June 24, 2016 #ChileDiverse

Chilean myths and legends

The imaginary of the popular world -especially of peasant origin- is reproduced, recreated and transmitted through traditional tales and legends. These are oral stories that are passed on from generation to generation throughout the territory. The myths and legends express, with the protagonism of the people, the magical thinking of deep Chile.

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Folk tales from north to south
Sometimes it happened, sometimes it was a dream or a figment of the imagination. These are the tales we once heard, never to be forgotten. In the Norte Grande, the Añañuca, a legend about the desert flower, is very popular. In the small north there are still stories of pirates and hidden treasures that remind us of the mythical Sir Francis Drake. In the central zone, in the surroundings of Santiago, the Quintrala, a cruel and bewitched woman, is very popular.

In the central south, among many other rural legends, the legend of La Laguna del Inca is popular, an enchanted place in the mountain range, which is the result of a love story.

In the south, in the Araucanía, there is a great variety of Mapuche myths and legends, among them that of the Old Woman Owner of the Mountain, which reflects respect for the elderly. In the national imaginary, the mythology of Chiloé stands out, with its stories about the Pincoya, a southern mermaid, and the Caleuche, a ghost ship. In insular Chile, Easter Island has its own mythology according to a worldview different from that of the inhabitants of the mainland. Among its most popular legends is that of Make-Make, about the creation of the world and the birdman.

La Añañuca
Añañuca was a young girl who lived in Monte Patria, a small town near the Limarí River. At that time it was called Monte Rey because it was still under Spanish rule. The beautiful Añañuca attracted the admiration of the young men of the town. None had been able to conquer her. One day a handsome and enigmatic miner arrived looking for a very coveted vein of gold. When he saw Añañuca, he fell in love with her and stayed to live in Monte Rey. And it was reciprocated. One night the miner had a disturbing dream. A mountain goblin appeared to him and revealed to him the precise location of the vein of the mine he was obsessed with. Without hesitation he set off in search of it, leaving Añañuca with the promise that he would return.

Añañuca waited day after day, but her lover did not return. The mirage had swallowed him. Sadness settled in Añañuca and she died of love, disconsolate. The people of Monte Rey mourned and buried her one rainy day. The next day, the sun warmed the valley and it was filled with beautiful red flowers, which in honor of the young woman were called Añañuca. The flower grows to this day between Copiapó and the valley of Quilimarí and, after the sky cries, the pampa becomes the wonderful flowery desert.

Treasures of pirates
The corsair Sir Francis Drake discovered Guayacán Bay in 1578. Because of its shape it is known as the bay of the Horseshoe, a place that was a refuge for pirates, buccaneers and corsairs. All of them specialists in assaulting Spanish galleons that transported treasures, product of other plundering, from America to Europe. Legend has it that incredible jewels were buried in Guayacán Bay and that many died searching for them. The same greedy excavations were the tomb of treasure hunters. According to legend, a Drake treasure would still remain in a cave in Laguna Verde, on the coast of what is now the Valparaiso Region. There would be a treasure that has never been found. The fishermen, fearful and daring at the same time, say that it is not possible to enter this cave, which could be accessed from the city.

One of the entrances is located on Esmeralda Street in Valparaíso. It is said that it is guarded by a monstrous snitch of great strength, who comes out at night to trap treasure hunters. He takes them to the cave and drives them crazy. This snitch would have enchanted a girl and whoever dares to free her from the enchantment is exposed to terrible sufferings.

The lion's stone
In times when the indigenous people inhabited the San Felipe area, pumas abounded in the surrounding area. And that is where the lion's stone is located, more precisely on a hill called Yevide. For as long as anyone can remember, it is known that these felines have been persecuted and are at risk of extermination. Legend has it that in Yevide lived a beautiful lioness with her two cubs. One day the female had to leave her cubs to go out to look for food, and left the cubs sleeping next to a huge rock. When the lioness returned from the hunt, the cubs were gone.
In her absence, some muleteers had taken them away. The mother, desperate, searched incessantly for them without results. When night came, she lay down disconsolate next to the stone and made her grunts of lamentation heard. It is said that the animal's roars, which were nothing more than the cries of a wounded beast, could be heard from everywhere. From the following dawn, not a single puma was ever seen again. They all left Yevide Hill. And on winter nights, people often hear the wailing of the lioness. It is her soul, they say, that still claims her children that she left in the stone.

La Quintrala
She had red hair as red as chitral, that is why she was called La Quintrala. Her name, Doña Catalina de los Ríos y Lisperguer. Beautiful and capricious, she was one of the most feared criminals of the 17th century. In her hacienda of La Ligua and its surroundings she left a legend of horror, being attributed pacts with the devil. Unbridled, she was indomitable for her husband -who lived only a short time- who became an accomplice of her perversity. In the area there are stories of her mistreatment of the Indians of the hacienda, who had to flee to the mountains. La Quintrala presided over the punishments without being moved by the pain of others. Accused of her crimes, she was arrested and tried by the commissioner of the Audiencia, who found her guilty of parricide and the collective murder of her servants. She was taken to Santiago where her cunning and money were influential in delaying the process.

Among the diabolical pacts attributed to her is the one she made to win the love of the friar who would marry her. The friar resisted the harassment and self-flagellated, until he fled to Peru to avoid the seductive witch. He only returned when he learned of the arrest and her illnesses. He never confessed his mortal sins.

Laguna del Inca
When the Incas dominated pre-Columbian Chile up to the Maule, they performed their rituals and religious ceremonies in the Andes Mountains. It was the ideal place for those who considered themselves children of the sun. According to legend, the Inca Illi Yupanqui fell in love with the beautiful princess Kora-llé. They decided to get married on a summit located on the shores of a lagoon. After the wedding ceremony, the princess had to descend the slope of the hill, dressed in her costume and colorful jewels. The path was narrow, covered with pebbles that made the princess slip and fall into the void.

