The Baniwa Indians of the Northwest Amazon have engaged in millenarian movements since at least the middle of the nineteenth century. The defining characteristic of these movements is usually a prophecy of the end of this present world and the restoration of the primordial, utopian world of creation. This prophetic message, delivered by powerful shamans, has its roots in Baniwa myths of origin and creation.
In this ethnography of Baniwa religion, Robin M. Wright explores the myths of creation and how they have been embodied in religious movements and social action—particularly in a widespread conversion to evangelical Christianity. He opens with a discussion of cosmogony, cosmology, and shamanism, and then goes on to explain how Baniwa origin myths have played an active role in shaping both personal and community identity and history. He also explores the concepts of death and eschatology and shows how the mythology of destruction and renewal in Baniwa religion has made the Baniwa people receptive to both Catholic and Protestant missionaries.
"This is certainly a significant, even important, contribution to the study of South American religion and history...It will surely interest students of comparative religion, Latin American history, and shamanism, as well as anthropologists with particular interest in the region."
—Ellen Basso, Professor of Anthropology, University of Arizona