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Chiloé: Mythology
Since earliest times the inhabitants of Chiloé recognised the primal forces of good and bad. The cyclical interplay of these opposites is depicted as a fundamental battle between the ocean and the land personified by the mythical reptiles CAI-CAI y TEN-TEN. Myth relates that for thousands of years all of Chiloé belonged to one body of land united to the American continent. The apparition of CAI-CAI, in the form of a snake initiated the battle. CAI-CAI caused the waters to rise rapidly inundating lowlands, valleys and hills, burying the inhabitants beneath the waves. As the waters threatened to cover everything, the protector TEN-TEN appeared, launching an attack upon his enemy and raising the land out of the sea to save its inhabitants. TEN-TEN helped people reach high ground, giving some men the power of flight and transforming others into birds. CAI-CAI found it impossible to cover the hilltops with his waters. The rains stopped and the waters receded. This great fight was repeated through aeons, eventually little survived it. Animals were transformed to rocks, people that did not reach high ground became fishes or seals. Valleys became channels or inlets between the islands and hills and mountains became islands forming an archipelago of incredible beauty.

Mitología de Chilé, edition nº3, year 1991


TRAUCO

A deformed and ugly dwarf with course and swollen features, roughly dressed with a conical cap. His feet are mere stumps, his voice only grunts, he carries a stone axe or wooden club called "Pahueldún". He lives in the forest and possesses superhuman strength. With his little stone axe he can fell any tree, no matter how large or hard, in only three strokes. He walks with the aid of "Pahueldún". He is usually found seated between the trees weaving his clothes of bark.
He likes to chase and attack women with the intention of stealing their virginity. Despite his repugnant appearance, he engenders an irresistible attraction in the hearts of young girls and inspires erotic dreams. Once aroused, the girls arise and leave home, searching for him in the woods. With one look he seduces them, they fall to the ground whereupon he ravishes them.

If anyone tries to bother him he throws them into the air turning them rigid with deformed hands, arms and legs, killing them with his glance or leaving them to die within the year.


CAMAHUETO

This young bull is similar to a unicorn, his skin like quicksilver with a short golden horn ("cacho") glowing in the moonlight.

Those that have seen him say he is lithe, agile and very beautiful. He is born and lives in watery grottoes or in marshy lakes. Here he grows towards adulthood. At the age of 25 he migrates towards the sea. In making this journey he wreaks havoc with vegetation and crops. When someone discovers this happening he looks for a "Machi" or wizard who will lasso Camahueto with a length of kelp and lead him peacefully to the water. Only those who understand the magic can handle Camahueto. At full moon they can catch him and pull out his horn converting him into a docile calf. In reward for his services the Machi receives money or herbs and the horn of Camahueto.

Shavings from the horn are said to have medicinal powers and are used to prepare magic ointments that can cure skin diseases, rheumatism, anaemia and other conditions. However an excess of this powder can make the patient "encamahuetado", a madness similar to schizophrenia, in which the sufferer develops spots, red eyes and froth at the mouth.


FIURA

An ugly little woman with foul breath she lives in the woods dressed in moss. She is coquettish and likes to bathe in cascades, grooming her thick long hair with a comb of crystal. After bathing she sits naked for hours on a bed of moss.

A shameless women and lover of single men, she casts a spell of sickness upon those that rebuff her, be they animals or men. To many she is the daughter of a she-devil and from this come expressions indicating temptation or possession by an evil feminine spirit. Fiura is an irresistible seductress and having satisfied her sexual appetite drives her victims insane. The power of her breath can scar or turn animals lame. A person may be mocked by calling "donde va ese "Fiura", as if to say: "what's up with that scarecrow?"


INVUNCHE

He is a child stolen at birth to become doorman in a witch's secret cavern. He is raised naked and fed upon human flesh. He is transformed into a deformed and hairy monster with one leg behind his back that makes it impossible for him ever to flee the cavern. Upon reaching adulthood he feeds upon goats flesh.

Invunche utters ugly grunts in place of speech. When he goes in search of food it is on three feet, getting along in leaps and letting out bloodcurdling yells scaring anyone who hears them. If anyone sees him they are frozen to the spot forever. The only beings who can look at him without risk are witches. When he has to leave the cavern for some foul purpose he is carried in the air between the witches.


BASILISCO

This is a snake possessing a cockerel's head, hatched from the egg "Llolloy", laid by a red rooster or ancient hen. From this egg hatches a worm that creeps about like a lizard usually living in stables until the time of its transformation into Basilisco. It can also live in caves showing only its head to its victim who is then struck dead by its gaze. If it only sees a part of the victim that part is paralysed for ever.

