Chile and its Mythology


Image via Cascada Expediciones

Belen Garcia, Writer

Chile is a South American country with one of the most interesting mythology ever, thanks to the mix of Hindu mythology and European mythology. This variety of sources of beliefs has in some cases caused syncretism, or the fusion of different beings, coming from these diverse mythological origins. Which has complemented and differentiated Chilean mythology

Chilean mythology is usually divided based on the regions of the country. Let me break it down for you:

  1. Nortina mythology:  It has a deep Inca influence and that of the pre-Inca peoples of the area. Although they have adopted their own style, due to the deep-rooted influence of the Spanish colony. For this reason, these legends and myths are characterized by characters, and stories related to the desert, religiosity\ and mining activity. Examples of these myths are The Alicanto, The Lola, The Yastay, The Achaches, The Quilpaná, and The Carbunclo, as well as legends such as Juan Soldado, the treasure of Guayacán, the Payachatas, El Alicanto, and the virgin of Andacollo
  2. Hausa mythology: The mythology of the central area of ​​Chile is typical of the Castilian colony since it was the first area where they settled and is also characterized by assimilating many of the myths of the Mapuche people. There are also many references to the legends of this area that were transmitted, and modified by oral tradition, so they have many versions. Some of the best-known mythological beings are Pedro Urdemales, La Llorona, Chonchón, and Piuchén. While it has legends such as the Inca’s lagoon, the Burial of the cacique Vitacura, and the Rere bell appearance of the devil (“El Mandinga”) and encounters with witches.
  3. Mapuche mythology: The Chilean mythology of the southern zone, arises from the syncretism of the Mapuche Religion, and the Catholic religion. However, the Mapuche mythology stands out, over the Jewish-Christian superstitions brought by the Europeans. The mythology and beliefs of the Mapuche people refer to the world and creatures born from extensive, and ancient religious beliefs, together with a series of legends, and myths that are common to the different groups that make up the Mapuche ethnic group (Huilliches, Pehuenches, and Picunches, among others).
  4. Rapa Nui Mythology: The mythology of Easter Island, or more properly said, Rapa Nui, is particularly beautiful, rich, and unique. The main reason that they have a culture with their own characteristics is the product of being the, “most isolated island” in Polynesia, and in the world. As the set of legends of the great Polynesian culture, the mythology of Easter Island is mainly maritime. Its most outstanding characteristic is that it presents a particular worldview, a product of the history of Rapa Nui. This led its inhabitants to create very local explanations about the creation of the human being, the world, and Easter Island. Later myths about extinction and subsequent survival on the island appeared. These facts differentiate the mythology of Rapa Nui from other Polynesian myths, and even more, from continental American and Chilean mythology. Some of the most important myths or mythological characters are Hau-Maka, Hiva, Make-Make, Tangata Manu, and Yoke, Hiro.
  5. Chilota mythology: Chilean mythology in Chiloé was formed from the mixture of the ancient religions of the Chono, and Huilliche peoples, and from the legends and superstitions brought by the Spanish, who in 1567 began the conquest of Chiloé. With this, the syncretism process begins, which would end up creating a very rich, broad, and complex mythology of its own. This mythology grew and prospered independently of other beliefs and myths that existed in Chile. This was due to the isolation suffered by the archipelago when it was separated from the rest of the Spanish possessions in Chile, due to the power of the Ngen Mapu.
  6. Patagonia mythology: This is the mythology of the Austral zone of Chile, this mythology is born from the worldview of the southern natives, such as the Aonikenk, Kawésqar, Selk’nam, and Yagán. It includes myths such as Gualicho, Ayayema, Temáukel, Watauinewa, Habshi, El-lal, and the origin of the Calafate plant, among others. It also highlights the myth of the Patagonian Giants, which originated in the first European expeditions to the region, and which are probably related to Torres del Paine.