A characteristic object secured in the Province of Chiriqui, Republic of Panama, is a singular amulet of a fine quality of green translucent jade (jadeite). This is fashioned into a conventional representation of a parrot with a disproportionately long beak. The details of the bird-form are but roughly indicated, what is supposed to represent the head and body being but a trifle larger than the beak.
In the region of the neck, marked by a peripheral incision, there is a hole through which a cord for suspension was probably passed. The type resembles that of the Chiriquian gold parrots, and differs from that of the amulets of Las Guacas, Costa Rica. As a much larger number of jade objects have been found at this latter place than occur at Chiriqui, it has been conjectured that the common source was a deposit of jade somewhere in Costa Rica. Chiriqui has also yielded a plain, highly-polished amulet of pale green jade; the front is convex and is traversed by a groove; a small hole has been pierced near the top to facilitate suspension.
The South American Indians had a class of stone love-amulets, representing more or less clearly two embracing figures. It was claimed by their magicians that these had not been cut or fashioned in any way, but were so formed by nature, and were endowed with the power of attracting to the wearer the love of the chosen object of affection. These special amulets bore in the native language the names of huacanqui and cuyancarumi. They were said to be found buried in the earth where a thunderbolt had descended, and were thus a particular class of the so-called “thunderstones,” and a high price could be obtained for one, more especially if the owner had to deal with a woman. A characteristic specimen, presumably from Ecuador, is of black serpentine.
The Araucarian Indians of Chili and Argentina, who occupied a region 1000 miles in length, bordering on the Pacific Ocean, according to facts communicated by the Rev. Charles Sadleir, had their medicine women, instead of medicine men. These women carried with them a quartz crystal (as did many of the medicine men of the Indian tribes) or a rolled fragment of quartz found in the river beds. They affirmed that this crystal had been entered by a mighty spirit who dwelt in one of the great volcanoes which existed in that region (called pillan in the native tongue). This spirit inspired the medicine-woman with a knowledge of what she should tell those who came to her for advice or for forecasts of the future.
A medicine-woman will never show the crystal, because, as the abode of a spirit, it must not be seen. While it is to be supposed that the services of these “doctoresses” are not altogether gratuitous, the Araucarains as a general rule detest gold, although they willingly accept silver. This preference for the less valuable metal is due to the traditions handed down to them from the time the Spaniards persecuted their ancestors for the gold they owned, or were thought to own.
These Indians have a peculiar belief in regard to the nature of the soul, which they regard as a dual being formed of a superior essence, or spirit, which they call pullu, and an inferior essence, or soul, to which they give the name am.