Light at the Edge of the World: A Journey Through the Realm of Vanishing Cultures

Light at the Edge of the World: A Journey Through the Realm of Vanishing Cultures

Wade Davis

Language: English

Pages: 224

ISBN: 1553652673

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

For more than 30 years, renowned anthropologist Wade Davis has traveled the globe, studying the mysteries of sacred plants and celebrating the world’s traditional cultures. His passion as an ethnobotanist has brought him to the very center of indigenous life in places as remote and diverse as the Canadian Arctic, the deserts of North Africa, the rain forests of Borneo, the mountains of Tibet, and the surreal cultural landscape of Haiti. In Light at the Edge of the World, Davis explores the idea that these distinct cultures represent unique visions of life itself and have much to teach the rest of the world about different ways of living and thinking. As he investigates the dark undercurrents tearing people from their past and propelling them into an uncertain future, Davis reiterates that the threats faced by indigenous cultures endanger and diminish all cultures.

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climbed a hill or felt the ragged edge of granite. There are no stones in their homeland. All their perceptions occur at sea level, and the horizon is but a narrow band of dark earth, a sliver separating the black surging waters of the Orinoco from the limitless sky. The Warao view the Earth as a disk scarred by rivers and floating in a sea. Water saturates everything, and the Earth floats only because it is supported by a serpentine monster whose four-horned head points to the cardinal

the centre post of the temple. The dance was deceptively simple: feet flat to the ground, small shuffling steps, shoulders and hips moving with a fluidity that seemed to have all of nature swaying in sympathy. The voice of the priestess was clear and powerful, slicing through the joy and celebration. Libations were blown to the wind. Small clouds of dust hovered above the dry ground. A continuous battery of sound drove each moment forward. As the energy rose, the rhythm of the drums unexpectedly

lamentable example of a nation’s notorious instincts for the phantasmagoric. By the time it ended, there was no longer any doubt that the bokor had identified a natural product that not only could induce a state of apparent death but had done so many times in the past, as is evident in the medical literature. The purpose of science is not to discern absolute truth but, rather, to generate better ways of thinking about phenomena. Twenty years on, the link between the toxic powder and zombification

the canopy. Tu‘o laughed as Asik recalled his folly: an entire day on the trail and nothing to show for it. Asik’s nephew Gemuk appeared. Surprised to find us in his home, he poured a basket of rambutans at our feet, fruits that had taken hours to gather. Other Penan returned with baskets of buaa nakan fruits to roast, wild mushrooms for soup, hearts of palm and succulent greens. Sharing for the Penan is an ingrained reflex. When Gemuk announced that not one but two wild pigs had been killed,

mentioned that I had met the Dalai Lama and heard him speak, as have so many of my compatriots, my friend’s mother began to cry. She reached to touch my hand, drawing my face close to hers, until her tears ran down my cheeks and I could taste the salt in the corners of my mouth. With a glance toward her children, she beckoned me to follow her into a small room, where a wall, responding to her pressure, opened to reveal a hidden devotional chamber. On the altar were brass urns, offerings of fruit

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