How Religion, Race, and the Weedy Agency of

Plants Shape Amazonian Home Gardens
Nicholas C. Kawa practices and spirituality (Beyer 2010; Etkin and Ross
1982; Schultes and Raffauf 1990), ecological manage-
Abstract ment (Balee 1994; Conklin 1954; Posey 1985), and
classificatory schema (Berlin 2014). Much of this eth-
Across Brazilian Amazonia, it is common to find rural nobotanical research has been conducted from an
households that keep plants with magico-medicinal proper- anthropocentric vantage point, investigating how dif-
ties in their home gardens. Despite widespread occurrence of ferent people understand and relate to the botanical
such plants, some Amazonians—especially in Evangelical world. Some studies, however, have attempted to
communities—openly criticize their use as incongruent with understand these interactions from the position of the
Christian belief and practice. In this article, I offer ethno- plants in question, examining how they engage
graphic observations that indicate divergent attitudes humans and place their own demands (e.g., Descola
toward magico-medicinal plants between Evangelical Chris- 1996, 191–93; Franklin 2008). This article seeks to inte-
tians and Amazonian folk Catholics, the latter of whom grate both approaches, looking not only at how
borrow heavily from Afro-Brazilian and indigenous reli- different religious groups in rural Amazonia relate to
gions. I contend that Evangelicals’ attempts to establish plants with magico-medicinal properties, but also
distance from such plants is due in part to histories of ethnic how such plants actively respond to the human pres-
and racial marginalization that are indexed in their use. ence in the landscape.
Still, many magico-medicinal plants are weedy species that In a past study, I determined that over 27% of the
actively colonize areas occupied by humans, thus openly useful plant species managed by rural smallholders in
defying Evangelical attempts to evade them. In this manner, the municipality of Borba, Amazonas state, Brazil,
magico-medicinal plants are not just subject to human agen- had magical and healing properties attributed to them
cies, but are arguably agents in their own (Kawa 2012). Despite the notable presence of such
right. [Amazonia, ethnobotany, Evangelical Christian- plants, some rural Amazonians—especially in Evan-
ity, folk Catholicism, magico-medicinal plants, non- gelical1 communities—criticize their use as
human agency] incongruent with Christian belief and practice. In this
article, I offer primary ethnographic observations that
illustrate divergent attitudes toward magico-medicinal
Introduction plants2 between Evangelical Christians and Amazo-
nian folk Catholics, the latter of whom borrow
Anthropology has always been an omnivorous significantly from Afro-Brazilian and indigenous reli-
discipline, but with the growing interest in extending gions. Drawing from regional ethnobotanical and
anthropology “beyond the human” (sensu Kohn historical literatures, I point out that many magico-
2013), plants have become a greater focus of attention medicinal plants used in contemporary Amazonia are
and theorization (e.g., Hartigan 2015; Hustak and tied to histories of racial and ethnic marginalization in
Myers 2012; Myers 2015). Certainly, ethnobotany has Brazil, and such associated stigmas may help explain
a well-established history in the discipline, document- why some people, like several of the Evangelical
ing the diverse ways that people relate to plants Christians I encountered, seek to distance themselves
through their subsistence (Cushing 1920), healing from them today. However, I conclude by showing
that many magico-medicinal plants are weedy species
Nicholas C. Kawa is an assistant professor in the Department of that actively colonize people’s living spaces and thus
Anthropology at Ohio State University. His research centers on ques-
challenge Evangelicals’ attempts to evade them. In
tions of human–environmental interaction with specific focus on
human relationships to plants and soils. this manner, magico-medicinal plants are not just

Culture, Agriculture, Food and Environment Vol. 38, Issue 2, pp. 84–93, ISSN 2153-9553, eISSN 2153-9561. © 2016 by the American Anthropological
Association. All rights reserved. DOI: 10.1111/cuag.12073

