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An Introduction to Mythology

Page: 139

The apo-ulmenes, or greater deities, subservient to Pillan are several in number. The chief is Epunamun, or god of war, whose name is apparently of Peruvian origin. He may have been a type adopted from the Incan sun-idol Punchau Inca, or the 'Sun-Inca,' depicted as a warrior armed with darts. There can be little doubt that the mythology of the Araucanians, as opposed to their mere demon-worship, was highly coloured by, if not altogether adopted from, that of their Peruvian neighbours, the Aymara. And when we find that this Peruvian sun-idol was originally brought to the Incan court by a chief of the Collao[Pg 310] who worshipped Cun (adored by the Araucanians under the name of Pillan), it would seem as though Epunamun, with his Peruvian name and probable likeness to Punchau, was also of northern origin, or had been adopted by the Araucanians from the Aymara. Other inferior deities were Meulen, a benevolent protector of the human race; and the Guecubu, a malignant being, author of all evil, also known as Algue or Aka-Kanet—at least, the similarity between him and the deities or demons bearing these names is strong, although Aka-Kanet, throned in the Pleiades, sends fruits and flowers to the earth, and is called 'Grandfather.' As Müller remarks: "Dualism is not very striking among these tribes"; and again: "The good gods do more evil than good."[7] Molina, who lived among the Araucanians for many years, says, speaking of Guecubu: "From hence it appears that the doctrine of two adverse principles, improperly called Manicheism, is very extensive, or, in other words, is found to be established among almost all the barbarous natives of both continents."[8] He goes on to compare the Guecubu with the Persian Ahriman, and states that, according to the general opinion of the Araucanians, he is the cause of all the misfortunes that occur. If a horse tires, it is because the Guecubu has ridden him. If the earth trembles, it is because the Guecubu has given it a shock; nor does anyone die who is not suffocated by the Guecubu. The name is spelt 'Huecuvu' by Falkner in his Description of Patagonia, and is translated as 'the wanderer without,' an evil demon, hostile to humanity, who lurks outside the encampment or on the outskirts of any human habitation for the express purpose of working malignant mischief upon unwary tribesmen—a very familiar figure to the student of anthropology and folklore.

It is not clear to which of their gods the Araucanians gave the credit for the creation of all things, and it is probable that they imagined that one or other of the totemic beings from whom they were supposed to be descended had fashioned the universe. They had, however, a very clear tradition of a deluge, from which they were saved by a great hill called[Pg 311] Theg-Theg, 'the Thunderer,' with three peaks, and possessing the property of moving upon the waters. Whenever an earthquake threatens they fly to any hill shaped like the traditional Theg-Theg, believing that it will save them in this cataclysm as it did in the last, and that its only inconvenience is that it approaches too near the sun. To avoid being scorched, says Molina, they always kept ready wooden bowls to act as parasols.

The ulmenes or lesser spirits of the celestial hierarchy of the Araucanians, are the gen ('lords'), who have the charge of created things, and who, with the benevolent Meulen, attempt to stem the power of the Guecubu. They are of both sexes, the females being designated amei-malghen, or spiritual nymphs, who are pure and lead an existence of chastity, propagation being unknown in the Araucanian spiritual world. These beings, especially the females, perform for men the offices of familiar spirits, and all Araucanians believe that they have one of these minor deities or angels in their service. "Nien cat gni amehi-malghen" ("I still keep my guardian spirit") is a common expression when they succeed in any undertaking. These minor deities remind us forcibly of the totemic familiars who are adopted by the members of many North American Indian tribes at puberty, and appear to them in dreams and hypnotic trances to warn them concerning future events; and it is probable that the gen and amei-malghen are the remnants of a totemic system.

The likeness between things spiritual and things material is carried still further by the Araucanians; for, as their earthly ulmenes have no right to impose any contribution or service upon the common people, so they deny to supernatural beings worship or gifts. Thus no outward homage is ordinarily paid to them. There is probably no parallel to this lack of worship in the case of a people possessing clearly defined religious ideas and conceptions of supernatural beings. "They possess neither temples nor idols, nor are they in the habit of offering any sacrifice except in some severe calamity, or on concluding a peace."[9] Upon such occasions the offerings were usually animals[Pg 312] and tobacco, the latter being burned as incense and supposed to be peculiarly agreeable to their gods. This custom recalls that of the North American Indian peoples, with whom the Araucanians exhibit some points of resemblance in the ceremonial use of tobacco, such as blowing the smoke to the four cardinal points, as a sacrifice to the god of the elements, probably Pillan. On urgent occasions only were these sacrificial rites employed, omen Pillan and Meulen chiefly were adored and implored to assist their people. The absolute indifference of the Araucanians to mere ritual was well exemplified by the manner in which they ignored the elaborate ritualistic practices of the early Roman Catholic missionaries, although they displayed no hostility to the new creed, but tolerated its institution throughout their territories.


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