This ritual of birth is undoubtedly an illustration of the myth of the origin of the Guayaki, which is essentially the myth of the Atchei Jamo pyve, the Guayaki's first ancestors. What does the myth tell us? "The first ancestors of the Guayaki lived in that huge and terrible earth. The first ancestors of the Guayaki came out of that huge and terrible earth, they all left it. To come out, to leave the earth, the first ancestors of the Guayaki scratched with their nails, like armadillos." To transform themselves into humans, into inhabitants of the world, the original Atchei had to leave their underground dwelling. To reach the outside they rose up the length of a vertical tunnel they had dug with their nails, like armadillos, who hollow out their burrows deep under the soil. The progress, clearly indicated in the myth, from animality to humanity, therefore involves abandoning the prehuman dwelling, the burrow, and overcoming the obstacle which separates the inferior animal world (the lower) from the human world of the surface (the higher): the act of "birth" of the first Guayaki was an ascension that separated them from the earth. In the same way, the birth of a child takes place not at the moment of the waa, the fall that renews the old union of man and earth, but at the moment of the upi, which breaks this bond: here is the individual's true beginning. The woman raises the infant, tearing him away from the earth on which he was left lying---and this is a silent metaphor for that other bond which the man broke several moments earlier with his knife. The woman frees the child from the earth, the man liberates him from his mother. Text and image, the myth of origin and the ritual of birth express and illustrate one another, and every time a child is born, the Guayaki unconsciously repeat the first episode in Guayaki history in a gesture which must be read in the same way that one listens to a spoken word.
The fact that the sequence of events in the myth determines the organization of the various phases of the ritual (or, inversely, that the pattern of the ritual furnishes the story with its syntax) is even more evident in the correspondence between one moment in the ritual and one sequence in the myth. Once the umbilical cord has been cut and tied, the infant is bathed, so that his first movement toward human existence consists of contact with water, whose presence here, while obviously necessary, is also probably dependent on the ritual order. In deciphering the meaning of the bath as a ritual act and not only as something performed in the interest of hygiene, it is helpful to conceive of it as the operation that precedes and prepares for the upi: in this way, the joining of child and water is preliminary to the separating of child and earth.
Though it is somewhat obscure, there is a reference in the myth to water---in leaving the earth, the mythological Atchei had to pass through water: "The path of the first ancestors of the Guayaki for leaving and going out upon the huge earth was through a lovely water." The myth also seems to justify the reference to water because of the state in which the first men found themselves at the bottom of their hole: "The first ancestors of the Guayaki had very stinking armpits and bitter skin, very red skin"---which is as much as to say that they were dirty and, like a newborn child, they needed a bath. The mirror play between myth and ritual is confirmed even more decisively by the fact that for the Guayaki a camp in which a woman has just given birth is called ine, stinking. The secret order of things is thus uncovered little by little, the history and the ceremony share the same logic, the same mode of thought imposes the law of its unconscious forms on the succession of words and gestures, and once again the old forest is witness to the faithful celebration of their juncture.