in their own right. Many aspects of Amazonian folk Some plants. are employed to ward off the evil eye (mau olhado) or Culture. the population of Amazonas state identifies primarily as Catholic. comigo- Catholicism also reflect its syncretic history. Catholicism in Amazonia has deeply syncretic roots that extend back to the colonial period. but can be seen as agents Figure 1. Many families from rural communities travel to the town to fulfill vows (pagar promessas) made to Saint Anthony. A rural Amazonian home surrounded by ac ß aı palms and several magico-medicinal plants (Photo by Nicholas C. most rural communities have a loose affiliation with the Catholic Church and arguably prac- tice some variety of folk Catholicism or “Nonromanized Catholicism” (see Mariz 1994). the syncretism of shamanism with a vague observance of Catholic Figure 2. with different languages and cul- tures. Figure 2). and pi~ao branco (Jatropha curcas).” incorporating various native practices and Kawa). During much of the year. 49) In the municipality of Borba. and clergy are only rarely Amazonian Catholics typically rely on a wide variety present in such communities (see de Lima 1992. of plants used for ritualized protection and healing. The main plaza of the town of Borba and its Catholic basilica (Photo by Nicholas C. Agriculture. repre- senting over 11% of Catholics globally (Anonymous 2013). 101. Background Brazil has the largest Catholic population in the world with approximately 123 million followers. the base for a “folk Catholi. Kawa). while others attend a fluvial procession along the Madeira River in which an image of Saint Anthony is retrieved from a church upriver and then escorted and Van Leeuwen 2006. saints and holidays. Smith 1981.subject to human agencies. In the municipal seat of Borba. Penn. pi~ ao roxo (Jat- notable case being the use of magico-medicinal ropha gossypiifolia). beliefs and the colonial influences of the Por- tuguese. where this research was conducted. with a ninguem-pode (Dieffenbachia seguine). cism. including arruda (Ruta spp. however. (p. which are kept in home gardens (Miller. However. 2 December 2016 . No. Like most of Brazil. 244. attracting people from across the region to pay their respects and take part in the revelry.). plants. The cultural result was a patchwork of beliefs. 49. as Miller. ture of the Catholic church. Wagley 1976. as well as African slaves. Images of Catholic saints often feature prominently in people’s homes. lancßa (shamanism) and Afro-Brazilian religions. into Borba’s basilica (Figure 1). Food and Environment 85 Vol. 38. and Van Leeuwen (2006) note here: Life in the missions brought together individuals of separate tribes. rural families As a result of borrowing from Amerindian paje- have little direct engagement with the formal struc. 218). for the compulsory adoption of the body of beliefs and customs of the colonizer. and festivals in honor of saints are commonly observed. a festival ded- icated to Saint Anthony spans ten days at the beginning of June. Penn.

38. The adults. municipality covers an area of 44. No. such as quebranto and vento caıdo. example. but were reluctant to tion within Brazil. and Clement 2015). spiritual protection and healing. divination.. Clavijo Brazilian religions like Candomble (pp. alliacea).251 km2 and has a ficulty securing their subsistence and believe population of 34. 12). The Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics liminary survey responses were thus used to elicit (IBGE) has shown that between 2000 and 2010. In Michelangeli. 42–48). A little themselves to have been hexed (empanemado).” a term drawn from the colo- often uncomfortable with the use of magico-medicinal nial period used to classify people of mixed plants as well as the worship of saints. Inhabitants of these communities are sometimes Evangelical Christians in Amazonas. the capital of Amazonas state. invaded terreiros in attempts to destroy their altars In the exploratory phases of research.e. plants (plantas magicas). During that respondents were asked if they had any plants on their same period. adopted and adapted to diverse social circumstances. with economies primarily ori- tion with magico-medicinal plants—have been ented around agriculture and extractive activities. especially hunters and fishermen who have dif. many (Burdick 2005. 