Rahara

Variations: The Beast

rahara

Deep, permanent lagoons in Brazil and Venezuela are home to the Rahara. According to the Yanomami, this aquatic monster once lived in a large lagoon called Akrawa. Since then the rahara has moved upstream in the Orinoco, finding suitable lagoons to inhabit, or enlarging small lagoons to better fit inside. A rahara lagoon never dries out and can be recognized by observing the shore – there are tracks leading in, but none leading out.

The rahara is the uncle of the anaconda, and grows to greater sizes. It may or may not have feet. Its serpentine body is like a rotten pawpaw tree or a manioc strainer. It is capable of drawing people towards it and swallowing them whole. A rahara will be attracted to fire as it is sure to find a meal there; it will also rush out of its submarine hole to swallow anyone foolish enough to say its name out loud, so it is usually referred to as “the beast”. When in a good mood, raharas make a snapping sound and alert others to their presence. Silence is dangerous.

Raharas have pets in the form of hoatzins and curassows, which roost above the waterholes to entice hunters.  Snakes are also associated with the raharas. One talking boa constrictor turned into a live baby rahara after being shot dead by a hunter. It was kept as a pet in a water-filled palm spathe until it grew big enough to devour its entire adopted village. Finally, the raharas are responsible for floods, tsunamis, and other water-based disasters.

It is advisable to avoid known rahara haunts, and refrain from drinking, bathing, or fishing in those waters. A messenger once ignored those warnings and bathed in such a pond, and was immediately swallowed by a rahara. He called out “Help! Over here!” from inside the creature’s belly, and men arrived from the village with bamboo lances. They began running the rahara – and its prey – through. “Stop! You’re hurting me!” he screamed from inside, but they ignored him until both he and the rahara were dead.

Presumably the man was not well-liked.

References

Albert, B.; Becher, H.; Borgman, D. M.; Cocco, L.; Colchester, M. E. M.; Finkers, J.; Knobloch, F.; Lizot, J.; and Wilbert, J.; Wilbert, J. and Simoneau, K. eds. (1990) Folk Literature of the Yanomami Indians. UCLA Latin American Center Publications, University of California, Los Angeles.

Lizot, J.; Simon, E. trans. (1985) Tales of the Yanomami. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Mastopogon

Variations: Aegomastus, Egomastus; Houperou, Huperus (erroneously?)

Houperou

The first appearance of the Mastopogon (“breast beard”), also called the Aegomastus, is as a nameless “strange fish” observed by Thevet off the coast of South America. It has a beard resembling a goat’s udder under its chin, and the illustration provided includes a long dorsal spine and pointed fins.

Thevet also describes the Houperou as a large carnivorous fish that eats all other sea creatures, except for one small fish. The carp-like fish remains in the shadow of the houperou and enjoys the protection granted by its larger friend. The houperou has rough sandpapery skin like a dogfish, sharp teeth, and a long spine on its back. It attacks, drowns, and dismembers anyone it catches in the water, and the native people shoot it with arrows on sight. The similarity of this unlikely couple to a shark and pilot fish is clear; in fact, uperu is the local name for “shark”, appropriately converted to French pronunciation by Thevet.

Gesner takes up the descriptions of the houperou and the udder-bearded fish from Thevet, but pictures the houperou or huperus as a large pike. He also coins Mastopogon and Aegomastus for Thevet’s nameless fish.

With time the heraldic mastopogon and houperou blurred together to the point of inextricability, making it necessary to describe them together. Holme describes the mastopogon as a variety of houperou, looking like a salmon with large thorny fins, the dorsal fin reaching all the way to the tail. The houperou, on the other hand, now has the mammary wattle, along with two ear-like knobs on its head, a long-spined dorsal fin, rough scales, and a straight tail.

References

Gessner, C. (1560) Nomenclator aquatilium animantium. Christoph Froschoverus.

Holme, R. (1668) The academy of armory, or, A storehouse of armory and blazon containing the several variety of created beings, and how born in coats of arms, both foreign and domestick. Printed by the author at Chester.

de Souza, G. S. (1851) Tratado Descriptivo do Brazil. Typographia Universal de Laemmert, Rio de Janeiro.

Thevet, A. (1558) Les Singularitez de la France Antarctique. Maurice de la Porte, Paris.

Thevet, A. (1575) La Cosmographie Universelle. Guillaume Chaudiere, Paris.

