Friday, May 31, 2013

Maloca - an ancestral house

Excerpt from the book The Wayfinders by Wade Davis

The roof of the maloca is the sky, the house posts the stone pillars and mountains that support it. The mountains, in turn, are the petrified remains of ancestral beings, the culture heroes who created the world. The smaller posts represent the descendants of the original serpent. The ridgepole is simultaneously the path of the sun, the river of the sky, the Milky Way, the artery that separates the living from the limits of the universe. The floor is the earth, and beneath it runs the river of the Underworld, the stream of death and sorrow. Thus a celestial river crosses the sky as its inverse, a chthonic path of death, traverses the underworld. Each day the sun travels the sky from east to west, and each night it returns from west to east following the river of the underworld, which is the place of the dead. The Barasana bury their elders in the floor of of the maloca, in coffins made of broken canoes. As they go about their daily lives, living within a space literally perceived as the womb of their lineage, the Indians walk above the physical remains of their ancestors. Yest inevitably, the spirits of the dead drift away, and to facilitate their departure the maloca is always built close to water. And since all rivers including the River of the Underworld, are believed to run east, each maloca must be oriented along an east-west axis, with a door at each end, one for the men and one for the women. Thus the placement of the malocas adjacent to running streams is not just a matter of convenience. It is a way of acknowledging the cycle of life and death. The water both recalls the primordial act of creation, the river journey of the anaconda and Mythical Heroes, and foreshadows the inevitable moment of decay and rebirth. 

Its absolutely fascinating!

Wade Davis says, If Civilizations are measured, however crudely, by the scale of their monumental architecture - just as we measure the stonework of Inca, the temples of the Maya - then the maloca is proof of the stunning achievements of the ancient peoples of the Amazon. 

It is so enticing to know about these structures that are built thousands of years ago and were remarkably great in every aspect. The thought process with which these structures are built is extraordinary. Everything is full of life and embodies interesting stories. 

(A maloca is an ancestral long house used by the natives (Barasanas) of Amazon).


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