Cubeo Hehe`newa Religious Thought, 1-6 [Uaupe`s river valley (in Colombia – pp. 405-6)] [the 2 Cubeo moieties are Hehe`newa & Bahu`kiwa (p. 2)]









Creation & Emergence



Social Order



Daily Life



Cosmic Order



Ritual Order



Death & Mourning



Shamans & Thundrers









1. Introduction

pp. 1, 3 names of the tribe; secrecy




"The Cuduiari` is a tributary of the river Vaupe`s ... . ... The river Cuduiari` is in Colombia. ... The term "Cubeo" or "kube`wa" is not a self-designation ... . ... In truth, they call themselves "Pami`>wa," ... as the name for the first people ... . ... "Pami`>wa" is an occult term".


After persecution by Christians, "Cubeo religious culture ... had gone "underground"".


2. Creation & Emergence

pp. 31-34 Anaconda’s (ainku:’s) heart




"The spirit Anaconda is Ainku:, literally, "eating man,"" a cannibal.


"The heart persists in its beating for hours after "death."


"To share Anaconda’s heart and soul ... is ... to think through his mind, and, to an extent, share in his will."


"Ainku: ... is also ka`vavi`djune (Elanoides sp., or the swallow-tailed kite) ... . This bird is the heart of Ainku:, so he can take on its form. The ka`vavi`djune is also the heart of a slender tree of the forest. When the paye` (shaman) cuts down such a tree it appears before him as an Anaconda. The heart of the tree then turns into the kite ... and it gives him its powers. Every part of this tree has powers that the paye` can use."

pp. 40-41 legend of migration in the "Bahu`kiwa emergence chant"


station in the migration


Impenani (the emergence-site)


hill of Abu`huwa




Konha`hiawu tava` "the place of red-pigment pods"


Uhu`wa tava`


"the gathering place of the guaracu` fish" [trout : Leporinus]


Wani`mu tava`


Tau`nru: tava`


"the place of the oko`boriya anka`mbo (white-water partridge)"




"the place of the hanhan birds" [kingfisher, having call similar to noise of maraca (p. 415)]


"smooth rocky plaza" where they "shed their Anaconda skins. ... After shedding their Anaconda skins they were not yet people, but fish."


Yaridu: {cf. name of /JaReD/ in Book of Mormon} cachevera [‘rapids’]


Hwaria`ku: tava`


Nyupa`nhameku: ("When they came out they were human beings.")


"Place of Milk"


Vea`kaveku: on the Cuduiari`


Pariyo`ka Pa`unwa






Horo`bu: "where the Koro`wa invited them to stay with them. Our grandfathers asked for women from them and were given."


Uko`riba "just above Gara`ta"


Mako`riba {cf. /MAKORaBA/ (Latin name for "Mecca")}


Bube`ku: "where they ... whipped one another"


Tu`waku tava`




Kuridi Kura`mi


Kibo`weda Hwa`niketode on the Pira`semu cano


Mimiku C^indu


Chipe Koriba




Emi`waimbu: {cf. >emi^m} tava`


Twu:bu: {cf. land of T.o^b}


Va`obwaku: tava`


Nya`membu: ta[v]a`


Hu:hu:wu: tava`




Byopi`pikabu: tava`


3. Social Order

p. 81 Hehe`newa account of the Bahu`kiwa emergence from the netherworld

"the Bahu`kiwa at the moment of emergence from Waracapuri`, ... came forth by stretching out a hand to one group after another and so pulled themselves up. {Hopi god Masauwuu extended his hand to pull up the people from the netherworld.} But on coming out, they gave off the strange odor of carayaru` or muja`, which they already possessed. The godmother noticed their odor and ... she sealed up the cave of origins with a substance the traditions call emi`dhu."

pp. 82-86 myths of emergence from the netherworld and acquisition of fire, according to the Bahu`kiwa tradition




"The Hehe`newa did not come out from the same hole as did the Bahu`kiwa. There are two Guaracapuri`s,"


on the river __

whence emerged the __






The goddess Yure`do gave to humans "karana` for firewood when they asked her for fire. Karana` burns so quickly that they had to keep asking her for more. They bothered her so much she named them ... Bahu`kiwa. {similarly, Maui pestered fire-goddess Mahuika by frequently begging more fire from her.}


