The people most likely to engage in bloodletting or to utilize hallucinogens in ritual in ancient Panama were political and religious leaders of the aristocracy. In cheifdoms, members of the aristocracy, while alive, stand between ordinary people and the ancestors and deities of the wider universe and, after death, are thought to become future ancestors. Indeed, even while still living aristocrats are through to be qualitatively different from other people and to constitute “living ancestors.” As such it is their duty and responsibility to maintain contact by ritual with the powers and beings of cosmological realms.

Ultimately aristocrats are expected to have close contact with the creational powers of cosmological origins. This association with original, primordial conditions of being, with that which is first and primary, legitimizes their political authority among the populace and endows them with the qualities of ancestors. Upon their death, the burial of aristocrats – in Panama in womb-like tombs filled with gold and ceramics depicting creational beings and referencing themes of origins – literally returns them to the wider realms of the underworld or the sky, the original and ultimate sources of all light and life.