The Ashaninka people are an indigenous group predominantly residing in the Central Amazon region of Peru. With a population of approximately 97,000, they are the largest indigenous group in the Peruvian Amazon. Despite the encroachment of modern civilization, the Ashaninka have managed to preserve their unique cultural heritage, including a wealth of beliefs, mythology, and rituals that offer a fascinating window into the worldview of these ancient people.

Beliefs and Mythology

The Ashaninka hold a polytheistic belief system centered around the natural world, with numerous deities governing various aspects of life, from weather and agriculture to health and well-being. Their mythology reflects the interconnectedness of the human, natural, and spiritual realms, with an emphasis on balance and harmony. The following are some of the primary deities in Ashaninka mythology:

  • Pawa: The supreme deity, Pawa is the creator of the universe and governs the celestial realm. Pawa is often depicted as a powerful, wise figure who is responsible for the creation of both the physical and spiritual worlds.

  • Keri: The god of thunder and lightning, Keri is a mighty warrior who safeguards the Ashaninka people from evil forces. He is associated with the storms that bring life giving rain to the Amazon.

  • Tsoretsi: The goddess of fertility and motherhood, Tsoretsi is revered for her nurturing, protective qualities. She is believed to bless the Ashaninka with abundant crops and healthy children.

  • Kamarampi: The god of medicinal plants, Kamarampi is a skilled healer who imparts his knowledge to the Ashaninka shamans. He is believed to inhabit the forests, providing the people with remedies for various ailments.

  • Yura: The god of water, Yura is responsible for the rivers, lakes, and streams that provide sustenance and transportation to the Ashaninka people. He is also associated with the spirits of the deceased, as he guides them on their journey to the afterlife.

Unique Beliefs

One of the unique aspects of Ashaninka culture is the belief in the "Pajé," the shaman who serves as a spiritual leader and healer within the community. The Pajé possesses the ability to communicate with the spirit world and is responsible for maintaining harmony between the human, natural, and spiritual realms.

Another distinctive belief in Ashaninka culture is the concept of "Seri," or life force. Seri is believed to reside in all living beings, including plants, animals, and humans. The Ashaninka people seek to cultivate and maintain their Seri through proper conduct, adherence to traditional customs, and participation in communal rituals.

Rituals and Practices

Rituals play a crucial role in Ashaninka culture, as they serve to strengthen the community's connection to their deities and the natural world. Some of the key rituals include:

  • The Kametsa Ceremony: This is an initiation rite for young Ashaninka boys, marking their transition to manhood. The ceremony involves the consumption of a sacred beverage called "Kamarampi," which contains a potent hallucinogenic plant. Under the guidance of the Pajé, the young initiates embark on a spiritual journey, during which they are believed to acquire the wisdom and strength necessary to become responsible adults.

  • The Tsonkiri Ritual: This is a healing ceremony conducted by the Pajé to cure illnesses and ward off evil spirits. The Tsonkiri ritual involves the use of medicinal plants, chanting, and dancing, as well as the invocation of deities like Kamarampi, the god of medicinal plants. During the ritual, the Pajé enters a trance-like state, allowing them to communicate with the spirits and facilitate the healing process.

  • The Atiriri Festival: This annual event is a celebration of the harvest and serves to thank the deities for their blessings and protection. The Atiriri Festival features music, dancing, and feasting, as well as rituals and offerings to the gods, particularly Tsoretsi, the goddess of fertility and motherhood. The festival serves as a time for the Ashaninka to express their gratitude and renew their connection to the natural world.

  • Funeral Rites: Ashaninka funeral rites are a vital part of their belief system and are designed to ensure the safe passage of the deceased to the afterlife. The body is traditionally buried in a simple grave, accompanied by offerings of food, tools, and personal items. The community gathers to mourn and pay their respects, while the Pajé performs rituals to guide the spirit of the deceased to the realm of Yura, the god of water.


The Ashaninka culture of Peru offers a captivating glimpse into a unique world of beliefs, mythology, and rituals. Their deep reverence for the natural world and the deities that govern it is reflected in their vibrant customs and ceremonies, which continue to thrive despite the challenges of modernization. By learning about and appreciating the rich traditions of the Ashaninka people, we gain insight into the importance of maintaining cultural diversity and preserving the wisdom of indigenous communities for future generations.