1985. respondents were asked if they used Evangelical Christian population increased by over 16 plants to “scare off the evil eye” (espantar mau olhado) or million people. Evangelical pastors have even <0. management in Borba (see Kawa 2012. For many Evangelical Christians in as a social category by anthropologists until now. and African descent (Parker prominently in both folk Catholicism and Afro-Brazi. ian population overall (Altmann 2012). project that examined socio-cultural and environmen- tices and are generally critical of the symbols. and Pentecostals This research was undertaken as part of a larger specifically. Catholic dropped from 73% to 65% (ibid. Many of all regions of Brazil experienced a significant decline in the same plants. any spirits other than the Holy Spirit are consid. typically covering an area of some extreme cases.2% of the Brazil. respondents mentioned using plants for purposes of Evangelical Christians remain a minority popula. which is situated on are excessively admired or gazed upon by others the Madeira River. Culture. Although which are typically relied upon to treat folk illnesses. including alfavaca those who identified as Catholic. during 12 months between 2009 and lian Candomble. many pastors have expressed interviews were conducted at 91 households in 16 rural open hostility toward folk Catholicism and Afro-Brazi. with household heads being asked to list Kingdom of God (Igreja Universal do Reino de Deus). labeling the latter a form of “demon 2010.). and protec. cip o-alho (Mansoa alliacea). Semi-structured Evangelical churches. Wagley 1976). Mariz (1994) scholars to abandon its usage (Kawa 2016. da Silva 2007. rising from 15. Kawa. however. The Universal Church of the was toured. Upon acquiring informed consent. which feature Amerindian. 2 December 2016 . occurred in the Northern region. tal factors influencing household agrobiodiversity and rituals associated with folk Catholicism and Afro.3% to 22. Proxy questions based on pre- ers. European. as well as others. Although the label has been used lian religions. are incorporated into healing baths (banhos). Baths are used to cure children afflicted by folk ill- Study Area and Methods nesses (i. for the number of useful plant species in home gardens. has repeatedly called for the shutting down which included a cleared area around the house and of Candomble places of worship. within the municipality. where Amazonas japana (Ayapana tripilinervis). lies 150 kilometers southeast of the (Maues 2004). 64–65). the greatest decrease (Ocimum micranthum). notes that Evangelical Christians. 314. known as terreiros. are referred to as “caboclos. Agriculture.protect households from malevolent forces. carries pejorative connotations that have led several ered to be “devils” or malevolent forces. and mucura-ca a (Petiveria state is located. Food and Environment 86 Vol. First.). for purposes of protecting the household. Healing baths can also be used to treat city of Manaus. In surrounding orchards. communities. These over 70% of the population identifies as Catholic and examples illustrate how Amazonian Catholicism offers approximately 24% identifies as Evangelical Christian a wide umbrella under which a variety of spiritual (ibid. the information. culturally specific maladies). it Brazil.5 ha. but in the last few decades they have discuss questions made explicitly about “magical” experienced growing success at recruiting new follow. Second. each property worship” (da Silva 2007). More than 200 rural communities are located practices—including healing. which occur when children The municipal seat of Borba.961 inhabitants (IBGE 2010). have a strong aversion to syncretic prac. icons. the percentage of Brazilians identifying as property that they used for healing baths (banhos).

Food and Environment 87 Vol. one of many issues that highlight distinctions between sent at 30 households. jeric~ ing baths.” magico-medicinal plant species identified in this study Later. using the plant in healing baths or for warding off the Although the use of magico-medicinal plants was not a evil eye. of magico-medicinal plants since only a third of house- holds). we no longer believe in such things. hypocritical— healing baths. it is qualities were: pi~ ao roxo (Jatropha gossypiifolia. such plants. He stared at me. magico-medicinal properties. it contributed to appeared at 11 households. 2 December 2016 . home gardens and could be accurately identified to a paused. six households). against the evil eye) and healing of folk illnesses. which households told me simply that they did not keep any consisted primarily of powers of protection (i. The which they viewed as strictly medicinal. The Amerindian shamanism than Evangelicals. but only 21 of these described Evangelicals and Catholics in the Amazon region. Agriculture. formally surveyed. 38. subject of simmering debate in Borba. seven households). we’re Evangelicals. 