Fraternidad De Las Cinco Pieles

From a paper delivered by Professor Jose Maria Bernál at the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, March 2006, Annual Conference of the Association of Iberoamerican Anthropologists.

Evolving Downwards: Tribal Structure in the Urban Setting, and the Evolution of the New Cultism

[Microphone click, static, Professor Bernál clears throat]

Esteemed colleagues, it is a great pleasure to be here once again. I see our field grow yearly, and so it is with great joy that I present for you here the findings of the study conducted by my colleagues and I over the past three years. In order to illustrate our findings I have selected as an example societal group the Fraternidad de Las Cinco Pieles or in English, the Brotherhood of the Five Skins. As some of you may recall from the paper I published last year, the Fraternidad originated within the villages West of the Amazon, and was apparently active far prior to any records we have of civilisation in the region. Our earliest knowledge on the cult comes from the writings of the Xihuacan folk hero Tamendonare, and scattered remarks upon their existence are prevalent throughout scholarship in the following centuries.
Those of you wishing to study this further can consult my book Stealing the Skin of the World: Xihuacan mythology and the Cults of the Amazon. Those of you with a life can take my word for it. [Laughter]
The two salient points of Fraternidad worship stem from their veneration of the Darkness God, Tamula, and their practice of what they term “skin shifting.” If you will consult Slide 1, you will be able to see what they mean by this. As you can see, it is customary for the cultist to drape himself in human skin, or to fashion fetishes and clothing from human remains. This is not simply barbarism, however. In the Fraternidad cosmology, skins denote rank, and perceived power. The first skin, that of a decayed corpse, is worn by initiates to the order. It is followed by the second skin, that of an elderly man or woman, to denote a period of loyal service to the cult. The third skin, that of a man or woman in the prime of their life, is worn only by those who command great respect in the cult. The last two skins, that of a young child, and that of an infant are almost never worn, save by those cultists who have attained esteem in the eyes of their peers, and ostensibly their god. Cult texts speak of a sixth skin, crafted from void and the essence of entropy, worn by Tamula himself, and it is believed that this may be the ultimate point of aspiration.
Naturally, the repugnance of the cult’s practices have led to harsh legal action against any caught avowing their doctrines. Indeed, a fair brand of vigilantism is active amongst all the Amazon tribes, who exterminate Fraternidad members whenever possible. It would appear that some have even resorted to the use of modern weaponry, as analysis of the recent extermination of an upper Amazonian village purported to harbour Fraternidad cultists provided ballistic evidence of rounds from both Maskingevär Model 4 machine guns and Gevär Model 4 assault rifles. Now as some of you are aware, I am currently under an injunction not to discuss the incident further after the recall of the first edition of my paper. However, I would urge you all to question how the Xihuacan tribes and their neighbours have initiated trade with the Scandinavian Special Forces.
[awkward silence]
Moving on, the point of my talk to day is to discuss how such an apparently obvious and apparent cult can infiltrate the modern environment. Unbelievable as it may seem, such incidents can and do happen, as evidenced by the 1984 Chicago operation which found the Sisters of the Chill Blood working from a nursing home in Chicago. We must bear in mind that our cities, great as they are, are still open to the world around then, and a great deal of that world remains untamed and subject to non-quotidian beliefs. Recent migration from the Amazon in the face of increased logging pressure and environmental discussion has seen many tribal factions spread south into the cities of South America. Given the current state of medical, legal, and mortuary practices in some of the cities and indeed the capital itself, it is entirely plausible that a cult such as the Fraternidad could not only survive unnoticed, but actually flourish in an urban environment. By way of illustration allow me to present the crime statistics for the last quarter in this city.
[Pause, rustle of papers]
5,253 murders, of which 27.5% remain unsolved, or failed to attain a satisfactory conviction. Infant death up 3.7% on last year. Thefts from mortuaries, police stations and medical establishments, approximately 3,237, give or take the records that were stolen. Esteemed colleagues, the urban environment is by no means anathemic to the cult lifestyle. Rather it is a fertile ground for recruitment, worship, and practice. The Fraternidad no longer need to lurk in the jungles of the Amazon, as we have built them urban jungles of asphalt and steel, and we must all pray we do not reap what we have sown. Now, if you will turn you to attention to slide 2, which is a cross-correlation of crime-statistics in Rio with those in San Paulo you will all see that….
[Presentation continues]