Culture of Indigenous Matsés People – The Tobacco Inhalation: Nënë

Journeying Through Tradition: Exploring the Ritual of Nënë

The native experts of the Matses or Mayoruna tribe process a refined green powder that they call nënë in their own language or sometimes referred as nunu in Spanish, using tobacco leaves (Nicotiana tabacum) and the bark of a tree called copuí or cacao de monte (Theobroma subincanum).

This practice is usually performed by two people. An adult expert Mayoruna pours a dose of the preparation inside the end of a hollow cane. The other end is placed in the nostril of the person who is going to receive and inhale the tobacco. The expert powerfully blows the powder into the nostril of the person on the other end receiving the “nunu“. The amount of inhalations in each nostril will depend on the tolerance of each consumer.

One of the keys to the success of the nunu ceremony lies in that the person blowing must be an expert adult, who, besides the tobacco, also sends his spirit and power to the person inhaling.

This practice is only used by men who want to gain courage, power and energy. However, they can also decide to do it as a celebration, to have visions or just to have a good night’s rest after a bad day. Since this tribe has an obvious relationship between hunting and shamanism they also use nunu to get a good shot with bow and improve their hunting proficiency.

For an expedition to the Matsés territory, a minimum of 8 days is required.

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