21 clear that not all Amazonian Catholics embrace the use households). but only six of the house. pi~ ao roxo. both in the town of Borba and its rural communities. the collective differences between adherents of these holds claimed such uses. I noted an attitude in which the use of such plants was deemed superstitious and Survey Results even un-Christian. 11 households). species were recognized for having a variety of munity responded to the same question by telling me magico-medicinal-plants-of-rural-amazonia-supplemen plainly: “No. Of these. A closely related species.. Since many of the observed religions. most commonly found species recognized for such Based on household surveys and interviews.3 Of the 12 Evangelical households. judgmental. 27 affirmed that they used Catholics whom I encountered chided Evangelicals for plants to ward off the evil eye and 35 used plants in being insular. Meanwhile. No.” In my interactions tary-table/. another household head in a neighboring com- see https://nicholaskawa. ten households). 171 dif..Open-ended interviews were conducted to gather claimed to have plants to ward off the evil eye. Of ceived as a form of idolatry. 47 species were were Evangelical. cipo alho (Mansoa alliacea. three told me explicitly that they ferent useful plant species were identified at the 91 did not have plants to ward off the evil eye because they properties surveyed in Borba. 20 house. mucura-ca a (Petiveria alliacea. holds claimed to keep plants to ward off the evil eye japana (Ayapana tripilinervis. asked one household head if he kept any plants to pro- nospecies encountered were common to Amazonian tect his family against the evil eye. 79 identified as about Catholics’ worship of saints. but four information on additional plants with distinctive households kept plants that were used in baths. the words of the gospel to heart.wordpress. and at times. man.e. pi~ao branco. most of the eth. The remaining nine Evangelical considered to have magico-medicinal properties. none suggesting that their actions did not always live up to Culture. I heard sev- species were only counted as “magico-medicinal” eral claim that Catholics maintained lax attitudes plants when such uses were directly reported by toward the use of alcohol and drugs. This study relies on traditional local classifications Plant Use and Religious Affiliation of plant species or “ethnospecies” to which Latin taxo- nomic binomials were associated. not once did a Catholic interviewee arruda (Ruta spp. Voucher specimens On my first visit to a small community where an were not collected because they were not deemed Evangelical church had been recently established. For more information on the word of the Lord. and pi~ao branco suggest that their religion conflicted with the usage of (Jatropha curcas. with Evangelical Christians. In my conversations with Evangelicals. such plants. and then said: “Now that we know the true scientific binomial. This aligns with observations by Luzar Surveys and ethnographic interviews revealed that and Fragoso (2013) among indigenous groups in the not all households viewed individual species in the Guianas where Catholics were more likely to accept same way or used them for the same purposes. I essential for purposes of this study. Of the 12 Evangelical households I As reported in prior research (Kawa 2012). Still. Others complained Of the 91 households interviewed. which they per- Catholic and 12 identified as Evangelical Christian. was pre. seven households). and a little under half reported having plants for heal- ao (Ocimum americanum. and did not take interviewees. many of the the 79 Catholic households. although some did use plants in baths. It is just most common plant listed above.

During the colonial period. Outside of Amazonia. it is sometimes used in prepara- their followers to reject them publicly. cleanse those suffering from witchcraft (McKenna. As Voeks and tion with the hallucinogen ayahuasca to ritualistically Leony (2004) remark from their research in the Brazil. Voeks 1997). their front yards to protect the household.” Amazon region itself. 2 December 2016 . have histories directly linked to divide the materials we were distributing—seeds and Afro-Brazilian religious practice. Catholics in rural Amazonia today. If the tendency of Evangelical Christians is to medicinal plant found in this study. is a useful start- avoid the use of plants associated with folk Catholi. Europe. and Magico-Medicinal Plants plain community. 