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Myth / Tupi-Guarani Mythology

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Tupi-Guarani shaman controlling the dead.
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The mythology of different tribes that are indigenous to Brazil, in particular the jungles around the Amazon river. While modern Brazil is home to different ethnicities and religions (including Christianity and Voodoo), this page deals with the beliefs of the ancient native people. These people, alongside Taino, are South American tribes that are separate from Pre-Columbian civilizations, however, they still count as part of Native American Mythology. While you are here, be sure to also read about the Aztecs, Mayans and Incas.


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Tupi-Guarani mythology provides examples of:

  • Belly Mouth: The Mapinguari which is also described as a cyclops, is a kind of bogeyman/cryptid feared by the Amazonian Indians.
  • Devious Dolphins: In the mythologies of many of the native peoples of the Amazon Rainforest, the Amazon River dolphins, also called the encantados, are given many characteristics reminiscent of The Fair Folk — while they're not understood as being actively malicious creatures, they're still treated as potentially very dangerous. They are often described as stealing away people they meet on the river shore (or on dry land, as they're also said to be able to take human form), who will be taken to the dolphin's magical realm below the waters and never seen again. In some places, this has resulted in people refusing to go near the river at night or alone. Encantados are also attributed to other harmful powers, such as causing insanity and spreading diseases. There is a bit of truth to this, as the river dolphins are dangerous predators and sexual deviants.
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  • Eldritch Abomination: Tau, Kerana and their offspring from Guarani mythology.
  • The Fair Folk: The Curupira from Brazilian folklore looks like an amalgam between indigenous nature deities and European faeries. Regardless of his origins and his role as a fierce nature guardian, he is generally perceived as a wicked, demonic and sometimes downright sociopathic entity with beautiful red hair who can (and will) do anything to protect the animals and forests of his domains. He is particularly infamous for shape-shifting into attractive forms to lure abusive hunters and woodcutters deep into the forest. The footprints of his backward feet will ensure anyone who follows him will never find the way out from the woods and there he promptly starts a Wild Hunt, hunting the men down with a giant wild boar and ultimately destroying them.
  • Hellish Horse: In Brazilian folklore, a woman who fornicates with a priest turns into a Mula-sem-Cabeça (Headless Mule). It's a dreadful black mule that has no head, but somehow, manages to spew fire from its non-existent nose. It also has iron hoofs that make a horrible noise when the mule gallops. The transformed woman has to ride through seven parishes each night until she returns to the original parish where she sinned, or someone stabs her with a needle.
  • Light Is Not Good: In Brazilian folklore, the Boitatá is a serpent of light that incinerates or blinds those that it comes across. Legend says that, when the earth was plunged into darkness, it feasted upon the eyes of those who couldn't see in the dark, and that is why it became a luminous divine creature. On the plus side though, it did end said night...
  • Mystical Pregnancy: According to the Tupi people of the Amazon area of present-day Brazil, the sun was outraged when early human society was dominated by women. It caused sap from the curura (or puruman) tree to spray on the breast of a virgin named Ceucy, impregnating her with Jurapari (or Jurupari). He declared war on women and tore down the matriarchy. After his victory, Jurapari set up feasts in which the secrets of men's rule were passed down through the generations. Any women attending were put to death, Ceucy being their first victim. In some versions of the legend, one day, Jurupari will find a woman worthy of him and from that day forward, the sexes will be equal. In other South American regions, Jurupari is the name of a man-eating spirit of the palm tree instead. It's unclear how the two myths relate.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: Brazilian folklore has a handful of draconic beings:
    • Mboi Tatá or Boitatá - a creature that protects the wilderness qualifies, being described as a giant snake-like being with large brilliant eyes who either breathes fire or is made of fire. Other common traits associated with it are flight, power of transformation and intelligence. This creature has folkloric descendants on the region (Paraguay and parts of Argentina and Brazil) even among Christians.
    • Teju Jagua, the first cursed son of Tau and Kerana's Unholy Matrimony, is described as a gigantic, reptilian being with the ability to expel fire from its eyes. He is often said to have either seven dog heads or one large canine head which limits his movement. He was also said to collect and guard over hidden treasures. Despite his fearsome appearance, he was the most docile out of the seven major monsters and preferred eating fruits and honey.
    • Mboi Tui, who had the body of a snake and the head of a parrot, was a swamp-dwelling monstrosity with a terrifying screech which could instill horror and dread in those who heard it.
    • Moñai, a serpent whose horns allow him to hypnotize his victims and a taste for birds, was the most European dragon-like of the bunch. He's legless, wingless and cannot breathe fire, but was a greedy beast who usually raided villages in search of riches to steal and collect in his cave. He also seemed to enjoy human women, as the beautiful Porâsý offered herself in matrimony to the beast with the intent of killing him. This ultimately leads to the demise of Moñai and his brothers when his cave was burned down with them inside, including Porâsý herself.
  • Our Mermaids Are Different:
    • The "encantados" from Brazilian folklore are basically magical, shape-shifting river dolphins, who like to assume human form to enjoy our parties, alcohol and women. Unlike most examples here, they are nearly Always Male.
    • The Iara is closer to European mermaids, being a woman with the lower body of a fish, dolphin or other aquatic creature, with a mesmerizing voice.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: Brazilian folklore features the urban legend of the "Papa Figo" ("Liver Eater") who's always described by roaming the night in search of children to drink their blood and eat their liver (thus his name) because of some sort of rare disease, for which only the liver of children can serve as medicine. Furthermore, he's often described as very skinny, pale, tall, with long fingernails and long teeth. He also tends to be a very wealthy man with the means to hire thugs to find suitable children, making him basically a Brazilian Count Dracula of sorts.
  • Our Werewolves Are Different: Guaraní people have stories about a being known as Luisón, who was the seventh son of Tau and Kerana and was the most accursed of them all. He was usually described as an extremely ugly, vaguely humanoid-looking monstrous canine with a rather fetid smell and was often associated with death, to the point he served a similar role as The Grim Reaper in some tales. He was said to dwell in cemeteries, burial grounds and his only source of food was the rotting flesh of corpses. In some versions, Luisón only appears on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday night, and it was said that if Luisón passes through a person's legs, said person will transform into a Luisón themselves. With the arrival of European settlers, many legends began to mix with those of the foreigners and changed, and Luisón's myth merged so much with other stories of werewolves that he eventually ended up regarded as being another generic werebeast.
  • Together in Death: At first subverted, but ultimately upheld in the Guarani myth explaining Iguazu Falls. Naipi and her lover Taruba ran away so she wouldn't be sacrificed to the snake god of the river, M'Boi. He made a huge waterfall in front of their canoe and turned Taruba into a tree at the top of the falls and Naipi into a rock as she fell to the bottom, thinking that this would be the worst punishment imaginable, to be able to see each other but never touch each other. However, on some days you can see a rainbow from a tree at the top of the falls to a rock at the bottom, and that is Naipi and Taruba's way of being together.

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