Warned by the screams, the Inca started to run, but by the time he reached his side, it was too late. His beloved princess lay dead. Grief-stricken, he decided that the body of the princess should be deposited in the depths of the lagoon. When she was submerged, the water magically turned emerald. The same color of the princess' eyes. Since then it is said that the Laguna del Inca -located in Portillo-is enchanted and, sometimes, on nights of full moon, the soul of Illi Yupanqui wanders on the still surface of the lagoon. And the laments of the Inca can be heard remembering his beloved.

The old woman owner of the mountain
In the wooded mountains of the Araucanía, a man was lost looking for his animals. He did not find them. Night fell without him finding his way back home, so he decided to look for a place in the forest to sleep. As he settled down to rest, he suddenly saw a glow in the middle of the forest. It was a campfire and an old woman was dancing around the fire. He went towards her. It was Kvpvka, the owner of the mountain, who had a house made of materials gathered in the forests of the mountain. She had everything, potatoes, peas, corn, etc.

The man greeted the old woman with great respect, then they became friends and got married. Knowing that the man was poor, widowed and had four children, the old woman said, "If you have children, bring them, there is everything here". So the man brought his children, they ate and stayed in the Kvpvka's house. One evening, one of the children laughed at the old woman's feet: "Look, the old lady has only two toes". The old woman flew into a rage, kicked her house and so everything disappeared, the fire, the wealth and the Kvpvka. The desperate man returned his children to the old house, advised them against the mockery and returned to the mountain to continue living with the Kvpvka.

La Pincoya
One of the most popular myths among the fishermen of Chiloé is that of a mermaid called La Pincoya. Sometimes, they say, she is accompanied by her husband, the Pincoy. She rarely leaves the sea to go into rivers and lakes. This sea nymph fertilizes the fish and shellfish under the waters, so that the abundance or scarcity of food for fishermen depends on her. When the Pincoya appears on the beach dancing, with her arms open and looking towards the sea, the fishermen are happy because this dance is an announcement of abundant fishing. If it dances facing the coast, it is a bad omen because it will drive away the fish. But the bad omen can be good for others, because the Pincoya brings abundance to the most needy.

Joy, even if it is from poverty, attracts La Pincoya, that is why the Chilotes sing, dance and make curantos for her to see and favor them. Part of the myth tells that the Pincoya was born in the beautiful Huelde lagoon, near Cucao, that she is a very beautiful woman, with a slightly tanned white complexion, golden hair and that, from the waist down, she has the shape of a fish. On certain nights she whistles or intones bewitching love songs, which no one can resist.

El Caleuche
A ghost ship sails the seas of Chiloé. It is the Caleuche, and its crew is composed of witches. On dark nights it illuminates its reddish sails and when it wants to hide it causes a dense fog. It never roams the archipelago in daylight, because it becomes invisible or turns into a rock. And its crew members are transformed into sea lions or gannets. Whoever looks at the Caleuche can be left, by witchcraft, with a crooked mouth or with his head turned backwards. The ship can be boarded, however, by the shipwrecked, the drowned, those who can see the cities at the bottom of the sea and their treasures, but not divulge what they have seen. This is the case of the barge that left Chonchi, led by the son of a respectable inhabitant of the place. The boat never came back.

When the father found out, he just smiled in a strange way that held a revelation: the son was safe aboard the Caleuche. From that day on, the father began to get rich in his business, and at night he heard the dragging of chains near his house: it was the Caleuche that was stealthily unloading large quantities of merchandise, which revealed the hidden relations that the merchant had with the ghost ship.

The creation of the world
It is said in Rapa Nui, Easter Island, that when there was nothing on earth, everything was about to be done. Then, there was a dispute between the spirits. A powerful spirit that lived in the air prevailed over the weaker ones who rebelled. The powerful one turned them into mountains and volcanoes. The repentant ones he turned into stars. To inhabit the earth, the mighty one transformed into a man a spirit who was his son; he threw him to the earth and when he fell, he was stunned. The mother of the young man felt sadness and wanted to observe him; then, to look at him, she opened a small window in the sky. Through it, sometimes, his pale face peeps out. The mighty one took a star and turned it into a woman to accompany his son.

To reach the young man the woman had to walk barefoot, but she was not hurt because the mighty one ordered herbs and flowers to grow in her path. She played with the flowers and when she touched them they turned into birds and butterflies. And the grass her foot had touched became a gigantic jungle. The couple met and found that the world was beautiful. In the daytime, the mighty one looked at them through a little round window, and it was the sun. At night, it was the mother who peered through the window, and it was the moon.

The legend of Make-Make
Legend has it that, after having created the world, Make-Make felt that something was missing. He then picked up a gourd containing water and, to his amazement, realized that when he looked into the water he saw his own face reflected. Make-Make greeted his own image and noticed that it contained a beak, wings and feathers. As he looked at his reflection he saw a bird perched on his shoulder. Finding great similarity between his image and that of the bird, he joined his reflection and that of the bird to thus create his firstborn. However, Make-Make wanted to create a being that had his image, that spoke and thought like him.

So, first he fertilized the waters of the sea and then the fish appeared. But the result was not what he expected. Then, he fertilized a stone in which there was colored earth, and from it came man. Make-Make was happy to have created man, the creature he desired; however, seeing the lonely man, he also created the woman. Make Make did not forget his bird image and led the birds to the motu or islets in front of Rano Kau to celebrate the cult of Tangata Manu, the bird-man.


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