LATIN AMERICAN INDIAN LITERATURES JOURNAL. Pennsylvania State University, Pittsburgh. Vol. 7


Vol. 7 (1991)

pp. 7-19 E. Jean Langdon " Where the Tapir is an Anaconda". [Siona, western Tukano on the Putumayo river in southern Colombia]




Husband, "one who drinks yage`", "hid behind a large tree root" [buttress] from his wife, until "she knocked ... . The an Anaconda rose from the lake ... with a crown of feathers on his head." The Anaconda "entered a small lake called "people catching chontilla" (a small bamboo with thorns) lake. There he


transformed into ... a striped catfish, (a large armor headed catfish, ... Pimelodus tigrinus)". The husband, "killed the Boa. ... He took the penis and gave it to his wife." His wife attempted to cook that penis, "but it wouldn’t cook." The husband "left the house and tied up the door. The pot split and ... made a large lake, and the wife was drowned in the lake".


pp. 20-72 Peter G. Roe ; "The Armadillo as Scaly Discoverer of the Lower World". [S^ipibo on the central Ucayali, Peru`]

pp. 23-25 the scaly fall




"(the Sun) God was still close to the earth. There was a man who ... grabbed hold of a Pano`’s [= Quechua yanwaturi ‘giant armadillo’ Priodontes giganteus (p. 50, n. 3)] tail ... . The Pano` dug into the earth (and burrowed rapidly) through to the other world ... . The man descended (fell) into ... a vast grassy plain. The hunter walked along (until he stopped at) a ... big river." Being poled upriver came, successively, the nonti (‘dugout canoes’) poled with a honoti (‘punt’) by these "star-people" (constellations) :

Yantan Wistin [yantan ‘evening’ + wisti ‘star’ (p. 50, n. 6)],


Kis^ioma [‘shank lacking’, the foolish younger brother (of the Magical Twins) = Orion, whose knee-stump is h Orionis, and whose hand is b Orionis (p. 51, n. 8)], and

Kape:ki [‘caiman mandible’ = Hyades (p. 51, fn. 11)].

Later came the sun-god’s canoe, which the hunter boarded : "the attendant in the bow" had his back (charred) black, while "the one in the stern" had all of his face (charred) "black (by the heat of the Sun Father, who rode in the middle of the canoe)", punting until mid-day (this is the "nadir" – p. 52, n. 13 – since it is all underground). "At a lake there" caught wame: [the largest of freshwater fishes, Arapaima gigas, whose females nurse their young : "fingerlings ... following around the mother who secretes from pores in her head a milky fluid to which they home. (It) ... has one lung, and comes up for air every three minutes" (p. 52, n. 14)], cooked and ate them. Then they continued punting until "they got to another resting place (at sunset)" {their sunset = our east at sunrise}, where they killed, cooked and ate 3 s^awe: [the largest of mud turtles, Podecnemis expansa (p. 52, n. 15)].


"the world reverses itself, turns inside-out at night". {implying that they voyage along the outer surface of the sky, i.e. beyond the sky, at night; thus explaining why the sun-god and the canoe are not visible to earthlings during the daytime} "The human lay down. He ... passed into a profound sleep. When the hunter awoke he saw his guts floating away downstream. ["These guts ... are the huama, the floating vegetation ... Ne:ipash, the Water Hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes), with its bulbous air sacs for buoyancy." (p. 54, n. 21)] ... Now indeed he could eat as prodigiously as they could."

When he disembarqued, "the hunter found himself in our world." After the huntsman had disclosed the story of his adventure with the sun-canoe, by his lying "down in the sun[shine], the Sun killed the man". [In S^ipibo myths, "A common fate for miscreants, as here, is to sunbathe to death." (p. 55, fn. 24)]

p. 26 the plaited fall

arrow-chain to sky : "the rear portion of the arrows were visible. One arrow stuck in the node of the previously discharged arrow extending (in a double file) until they reached the earth. ... The arrows had become ... a beautiful ladder which united the sky with the earth. ...

The Coro Capa ["a small grayish-brown squirrel, which may ... eat cantsin palm (Scheelea brachyclada) fruit." (p. 56, n. 28)] climbed up there, but it was too cold and he came back down. ... [Then,] the other, much bigger Capa squirrel [= Waiwas^i, "a larger squirrel than the Coro Capa, with reddish-brown fur"] ... ascended. ...

