Analysis: A pink dolphin, a carved image, and inculturation at the Amazon synod

Catholic News Agency | 10/16/2019 | Staff
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Vatican City, Oct 16, 2019 / 12:40 pm (CNA).- At a “moment of Amazon spirituality” Oct. 16, in a church just down the street from St. Peter’s Square, a woman told the Amazonian folk tale of a pink river dolphin who seduced a village girl.

The story, and the conversation that ensued, is a poignant example of questions raised about the Vatican’s Amazon synod, and about the meaning of calls to “inculturate” the Gospel.

Stool - Mat - Aisle - Sanctuary - Santa

She was seated on a low stool, on a cloth mat, in the aisle leading to the sanctuary of Santa Maria in Traspontina, a Carmelite Church built five centuries ago. Two indigeneous people sat behind her. Between them was a now-controversial wooden figure of a pregnant woman, along with carved bowls filled with water, pieces of woven netting, and small carved statues.

The storyteller’s version of ancient mythical story in the Amazon goes like this:

River - Deep - Amazon - Sound - Drums

There is a pink river dolphin deep in the Amazon. When he hears the sound of drums, he sometimes emerges from the water, to enter villages and to dance with village people. He takes to land to seduce young women in the villages.

To young girls the dolphin appears as a handsome stranger, a foreigner, a white man. To everyone else he still looks like a dolphin.

Stranger - Woman - Village - Tellings - Versions

Eventually, the mysterious stranger seduces a young woman from the village. In some tellings, she becomes pregnant. In other versions, she simply falls in love. But in every case, she finds herself compelled to the river. She has fallen under a spell. If the spell can’t be broken, sometimes by a local shaman, she will throw herself into the river, and there she will become a mermaid.

When she finished telling her story, the storyteller asked those gathered in the church to share what the story means to them.

“What does it...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Catholic News Agency
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