The spirit world is a fundamental part of Yanomami life. Every creature, rock, tree and mountain has a spirit. Sometimes these are malevolent, attack the Yanomami and are believed to cause illness.
Shamans control these spirits by inhaling a hallucinogenic snuff called yakoana. Through their trance like visions, they meet the spirits or xapiripë. Davi Kopenawa, a shaman explains:
‘Only those who know the xapiripë can see them because the xapiripë are very small and bright like light. There are many, many xapiripë, thousands of xapiripë like stars. They are beautiful, and decorated with parrot feathers and painted with urucum (annatto) and others have oraikok, others have earrings and use black dye and they dance very beautifully and sing differently.’
As is typical of hunter gatherers and shifting cultivators, it takes the Yanomami less than four hours work a day on average to satisfy all their material needs. Much time is left for leisure and social activities.
Inter-community visits are frequent. Ceremonies are held to mark events such as the harvesting of the peach palm fruit, and the reahu (funeral feast) which commemorates the death of an individual.