A Tucuna marriage feast with masked dancers 1863

The hunter Monmanéki and his wives




On Feb 21, Chris Knight will be decoding this Tucuna story, which is the introductory myth of Lévi-Strauss’  Origin of Table Manners.

Myths are not science, but they are rich with information about the dilemmas which matter most to the people who tell them. This complex narrative from the Tucuna Indians of Amazonia presents many challenges but is rewarding to decode.

The story explores the effects of male dominance and patrilocal residence on women’s lives. In this particular case, the myth conceptualises the damage done through the image of a woman cut in two, her legs and body sinking down to earth while her upper half flies into the sky.

Image: Tucuna Masked dance and wedding feast. Henry Walter Bates 1863