Mesoamerican and South American Mythologies: Maya, Aztec, Inca

The South Americans

What are some South American creation myths?

Stories of creation are ubiquitous among South American peoples, as they are among peoples everywhere. In many cases, creation in South America was initiated by a supreme sun deity. In what is today Colombia, the Witoto creator himself emerged from the sound of words that articulated ancient myths and incantations. This concept is similar to the Indian Vedic concept of the sacred words of the Vedas themselves, or the sound of the sacred syllable, “Om.” The Chibcha of Colombia say that originally an as-yet-unformed god contained the light of the world. When that god rose up, light was released and creation began, with birds spreading the light around the world. The Chamacoco of today’s Paraguay say that the mother goddess Eschetewuarha was the wife of the supreme deity but was herself the creator. For the Shipibo of Peru, a solar goddess is the creator. Culture heroes play a major role in many South American creation myths as they do in Africa and in other parts of the world. Sometimes the creator is assisted by twins. Sometimes these twins represent different sides of creation, the good and the evil, the evil twin becoming, in effect, a mischievous trickster. The Carib people of Guiana believe that Makunaima and his twin created the world, but also caused a great flood. Also in Guiana we find Tuminikar, a solar deity who helps humans, and his brother, Duid, the moon, who undermines everything the solar deity does. The Ona of Brazil have a supreme being who sent a culture hero named Kenos to the world. It was Kenos who created human sexual organs out of peat, which were then responsible for the creation of the Ona. After Kenos taught the people what they needed to know to live, he departed, turning things over to a set of twins who gave the people both new knowledge and death. As in Mayan culture, the creators were not always successful. In what is now Venezuela, the Taulipa culture hero attempted to create humans out of wax, which, of course, melted. Wisely, he chose clay at his next attempt.


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