At night, while uttering barely discernible whistles, Basilisco enters homes and sucks breath and phlegm from the sleeping inhabitants. The victim develops a dry cough and starts to waste away becoming a shrivelled skeleton. Basilisco will not leave a home until all the family has been dealt with.


CALEUCHE

This sailing ship is seen glowing in the fog. Aboard, there is dancing and music of unsurpassed beauty. It can travel at great speed above or below the water. In its voyages through the waterways of Chiloé it is crewed by shipwrecked sailors and those lured away by the enchanting music. It can suddenly disappear from view leaving behind a rumbling of chains and the echoes of a captivating melody.

In this strange ship are witches who support the businesses of those who have made contracts with them. It is said that such merchants start with little but soon become rich and important businessmen.
The ship possesses the power to transform unfortunates into animals or inert objects such as a tree-trunk with a crew of seals.

Some believe that this myth may have its origin in a Dutch pirate ship Calanche captained by Vicente Vaneucht that once troubled these waters.


PINCOYA

This goddess of extraordinary beauty personifies the spirit of ocean and shore. The abundance or scarcity of the marine harvest depends upon this lovely creature.

Pincoya rises from the depths of the sea, half-naked, draped in kelp and dances on beaches or wave tops. When facing the open sea in her dance there will be an abundant harvest of seafood. However if she turns her face towards the land there will be a want of food.
If the scarcity is prolonged due to the absence of Pincoya it is possible to entice her back by magic ceremonies conducted by witches or magicians.

Pincoya is so beautiful, sensual and attractive that she makes fish swim with their mouths open.

Pincoya comes to the aid of shipwrecked islanders and at times fishermen come across her amongst the rocks combing her long red or blond hair. Her companion, either brother or husband is known as Pincoy.


VOLADORA

A Witch who can turn herself into a bird to become a sorcerers messenger. In order to fly and avoid recognition by humans she slims down by vomiting her intestines into a pan leaving them well hidden in the forest and takes on the shape of a bird. She can fly without a magic stick. Some believe that Voladora actually remains on the ground whilst the devil flies for her.

This nocturnal messenger fills the air with unpleasant cries or hysterical laughing. Her missions end at dawn when she must land and retrieve her intestines in order to regain human form. If she fails to find them she is condemned to remain in this form for the rest of her life, which will not be long.

The cry of Voladora is like that of a wounded animal or grieving woman. A neighbourhood may hear it like the cry of a bird it will leave a legacy of bad luck and death.


VIUDA

A tall woman dressed in black with her head and face obscured by a dark shawl. Walking she shows bare, white feet whilst her petticoats rustle.

By night she travels the roads looking for trouble, persecuting good fellows and taking advantage of the unwise. Her victims are taken by the shoulder and stupefied by her breath. Once in her power, she carries them to her shack where they are obliged to satisfy her desires. At dawn she takes them far from home and leaves them in any convenient spot. The stupefaction does not appear to do permanent harm and the poor fellows regain their reason within a few days.

Her soft spot is for a horseman, she jumps up behind, hugs him and stupefies him. If he turns out to be immune to her breath she releases her embrace and strangles him instead. When she prowls around homes and is disturbed she can be glimpsed disappearing mysteriously into the shadows.


BRUJO (witch)

In Chiloé, witches have an institution called "Recta Provincia" the headquarters being a cave near the town of Quicaví, known as "Cueva de Quicaví", which is guarded by "Invunche".

A witch is an enemy to good folk. The power of witches lies in their great knowledge of black magic that can be very effective on the incredulous. They can fly upon their glowing "Macuñ".

Thanks to great mental powers they can transform themselves into birds or animals, place people or creatures in a trance or raise and lower the sea level. They can cause illness and death, even at a distance and can create such mischief as to make their enemies fall from a horse.

Some have it in their power to exterminate entire families.
To watch their victims they use an instrument called the "challanco".
To enter the group and become a witch it is necessary to wash away baptism in a waterfall for 40 days, kill a loved one and make a pact with the devil, who will set a date for delivery of the soul. The latter pact must be singed in the person's own blood. After accomplishing these tasks the witch can start to practice the "art".


CABALLO MARINO

The witches of Chiloé possess this extraordinary horse. It is large, ugly, and very strong with a golden mane. Thirteen witches may comfortably ride upon its back. It is more than twelve meters long and four high.

It is the means of transport to the phantom ship. When the witches need it they whistle in a secret manner from the beach and it appears immediately. After the journey, with a pat on the rump, the Caballo Marino returns to the waves.

It may be seen around a rocky coastline, streaming with water, rising from the waves after working together with the crew of Caleuche.

The Caballo Marino, to the Chilotes, is the perfect mount for carrying out the incredible.
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