Our grandfather Bwu [agouti`] {is this the Black Agouti (Dasyprocta fuliginosa)? A mammal which became tattooed black impeded the catching of hurtling fire hurled by the fire-goddess Mahuika ("M&K").} went to the house of Yure`do, who now mp longer wished to give them fire, and he seized real fire from her and carried it off to the Hill of the Agouti`, which is near Guaracapuri` on the Vaupe`s. ... After he had come out, Yure`do closed the hole by sitting on it. ... The Bahu`kiwa then came out ... at Chunchu [nigh the Papuri`]. They were not yet people but Anacondas. They ... shed their skins as Emi`bu." [Emi`bu = "smooth rocky plaza"]


"O`robaku: was the first to emerge from the same hole ... . ... Our grandmother Yure`do watched over the holes; her sister Bu`riko bubuko` watched over the hole from which we came out. ... Later [was] heard Bwu playing the bu:ku:pwanku: trumpet ... at the Vaupe`s Guaracapuri`... As soon as Bwu came out, he blew his trumpet ... . ...


Then O`robaku: got them and gave them names. ... Impenani` was a maloca under the ground called pwe`nte kena`mi. ... Bwu opened a hole in the center of the roof and left from there. {similar to exiting from a kiva} ... Ura`ihika`va ... was the one who put names upon them. Ura`hena was his younger brother."

"... a younger brother of Au`turubu returned to the womb of creation so that he could be reborn under the supervision of the younger sister of Yure`do, who was bringing forth in birth from the rear door of the great spirit maloca of Impenani` ... . ... And so they crossed the Bajuyo Impenani` ... and came to the cano of Ca`taborito`be on the Vaupe`s at Urania."


"Before these eleven groups came to the Cuduiari`, only one groups of people lived there. These were the Pahoku tarabe or Eindo."

"M&K" = "Maui and Kuri"

pp. 86-87 clan-ancestors of the Bahu`kiwa


proper name

common name




Kupo`rubu: hehe`naku:

Bari hehe`naku:














O`roba hehe`naku:






Bya Wadari`ku




Miari`ku: bu:ku:bo



"a vortex in the upper Vaupe`s"





cano Tuy


Miari`ku: hehe`naku:





Kwabe bu:ku:yo

Abu` hehe`naku:




Pabaku: Tora`be


Querari miri



4. Daily Life

pp. 133-134 Tree of Nourishment; borrowed voices of animals




"In the beginning, ... Ai`nyehinku:, who was their chief, ... owned the tree that grew at Impenani`, but was not yet known to the other Ku`waiwa. But only the monkey of the monkey of the night [yavi` maku:] lived on the tree ... . ... One day, paca [heme`bo] walking below saw the night monkey ... . ... This tree grew bitter manioc, plantana, sugar cane, pineapple, grapes ... . {"The Tree of Life, which bare twelve manner of fruits" (Apokalupsis of Ioannes 22:2).} It also had du`pa sap".


"The red monkey asked to borrow it so that he could play it. In exchange, he lent his panpipe to Tapir." {"And goat-herd Pan ... gave clever Kadmos the deceiving pan-pipes" (ND 1. 368 ).}


voices borrowed by animals from other animals :


borrowing animal

animal borrowed from


emu` (‘red monkey’)



umu` (‘orependola’)

kwi`mbo (‘tortoise’)





Tortoise "lost his balance, fell off the tree, and broke his hard shell. His grandmother pieced it together". {The Ibo myth of Nnabe the tortoise is similar.}

ND = Nonnos : Dionysiaka.


5. Cosmic Order

pp. 152-155 Tikie` Desana cosmology




"Reichel-Dolmatoff has written the most widely known account of Desana cosmology ... drawing largely upon ... communities of the Rio Papuri`. To this invaluable record there has now been added a rather extraordinary work [AME] ... produced by ... another branch of the Desana from the Tiquie` River. ...


