Written/copied by: Maria
The process of creating a shrunken head begins with removing the skull from the head. An incision is made on the back of the neck and all the skin and flesh is removed from the cranium. Red seeds are placed underneath the eyelids and the eyelids are sewn shut. The mouth is held together with three palm pins. Fat from the flesh of the head is removed. It is here that a wooden ball is placed in order to keep form. The flesh is then boiled in water that has been steeped with a number of herbs containing tannins. It is then dried with hot rocks and sand, while molding it to retain its human feature. The skin is then rubbed down with charcoal ash. Decorative beads are added to the head.
In the headshrinking tradition, it is believed that coating the skin in ash keeps the muisak, or avenging soul, from seeping out.
Shrunken heads are known for their mandibular prognathism, facial distortion and shrinkage of the lateral sides of the forehead; these are artifacts of the shrinking process.
Among the Shuar and Achuar, the reduction of the heads was followed by a series of feasts centered on important rituals.