The ancient culture of the Guarani people, who are spread across Paraguay, Brazil, Argentina, and Bolivia, is as strong today as it was many centuries ago, sustained through an oral tradition of passing down myths and legends from one generation to the next. Included among these tales, is the Guarani creation story and the legend of the seven cursed brothers who were transformed into terrifying beasts.
Very little is known about the Guarani people prior to their contact with the Spanish conquistadors. They were a nomadic, decentralized society and had no written language, so their early history is based entirely on oral accounts.
When Europeans arrived in the 16th century, many Guarani people were converted to Christianity, leading to some of their traditions and religious practices being lost or watered down. However, many of their core beliefs have still been retained among indigenous communities in the Guaraní region, allowing their stories of creation to be retold till this day.
A Guarani child learns to hunt (public domain)
The Guarani Creation Story
Tupa is the supreme god of the Guarani creation myth. According to their mythology, Tupa came from the sun, and with the help of the moon goddess, Arasy, he descended upon a hill in Aregúa, Paraguay, where he stood and created the universe and all of humanity. In addition, he created Tau, the spirit of evil, and Angatupyry, the spirit of good.
The original humans created by Tupa were Rupave and Sypave. They bore many children, including Marangatú, a benevolent and generous leader of his people, who in turn fathered a beautiful daughter named Kerana.
Kerana attracted the attention of Tao, the spirit of evil, who decided he must have her for his own. Tau transformed himself into a handsome young man in order to seduce Kerana, but when he arrived at her house, he found the spirit of good waiting for him. The spirits of good and evil fought for seven days and nights until Tao eventually overpowered the spirit of good. He captured Kerana and together they produced seven sons.
The Seven Legendary Monsters
Tau’s actions incurred the wrath of the high goddess Arasy, who placed a curse upon his seven sons, transforming them into terrifying beasts.
Tau and Kerana (public domain)
The first son to be born was Teju Jagua, a beast in the form of a lizard with the head of a dog and eyes that could throw flames. Although feared for his fiery eyes, Teju Jagua could only move slowly and his temperament was calm.
Teju Jagua was known as a spirit of the caves and protector of fruits, as he would guard treasures found in caverns and would feed on fruits. He was occasionally described as being shiny, his scaly skin glistening from rolling around in gold and precious stones.
Depiction of Teju Jagua from the Mythical Museum Ramón Elías (tripfreakz)
The second son of Tau and Kerana was Mbói Tu’i (“snake parrot”), a monster with the body of a serpent and the head of a parrot. His forked tongue is the color of blood, his skin is scaly, and his head is covered in feathers. It was said that he could let out a powerful squawk that could be heard over great distances and would instill terror in all who heard it.
Mbói Tu’i is the lord of the waterways and aquatic creatures. He is believed to protect all wetlands and aquatic life.
Depiction of Mbói Tu’i from the Mythical Museum Ramón Elías (tripfreakz)
The third legendary monster of the Guarani is Moñái, lord of the air and spirit of open fields. Like Mboi Tui’I, Moñái has the body of a serpent, but upon his head are two horns that function as antennae. The antennae have hypnotic powers which can mesmerize his prey, allowing him to hunt with ease.
Moñái is believed to be a mischievous creature who is fond of stealing and hiding his loot in caves. For this reason, Moñái was blamed whenever villages were raided or treasures went missing.
Depiction of Moñái from the Mythical Museum Ramón Elías (public domain)
Jasy Jatere (Yasy Yatere), whose name means “a little piece of the moon”, is viewed as one of the most important gods among the Guarani. Unlike his brothers, who have a monstrous appearance, Jasy Jatere looks like a small man with long blonde hair and blue eyes. He carries a magical staff, which has the power to send people to sleep or place them in a trance.
Jasy Jatere is god of the siesta, protector of the yerba mate plant, and protector of hidden treasures. According to one version of the story, Jasy Jatere searches through villages for children who are not taking their siesta (mid-day nap). When he finds children that are not napping, he lures them into the forest with a whistle, where he imprisons them or feeds them to his cannibalistic brother, Ao Ao.
The story of Jasy Jatere continues to be told to Guarani children in order to scare them into taking a nap during their siesta.
Depiction of Jasy Jatere from the Mythical Museum Ramón Elías (public domain)
Kurupi is the spirit of fertility and sexuality. He is depicted with an enormous penis that is so large he can wrap it around his waist several times.
Kurupi with his penis wrapped around his waist (public domain)
Kurupi’s penis is described as being prehensile, meaning it can grasp and hold onto things. It also has the power to extend through doors and windows and enter the homes of sleeping women, causing unexpected pregnancies. Kurupi would be blamed by adulterous women to avoid the wrath of their husbands. Any children fathered by Kurupi were said to be small, ugly and hairy like their father.
Kurupi, a legendary creature from Guaraní mythology (public domain)
Ao Ao, spirit of hills and mountains, is a sheep-like creature with large fangs who is said to enjoy the taste of humans. Ao Ao, named after the howling sound he makes, relentlessly pursues his victim. There is only one chance of escape – climbing a palm tree, which contains the power to repel the hungry beast.
Depiction of Ao Ao from the Mythical Museum Ramón Elías (tripfreakz)
The last of the seven sons to be born was Luison (Lobizón), a werewolf-like creature that lingers around cemeteries, eating rotting flesh and carrying the stench of death and decay. Luison is believed to be the lord of death and the mere touch from a Luison is a sure sign of impending death. In some Guarani communities, it is considered extremely bad luck to be born as a seventh son, as this son is believed to carry the curse of a werewolf.
Depiction of a Luison from the Mythical Museum Ramón Elías (public domain)
Today, the culture and traditions of the Guarani people are under threat as their numbers have drastically reduced and much of their land has been taken. Nevertheless, the Guarani remain deeply spiritual and they strive hard to retain their vivid and rich history of mythology and oral storytelling.
Featured image: The Legendary Monsters of the Guarani (public domain)
COLMAN, Narciso R. (Rosicrán): Ñande Ypy Kuéra (“Nuestros antepasados”), 1929
Mythical Museum Ramón Elías – the collection of Guarani creatures – TripFreakz. Available from: http://tripfreakz.com/offthebeatenpath/mythical-museum-ramon-elias
The Guarani Creation Story – Ecela Spanish. Available from: http://ecelaspanish.com/cultural-tidbit-the-guarani-creation-story/
The Seven Sons of Kerana and Tau. Available from: http://sinjininparaguay.blogspot.com/2012/03/seven-sons-of-kerana-and-tau.html
Paraguayan Myths – Project Paraguay. Available from: http://www.projectparaguay.com/myths.htm
Guarani Mythology: Myths, Legends, And Monsters From Paraguay. Available from: http://samuraijack.hubpages.com/hub/GuaraniMythology
The Guarani – Survival International. Available from: http://www.survivalinternational.org/tribes/guarani
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Read more here:: The Gods of Creation and Legendary Beasts of the Guarani