Even the women ascended bearing their tsintan [baskets] (on their backs). ... the Ibobo [Sky Spirits] there ... began to break the ladder. When they broke it those ... women ... changed into Yahuish [9-banded armadillo] as they fell to earth."

pp. 26-28 the feathered fall




There was a Yawis^ (9-banded armadillo) "who was lying down [on the earth] playing a" rewe: (= Quechua kena ‘bamboo flute’ – p. 56, n. 32). [Kas^inawa "utilize the armdillo’s tail for a trumpet’s bell" (p. 57, n. 32).]


The S^e:te (= Quechua renavi ‘king-vulture’ white-and-yellow-and-red-plumaged Sarcoramphus papa / Gypagus papa – p. 57, n. 33) and the Poin-kosko (= Amawaka /PO`hI s^utu/ ‘black vulture’ Coragyps atratus – p. 57, n. 34) each plucked out some "of their plumes and stuck them on to him with boi [tree-resin] heated (in the Sun)." Soon the Yawis^ "was flying ..., circling high". Though warned that the resin would melt, the Yawis^ "continued flying ... . In a little while (the resin glue softened in the heat of the Sun and)" the Yawis^ "fell (from the sky), upside down."

"Later, when he was still stuck (embedded halfway into the earth ...), a grabbed a by-passing male Awa’s (Tapir americanus / Tapir terrestris) "(large, damgling) testicles" and thus "was pulled out." {cf. (p. 41) "giant armadillo testicles"} Ino (leopard Pantherus onca / Felis onca / Felis hernandesii) was duped with mani leaves after Yawis^ had "(covertly) perforated them with his claws."


Thus, Ino released the escaping Yawis^’s tail.

miscellaneous S^ipibo myths



49, n. 2

carrying the caiman’s mandible (Hyades), the s^opan bake:bo (‘calabash children’) constitute the wis^mabo (Pleiades).

54, n. 19

"the Frog Woman, Pa`no Ainbo ..., is a seductress in Shipibo mythology. She is responsible for lengthening a man’s penis" {frog-goddess likewise lengthened a man’s penis in Munduruku` mythology}

58, n. 37

Manan-s^awe (‘earth’ + ‘turtle’ = motelo ‘land tortoise’ Testuda tabulata) "sprouts wings and flies". {cf. Ibo myth about Tortoise who was carried up to a tree’s top by birds and thereat was left marooned.} Corona Borealis

59, n. 42

"the plumes of the submerged, dead Harpy Eagle (Ani Te:te:, "Big Eagle") ogre rise to the surface as mani petals." mani = platanillo Heliconia sp. "turns with the trajectory of the sun : this is a "plant with banana-like leaves", having a "hanging flower, a sculptural red and yellow series of solid recurved pods that look like a raptor’s claws."

63, n. 53

"a hunter finding the Peccary in" wea (‘a ravine, canyon’) "and following them down their beautiful road into another world, ...

64, n. 53

he acquires a Peccary Wife and sprouts canines and grows bristles while gradually assuming a pronograde posture. ... the hunter = Peccary is hunted by his own (human) son ...!"


Yoas^iko "died in a hole in the earth, and the fresh blood spurting from his wounds provided the bright colors of the Solar Birds, the dark blood, now semi-coagulated, later colored the dusky, dull Terrestrial Birds".

pp. 36-45, 66-68 miscellaneous myths of other South American Indian tribes



56, n. 29

[S^ara-nawa] "squirrel husband who turns himself into a bat to avenge himself on his unfaithful wife (Siskind 1973b:123-125)."

59, n. 40

[Puelc^e] hero hid "in an animal carcass to steal fire from the Sun".

61, n. 49

[Waiwai] "the caves in the mountains (mountains = e:rfu) with the stone houses of the Master of Peccary, and with whirlpools ... = Conduits and portals into the dark, Subaquatic Underworld."


[Kas^i-nawa] Having devoured all her son-in-law’s seed-maize (which had been saved for planting), "aged ... mother-in-law ... Armadillo Hag is so old she has lost all her teeth (thus mimic[k]ing the toothless mouth of the Armadillo)."