... the comparable traditions of the Tiquie` Desana ... are closer in content to Cubeo than those described by Reichel-Dolmatoff for the Desana of the Papuri`. ...

... the Desana of Tiquie`... attribute the creation of the universe to an earth goddess, Yeba Belo, "Grandmother of the Universe," who in this respect is comparable to Cubean Yure`do. ...

... Yeba Belo ... sat in the confined zone of light that was her first house and she proceeded to think the full sphere of the universe into


being. When the sphere of darkness had reached its full size, a tower ... formed itself at the top to become the perch of the Great Bat". {In Jaina cosmology, divine bats likewise hang from the ceiling of the universe.}


"the ... transfixing lance of the Desanan "Grandson of the Universe." The lance is the vertical axis of one universe".

AME = K. Umu`sin Panlon & Tolama~n Kenhi`ri :Antes o Mundo na~o Existia. Sa~o Paulo : Livraria Cultura, 1980.

pp. 152, 156 Cubeo cosmology

p. 152

"The universe ... was thought into existence by Ku`wai, as were people. It took shape as a vertical alignment of nine widely separated spheres of crystalline rock (kena`wu:), each a special sphere of existence (tu:ku:bu:)."

p. 156

"each of the cosmic spheres rests upon a circular plate".

pp. 158-159 the 10 elements

p. 158

"listed in the following order ten elements of earthly existence :


pwe`nwa (‘people’)


ai`mara {cf. name of Bolivian tribe} (‘edible animals’)


hoku`wu: (‘trees’)


oko`wu: (‘waters’)


kena`wu: (‘rocks’)

p. 159

ume`wu: (‘winds’)


mwa`mu: (‘fish’)


abu`uwa (‘daimones’)


ai`nyehinku: (‘cultivated plants’)


hana`wu: (‘lights’)

p. 159 successive destructions of the world

"When people [came into existence], the jaguars and demons were devouring them day and night. Then a heavy night fell upon the earth and lasted for four days.

A wind followed and blew down the trees.

Then Hu:me`nihinku: caused the world to be burned over.

Then a flood drowned most of the remaining demons and jaguars."

pp. 160-162 myth of box containing darkness & sleep




"black clouds of the night" : "In this black cloud, there lived Nyemi`ku:, the Master of the Night. The night was kept in a box ... . When Ku`wai, overcome by curiosity, opened the box, darkness rushed out. ... When later the box was properly opened at the house of Ku`wai, the darkness was carried to the ends of the earth by two flying creatures, the u`mu, or oropendola, and the white bat (oro`ru boku:) ... . ...


["sleep (ka`ino)" :] Sleep is guarded in the same box that contains night and summer ... . More specifically, it is a liquid form of darkness ... . When first applied to the eyelids, it causes ... loss of consciousness".


"When Nyemi`ku bestowed the night, he appointed the earthworms (kuywa) as its caretakers and timekeepers."


"the earthworms speak the sounds of the night, ... they say "hyaah hyaah." ... At the center of the night (1:30 A.M.) the earthworms will speak again, saying "ti ti ti." This means that the wind (ume`wu:) will come".

pp. 167-168 variant (according to the 2 moieties) beliefs about the moon-god




"Hehe`newa ... claim thast the moon was Komi`, the animal son of "Single-Breasted Woman," the Mistress of the Animals of the Forest."


Bahu`kiwa : "By their beliefs, the moon had been a "man," though not a real human being, who secretly slept with his sister at night. To discover her secret lover, she poured a gourdful of vei over his face one night. Alarmed at being discovered, he fled


to the East ... to escape the scene of his incest by ... a brilliant feather, called "djuebo," which illuminated like a "cold lantern," ... at night".

p. 175 albino or all-black animals as chiefs of their species

"The senior of the animals is a giant tapir (veku:), one who is idiosyncratically white. ... The black jaguar, yavi` nyemku:, for example, is habo`ku: over all "tigres"; in the same way, an albino giant deer is habo`ku: of the deer." {cf. the Sioux White Buffalo as chief of the buffalo species}

pp. 171, 178-180 various animal-deities : reptile, amphibian, fish




"Only the paye` can see the supernatural animal in his dreams and visions. Each group of animals ... are like human beings. ... They have their own houses, their own language, their songs and their dances."


