The Fruit of Knowledge and the Bodies of the Gods

Religious Meanings of Plants among the Baniwa


  • Robin M. Wright Department of Religion University of Florida Gainesville, Gainesville, FL



cosmology, shamanism, indigenous religions, ethnobotany, agricultural mythology


This article focuses on the sacrificial acts of divinities and other primal beings whose bodies became cultivated and wild plants; and plants as forms of gifts and other types of exchange from the deities to humanity among the Baniwa peoples of the Northwest Amazon. I seek to extend Viveiros de Castro’s ideas on Amerindian ‘perspectivism’ (1996, 2002) to evaluate their ‘fit’ to Baniwa spiritual ethnobotany. Initially, I see a major difference between the perspectivism and agentivity of animal and fish-people, which is very common amongst all Arawak and Tukanoan-speaking peoples, and the plants which derive more often from a divinity that has been sacrificed, dismembered, transformed, and divided up into many distinct plants. The predator-prey relation between animals and humans is secondary when compared to sacrifice and gifting relations between plants and humans, which seem to have more to do with the development of chiefly and priestly societies.


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How to Cite

Wright, R. M. (2009). The Fruit of Knowledge and the Bodies of the Gods: Religious Meanings of Plants among the Baniwa. Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture, 3(1), 126–153.

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