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.

Kori

kori

The Cuiva of Colombia and Venezuela tell of the Kori, a destructive aquatic monster. It has the appearance of a giant anteater, except far larger, and it lives underwater in the rivers. It uses its large claws to dig under riverbanks, causing their collapse, and that is why this is such a common occurrence in the rainforest. A kori can also cause strong gales to destroy constructions, and can turn soil into water to drown people.

A kori once collapsed a riverbank near a Cuiva village, killing most of the inhabitants. Only one man managed to escape by transforming himself into a howler monkey and climbing to the top of a tree, where he sat trembling and watching the kori. Even that wasn’t enough, as the kori eventually knocked down the tree and killed the monkey hiding there.

Word of the massacre reached the Cuiva, and after mourning the dead they set out to avenge them. The father of the howler-monkey man led the hunt, armed with a harpoon, while the others followed with poisoned arrows. Once found, the kori was riddled with harpoons and arrows while it was too weakened to fight back. It tried transmuting the ground to water, but it was only shallow water, and the warriors continued firing poisoned arrows until the enormous anteater died. The leader of the hunt chopped off the kori’s claws and made them into a necklace as payment for his son. The rest of the anteater’s body was left for the vultures.

References

Arcand, B.; Coppens, W.; Kerr, I.; and Gómez, F. O.; Wilbert, J. and Simoneau, K. eds. (1991) Folk Literature of the Cuiva Indians. UCLA Latin American Center Publications, University of California, Los Angeles.

Chonchón

Variations: Chonchon, Chonchoñ, Chon Chón, Chuncho, Chucho, Chuchu, Chaihue; Chonchones (pl.); Cocorote, Corocote (Venezuela); Cuscungo (Ecuador); Tecolote, Telocote (Mexico)

Chonchon

The Chonchón is a bird of ill omen from Chile and Argentina; it originally hails from Araucanian Mapuche folklore. Chonchón is also the name of a kind of kite.

In its simplest form it is a bird of the night, an owl (Strix rufipes) that flies on silent wings during the night to announce illness, death, or some other unwelcome event. When its croaking is heard it is advised to throw ash into the air and utter a few prayers in the hopes of turning away its evil.

The chonchón is also said to be a calcu or evil sorcerer in disguise. It resemble a human head, with oversized wing-like ears that allow it to fly. During the night, these sorcerers’ heads detach themselves from their bodies and fly around to cause mischief, invisible to most, their ominous tué, tué, tué call announcing misfortune. They have the same powers as sorcerers do, and have been known to suck the blood of sleepers.

In order to repel chonchones, several methods are recommended. These include drawing a Solomon’s seal on the ground, laying out a waistcoat in a specified manner, or reciting certain phrases or hymns such as the Magnificat, the Doce Palabras Redobladas, “Saint Cyprian goes up, Saint Cyprian goes down, Saint Cyprian goes to the mountain, Saint Cyprian goes to the valley”, or “Jesus goes ahead, follow him behind”. Doing any of these actions forces the chonchón to leave, or even fall to the ground where it can be destroyed. If the headless body of a chonchón sorcerer is found, turning it onto its stomach prevents the chonchón from returning to it. Finally, a more humane means of dealing with a chonchón is to yell “Come back tomorrow for some salt!” The next day, the chonchón in its human guise will show up and sheepishly request the promised salt. Except perhaps for the last method, most interference with the ways of chonchones will eventually incur the revenge of the chonchón or its friends.

One chonchón was reportedly grounded in Limache when someone made a Solomon’s seal, causing a large bird with red wattles to fall out of the sky. It was decapitated and its head fed to a dog, whose belly swelled up as though it had eaten a human head. Later the local gravedigger told that unknown persons had come to bury a headless body.

Not all chonchones are irredeemably evil, however. A Mapuche man in Galvarino once woke up early in the morning to find his wife’s body without her head. He immediately realized that she was a chonchón, and turned the body onto its stomach to prevent the head from reattaching. As expected, a chonchón soon flew heavily into the house, flapping and staggering as though blind. It then turned into a dog and whined pleadingly to be reunited with its body. The man took pity on it and allowed it to do so, and it became his wife once more. “Every night I leave, without you knowing, and visit distant lands”, she explained. She begged him not to tell anyone, and swore she would never harm him, and both kept their word; the story became known only after the wife died of natural causes.

Some authorities separate the chonchón from the chuncho, with the former being the sorcerous flying head and the latter the owl. Their calls are also different, with the chuncho hooting chun, chun, chun. They have further owl equivalents in the Venezuelan cocorote, the Ecuadorian cuscungos, and the Mexican tecolote. It is also compared to the myth of the voladora, a witch who flies while cackling loudly.

All this is quite unfair to the owls themselves, which benefit the farmers by eating mice, rats, and other vermin.

References

Aguirre, S. M. (2003) Mitos de Chile. Random House, Editorial Sudamericana Chilena.

