Brazilian mythology

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Brazilian mythology is the subset of Brazilian folklore with cultural elements of diverse origin found in Brazil, comprising folk tales, traditions, characters and beliefs regarding places, peoples, and entities. The category was originally restricted to indigenous elements, but has been extended to include:

  • Medieval iberic traditions brought by the Portuguese settlers, some of which are forgotten or very disminished in Portugal itself; as well as other European nations folklore, such as Italy, Germany and Poland.
  • African traditions brought by Africans to Brazil as slaves during the colonial times—including their religious beliefs;
  • Lives of Saints and other devotional elements propagated by the Catholic Church which were appropriated by the folklore;
  • Elements originated in Brazil by the contact of the three different traditions;
  • Contemporary elements that are re-elaborations of old traditions.

Because Brazil is a melting pot of cultures, many elements of Brazilian mythology are shared by the traditions of other countries, especially its South American neighbors and Portugal.

Prominent figures[edit]

  • Alemoa — the ghost of a blond (German-like) woman that is connected to the island of Fernando de Noronha. She is said to seduce imprudent men and carrying them to death. Alemoa is a nonstandard way of pronouncing "alemã" ("german female" in Portuguese).
  • Anhangá A spirit that often protects animals (especially the females and young ones) and tends to appear as a white deer with red eyes. Often mistaken for Anhanguera due to the words being similar, however the Anhanga is not considered a devil, though it was feared. One legend involves an Indian who tortured a young fawn so the screams would attract the mother. When she came near, he killed her just to realized that the Anhanga had used an illusion and he had just killed his own mother.
  • Anhanguera Equivalent of the Devil.
  • Besta-fera — a centaur-like creature, thought to be the Devil.
  • Bernunça — strange beast of the folk tales of the state of Santa Catarina (state).
  • Boi-Bumbá (see Bumba-meu-boi).
  • Boitatá — a headless giant snake with bull horns and enormous fiery eyes that crawls over the open fields at night. Sometimes described as a giant fire snake. Looking at its eyes blinds people.
  • Boiúna ("Black snake") — a gigantic, nocturnal serpent that is the personification of the Amazonian rivers and feared by many fishers who live in that area. As part of the TV show The River as a sacred area and no one is to enter.
  • Boto — an enchanted dolphin (Inia geoffrensis) that shapeshifts into a handsome man to seduce young women (Amazon).
  • Bumba-meu-Boi — an ox that is part of strange folk tale celebrated with dance and music by the peoples of the Brazilian north (states of Maranhão and Amazonas, where it is known as Boi-Bumbá).
  • Caipora — jungle spirits that lived in trees but came out at night to haunt those who were astray.
  • CiTupian primeval goddess (the name means simply "mother").
  • Corpo-Seco ("Dry Corpse") — a man so evil that the earth would not rot its flesh and the devil would return his soul. Condemned to wander fruitlessly the earth until the judgment day.
  • Cuca — menacing, supernatural, old hag that does evil things to small children who do not go to bed early.
  • Curupira — a (male) jungle genie that protects the animals and the trees of the forests. It has red hair and backwards feet to confuse hunters. Hates hunters and lumberjacks.
  • Cobra-Encantada (Enchanted snake) — a beautiful woman shapeshifted into a hideous snake to guard an immense treasure. One who breaks the spell will have the gold and marry the maiden.
  • Cobra-Grande (see Boiúna).
  • Encantado — someone who is magically trapped into another dimension, living an eternal, but unfruitful life (usually a punishment for pursuing riches at any cost or doing some wrong).
  • Homem do Saco — literally, "Sack Man" or "Bag Man", a mid-aged or elder drifter who visits households in search of naughty young children for him to carry away with him, in his sack or bag. When the Sack Man happens to knock at a house whose residents have a naughty kid that they no longer want, these parents give the Sack Man their kid, that he puts up in his sack and carries away forever. This story was told to children as a way to make them behave and respect their parents, under the fear of being given away to the Sack Man if they didn't act good.
  • Iara — a type of freshwater mermaid (Centre, South-East, North).
  • Iemanjá — the Afro-Brazilian sea goddess.
  • Jurupari — another Amazonian jungle devil.
  • M'Boi — Serpentine god of the river. Responsible for the Legend of Iguassu Falls; the folklore, mystery and beauty. The story of Taroba and Naipi fighting the rainforest and disease. Iguassu falls is one of the great wonders of the world at the corner of Brazil and Argentina. a must see.
  • Lady in White — the most widespread type of ghost seen in Brazil. Urban legend.
  • Lobisomem — the Brazilian version of the Werewolf.
  • Mother of the Gold — a powerful and lethal being that protects gold ores. Nobody has survived seeing it, so no description exists. It is usually seen from afar as a globe of fire that flies from mountain to mountain (South-East).
  • Mapinguari — a large, bipedal, furry animal that wanders the Amazon jungle. Considered the Brazilian version of the Yeti or the last memory of the now extinct giant sloths passed through generations by the Indians.
  • Maní — the name of an Indian girl with very fair complexion. The legend is connected to Manioc, a woody shrub of the Euphorbiaceae native to South America.
  • Matinta Pereira — a malevolent hag with supernatural powers whose legend is very well known in the state of Pará.
  • Muiraquitã — a greenish amulet of suprenatural qualities.
  • Mula sem cabeça — the shape taken by the woman accursed for having sex with a priest (South-East, North-East, Centre, South).
  • Negrinho do Pastoreio — a slave boy that died an awful death (similar to Candyman's) for not keeping his owner's horses. He helps people who are looking for lost things.
  • Pisadeira — An old hag that wears sneakers and stomps over people's stomachs at night making them breathless. Usually appears when people go to bed on a full stomach.
  • Saci Pererê — a mischievous single-legged black elf-like creature who is blamed as the culprit of anything that goes wrong at a farm (Centre, South-East) and is the mascot of Sport Club Internacional (South). The Saci is known as a trickster and usually appears in farms inside wind swirls. If someone steals its red cap he'll exchange it for a favour.
  • Cabeça Satânica — The wandering head is a widespread Brazilian ghost story of European origin. Appears to people that wander alone in the night as a stranger with its back turned to the victim. Its body melts to the ground and only the head with long hair, wide eyes and a large mischievous smile remains, hopping or rolling towards the victim.

See also[edit]