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Chiloé History

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The Mythology of Chiloé

Tentenvilú and Caicaivilú
The giant serpent Tentenvilú provides wisdom and protection to men. But Caicaivilú, a monstrous half-snake, half-horse, awakes from a thousand years of sleep to trigger a punishing cataclysm to pay back the men who abandoned the sea, unleashing the waters to inundate everything. Tentenvilú springs to the humans’ defense, raising up the hills to protect them. The two divinities continue their combat until fatigue forces them to stop. This is how Tentenvilú manages to save the people. As for those who are caught by the deluge, not all of them die – Tentenvilú manages to transform some into fish and sea lions. Since the waters remained high during the divinities’ struggle, much of the earth was inundated, creating the gulfs, coves, canals and the sprinkling of islands which make up the archipelago.

The Pincoya
She is the fertility goddess of marine fauna, responsible for the abundance or scarcity of shellfish and fish. She is personified as a stupendous, seductive woman with strawberry blonde hair, beautifully dressed, who lives with her husband, the Pincoy. They are always happy and festive – their enemies are those who are bitter. As the story goes, Pincoy and Pincoya go out to the beach. He begins to sing a pretty but strange song and she begins a dance which gradually becomes frenetic. If Pincoya dances towards the hills, there will be no fish but if she dances in front of the sea, the waters will be full of fish.

The Witches
The witches are worst enemies of Chiloé families. Everyone knows of their nocturnal wanderings, the curses, sickness and even death they can bring. Naturally, there are invocations and techniques to scare them off. Witches organize themselves into “Higher Councils” and “Majorities” and meet in the “witches’ cave” near Quicaví. There they carry out their initiation rites, teachings and arts, and years later attain their status. Witches can have supernatural powers, such as flying, transforming themselves into other animals or birds, and mental powers such as provoking evil and mind-reading.

The Invunche
This is a hairy human being, transformed into a monster by the witches. His head is turned backwards and one leg is stuck to his spine. He lives in the witches’ house where he acts as custodian and advisor to the less experienced witches. He looks like a goat and walks on three legs. He accompanies the witches on their rounds.

The Flyer

An initiate in the arts of witchery, the Flyer doesn’t put these into practice but rather is the witches’ messenger. She is in fact a beautiful girl transformed into a sort of wading bird called “vauda”. She can later return to her human form.

The Caleuche
The Caleuche is a phantom boat used by the witches, also called a “vessel of fancy”. It is capable of covering great distances at inconceivable speeds and can go underwater to avoid storms. It can also transform itself into other elements such as a log or rock. Those who have seen it say it is a beautiful sailboat, painted white and completely illuminated. The witches use it to conduct business by transporting merchandise. As it passes, enthralling melodies are heard, which lure the unsuspecting people who are used as crew.

The Thrauco
This small character, no taller than 65 cm, is one of the best-known in Chiloé mythology. He is really a faun, enemy of men and lover of girls, especially virgins. Although deformed, he is extremely strong: he can fell trees with just three blows of his little stone axe. The Thrauco loves the beauty of the countryside and enjoys little wild berries known as “murtas”. Despite his ugliness, he is irresistible to maidens, who attribute their pregnancies to him, thereby excusing their “slip-ups”. 

The Fiura
She is the female version of the Thrauco. Very small and extremely ugly, she captivates men, especially the young men she seduces. She lives close to the swamps and bathes in the springs, then combs through her long hair with a glass comb. The force of her breath causes harm to young men, who in this way justify a venereal disease.

The Cuchivilú
A monstrous zoomorphic marine creature, half snake and half pig, who lives on muddy beaches on the island. He is the cause of mange which is caught on the beaches where he has been seen.

The Camahueto
This is an animal about the size of a one-year-old calf, with just one horn that possesses miraculous properties. It takes 30 years for the Camahueto to develop, after which it leaves the land to take up permanent residence in the sea. It is held responsible for landslides following floods.