Men and women from everywhere speak not only with words: they also speak through gestures, signs, symbols, music, dance, and any other artistic expression that can show their feelings and how they see the things around them. In the Amazonian cultures, symbols are a fundamental expression to transmit their customs and culture without having to speak.


Many centuries have passed since the indigenous tribes started to develop a wide and complex compound of signs, gestures and symbols that evolved, and they allowed them to express their singular and unique identity throughout the years.

These symbols reflect their identity as individuals and as a community, their battles, the preservation of their culture and their beliefs, and they keep going from one generation to the next one without losing their distinctiveness. This graphic language is a means of communication that only needs sight and comprehension to be fully understood as part of their culture.

Symbolism: Spiritual and cultural character


Symbols represent the way of thinking of people who design them. Visual and plastic aspects play the main role of each symbol, and animals, objects and daily routines will be depicted, as well as cosmologic beliefs. This is a form of inner spiritual language that complements and adds sense to their formal language.

  • The cosmovision explains the social and natural environment, and it is represented through the natural relationships between animals, plants, and people.
  • The cosmogony explains the origins and powers of the natural entities, translates the mythic character of conceptions, and is explained through the analogy between the real and the imaginary.
  • The cosmology expresses the concepts of universal order and the belief in multiple gods.

In the Achuar culture, there are three worlds depicted: the real or material world, the spiritual world, and the world of inner knowledge. These symbols also characterize the inevitable duality manifested in the beings that inhabit each one of these worlds.

Meaning of symbols


In the Achuar iconology, each symbol has a definite meaning that will be deduced through logic arguments: each shape has a particular inner sense. Geometric shapes are highly used, as well as harmonic proportions and a linear balance.

  • Colors are also pertinent: for men the preferred color is red, which characterizes the assimilated power, and for women it will be black, for the beauty and strength they proudly demonstrate.

There is a continuity line represented by the ancestors of the tribe. For example, there is Arutam, which is depicted as a jaguar and symbolizes the ability to hunt and be brave. When Arutam is painted in the face of a man, after drinking the Ayahuasca, the man receives its power. Other animals such as the snake can be depicted, too. It will depend on the tribe.

Kapawi is full of these significant symbols. When you come to our lodge, ask our guides to explain you the meaning of each one of them, to understand the kind of artistic expressions that can only be found in the Amazon.