"The habo`ku: of the caymans is called amaraku`, who was once a person who wished to copulate with the piranha wife of Ku`wai. Her breasts, however, contained piranhas. When the cayman had mounted her, her piranhas devoured his underside. It was subsequently replaced by basketry".


The tree which Ku`wai had transformed into a woman "is carried away by vultures and becomes a child-bearing wife among them. After wresting her away from her vulture in-laws, Ku`wai punishes her by turning her into a tree frog."


Upon being offered living raw fish as if they were purportedly cooked, "realizing what his father-in-law is up to, Ku`wai puts chili peppers into the cooking pot; the fish are cooked fully and cannot bite. ... Later he steals pupunha seeds, which in those days only the piramhas owned, and plants a giant pupunha tree at home which bears mature fruit at once. Ku`wai learns that his piranha wife has a fish lover, a minnow called mwahinenku: who was then a person. He ... cuts off his penis, and turns it into a sardine, which he gives to his wife to eat. ... She returns angrily to her own kin ... . In frustration, Ku`wai turns into a macaw [maha`] and flies


to guaracu` cano on the Cuduiari` to the house of Aborami, ... the owner of basbasco. ... The tribe of fish arrives ..., but, having adorned himself with barbasco plants, Ku`wai frightens them".

pp. 180-181, 183 animals & dye

p. 180

/mijina/ {mihina} ‘bird’ : /mihi`/ ‘yage` plant’

p. 181

monkeys : "Their habo`ku: is the sloth".


insects "have their own habo`ku: called inemuabe."

p. 183

"the inky dark vei, the color of the ancestral guaracu` and the pigment that confers invisibility. ... vei is ... where the early ancestors were hiddenly safely".


6. Ritual Order

pp. 202-205 myth of origin of musical instruments




"Once there was a woman called Kwaino ope`ko, Single-Breasted Woman. She more a son. As soon as the infant was born, it became Avya`, the moon. ... Avya came down and began to eat his mother.{The theme of a new-born son eating the body of his mother is also Bodish.} He ate only her right side and consumed her right breast. {A goddess described as one-teated is the Bodish Eka-jat.i – perhaps related to the Vaidik goddess Ekasthaka.} The woman came to life again ... . ...


Komi` has a brother, an older brother, called Ai`nyehinku:, who ... had three sons. ... First the sons ... would make the bu:ku:pwanku: trumpet. ... Komi` ... came down sounding like the bu:ku:pwanwa; the sound coming from his fingertips and through his forearms. {Cf. the Navaho belief that winds vivifying all persons’ bodies produce the whorls of fingerprints at one’s finger tips.} ... Komi` climbed the avina tree to pick the fruit ... . When the odor of roasting fruit reached Komi`, he fell dead from the tree. However, he revived ... . ... Ai`nyehinku: therefore sent a wasp [uchi`ku:] to the sky to fetch him. Uchi`ku: brought Komi` an offering of tree larvae. ... Komi` ... made his body sound by moving his legs and stretching out


his arms. {like a cricket or else a cicada?} ... Komi` told them : "... you may cut off my limbs, but I will not die. ..." [From fragments of the body of] Komi`, ... sprang up : ihe, the poisons from fruits and berries; turu bones that contain poison ... . ... ... the pachua tree ... rose and floated about and then drifted down ... . Hawk feathers ... formed themselves into a dance line ... . ... One woman, however, found a hawk feather ["sparrow hawk feather" on p. 205] and waved it. A wind arose and blew through the instruments, causing them to sound. ...


The women had already taken the instruments and had hidden them inside their vaginas. ... When the new instruments were made, people were born and they received the instruments upon which were placed their names. ... When they came out at Impenani, these are the instruments they came out with."


Irving Goldman (ed. by Peter J. Wilson) : Cubeo Hehe`newa Religious Thought. Columbia U Pr, NY, 2004.