[Kasi^-bo] "First the Giant Armadillo, and then the Nine-banded are chose to tunnel to the hut of" Ira-kuc^a (= Quiche` /wIRA-KoC^A/) "and kill him because of his stinginess. However, they fail because they make too much noise"; instead, he "must be killed ... by his natural enemies, birds!"


[River Kampa] "Avirari` ... is trapped by his brother-in-law and sister in an excavation they prepared as a pit-fall. Avirari` escapes, transforming them into the Nine-Banded Armadillo and a tree, respectively. Then the Trickster [Avirari`] ... descends into the hole ... [into the subterranean world] until he reaches the river’s end (there was a river flowing through the Lower World ...). There he meets the tree-like god Pachacama and is invited by the latter to help him hold up the world ... ." {cf. Heraklees’s being invited by Atlas to help him to uphold the sky.} In any event, the ... Trickster becomes rooted in tree-like fixity as a strangler vine wraps itself about him. There Avirari` remains ... . ...

After Avirari` met his arboreal end, [his grandson] Kiri ... marches downriver ... . A group of ... warriors try to kill him ... . ... Kiri then advices the warriors to drive a spike into his body from head to toe. So impaled, he is transformed into the Chonta palm, thorns sprouting from his body."


[Ironasite`ri sub-group of the Yanomamo:] "Very far to the west and east, respectively, there are two island mountains supporting the heavens. Behind each mountain there is a hole, dug by an armadillo, through which one enters the tunnel connecting heaven and the underworld. This tunnel is regularly traversed by the moon and the sun (Becher 1976:341)."


[Waiwai] "Humans, via the Magical Twins Culture Heroes have taken Fish Women wives, ... but have not reciprocated by giving their own daughters to the Underwater Snake People. Thus the Okoimo-yenna [‘Anaconda People’] now seek to seduce and kidnap young human women when they menstruate in the seclusion hut. They come out of the water and attempt to abduct the girl, who hides under an overturned pot. The Serpent Potential Affines [as allies] send ... the Giant Armadillo to excavate under the pot and retrieve her. The [Giant] Armadillo’s excavations cause flood waters to rise and submerge the whole village". {cf. the non-reciprocation of marriage-exchanges as the cause of the deluge in B-Re>s^it 6:2 : "the sons of God {cf. humans in the Waiwai account saw the daughters of men {cf. the Fish Women} ... and they took them [as] wives", but God did not reciprocate by giving his daughters to the humans; so that gopher (6:14) was recruited, and a deluge resulted (7:6).}


[Kuikuru] "the Wooden Brides are seduced by various animals on their ill-fated trip to the Village of the Jaguars ... . ... After giving them directions he [Armadillo] wants to mate with them but discovers that he has left his penis at home. So back he goes and quickly puts it on and gets an erection automatically. [The aroused Armadillo] runs back to where the girls were but by this time they were gone ... and so he makes magic in their direction to harm them ... with fatal results for the girls." (Carneiro 1984)


[Puelc^e] "Two black birds ... cause darkness by eating the sun’s son. ... The moon fails ... to capture ...; the sun succeeds in capturing one of the birds but not the other, which has swallowed to of the child’s small bones, thus making it impossible for him to be resurrected. ... the moon makes so much noise that the armadillos ... come out of their burrows to scratch his face; this explains the origin of the markings on the moon." (Le’vi-Strauss 1978:43-44)


[Kraho] Two men "dig for the Armadillo. But they dig too deep a Hole : they ... fall through the Hole into the Underworld. ... They land on the Buriti Palm’s fronds. ... The Palms shrink and they reach the ground. ... The Peccaries take the hunters ... on a journey ... to return to the Earth World". [Wilbert 1978:97-8] "The Leader of the Peccaries, whom the hunter has wounded, magically causes his sickness & death." [Wilbert 1978:101]


