Monday, March 26, 2007



From Peter Armitage, "Religious Ideology Among the Innu of Eastern Quebec and Labrador", Religiologiques 6 (automne 1992) (PDF format):
Matshishkapeu is the Innu Fart Man, the spirit of the anus who converses with the Innu with great frequency especially when they are in the country hunting, trapping, fishing, and gathering (Armitage, 1987). Matshishkapeu is an important character both in myth and everyday social intercourse. But he is a paradoxical character: on the one hand he is a humorous being and one of the most important sources of laughter to the Innu while they are living in the country; on the other, he is a serious character who is thought of as one of the most powerful beings in the pantheon of Innu spirits -- able to control the animal masters as well as human behaviour.


A sudden fart interrupting the tranquillity of camp life calls for an immediate translation. And, the responsibility for providing this falls to specific individuals who have reputations for being able to understand Matshishkapeu. These are usually people in their fifties or older including both men and women.


Let me conclude this section by noting that Matshishkapeu's role as a mediator means that farting for the Innu is a form of divination, a method for ascertaining the state of affairs in the realm of animal masters.


In addition, the omnipresence of Matshishkapeu makes him an especially unique mythological being: he is everywhere, both inside the tent and outside; he is always with you no matter where you may travel.
Armitage 1987 is a reference to Peter Armitage, "Tshekuan Issishueue Matshishkapeu? The Fart Man in Innu Religious Ideology," Paper presented to the Annual Meeting of the Canadian Ethnology Society in Quebec (May 14, 1987).

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