Smithsonian Folkways Recordings
Shaman Chant, "Bewitching a Whale"
The Selk'nam were the native people who used to live on the largest island of Tierra del Fuego, which is located just south of the Straits of Magellan in Argentina, South America. There were usually several shamans, medicine men or women, for each local kin group. It was believed that the shamans held great spiritual power, to both heal and to inflict mortal illness. They were responsible to their group in the hunt, in war, to clear up the weather and more.
The Selk'nam had no seacraft and only simple fishing gear. If a whale was stranded or died at sea, they would rely on the shaman to use her power and chant to bring the whale to shore. The shaman was known to sing for 3 or 4 days to bring in a whale.
To hear a clip from the Shaman Chant # 29, sung by Lola Kiepja, click on the "play music" button above.
"Shaman Chant to bewitch a whale (Kaisiya)" sung by Lola Kiepja 'Selk'nam (Ona) Chants of Tierra del Fuego, Argentina,' a field recording by Anne Chapman. Ethnic Folkways FE 4176,1972. Provided courtesy of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings (FW04176_307). Used by permission.