Violence and ritual



This Kaxinawa (formerly Cashinahua) dagger or kapa nupa, literally “squirrel knife”, was collected in 1966 by Kenneth Kensinger.

The following is an excerpt from a book co-authored by Kensinger entitled The Cashinahua of Eastern Peru.

When attending fertility rituals in a village other than their own, Cashinahua men wear short bamboo daggers suspended from their foreheads and hanging down their backs.  Both sides of the daggers are decorated with beeswax and achiote designs, and may be carved with lateral notches.  The black or red fur of a squirrel is fastened to the handle, and the blade is concealed by the long tail feathers of a macaw…Although the daggers are mainly ornamental, they are a reminder that other villages are potential enemy camps and that one must be prepared to fight.

The feathers of the dagger are attached in such way that they would shoot upward if the dagger were used.  This upward motion of red feather and fur is meant to look like blood shooting from a wound.

Kensinger, Rabineau et al.  The Cashinahua of Eastern Peru (The Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology, 1975).

More on the Kaxinawa:

Monkey teeth necklace


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