Mohanes
Shamans, or medicine men, of the Indians of the Peruvian
Andes. Joseph Skinner described them at the beginning of the
nineteenth century ‘‘These admit an evil being, the inhabitant
of the centre of the earth, whom they consider as the author of
their misfortunes, and at the mention of whose name they
tremble. The most shrewd among them take advantage of this
belief, to obtain respect; and represent themselves as his delegates.
Under the denomination of Mohanes, or Agoreros, they
are consulted even on the most trivial occasions. They preside
over the intrigues of love, the health of the community, and the
taking of the field. Whatever repeatedly occurs to defeat their
prognostics, falls on themselves; and they are wont to pay their
deceptions very dearly. They chew a species of vegetable called
puripiri, and throw it into the air, accompanying this act by certain
recitals and incantations, to injure some, to benefit others,
to procure rain, and the inundation of the rivers, or, on the
other hand, to occasion settled weather, and a plentiful store
of agricultural productions. Any such result having been casually
verified on a single occasion, suffices to confirm the Indians
in their faith, although they may have been cheated a thousand
times. Fully persuaded that they cannot resist the influence of
the puripiri, as soon as they know that they have been solicited
by its means, they fix their eyes on the impassioned object, and
discover a thousand amiable traits, either real or fanciful, which
indifference had before concealed from their view.
‘‘But the principal power, efficacy, and, it may be said misfortune,
of the Mohanes, consist in the cure of the sick. Every
malady is ascribed to their enchantments, and means are instantly
taken to ascertain by whom the mischief may have been
wrought. For this purpose the nearest relative takes a quantity
of the juice of floripondium, and suddenly falls, intoxicated by
the violence of the plant. He is placed in a fit posture to prevent
suffocation, and on his coming to himself, at the end of three
days, the Mohan who has the greatest resemblance to the sorcerer
he saw in his visions, is to undertake the cure, or if, in the
interim, the sick man has perished, it is customary to subject
him to the same fate. When not any sorcerer occurs in the visions,
the first Mohan they encounter has the misfortune to represent
his image.’’
It seems that by practice and tradition, the Mohanes acquired
a profound knowledge of many plants and poisons, with which
they effected surprising cures on the one hand, and did some
harm on the other. They also made use of charms and superstitions.
One method of cure was to place two hammocks close to
each other, either in the dwelling, or in the open air. In one of
them the patient laid extended, and in the other laid the
Mohan, or Agorero. The latter, in contact with the sick man,
began by rocking himself, and then proceeded in falsetto voice
to call on the birds, quadrupeds, and fishes to give health to the
patient. From time to time he rose on his seat, and made extravagant
gestures over the sick man, to whom he applied his
powders and herbs, or sucked the wounded or diseased parts.
Having been joined by many of the people, the Agoreros
chanted a short hymn, addressed to the soul of the patient, with
this refrain ‘‘Thou must not go, thou must not go.’’ In repeating
this he was joined by the people and augmented as the sick
man became fainter so that it might reach his ears.
Sources
Skinner, Joseph. State of Peru. London, 1805

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