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Shamanism at the end of the
world. The Xo'on Selk'nam

The shamans or xo’on selk’nam of Tierra del Fuego enjoyed great prestige in their society. With their supernatural powers they could control the weather, influence warfare and good hunting, and practice healing. They participated in all the ceremonies that organized the life of the Selk’nam people.


To connect with his Wéiuwen spirit, the shaman entered a trance through deep concentration, singing songs for long hours. His years-long apprenticeship was led by other older shamans. His power was revealed to her in dreams, where an ancestor shaman donated his wáiuwen. Most shamans were men, very few women possessed this gift.


Some shamans could be prophets and sages at the same time. They predicted the future through visions and were the repositories of the knowledge and mythological tradition of their people. Many shamans had the ability to heal, which they did primarily by extracting the disease from the patient’s body through their hands, aspersions, and repeated chanting. They could also do harm, even kill through their power.

Trichocereus Pachanoj (Jill Plugh and Steven F. White©, 2022).

Kon, healing a sick person.

Extracto del documental Tierra del Fuego, de J.M. Alberto María D’Agostini, 1933.

Audio: Selk’nam chants of Tierra del Fuego, de Anne Chapman, 1972.

Archivo Audiovisual Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino.

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