Romŝiwamnari’

Variations: Romŝiwamnare’

Romsiwamnari

The Romŝiwamnari’ are forest and cave demons, known to the Šerente people of Tocantins, Brazil. They look like large birds with flabby, flightless bat’s wings, armed with beaks like scissors. Their call is an eerie whistle. Romŝiwamnari’ also appear as tapirs, or as stout humans with prominent teeth and a howler monkey’s tail. When in human guise, a romŝiwamnari’ resembles the Pope – a relic of missionary activity in Brazil.

Romŝiwamnari’ not only prey upon the living, but also ambush and consume the souls of the dead. A sufficiently powerful shaman can kill them while in the realm of death, but other souls are greedily devoured.

A man of the krara’ society and his pregnant wife once encoutered a pair of romŝiwamnari’ in a cave. The man held the monsters off as long as he could while his wife escaped, but he was outmatched and decapitated by the romŝiwamnari’. The woman brought the news to the rest of the village, and the other krara’ launched an assault on the romŝiwamnari’ cave. Three of the villagers were killed in the battle, but they slew the two romŝiwamnari’ – unaware that there were two more in hiding. However, the boy the woman gave birth to grew into a mighty hero in less than a year, and he avenged his father by burning the romŝiwamnari’ bones and killing the other two demons. The romŝiwamnari’ were not seen again in that area.

References

Crocker, W. H.; Giaccaria, B.; Heide, A.; Lea, V.; Melatti, J. C.; Nimuendajú, C.; Seeger, A.; Verswijver, G.; Vidal, L.; Wilbert, J. and Simoneau, K. (eds.) (1984) Folk Literature of the Gê Indians, v. 2. UCLA Latin American Center Publications, University of California, Los Angeles.

Nimuendajú, C.; Lowie, R. H. (trans.) (1942) The Šerente. The Southwest Museum, Los Angeles.

Auñ Pana

Variations: Pehiwetinome

Aun Pana

The Auñ Pana are evil man-eating fish from the folklore of the Yanomami of Brazil and Venezuela. They are large, have arms, and are covered with hair. Apparently they also have some degree of magical power. The auñ pana live in deep water and school with Pehiwetinome, which are equally large and anthropophagous.

A group of auñ pana and pehiwetinome once tore down a bridge that the Yanomami were crossing by biting through its wood. The bridge collapsed and became a raft, and the surviving Yanomami were turned into monkeys and pigs.

References

Albert, B.; Becher, H.; Borgman, D. M.; Cocco, L.; Colchester, M. E. M.; Finkers, J.; Knobloch, F.; Lizot, J.; and Wilbert, J.; Wilbert, J. and Simoneau, K. eds. (1990) Folk Literature of the Yanomami Indians. UCLA Latin American Center Publications, University of California, Los Angeles.

Aíǰe

Variations: Aíge, Spirit-Tadpole

Aige

The Aíǰe is associated with the Bororo of Brazil and Bolivia, and in particular the Páiwoe and Aróroe clans. It is a gigantic tadpole, somewhat like a hippopotamus.

Rubúgu of the Páiwoe first found the aíǰe while walking through a swamp. He liked the little animal and decided to keep it, taking it home in a vessel of water. Rubúgu had great plans for his little pet, and wanted it to become something great and amazing, so before covering its container with a fan he told it “Grow for me; thrive and become an extraordinary creature”.

And grow the aíǰe did. It became larger, and stronger, and it could sing a loud, buzzing song. Rubúgu had to keep switching it to increasingly large containers to support its bulk, and eventually he had nowhere left to put it. He tried doing a dance for the aíǰe, but the tadpole rejected Rubúgu’s mediocre talents. Instead, Chief Baitogógo of the Aróroe took the aíǰe, and honored it with a macaw-feather headdress and a marvelous dance, both of which pleased the tadpole greatly. Baitogógo told the aíǰe that it had to live in ponds, swamps, and lakes away from the Bororo, for it was so big and the magic of its song so powerful, it could pose a serious threat.

The aíǰe accepted, and before leaving it told Baitogógo that if the Bororo missed it, then they should fashion little tadpole sculptures in remembrance. Those figurines could be tied to a stick and swung in the air, making an amphibian buzzing much like aíǰe did. Thus the aíǰe went on to become one of the totems of the Bororo.

References

Albisetti, C.,; Colbacchini, A.; and Venturelli, A. J.; Wilbert, J. and Simoneau, K. eds. (1983) Folk Literature of the Bororo Indians. UCLA Latin American Center Publications, University of California, Los Angeles.

