What Does The Head Shrinking Process Mean?
It is interesting to note that there is only one place in all the world where the practice of shrinking human heads took place. Lots of cultures practiced human decapitation, threatening displays of human heads, and rituals and superstitions that ascribed meaning to the treatment of the heads of dead human beings. One possible explanation is that the process was never discovered anywhere else. The process IS involved. Multiple stages exist within the process, including heating and drying, treating with tannin solution, sewing, and peg work, all while allowing for shrinkage to avoid damaging the original shape of the face as much as possible.
Individually, the facts might seem strange but never cause speculation. To understand why more questions should be asked, you have to look at some of the facts side by side. Like the following summation:
Tannins were well known in most other cultures, including most of the ones that had practices regarding human heads. Tannins were commonly used for dealing with skins and hides for the use of leatherworking, taxidermy, and the making of wines and herbal solutions.
Sewing, peg work, and heating and drying were well-known processes in almost every culture in the world.
The week-long process of shrinking heads was apparently developed in the most primitive conditions by one of the most war-oriented peoples in all world history (the only tribe to ever successfully fight off Spanish conquistadors.) The Jivaro specialized in clandestine raids over blood feuds, meaning experimental processes lasting an entire week would have been much harder to develop than in places where raiding wasn‘t so common. (Additionally, sentries were less efficient in a rainforest climate because of the lack of sight-lines.) The Jivaro were not even the culture that frequently cannibalized their victims, so cooking the heads for any reason makes less sense.
The superstitions of the Jivaro include the universal idea of taking something intangible from an enemy. Fastening shut the eyes and mouths of the shrunken heads fit into the universal notion of containing angry spirits.
At least, that is what they told everyone ELSE; like any other group, they may have been careful of what they let outsiders know . . . They discarded the skull and contents, so the fact is, shrunken heads are really just shrunken faces. What other purpose could they have?
Well, here’s where we prepare to do speculation based on what’s available. One more thing that sounds slightly off is that it was OKAY to kill a relative during a head-hunting raid as long as you didn’t take the head and shrink it. The Jivaro were in fear of their dead relatives, and most of these killings were supposedly in revenge to pacify their dead . . . What? That sounds more like it was okay to kill anybody but bad to shrink the head of your kin. That sounds even more strange.
Is there anything else that doesn’t sound quite right? The last and least explored continent, considered exotic and impassable to most, where almost any secret might stay hidden longer because of terrain, foliage, and cultural practices, South America has, in it’s Amazon, a LACK of something found in most other cultures.
The Celts, one of the other cultures who kept heads, had stories of little people. Certain African tribes who dealt with heads believed in little people who turned out to be real Pygmies. Many older cultures believe in some form of little people. THE JIVARO DON’T. So, why would they SHRINK heads? One culture wore regular-size heads on their person into battle. Another nailed them to their walls. What would it mean if the Jivaro lied about their beliefs? Out of fear, perhaps? What else would they believe?
Not exposing your family’s dead would be like not sharing your DNA? Keeping the face looking human would mean that at a glance their authenticity could be seen? Shrinking them to the size of a fist would probably not mean reducing what is stolen from the enemy. The shrinking must mean SOMETHING. Most experts believe superstition and mythology have some basis in fact. But what exactly would their purpose be?
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Off subject, a number of shipments from South America are stopped by Customs officials, some are allowed through, and, like all shipping, some packages just get lost–