Ethnography and Shamanism of the C^oko`, IV

pp. 118-119, 126-daimones; the creator-god

p. 118

[from Nordenskio:ld (1928a:59) :] "Uero the alligator ... lives in a cave far away in the bush. It is very dangerous as it devours human beings that are out hunting."


[from Nordenskio:ld (1929:142) :] "The Choco` believe in another world ... [where]

p. 119

there are other mortal beings that God had made from wood before he made the Choco`." {cf. race of mankind made from wood, according to the Popol Vuh}

p. 126

"Acole, both creator of man culture hero to the Choco` according to Nordenskio:ld (1929:144) made mortal beings out of wood. It was he in the guise of a fish who stole fire {cf. fire-god Agni’s hiding amongst the fishes} from the alligator and who found water in the tree of life."

Nordenskio:ld 1928a = E. Nordenskio:ld : Indianerna pa: Panamanaset. Stockholm.

Nordenskio:ld 1929 = E. Nordenskio:ld : "Les Rapports entre l’Art, la Religion et la Magie chez les Indiens Cuna et Choco’." JOURNAL DE LA SOCIETE’ DES AMERICANISTES, n.s. XXI:141-58.

pp. 128-130 primary theme of the mythology : the creation


Katio myth


"Caragabi himself was created from the spittle of Tatzitsetze described as first father and father of everything, without beginning and self-created."


"Caragabi, who was born from the saliva of Tatzitsetze whilst fishing on a cloud between worlds, meets Tutruica, described in the Embera` myth (m23) as from the world of Armucura. Besides this world there are four worlds ahead and four behind, each with its respective god. ... Firstly they create men from stone, then from clay and spittle. In the Embera` myth (m34) men of the underworld, who were first made of wood, were immortal, while men made in this world only became immortal at death. There follow various trials by the two ... surviving a fire ordeal, a boiling water ordeal, burial under a mountain {cf. deities buried under mountains, according to the Popol Vuh} and escape by changing into a stream and being sunk by means of a giant palm in a canoe to watery depths only to escape by again changing into water. ... . ... Caragabi ... transforms humans into the sun and moon (m29), and then on a journey around the world (m30) he arrnages the stars ... and designates the behaviour of all creatures. ... Later Caragabi finds finds the great tree Genene which is owner by Gentsere and which contains water. {baobab?} Gentsera refuses Caragabi water so he turns her into a great black ant. Then ... in spite of the frog who appears as a healer helping the great tree withstand the cuts of stone ... axes, the tree is felled only to be caught by vines. Only Chidima the squirrel manages to cut the vines and the tree falls, creating the seas from its trunk and rivers from its branches. There follows the flood when Caragabi his followers climb a high rock. ... In a further myth (m10) the sky, where Caragabi was thought to live, was very close to earth and it was only incest ... (m1), which caused Caragabi to move the sky further away. A ladder was made to that man could still converse with him, but a woman climbing the ladder allowed a child to pluck one of the flower from which it was made and


it broke. The ladder was placed on a great stone, probably the stone Monpahuara, which may have been the god’s refuge in the flood. ... Around this rock four fires burn till the end of the world when the rock will split ... . When this happens Caragabi or his descendants will return to live again in the world which will then be more beautiful."

pp. 130-132 secondary theme of the mythology : the saga or epic form


Noanama` myth

{Hellenic myth, etc.}


"Only in the Noanama` myth are there twin heroes who are separated but later reunited. ...


The Noanama` twins become Waura, or wooden

{Dionusos used "fir-branches" (GM 27.2).}


dolls, at night and drink menstrual blood ... . ...

{cf. the Pan-haima (‘All-bloody’) Amazon-women beset by Dionusos (GM 27.d).}


He sets out on a raft playing a flute and

{Dionusos sailed from Ikaria to "the sound of flutes" (GM 27.h).}


is swallowed ... : raft and all.

{cf. swallowing by a whale of shipful (including ship) of mariners (TH1, p. 287),


He ... inside its belly ... finds people, animals, rivers and falls. He lights a fire and kills the monster; one Noanama` twin, leaving by the anus ... . The other twin leaves by the mouth, which was propped open with a raft pole. ...

inside of the belly of which whale they discovered people (TH1, p. 289), a water-spring (TH1, p. 291), and sea-animals (TH1, p. 293). There were fire-haired people (TH1, p. 299). We "set the forest afire, thinking that in this way the whale could be killed, and in that case our escape would be easy. ... At the last moment, then, we propped the mouth open with great beams" (TH2, p. 304)}


In the Noanama` myth it is the sun or Evandama who carries the hero to the underworld after a boy , possibly his twin, throws caimito fruit or star apple {so-called because the starfruit is 5-pointed like the core of an apple} into the water to attract fish away from swallowing the sun as he dives into the water with the hero on his back on a journey to the underworld. ...

