People from the Amazon make use of insects such as ants and wasps, on different occasions, such as the early-reported "ant ordeals" initiation rites. Travel stories and more ethnographic journeys describe cruel and often spectacular practices in which men, women and children, bravely endure bites from a dozen to hundreds of insects. However the meanings given to those practices leave out most of the time the ontological concepts of the groups described, as well as their sociocultural distinctions. This article examines the uses and significance of insects in various Indian groups. It in particular suggests reconsidering ceremonial practices known as "ordeals" from the theories of animism and perspectivism.
Amazonia, insects, ant ordeals, animism, perspectivism, ethnoentomology.