Borges, J. L.; trans. di Giovanni, N. T. (1969) The Book of Imaginary Beings. Clarke, Irwin, & Co., Toronto.

Cifuentes, J. V. (1947) Mitos y supersticiones (3rd Ed.). Editorial Nascimento, Santiago, Chile.

Coluccio, F. and Coluccio, S. (2006) Diccionario Folklórico Argentino. Corregidor, Buenos Aires.

Rodríguez, Z. (1875) Diccionario de Chilenismos. El Independiente, Santiago.

Soustelle, G. and Soustelle, J. (1938) Folklore Chilien. Institut International de Coopération Intellectuelle, Paris.

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.

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.

Kayeri

Variations: Kayéri, Cayeri

Kayeri

When it rains, the Kayeri are sure to appear. These creatures from the folklore of the Cuiva of Colombia and Venezuela are seasonal beings, seen in the rainy season and especially after a recent rainfall. In drier seasons they remain underground or underneath the roots of a tree, and use the holes made by ants to reach the surface. The presence of anthills in the rainy season is a sure sign of kayeri presence.

The appearance of a kayeri is nebulous at best. He is clearly humanoid in shape, and acts as such; he also has a yellow or blue-green hat. All the mushrooms of the forest are kayeri. The agouti, the broad-leaved unkuaju plant, and the Ficus vine are also kayeri, and dragonflies can become Kayeri. The coyoweri fruit is their invention. The only word in their vocabulary is “mu” or “mü“.

Kayeri are strong and run fast. They feed exclusively on cows, and they can easily pick up a cow and run away with it. When they eat a cow, they devour flesh, entrails, horn, hoof, and bone in one sitting, leaving nothing behind. The virile kayeri are bigamous by nature, and have two wives each, but they are fond of human females as well, whom they entrance and bewitch into coming to them. In addition to decimating herds of cattle, they rob, murder, kidnap, rape, and cause all sorts of evil.

The best way to kill a kayeri is to shoot it in the kidneys with a bone-tipped arrow, as they are quite invulnerable elsewhere. Once dead, the kayeri turns into a harmless stone.

One story is told of a hunter whose two daughters were abducted by a kayeri. The father managed to catch up with him and shoot him with a bone-tipped arrow before he could harm the daughters, and the kayeri fell into the river and became a pebble. As the family made for safety they could hear the ominous “mu, mu, mu” of kayeri beating trees with sticks, as they do when they are upset. “He fell out of his hammock and broke his back!” yelled the father, and they reached home without further trouble.

References

Arcand, B.; Coppens, W.; Kerr, I.; and Gómez, F. O.; Wilbert, J. and Simoneau, K. eds. (1991) Folk Literature of the Cuiva Indians. UCLA Latin American Center Publications, University of California, Los Angeles.

Munuanë

Variations: Munuane, Munuani

Munuane

Munuanë is either a single entity or an entire species of ogres native to the Guahibo people of Colombia and Venezuela. Many stories end with him being outsmarted and killed, which would be slightly inconvenient if he was one person.

Munuanë plies the waterways of the jungle on a makeshift raft. He is tall and powerful, with long grey hair, but his mouth is as toothless as a turtle’s. He loves eating human flesh, but his lack of teeth forces him to prepare his meals before eating them. Munuanë lacks eyes in his head, instead having them in his knees. Those eyes are his weak spot, as he is invulnerable everywhere but his knees. His wife is called Matasoropapénayo, or “Little-bone-of-the-crown”, and they live together in a hut in the deepest part of the jungle.

He is the “grandfather of fish”, and claims ownership over all the fish in the river. Fishermen are advised to bring in their catch as quickly as possible and not fish more than they need, as Munuanë hates greed, and mesmerizes overfishers into walking off ravines. Other times he shoots offenders with his arrow – Munuanë always carries around only one arrow, as he never misses his target. He is also an insatiable sexual predator, and his victims turn into termites.

It is said that a man once met Munuanë while out fishing, and did not manage to escape in time. Fortunately, Munuanë is not particularly bright, and accidentally shot the man’s reflection in the water instead of the man himself. By the time Munuanë had retrieved the arrow, his quarry had managed to swim away. Munuanë chased after the man and followed him to his village, where he ran rampant. But the man realized what Munuanë’s weakness was, shot him in the eye, and killed him instantly.

Such are the tales of Munuanë. Sometimes he is outsmarted by a powerful shaman. At other times a friendly spirit – Banajuli or Banaxuruni – is there to reveal his weak spot. Sometimes he is transformed into a rotten tree stump when he dies, with the arrow that killed him still embedded in the trunk. The entire forest cries out upon his death; he may be an ogre, but he also cares for the jungle and the fish of the river.

References

Kondo, R. L. W.; Kondo, V. F.; Maltoni, R.; Gómez, F. O.; Queixalós, F.; and Vargas, E.; Wilbert, J. and Simoneau, K. eds. (1992) Folk Literature of the Sikuani Indians. UCLA Latin American Center Publications, University of California, Los Angeles.