strange person in rags, holding his hands over his eyes against the glare. "Who are you?" "Corimagua!" he answers. He appears to be cold and points at my blanket. "Go away and let me sleep. We will talk about it tomorrow." "Corimagua!" he says reproachfully. I am a little frightened and cannot get back to sleep for a long time. In the welcome light of morning, I ask Ikiana, "Who is Corimagua?" "It means 'I am your friend.' " "And who goes about nights into the hous es and disturbs the sleeping?" "It is the widower, Kaulukuma. Come, I will show you 'your friend.' He lives with me." In Ikiana's large dark house, where several families dwell, is a cage made of arrow shafts. Inside on an old hammock lies "Corimagua." "Whenever someone loses his wife," Ikiana explains, "his head is shorn and he is locked up in a cage inside the house, like the young fellows who will soon be men and the girls when they reach womanhood. Only at night can the widower leave his hiding place to roam around and visit his friends. When his hair has grown long again, he is free." Many of the Indians of the Xingu fear the spirits of the dead. The widower must remain in his cage until it is certain his wife's spirit has departed.