[Ramko`kamekra] The Hunter’s "Wife begs him to try ... . The Hunter keeps digging for three days. {cf. the "Son of Man ... three days and three nights in the heart of the earth".} ... The Hunter falls through the hole into the Underworld along with the Armadillo. ... The fallen Armadillo transforms into a Cockroach. ... The Armadillo-Cockroach tells the Hunter to hang on : it flies away with him (From Below). The Armadillo-Cockroach flies back to the ... [Earth Plane] with his Human Passenger." [Wilbert 1978:102-3]


[Kayapo`] Formerly, all the people were abiding in the Sky-World. When a hunter descended onto the Earth-World, "A strong wind catches the Hunter and carries him back up to the Sky World. ... The Hunter’s people debate and decide to ... tie their Anklets, Belts, Bracelets & Bow-Strings into a Sky Rope (From Above). One Man leads the descent of the Sky People. When he arrives the Sky Man ties the Sky Rope to the Trunk of a Big Tree. The Sky People descend along the Sky Rope. But a Young Boy ... jeers at the Sky People remaining behind, saying that they must remain in the Sky World (as Stars). Another Hunter digs for ... Giant Armadillo. He sees the Underworld". [Wilbert 1978:110]

bibliography :-

Janet Siskind : To Hunt in the Morning. Oxford U Pr, 1973.

Hans Becher : "Moon and reincarnation". In :- Agehanda Bharati (ed.) : The Realm of the Extra-Human : Ideas and Actions. The Hague : Mouton, 1976.

Claude Le’vi-Strauss (transl. by Weightman) : The Origin of Table Manners. NY : Harper & Row, 1978.

Johannes Wilbert : Folk Literature of the Ge^ Indians. U.C.L.A., Latin American Center Publ, 1978.


pp. 95-107 Elizabeth P. Benson : "The Chthonic Canine".




"dogs were ... offered to the goddess Ixchel on Cozumel. (... Tozzer 1941:109, 114-15, 164.)"


"grave goods of the Miskito Indians, in Nicaragua, included a small canoe for the voyage to the underworld, for a river had to be crossed with the help of a dog; a dog was killed for each burial ... (Conzemius 1932:155) "


"the Talamanca Indians believed that a dog was needed to cross a stream to the underworld (Nordenskiold 1938:445)."


"Reichel-Dolmatoff and Reichel-Dolmatoff (1961:380) describe for ... Aritama, in northeastern Colombia ... : the dead must cross three rivers; at each river, a dog is waiting – first, a black, then a white, then a red dog."


[Yupa in western Venezuela] "a live young woman went with her dead lover to the Underworld (Wilbert 1974:82). The girls followed him until they came to a wide river. from the opposite shore, a huge dog jumped into the water and swam over to them. The dog told the young man to hold onto one of his ears to be towed, for, without the help of the dog, no dead person could reach the other shore."


[Muiska in Colombia] "the dead had to cross a river – in a boat made of spider web ... (Restrepo 1895:62)."


[Pahonal Kampa] The hound " "receives the dead, like a guide" (Roe 1982a:338, n. 36)."


[Aymara] "the dead on the way to the Underworld had to cross a broad river on a slender bridge made of human hair; "others say they will encounter a pack of black dogs" (Arriaga 1968[1621]:64). On the coast, the dead were borne by sea lions across water to the guano islands (ibid.)."


"a recently dead Mostene Indian roamed the village in the shape of a dog" (Karsten 1926:276)."


[Aritama] "the spirit of a person who is about to die appears to dogs as it goes to all the places that the person had been in his lifetime ... (Reichel-Dolmatoff and Reichel-Dolmatoff 1961:377, 415)."


[Was^iro Orpheus-type myth] "(Wilbert and Simoneau 1986:713; see also 587). When the dead wife returned to their home, the man could not see her, but his dog could. The man then rubbed rheum from the dog’s eye on his own eyes, and he, too, could see her. Later, the husband visited the Underworld with his wife. They approached through the sea".


[Maya, at Tuxtla Gutie`rrez] "A dog vanished down an armadillo hole ... (Paredes 1970:7). His owner tried to follow him and found ... his dog ... among many people, some of whom the man knew to be dead. The man ... heard a drum. He began to walk toward the sound, and then found his house and his family."


[Was^tek Maya] "a farmer and his dog ... were chasing peccaries away from the milpa when the dog led the man into a long cave and eventually into a large, lighted room, where the Earth Lords were gathered (Alcorn 1984:80). ... When the farmer returned to the surface of the earth, a year had passed."