330). with the hope that it would discourage least. offers further insights into the matter. however. which examines individual histories of some of groups. which is a native to the New World tropics as well. characterized the post-contact period. Food and Environment 88 Vol. to a flood- Race. as I described in field notes from 2009: “[it] is a divided community with half of the resi. which developed in motors for processing manioc flour—between the two response to colonial oppression and slavery. As my research continued. which was the most common magico- gating. The species is native to the American cism. It seems plausible. Religion. led to complete fissuring of rural these plants and the underlying racial dynamics of communities in Borba. to the deity Omolu. their use. Daly 2016) provide similar I encountered in home gardens in Borba was mucura- observations in which Evangelical Christian leaders caa. munity soccer field and tensions are fairly evident including species native to Africa. ian state of Bahia: “Arguing that the occult powers of Luna. ing point. and the although not openly hostile. This was brought to my attention during a visit. malevolent forces are drawn from diverse origins. or at were likely passed on from indigenous groups who the very least. However. pi~ao roxo is considered to belong had plants used in healing baths. No. but it was adopted by Africans following their the diversity of plant species under management over arrival to the New World and it became incorporated time. incompatible with their religion. evangelical missionaries continue to name that hints at its ability to pacify slave masters. a survivor of small pox. Others groups equally in hopes to appease them both. 2015. including pi~ ao roxo. Frictions between these religious section. African slaves are said to An important question is why Evangelicals may have secretly slipped it into their masters’ food or drink see these plants as manifestations of evil. These same uses are maintained by Brazil (Voeks 1997). S296). Several of the most commonly The extension agents whom I accompanied decided to used plants. and Towers 1995). at least as far as I know. along with agricultural extension agents. who has japana. I encountered other many Amazonian healing plants used today are tied to similarly divided communities. then. which raised questions long legacies of human struggle following European about the possible consequences such divisions might colonization in Brazil.their strict ideals. and mucura-ca a. or at the very to mollify them. highland Ecuador (Andrade 2005. They reside on opposite sides of the com. actively oppose the use of such plants and encourage In Western Amazonia. 52). then such communities may experience a shift in tropics. studies from Northeastern and vento caıdo. that the power to spread illness and disease but also cure some species associated with folk Catholicism might individuals of their afflictions (de Albuquerque et al. school their converts to abandon their use” (p. The following violent lashings and prevent sexual assault against Culture. The plants that contemporary Amazonian Catho- dents being Catholics and the other half Evangelical lics use for ritualistic healing and protection against Christians. followers of Candomble frequently keep it in with Evangelical ideals. lowland Peru (Shepard 1998. Northeastern Brazil. continue to be used by Evangelical Christians while the 2007.” a festations of Satan. in some cases. have for the human–plant relationships I was investi. 38. it is also worthy of reiteration that four into their religious and healing practices. Pi~ao roxo. The leaves Although this case study does not offer definitive of the plant are also used in healing baths to treat conclusions regarding Evangelicals’ relationships to those wracked by folk illnesses. In other words. it is known as “amansa-senhor. In Afro-Bra- of the 12 Evangelical households surveyed in this study zilian Candomble. in magical and medicinal plants represent physical mani. and the Guianas The second most common magico-medicinal plant (van Andel et al. Agriculture. to avoid exacerbating the divisions used such plants to combat the rampant disease that between them. including quebranto magico-medicinal plants. Since Omolu watches over the rationale behind their uses is modified to better align plant.

