The mythology and religion of the indigenous Mapuche people of south-central Chile and southwestern Argentina is an extensive and ancient belief system. A series of unique legends and myths are common to the various groups that make up the Mapuche people. These myths tell of the creation of the world and the various deities and spirits that reside in it.
Central to Mapuche cosmology is the idea of a creator called ngenechen, who is embodied in four components: an older man (fucha/futra/cha chau), an older woman (kude/kuse), a young man and a young woman. They believe in worlds known as the Wenu Mapu and Minche Mapu. Also, Mapuche cosmology is informed by complex notions of spirits that coexist with humans and animals in the natural world, and daily circumstances can dictate spiritual practices.
The most well-known Mapuche ritual ceremony is the Ngillatun, which loosely translates "to pray" or "general prayer". These ceremonies are often major communal events that are of extreme spiritual and social importance. Many other ceremonies are practiced, and not all are for public or communal participation but are sometimes limited to family.
In the mythology and beliefs of the Mapuche people, the machi "shaman", a role usually played by older women, is an extremely important part of the Mapuche culture. The machi performs ceremonies for the warding off of evil, for rain, for the cure of diseases, and has an extensive knowledge of Chilean medicinal herbs, gained during an arduous apprenticeship. Chileans of all origins and classes make use of the many traditional herbs known to the Mapuche. The main healing ceremony performed by the machi is called the machitun.
Legends and mythical creatures
The most important myths are:
- the legend of Trentren Vilu and Caicai Vilu (Ten Ten-Vilu and Coi Coi-Vilu)
- the Cherufe
- the Chonchon
- the Colo Colo
- the Gualichu
- the kalku
- the Ngen spirits
- the Nguruvilu
- the Peuchen
- the Pillan spirits
- the Wekufe spirits
- Ngenechen, and Don Armando Marileo
- Juan Luis Nass. Mitología mapuche. Volumen 40 de Colección 500 años. Colección 500 años (Ediciones Abya-Yala) ; 40. Volumen 40 de 500 años. Ediciones ABYA-YALA, 1991 (Spanish).
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