Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Piaroa Myth 1: Buoka and Wajari, the first men
There are about 15,000 Wotuja - better known as Piaroa - living in the Orinoco-Ventuari region of Venezuela's Amazonas and Bolivar states. Their most sacred monument is the dramatic, tabletop mountain known in Spanish as Cerro Autana, a popular destination for adventure tourists. While the majority of Piaroa now wear western clothing and are increasingly part of the cash economy they still hold on to traditional beliefs, including this important myth about the origin of the world and the creation of the first people by the brothers Buoka and Wajari. This myth is taken from Luis Boglar's "Cuentos y Mitos de Los Piaroa" (Montalban, 1977) and appears in "Mitos de Creacion de la Cuenca del Orinoco" (FUNDEF, 1993).
Everything was dark. There was no sun. There was no water. There was no sky. There were no mountains. There were no people. Wajari, the creator of all the elements, the animals and the people had not yet been born.
Suddenly, Buoka appeared next to a beautiful tree that he named Kareru. This tree produced the juice of knowledge.
Enemey Ofoda, a spirit, told Buoka to drink the juice from this tree. Buoka drank it and had visions of what he could do.
Kareru is the first tree. It is the grandfather tree and the father tree. The father of the white-lipped peccaries was born from this tree, as were the fathers of the collared peccaries and the armadillos.
Buoka drank the juice from the tree and he had visions. In these visions he travelled down underground to the sacred places of the white-lipped peccary spirits, the armadillo spirits, and the spirits of the other rainforest animals.
He saw all the animal spirits that live deep underground and he heard the voices of the white-lipped peccaries' musical instruments.
He had these visions after just one sip of the Kareru juice. He also saw images of the other musical instruments and he saw behind the waterfalls. His eyes crossed the sky in his vision and he saw the spirits of the mountains. He saw the birth of the great father of the waters, the Orinoco River, and its exit into the sea. He also saw the mountain of Paria, the Sipapo River and the Upper Cuao. He also saw the sacred places of the mountain animals.
The Kareru tree reproduces the voices of the father of the white-lipped peccaries and the fathers of the collared peccaries and the armadillos. Inside, it also has the voice of the grandfather and the cry of the mountain bear.
The second time that Buoka drank the juice of the Kareru tree, he saw his brother in a vision and he thought he would make it real so his brother would become the great chief of the world.
So Buoka pulled the vision from his right eye. From his right eye Wajari was born. Buoka thought that Wajari's eyes should be clear, like the eyes of a tapir, but Wajari came into the world blind. Nevertheless, Wajari was wise and before being born he had seen and visited many parts of the Earth.
He spoke to Buoka, his creator, like this: "Brother, how can you live without water, earth and sun?"
Then Wajari created water for the whole world. Afterwards, he said to his brother: "With the visions that the Kareru juice gives you and with my thoughts, let's start working to create the natural elements and everything the Piaroa need to live."
So between the two of them they made the sun and the stars, the soil and the waterfalls. Buoka also had visions about the organization of the family, about wives, sons, and grandchildren.
The two brothers said that everything they were creating was necessary for the other indigenous peoples that appeared in Buoka's visions, such as the Baniwa, the Waika and the Yabarana.
Then Wajari created the sun on the earth. He cleaned it, he blew on it and he lifted it up to the sky. But at first the sun's light could not be seen.
Wajari thought the sun must have lost its way. He decided to travel to the sacred sites in the mountains to see if he could find it.
Finally, he found it. He took it in his hands and made such a giant leap that he managed to reach the sky and made the sun burn fiercely.
When Wajari jumped with the sun in his hands there was a clap of thunder. It was the voice of the white-lipped peccary.
Wajari lifted the sun even higher and its rays reached every part of the world and all could see it.
Buoka, who had created the moon, wanted to do the same as his brother. He took the moon in his hands and jumped but he couldn't jump as high as Wajari and he struck the sky and the moon bashed him in the face. So he placed it under the sky and did not make it burn as Wajari had done with the sun.
When Buoka returned to the earth he said that his thoughts were no longer so powerful and he said he did not have any masks for the collared peccaries. And that he would also need the power to stop the Piaroa suffering from illnesses.
Meanwhile, Wajari asked Ku-upa, the lightning - his celestial companion when he rose into the sky - for help in creating people.
Ku-upa agreed to help and Wajari sat in the sky on a bolt of lightning as he fashioned the first people.
While the lightning flashed and its voice, the thunder, rumbled through the heavens, Wajari created all the different parts of the first people, their skin, bones and eyes.
And depending on the part he was creating the thunder was soft or booming.
Translated by Russell Maddicks