forced to practice their religion in secrecy. She expands on this. they con- tinue to suffer discrimination and have been frequently Even as some rural Amazonians attempt to estab- targeted by Evangelical pastors. or gendered be introduced to the Americas by Europeans (Pollio and racialized violence (e. fields. then. If a plant is completely unwanted in a yard. In disavowing them. and through- out the 20th century. Rural writing: “Being born-again is perceived as a radical Amazonians sometimes carry it to protect them from rupture not only from one’s personal sinful past. known in Portuguese as “born again. For many converts. da Silva (2007) lish distance from indigenous and African religious explains that the prominent Brazilian television station practices and the troubled histories of their followers. which is owned by the Universal Church some of the plants used by Afro-descendant and of the Kingdom of God. It was a common medicinal plant in the Greek ciate from longer histories of economic and Roman empires. marginalization. Although Evangelicals in Borba may not be aware In this light. and a num. This is because many spe- elements of Afro-Brazilian religions are tied almost cies that have been adopted for magico-medical exclusively to heinous acts: death of enemies. suggest that Evangelical Christianity is explicitly racist. however. 2008).” For others.). Still. John Burdick (2005) has shown Most rural Amazonians keep the area surrounding the that some anti-racist groups have successfully united home cleared to prevent snakes and others pests from black identity and Evangelical Christianity. opportunity to cut ties from a troubled past and project hor was also capable of lethal poisoning.” Such history of marginalization in Brazil (Kawa 2016. their ear to protect them against the evil eye. and was among the first plants to marginalization. 48). Goldstein 2003. They also ber of Amazonian indigenous groups have done so as believe that it gives their yard a “clean” esthetic. similar to the way that some North mas and suffering. It appears. then it is almost always removed.. 457). however. plants that actively colonize spaces inhabited by Despite these attacks. it provides a way to disasso- arruda. spread of purposes by Amazonian folk Catholics are weedy disease. but also rely on it to ward off envy. 38. but snakes and other dangers while working out in their also from the wider family and [place of] origin” (p. veying to visitors that the property is well managed that Evangelicals’ vilification of Afro-Brazilian and (ibid. many magico-medicinal plants used verts may reject magico-medicinal plants because of today continue to carry an association with Afro-Brazi. this desire for a new beginning is especially During the colonial period. and alcoholism. ethnic discrimination. con- well (de Oliveira 2010. With its introduction to Brazil. 61). privileges human Culture. which scholars consider a distance themselves from histories of suffering and form of “passive” or “sparing” cultivation (Voeks 2013. hope to free themselves from these associated stig- tive connotation. and family strife (p. For example. indigenous peoples continue to insert themselves into grams depicting “real life cases” in which symbols and rural Amazonian social life. and some a path toward a more prosperous future (Robbins slaves are suspected of ending their masters’ lives in 2004). often broadcasts religious pro. Afro-Brazilians were often compelling. Today. 448). 42– stigmatization of Afro-Brazilian faiths is deeply rooted. Food and Environment 89 Vol. amansa-sen. 223–24). they were subject to police The Weedy Agency of Magico-Medicinal Plants harassment (de Albuquerque 2014).g. 2 December 2016 . and being A third example is rue. Wright 2009). which is frequently referred to haps a troubled past. this is precisely 402).). prepared in the appeal of Evangelical Christianity: it offers an conjunction with other plant admixtures. this means abandoning personal histo- this way (ibid.women (Reis 2015. they in Amazonia as macumba4—a term that carries a pejora. Rede Record. et al. No. Given rural Amazonians’ long Americans refer to “voodoo” or “black magic. As Meyer (2004) describes of Pentecostal-Charismatic Afro-Brazilians adopted it as an abortifacient to avoid Churches in Africa: [they] “appear to derive their mass bringing children into slavery (Voeks 1997. 11). it would be misleading to humans. Evangelical leaders and recent con- of these histories. some weedy plants that appear voluntarily indigenous faiths may be part of a broader strategy to in the yard are left to grow. 137). Agriculture. Such a designation. having a place to hide (Hoelle 2015. 24). a weed or that it seeks to negate racial and ethnic identities in in the truest sense. In high doses. drug use. Brazil. For some. ries of abuse. divorce. They appeal at least partly from propagating a ‘complete also placed sprigs of rue in their clothing or behind break with the past’” (p. their association with social marginalization or per- lian religious practice.