{Dionusos descended in the netherworld Tartaros (GM 27.k).}


Whilst the Noanama` hero is killed, because he sucks blood, by women who pour maize and water over him (m1), the Chami` hero ... (m7) ... is later bitten by a wasp and dies. At death the heroes are turned to stone, except the Chami` hero whose body disappears on the fourth day. ... In the Noanama` myth (m12) ..., the twins remain together till the woodpecker breaks their elongated and joined chonta palm. When this happens one fall to east to the sunrise, the other west, where the sun takes him to

{if bitten by a wasp, the hero may have been a caterpillar, commonly paralyzed as food for wasp-larvae. Maui-tikitiki was in caterpillar guise when he was killed (according to Maori mythology)}


the underworld, where the two come together again and later die by drinking boiling water."


In another "version (m13) the Creator puts his leg through the sky. The frog copulates with the leg and twins are born."

{When the praegnant heroine Semele died, Hermes "saved her six-months son; sewed him up inside Zeus’s thigh, to mature there for three months longer; and, in due course of time, delivered him. Thus" Dionusos "is called ‘twice-born’ " (GM 14.c). [this myth is cited on p. 199, n. 104]}


"In the Embera` journey the hero goes to a distant lad of small men with tortoise {retractible?} hands. His companions are killed and finally a turkey flies him back to this world."

{with the turkey, cf. the peafowl who is vehicle of Skanda}

GM = Robert Graves : The Greek Myths. 1955.

TH = A.M. Harmon (transl.) : True History (by Loukianos of Samosata). Loeb Library, 1913.


TH2 =

p. 133 tertiary theme of the mythology : soul-metamorphosis & monsters


{Hellenic; Cymry}

"an Embera` myth (m60) tells of a man who killed his wife while drunk

{cf. Heraklees, who while temporarily mad killed (GM 122.e) his own wife Megara},

abandoned his sons and

{killed them also (GM 122.c)}

went off to the forest where he lived hunting on his own.

{"he shut himself up in a dark chamber for some days, avoiding all human intercourse" (GM 122.d).}

But the buzzards came and took him to their own home, where he put on feathers and wings and learned to fly, returning only to show his transformation to his two sons.

{Heraklees married (GM 145.i) goddess Hebe, who had been replaced by (GM 29.c) Ganumedes whilst Zeus "disguised himself in eagle’s feathers" (GM 29.a).}

A second Embera` story tells how the moon’s wife is turned into an owl for her faithlessness, whilst a Catio myth (m61) has Caragabi as the cuckolded husband who turns his wife into an owl, who cries to the moon."

{After she committed adultery with Goronwy, Blodeuwedd was transformed "into a white owl" (OM&F) by Gwydion. The name of Blodeuwedd’s husband, Lleu, is related to /lleuad/ ‘moon’ (LlLl).}

OM&F =

LlLl =

p. 133 the 4 souls

"two short and two long, the long ones leaving first at death followed by the short ones :

‘For the hand or the arm there is a shade Huakara and

the shade of the skeleton is pa>akara ... .

The heart has its shade Tarakara and finally

the soul of the head is Purakara’.

This Noanama` notion of four souls corresponds in number with the Embera` who believe according to Loewen (1960b:213) in four souls called huare :

(1) the soul of the sun and (2) the soul of the moon are evidenced by the shadow during the day and night respectively {in tantrik physiology of suks.a kaya (‘subtle body’), the sun is said to be located at the base of the spine, and the moon over the apex of the head};

(3) the wandering soul, which leaves the body when one dreams ...,

the (4) soul of death, or the huare which leaves the body after death and can be changed to harmful or useful spirit beings."

p. 134 one’s helper-spirits

"An individual obtains, usually at the instigation of a shaman, a series of personal spirits known as hai ... . These are referred to by Reichel-Dolmatoff (1960:120) as guardian or tutelary spirits ... . ... It is with these ‘personal’ spirits or hai that contact with what the Noanama` according to Reichel-Dolmatoff (1960:119) call bine or ancestral spirits is made."

pp. 133-135 other spirits




"An alpadi is usually described as having enormous eyes and head. {similarly to UFO "greys"} It may stand erect ... and has a hand shaped like a hook {these is another UFO theme; I have seen one} with which it tears out the heart of a victim. ... when wounded, the blood will become another alpadi. They are thus self-perpetuating; kill one and another will take its place." "Ordinary men may become one after death if they take a concoction made from a plant (Guiban colorado)."


Reichel-Dolmatoff refers to the Noanama` alpada {sic} as the bear spirit, whilst Loewen (1960b:214) regards the aribamia and aripada as ‘souls of death’, the former having escaped from the body after burial, the latter after death but before burial."


"According to the Catio myth (m63) the shaman ... after he has been buried fifteen days there arises from his grave a vapour which is transformed into aribamia. This has the body of an Indian, but the head and claws of a jaguar and is regarded as the reincarnated soul of the shaman.

In another Catio myth (m65) the souls of dead shamans become nunsi, a fish, with eyes like fire, who eats both body and soul of bathers."


antomia : "Reichel-Dolmatoff refers to this monster as having the form of a wild pig who swallows victims and foretells death."

p. 138 various origin-myths

In the origin myths of the Embera` (m32, m33) maize was brought to this world from Chiaperera, the underworld, by the son of a Choco` who married a girl from the underworld, whilst fire was obtained from the alligator by a ruse when God disguised himself as a fish. ... lightning is explained by the Noanama` (m35) as the voice of Evandama;

the Catio, who call lightning baha, ... told (m34) that lightning is the laughter of the upperworld people, whilst thunder is one of their children beating a golden drum ... .

