National Geographic : 1979 Jan
South America during the 1540's added to the mystique. Orellana, a Spaniard, was the first European to descend the Amazon to its mouth. Both Orellana and his chronicler, Friar Carvajal, reported attacks by women warriors like the Amazons of Greek mythology. Brazilian Indians of today have a legend that a large tribe of women, who held in sub jugation what few men they allowed to live, once ruled the Amazon jungles. They pos sessed magic flutes, thejakui, but in time the men took them from the women. Now no woman is ever allowed to see the jakui, which still remain in male custody and are played during secret ceremonies. The Indians say the tribe of women was called lamuricumi. Some Amazon tribes still hold ceremonies and dances that they call lamuricuma for the mysterious women warriors of old. Guard Duty Amuses Wasusus The time has come to leave the Galera jungle. In a deluge that heralds the begin ning of the rainy season, I load my gear into my Brazilian jeep, a vehicle called Xavante, after a tribe of Mato Grosso Indians. All the Wasusus except a few who are ill come to say good-bye. We do not know when we will meet again, and several of us shed tears, although we all pretend that our wet cheeks are due to the rain. Eurico Miller has a big worry about leaving: Now that so many civilizados have come to the jungle of the Galera, the seekers of treasure and souvenirs may invade and damage his archeological sites, jeopardizing a successful conclusion to his three years of hard work. When the Wasusus learn the cause of our worry, they are amused. "Remember how we frightened those who wished to cut down the mahogany trees?" Barbara says. "That made us laugh. If peo ple come to the shelters while you are gone, we will be happy to scare them away, too." Eurico and I drive off, he to his home in Rio Grande do Sul, I to my house in Goias. We have no worries. We reason that if the Indians guarded their holy places against all outsiders for a hundred centuries or more, they can safely be counted on to do so for a few years more. O Brotherhood of the flute: Following widespread Amazonian custom, Wasusu men play sacred bamboo flutes (right); under pain of punishment, women stay in doors. After ceremonies the instruments are wrapped in bark (below) and hidden in special flute houses, which, according to the Wasusus, are depicted by many carv ings (above) at Abrigo. Indian legend has it that women once possessed the flutes and power over men.