humans are active. in the tropics. definition is modified to consider agency simply as crescido (Portulaca pilosa). like castor bean and Eng- then on. lish plantain. Weedy species. nian home gardens exhibit a weedy habit and can be agency refers to action with intention. Some of these plants. danda-da-costa (Cyperus rotundus). are American natives everywhere. But then I heard others describe its tions following their displacement (Voeks 2013). religion Candomble. Others. a resident outside of Borba. often kept around homes to ward off the evil eye. magico-medicinal plants are cultivated or sought out caa. that easy-to-find plants are landscape (see Cresswell 1997). there is an opportunity here to entertain notions about Many magico-medicinal plants found in Amazo. including Diana’s. But she hadn’t weedy plants emphasize human ingenuity and agency. These researchers also often defy human attempts to exert control over the point out. Although Diana viewed it strictly as an orna. 2 December 2016 . or literally “children”) had taken root (Plantago major). came over from the Old World and dences both in the city and rural communities where I spanned out across Brazil after their arrival. I began to notice pi~ ao roxo in front of resi. marcela (Pluchea interspecies relations (Sagan 2013. Ethnobotanist Robert Voeks (2008) ferent species of ornamental plants on the street where reinforces this point through his cross-cultural research I was staying with my friend Diana. were important partners in the process. jambu (Acmella oleracea). that humans are not the only ones with agency in such nathera sp. and folha-da-fortuna mental plant. For most social scientists. who have shown in their research among Highland Maya actively recognize the agency of a wide array of non- people of Chiapas. It had started grow. that Africans adopted and adapted to their needs. among others (Voeks 1997. quite logically. 129). from the weeds that invade their fields are more likely to have secondary bioactive com. The When Diana claimed that pi~ ao roxo had simply broad exchange of plants back and forth across the “appeared” in her yard. Food and Environment 90 Vol. This can be a source of much more useful to a household when someone falls consternation. I thought she may have Atlantic immediately following European arrival to offered this explanation because she was embarrassed the Americas helped enslaved Africans and their to acknowledge the plant’s association with the evil descendants to reconstruct their ethnobotanical tradi- eye and macumba. many parts of the world. people rely on plants that Early in my research while living in the town of thrive in disturbed areas or environments where Borba. 104–08). appeared consistently in the front yards of houses on Voeks’s observation is derived in significant part the block. From 27–32). planted it there.” it becomes possible to recognize coirama (Bryophyllum pinnatum). in human-inhabited spaces. One species. pi~ao branco (Jatropha curcas). including amor. if this adopted through sparing cultivation. unexpected appearance in their yards in the same way. conducted my surveys. also had pi~ ao roxo in her yard and she knew quite well Although most scholarly accounts of the use of of its ability to ward off the evil eye. asserting that “Anthropogenic nature which had deeply lobed green and maroon leaves. was from long-term study of plant use in the Afro-Brazilian “pi~ ao roxo” (Jatropha gossypiifolia). Although conservation biologists have argued that fields or families clearing their yards. Agriculture. chicoria (Eryngium foetidum). However.” Since its arrival. Mexico. my friend Valdo later told me that it was (Bryophyllum pinnatum). the agency of plants as well. Just as many sagittalis). Weedy species dis- against herbivory. several ing castor bean (Ricinus communis). and such compounds often have rupt boundaries of defined human social space and curative properties for humans. As Stepp and Moerman (2001) This point is not lost on rural Amazonians.). this primary forests need to be conserved to protect plants disruption can also make such plants a source of Culture. unique to Amazonia. “purposive behavior. as well. there are many such plants that also seek tendency to adopt weeds for healing purposes is not out people. I spent an afternoon casually surveying the dif.inaction while ignoring a plant’s active colonization of that may offer benefits to modern biomedicine. He has shown that a whole host ing in the yard voluntarily and she had left it because of cosmopolitan weeds are used in Candomble. 865). mastruz (Chenopodium ambrosioides). cuia-mansa (Alter. she insisted. to the massive snakes believed to carve out the region’s pounds that inhibit the growth of other plants or guard waterways (Kawa 2016. which are often themselves displaced Gisele. represents the ideal tropical medicine chest” (p. 38. It simply appeared. No. This. and pi~ ao roxo. This by humans. as pi~ao roxo and other species illustrate. However. folha-da-costa (Kalanchoe integra). told me that she flora. English plantain filhos (seedlings. includ- she “liked the way it looked. she told me. mucura. especially for farmers weeding their ill. short-lived weedy species human others. It seemed to crop up like pi~ao roxo and folha-da-costa.