The Catio also believe (m34) that Tutruica, god of the underworld, made the rainbow which may also signify the death of a shaman. {according to Bodish (especially rN~in-ma) belief, some spiritual practictioners may, at death, transmute their corpse into a praeternatural rainbow.}

pp. 145-147 comparisons with mythologies in other regions of the world


C^oko` & vicinity

Pacific islanders; Wayana; Maya


"The ancient Peruvian-Jivaro motif of ‘hatching from eggs’ is paralleled by

Kramer’s account of Palau-Micronesian myths .. which closely parallel Choco` mythology as repeated by Wasse`n (1940a:70) : ‘... a childless woman ... found an egg in a Pandanus [palm] ..., a sun egg.’ Wasse`n continues :

One day he [the hero hatched from the egg] ... swam ... under the breadfruit tree ... . He bored through the trunk ... so that every wave thereafter cast fish into the hole, and through the hollow trunk ... the fish fell down by the house ... one day they ... gathered together with axes ready to chop down the breadfruit tree. But ... there came ... such streams of water that the inhabitants of the island drowned. ... Later the youth flew to heaven but came down again to his mother ... .

The cutting of the tree, from which water comes and floods the land, drowning many except the hero ..., is similar to the Choco` creation myth (m42). ...


In addition, in referring to the Choco` ‘saga’ element of using fruit to entice fish away, so that the sun can dive into the water unharmed,

Wasse`n notes (1940a:72) : ‘Exactly the same motif reappears in one of Kramer’s records from Palau’.


Ehrenreich was the first to draw analogies, as Wasse`n points out (1940a:74), between Gill’s (1876) South Pacific myths and songs {M&S, p. 148} and im Thurm’s (1883) Guianese myth-world, in the form of the hero being swallowed by a sea monster, which is destroyed by fire from within after its mouth has been propped open to allow the hero to escape. This exactly parallels the escapade of the Noanama` hero (m1).


Norbeck has more recently drawn attention to the similarity of themes between South East Asia and South America, in particular the Choco`, and refers (1955:62) to

a Formosan tale, which occurs also in Luzon, about a people called Shigut who only smell or eat the vapour of rice and vegetables. [p. 199, n. 100 : "Vapour-eating is also part of the ancient Greek belief in demons, and also occurs in Celtic tales of fairies". {cf. likewise the odor-eating Gandharva gods}] A man named Sijuma ... demonstrates how the Shiguts may obtain anuses ... . One of the Shigut dies as a result of the treatment. {cf. Taoist myth of death of Hun-tun when apertures were artificially made in the body} Sijuma flees, but after simulating death he returns home."


Another theme is "cited by Norbeck from Reichel-Dolmatoff, found among the Chami` and Choco` and the Kogi of the Sierra Nevada, and also occurs both in

Luzon and the Atayal of Formosa. This is about a giant whose skin is so thick that if cannot be pierced by arrows, and who extends his arm or his immense penis across rivers to serve as a bridge {a god who extended his penis over rivers as a bridge is likewise known in Korean mythology} and who violates and thus kills women".


"One interesting further analogy, in this instance to the Noanama` story (m66) of a musician (toad) being ejected from a house,

was recorded by the archaeologist J. Eric Thompson in Belize ... refers (1930:146) to the story of a man who ... returns to find frogs seated ..., so he drives them out ... . ... ‘Those were my musicians and guests’ says Chac."


"The Catio myth (m5) of conceiving in the calf, and birth between the first and second toe of the foot

is strangely reversed in Handy’s (1927:88) Hawaiian myth when the hero Hiku brings Kawelu back to life by forcing her soul into the lifeless body through the great toe of the left foot, and by massaging the calf to make it enter the heart."

Wasse`n 1940a = S. H Wasse`n : "An Analogy between a South American and Oceanian Myth Motif". ETNOLOGISKA STUDIER X:69-79. Go:teborg.

Gill 1876 = W. W. Gill : Myths and Songs from the South Pacific. London.

M&S =

im Thurm 1883 = Among the Indians of Guiana. London : Kegan Paul, Trench & Co.

Norbeck 1955 = E. Norbeck : "Trans-Pacific Similarities in Folk-Lore’. PUBLICATIONS OF THE KROEBER ANTHROPOLOGICAL SOCIETY XII:62-9. Berkeley.

Thompson 1930 = J. E. S. Thompson : "Ethnology of the Mayas of Southern and Central British Honduras". FIELD MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY ANTHROPOLOGICAL SERIES XVII, 10.2. Chicago.

Handy 1927 = E. S. C. Handy : "Polynesian Religion". BERNICE PAUAHI BISHOP BULLETIN 4. Honolulu.

PITT RIVERS MUSEUM, UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD, MONOGRAPH No. 6 = Donald Tayler : Embarkations : Ethnography and Shamanism of the Choco` Indians of Colombia. 1996.