The Peruvian government is sending a team of officials to a remote region of the Amazon jungle to investigate the deaths of 14 shamans who were killed in a string of brutal murders. The traditional healers, all from the Shawi ethnic group, were murdered in separate incidents over the last 20 months, allegedly at the behest of a local mayor.
Roger Rumrrill, an expert on Peruvian Amazon cultures and a government adviser, said some of the victims’ bodies were thrown into rivers, to be devoured by piranhas and other fish. He alleged that the mayor, who is an evangelical Christian, ordered the killings on hearing that the shamans planned to form an association. He said the mayor’s brother was known in the area as a matabrujos or witch killer.
“For Protestant sects, the shamans are possessed by the devil; a totally sectarian, primitive and racist concept,” he said.
Shamans in the Peruvian Amazon use psychoactive plants such as the jungle vine ayahuasca for spiritual ceremonies. As early as the 16th century, Spanish and Portuguese missionaries described its use by native people in the Amazon as the work of the devil.
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