"A dog lake is mentioned also in a 1581 flood myth from Colima, Mexico, which Winning (1974:43) found in Juan Sua`rez de Cepeda’s Relaciones de las Indias de la Nueva Espan~a. A dog, beating a drum, led people up on flood waves to a mountain peak. ... As the water subsided, the dog disappeared into a lake visited by the dead on their way to their last resting place. A similar theme exists with the Cora in nearby Nayarit."


[Aztec] "Tezcatlipoca changed the two survivors of the flood into dogs (Caso 1958:39 ...)."


[Wic^ol] "a man and a dog were save from the flood. Afterwards, the dog turned into a girl, who became a water deity (Myerhoff 1974:89 ...)."


[Nawat of Huizilan in Puebla] "a man survived the flood with his dog, who was transformed into a woman ... (Taggart 1983:194-97)."


[Toba in Gran Chaco] "a god in the form of a dog – warned a man of the coming flood and told him to build a canoe (Wilbert and Simoneau 1982b:80-83). It was a ... mangy dog, ... but the man’s daughter ... and her father treated him well, so they survived the flood."


[Was^iro] "dog stole the tongue of a crocodile (... caiman), so dogs stay away from water because they are afraid of the crocodile (Wilbert and Simoneau 1986:193). {cf. hydrophobia = rabies} ... [Cf.] Mayan use of dogs as bait for catching caimans (Tozzer 1941:192)."


[S^avante] "a spirit who uproots trees ... carried away a tapir that had been killed by hunters ... to another river ... (Wilbert and Simoneau 1984:382)."


"In the Codex Madrid (p. 37), a dog is shown playing a drum, which may represent the sound of thunder. The drum is associated glyphically with Chac ...; the dog may be the rain god’s drummer."

"The drum-beating Colima dog rescued people from flood and storm."

"In a Mataco story, a dog beats a drum while other animals dance and sing and get drunk on beer the dog has made (Wilbert and Simoneau 1982a:250)."

"In the ... Codex Borbonicus, the god Huehuecoyotl, "Very Old Coyote," plays a drum."


"Cayapo` narrative about two hunters who found the lake with "gigantic dogs, which in reality are jaguars" (Wilbert 1978:319).

A Guarani supernatural jaguar has a beautiful blue coat and looks like a dog (Wilbert 1977:32, n. 3)."


[Mataco] "Sun changes into a dog to collect the bones of murdered moon so that he can revive him (Wilbert and Simoneau 1982a:51)."


[Was^iro] "Sun and Moon as brothers-in-law ((Wilbert and Simoneau 1986:28). ... dog denounced sun, and sun and moon changed places".


[Kekc^i Maya in Belize] "(Thompson 1930:151). A dog belonging to the fireless people swam the river and, when the fire people were not watching, lighted a candle {should be : "torch"} and swam back across the river with fire for his own people."


"The Aztec fire goddess Chantico was transformed into a dog ... (Codices Telleriano-Remensis fol. 21v and Vaticanus A fol. 31r; Nicholson 1971:413)."

"Dog’s tongue is a phrase for "lightning" in Kekchi Maya (Thompson 1972:96)."


"the road to heaven and the road to hell both cross the river at which the dog waits (Madsen 1960:210)."

"souls ... come to the same river where the same dog comes – or does not come – to take them across (Starr 1900:27)."


[Toba] "the rheas become the Southern Cross, and the three dogs are Alpha and Beta Centauri and Beta Crucis (Wilbert and Simoneau 1982b:24-33)".


[Taulipan] "a soul, surviving the death of the body, goes to the sky via the Milky Way (Lowie 1948:47-48) ... . On this journey, the soul is waylaid by dogs, which destroy the soul, if its owner abused his own dogs while he was on earth."

bibliography :-

Alfred M. Tozzer : Landa’s Relacio`n de las Cosas de Yucatan. PEABODY MUSEUM PAPERS IN ARCHAEOLOGY AND ETHNOLOGY, No. 18. 1941.