Tapirê-iauara

Variations: Tapir Nymph, Onça d’Água (Water Jaguar), Onça Pé de Boi (Cow-legged Jaguar), Paraná Pura Iuraretê (Turtle/Jaguar that Dwells in River Side Channels), Tai-açu-iara (potentially)

Tapire-iauara

The Tapirê-iauara, or Tapir Nymph, enjoys a wide distribution in the Amazon, from the Orinoco in Venezuela to the Rio Negro, the Madeira, the Tapajós, and the Amazon down to Pará. Sightings have been reported from around Codajás, Fonte Boa, Itacoatiara, Nova Olinda, Oriximiná, Santarém, and Urucurituba. It lives in slower-moving waters, near groves of aninga or palm trees, and avoids human settlements.

The name tapirê-iauara is etymologically complex. Tapiré is Tupi for “tapir”, while y is “water” and ara is “lady” in língua geral; it also draws from the Tupi uara (“dweller”) or yguara (“dweller in water”). Hence, “tapir water-lady” or “tapir nymph” is a rough translation. This same derivation gives us the Amazonian nymphs Yara and Oyoára, the sea monster Hipupiara, and Paraná Pura Iuraretê, which was apparently a giant turtle creature that later was subsumed into the tapirê-iauara (iuraretê meaning either “turtle” or “jaguar”).

Reports of the tapirê-iauara appearance have varied somewhat. Most accounts agree that it resembles a cow-sized jaguar with a reddish waterproof coat, a thick mane, long droopy ears half a meter in length, and an overpowering stench (catinga). It may have jaguar legs, or the forelegs of a jaguar and hooved, donkey-like hindlegs. It may have horse legs with or without catlike paws, duck feet, or large otter paws. Variations in fur color include red, gold, and black with a cream patch in the chest. It notably does not look much like a tapir.

A tapirê-iauara is heard and smelled before it is seen. The large, finlike ears flap noisily against the water as it swims, while its putrid odor precedes it. From a safe distance, it’s merely nauseating; at close quarters the stench of a tapirê-iauara is enough to cause fainting and outright death. Tapirê-iauaras can also mesmerize prey into standing still before pouncing on them.

Tapirê-iauaras have a broad diet that includes large fish, capybaras, caimans, and humans. They are attracted to hauls of fish and the halitosis resulting from eating poorly-cooked fish. They often show up to inspect fishermens’ catches – or the fishermen themselves. When they do, they are fast, persistent, and resilient, relying on their odor to weaken prey before killing it with their sharp teeth and claws. One fisherman had to empty 12 slugs from a .22 rifle into a pursuing tapirê-iauara before the beast expired. Other fishermen have not been so lucky, having their catches stolen at best or being dragged into the river and devoured at worst.

Sometimes the stink of a tapirê-iauara is enough to cause a human’s shadow (and therefore soul) to depart. A person who has lost their shadow in this way is said to be assombrado. They can recover their soul by inhaling the fumes of a fire made with leaves, sticks, and the bones of undercooked piranhas.

Caraña resin (Protium heptaphyllum) is repulsive to tapirê-iauaras, and anyone concerned about tapirê-iauara attack should equip themselves with some before heading into the Amazon. Tapirê-iauaras also cannot climb, and so shelter should be sought in trees. As the tapirê-iauara’s odor will cause fainting and potentially falling out of the tree, secure branches must be found.

The Tai-açu-iara from around Parintins is similar and may be the same animal. It appears as a black piglike creature with jaguar paws.

References

Smith, N. J. H. (1981) Man, Fishes, and the Amazon. Columbia University Press, New York.

Smith, N. J. H. (1996) The Enchanted Amazon Rain Forest. University Press of Florida, Gainesville.

Guariba-boia

Variations: Howler monkey snake

Guariba boia

Guariba-boia, the “howler monkey snake”, can be found in a wide stretch of the Amazon river, from Fonte Boa in the west to Urucurituba in the east, and in the lakes of the Rio Negro. It excavates tunnels in murky river bottoms, and hides in mud or thickets of water-plants. Usually its voice is the only sign of its existence.

As the name implies, a guariba-boia typically has the head of a howler monkey (guariba) on the body of a snake (boia). Sometimes it has the body of a howler monkey and the paws of an otter, and rarely it has the head of a sloth (although such a feature would seem hardly intimidating). Guariba-boias grow to about six meters long.

Guariba-boias announce their presence with loud, resonant howls that sound like an entire troop of howler monkeys. They roar from below water, and their calls are particularly loud on rainy nights.

While not as big as boiunas, guariba-boias are armed with needle-sharp fangs and lethal venom. Death by guariba-boia bite is swift and painful, after which the creature swallows its victim whole. A guariba-boia does not regularly seek out human prey, but will overturn canoes and kill the occupants if hungry enough.

References

Smith, N. J. H. (1996) The Enchanted Amazon Rain Forest. University Press of Florida, Gainesville.