Peter Panic = Susto

From Jaime de Angulo:

I want to speak now of a certain curious phenomenon found among the Pit River Indians.  The Indians refer to it in English as “wandering.”  They say of a certain man, “He is wandering,” or “He has started to wander.”  It would seem that under certain conditions of mental stress an individual finds life in his accustomed surroundings impossible to bear.  Such a man starts to wander…

He will speak of what is on his mind to no one, but anyone can see that he is not all right.  He is morose, uncommunicative.  Without any warning he will get up and go.  People will probably say of such a man: “He has lost his shadow.”



The concept of susto functions as an etiological category. When a person suffers from certain forms of social dysfunction — listlessness, depression, lack of motivation — family members or a healer search the past for a frightening event that may have caused the soul to leave the body. Thus, when persons believe that they are performing their social roles less adequately, according to their own criteria, than others in the community, the illness category of susto provides an explanatory framework within which to conceptualize their experience and seek appropriate healing. Perceived social and personal failures are attributed to a culturally defined sickness. [Susto]

Drinking ayahuasca provides the shaman with information concerning the current location of the lost or stolen soul — where it has fled or been hidden away — and the progress of its return in response to the calling song. It may take hours or days for the soul to make the return journey. Don Emilio Andrade tells of singing back a stolen soul. Suddenly he saw a road, and in the center of the road a small shadow. As he sang, the shadow became larger; when the shadow was just six or seven meters away, he saw it was his patient. The soul entered into her through the top of her head, and at that moment she awoke. He continued to blow tobacco smoke on her, until she was completely recovered. [Steve Beyer]


Tags: , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: