In order to produce visions, it is generally necessary for the machi to induce a trance state referred to as kuymi in their native Mapundungun. The kuymi is a condition in which the practitioner experiences a state of hyper-lucidity, and is able to control his or her dreams and visions. The kuymi is typically achieved through auditory stimulation which is accomplished through rhythmic drumming on an instrument referred to as a kultrun (Bacigalupo, 2007, p. 18). However, trance states can also be achieved through fasting and sleep deprivation. These deprivations or drum induced trances not only produce visions, they enable the machi to communicate with and embody, or be possessed by the spirits. Machi dreams and visions depict common themes or symbols, which are interpreted according to cultural norms, beliefs and structures. Although dreams and visions are experienced in cultural symbols, they are a combination of traditional Mapuche concepts and images combined with those of Colonial traditions. These symbols or images include animals such as bulls or horses, or spirits which appear as humans. However, the visions experienced vary according to the individual machi. They might also experiences images in intensely personal ways. Some individuals might encounter ancestral spirits or have very intimate experiences with the spirits they come into contact with.
Gendered Dreams and Visions
Gendered principles are extended to dreaming and visions and are dependent on the images or spirits encountered while traveling in the vision or dream state. Dreams of horses and warriors are considered masculine, and the practitioner is able to use these masculine powers for either destruction or healing. The machi as a masculine warrior, mounted on a spirit horse, is able to battle and defeat illness, evil spirits or foreign invaders. He is also able to use this particular masculine mounted warrior aspect in order to obtain knowledge of the universe as well as to gain additional shamanic power (Bacigalupo, 2007, p. 90-3). Equally, images of the Virgin Mary, or the moon mother are feminine, and have feminine implications and powers. These aspects can be used to influence fertility and issues related to child birth or child bearing.
Modern Aspects of Dreams and Visions
Dreams and visions reflect colonial and Roman Catholic structures imposed upon the Mapuche people. This is most obvious in the visions in which spirits are encountered. The spirits’ physical aspects and their social order clearly mirror colonial hierarchical norms. For example, Ngunechen, the highest ranked being in the spiritual hierarchy, is typically perceived and illustrated as an elderly man sporting a long, white beard. This is the same manner in which the Christian God is typically depicted. Ngunechen is perceived as male, despite the fact that he encompasses both male and female principles. He is considered the “equivalent of the Christian God”, with some machi claiming that Ngunechen and...