Eduard Conzemius : Ethnographical Survey of the Miskito and Sumo Indians. SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION, BUREAU OF AMERICAN ETHNOLOGY, BULLETIN 106. Washington, 1932.

Reichel-Dolmatoff : The People of Aritama. U of Chicago Pr, 1961.

Johannes Wilbert : Yupa Folktales. Los Angeles : U of CA Latin American Center, 1974.

Vicente Restrepo : Los Chibchas antes de la conquista espan~ola. Bogota` : Imprenta de la Luz, 1895.

Peter G. Roe : The Cosmic Zygote. Rutgers U Pr, 1982.

Pablo Jose` de Arriaga (transl. by l. C. Keating) : The Extirpation of Idolatry in Peru. Kentucky U Pr, 1968.

Rafael Karsten : The Civilization of South American Indians. NY : Alfred A. Knopf, 1926.

Johannes Wilbert & Karen Simoneau : Folk Literature of the Goajiro Indians, II. U.C.L.A., Latin American Center Publ, 1986.

Ame`rico Paredes : Folktales of Mexico. U of Chicago Pr, 1970.

Janis B. Alcorn : Huastec Ethnobotany. U of TX Pr, 1984.

Hasso von Winning : The Shaft Tomb Figures of West Mexico. Los Angeles: Southwest Museum, 1974.

Alfonso Caso (transl. by Lowell Dunham) : The Aztecs. U of OK Pr, 1958.

Barbara Myerhoff : Peyote Hunt. Cornell U Pr, 1974.

James M. Taggart : Nahuat Myth and Social Structure. U of TX Pr, 1983.

Johannes Wilbert & Karen Simoneau : Folk Literature of the Toba Indians. U.C.L.A., Latin American Center Publ, 1982.

Johannes Wilbert & Karen Simoneau : Folk Literature of the Ge^ Indians, II. U.C.L.A., Latin American Center Publ, 1984.

Johannes Wilbert & Karen Simoneau : Folk Literature of the Mataco Indians. U.C.L.A., Latin American Center Publ, 1982.

Johannes Wilbert : Folk Literature of the Ge^ Indians, I. U.C.L.A., Latin American Center Publ, 1978.

Johannes Wilbert : "Navigators of the Winter Sun". In :- Elizabeth Benson (ed.) : The Sea in the Pre-Columbian World. Washington, 1977. pp. 16-46.

J. Eric S. Thompson : Ethnology of the Mayas of Southern and Central British Honduras. Field Museum of Natural History Publ 274 = ANTHROPOLOGICAL SERIES 17, 2. 1930.

H. B. Nicholson : "Religion in Pre-Hispanic Central Mexico". HANDBOOK OF MIDDLE AMERICAN INDIANS 10:395-446. 1971.

J. Eric S. Thompson : A Commentary on the Dresden Codex. Philadelphia, 1972.

William Madsen : The Virgin’s Children : life in an Aztec village today. U of TX Pr, 1960.

Frederick Starr : Ethnography of Southern Mexico = DAVENPORT ACADEMY OF NATURAL SCIENCES, Vol. 8. 1900.

Robert H. Lowie : "The Tropical Forests". HANDBOOK OF SOUTH AMERICAN INDIANS 3:1-56. 1948.


pp. 229-239 Eloise Quin~ones Keber : "Xolotl".

p. 234 (Florentine Codex, Book 7) disguises assumed by Xolotl while fleeing from the immolator Ehecatl




xolotl ("maize plant with two stalks")


me-xolotl ("double maguey plant")


a-xolotl ("amphibious creature")

p. 235 myth (involving Xolotl) of the re-creation of mankind



Gero`nimo de Mendieta : Historia Eclesia`stica Indiana. Me`xico : Editorial Porru`a. p. 78

"descending into the underworld to retrieve a bone ... from an earlier race of men from which the new one would be created ..., Xolotl ... dropped the bone, which shattered into pieces of various sizes, thus accounting for people of different sizes. ... After four days a male child emerged, and after another four a female child, both of which were given to Xolotl to care for."

Histoyre du Mechique (in :- Angel Maria Garibay K. : Teogoni`a e Historia de los Mexicanos. p. 106)

"Ehecatl the protagonist, but again Xolotl is entrusted with the tast of nurturing the newly created pair."