“Medicinal and possible that Evangelicals will come to adopt such Magic Plants from a Public Market in Northeastern Brazil. stigmatization in parts of Brazil is another matter. they will likely Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 11: 1–12. leaving 27 households with plants kept to ward off the evil eye. Conclusions most of the Evangelical Christians in rural Amazonian communities belong to Charismatic Pentecostal churches.” Iconos 9: 49–60. As vated for the powers they possess. Pentecostalism. and 39 of 91 households used plants research and that of others. 1. Ulysses Paulino. this interpretation of magico-medicinal are oftentimes used to cure illnesses with etiologies that do plants over-privileges human agency while ignoring not align with Western biomedicine. 2 December 2016 . With any luck. Many plants are culti- the ways in which such plants also act in the world. Altmann. 2014. Culture. In fact. “Censo IBGE 2010 e Religi~ao. 2. it appears that many of them will continue to take root regardless of how their property owners feel about them. 19 had plants used in having co-evolved with humans and the landscapes healing baths. the Catholic Church has recently come to use for them. Elba L ucia. and Lewis Daly. No. religious followers project their hopes and desires. For Evangelical Christians in Amazonia and per. plants for warding off the evil eye. Further studies affiliation. “A Little Bit of Africa in magico-medicinal plant use will not likely die out any Brazil: Ethnobiology Experiences in the Field of Afro-Brazilian time soon either. de Albuquerque. Walter. 2015. many of the plants used in Afro-Brazi. “The Use of Amerindian Charm Plants in the Guianas. References The legacies of Afro-Brazilian and folk Catholic de Albuquerque. Amorim. I most commonly heard it used as a derogatory label for that those species will completely stop appearing in Afro-Brazilian religious practice in general.” Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 10: 12. However. It just be next. Ulysses Paulino. Horizonte: purposes of healing and medicine. and Afro-Brazilian religious tra.” unwanted reminders of troubled pasts. It is Marcelo Alves. Agriculture. accept and incentivize folkloric celebrations and ritual For Amazonian folk Catholics. and 20 had plants that they used for both they inhabit. it stands to reason that in healing baths. and Cavalcanti. the numbers are broken down by religious marginalized racial and ethnic groups. 38. I found some Evangelical Christians might resist such plants due to ambiguities in the surveys at two households.intrigue and even economic innovation. if their uses 10: 1122–29. 2007. attract different beings or forces. I do not expect rural Amazonians to abandon the world seem to have learned a simple lesson when it them too easily. find a popularity. However. it is unlikely southeastern Brazil. lian and folk Catholic ritualistic healing have 3. is also the tenacity of such species as colonizers that will continue to defy Evangelical attempts to establish Notes distance from them. continue to be viewed as superstitions or even van Andel. Tinde. their yards.” Horizonte dents in this study suggested. In the face of growing Evangelical comes to weedy species: if you can’t beat them. draw ongoing criticism. will hopefully shine greater light on this matter. However. 29 of the 91 households had plants to Based on inferences I have drawn from this ward off the evil eye. often used to repel or I have shown. I use the term “magico-medicinal” plants because while many of the plants are used for purposes of healing. Food and Environment 91 Vol. In the 2012 study. Karin Boven. I report that nine only had distinctive properties related to their weedy habits. In short. Revista de Estudos de Teologia e Ci^encias da Religi~ao. most commonly practiced in Rio de Janeiro and rejection of such magico-medicinal plants. the plants used in folk gelical Christianity” in reference to Charismatic Catholic. but I have opted to keep it as a reflection ditions might be viewed as fetishes upon which these of its use in Brazil. they However. Still. Amerindian. I use the term “Evangelical Christianity” because this is the blanket term most commonly used in Brazil. Yet 4. “El Despertar Polıtico de los Indıgenas species that actively resist attempts to wrest control of Evangelicos en Ecuador. the weedy agency practices that it once fought to exclude (Pantoja 2011. People across them. like many of the weedy Andrade. purposes. J ulio Marcelino. as some respon. In their historical stigmatization and association with this study. 2005. Some scholars have argued against using the term “Evan- haps some secular skeptics.” Journal plants while insisting that their uses are strictly for of Ethnopharmacology 110: 76–91. in Brazilian Amazonia. I reported on the total number of house- holds using “magic” plants. of their magico-medicinal plants will likely help to 111). 2012. After reviewing those data. Susan. magico-medicinal plants might encourage continuity of the practices related to them. Ramos. Sofie Ruysschaert. Macumba is an Afro-Brazilian religion similar to Can- regardless of the reasons behind some Evangelical’s domble. Whether they will continue to suffer Religions.

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