Friday, December 4, 2009

Watunna - An Orinoco Creation Cycle

One of the finest books ever published on South American indigenous myths, "Watunna", by French-born geologist Marc de Civrieux contains the epic history and creation myths of the So'to (also known as Makiritare, Maquiritare, Dekuana and Yekuana) - a rainforest people of the Upper Caura and nothern bank of the Orinoco rivers.

Civrieux's comprehensive overview of So'to myth was the culmination of nearly 30 years of travel and study among Venezuela's indigenous groups.

Watunna first came out in Spanish in 1970 to great acclaim, although it was 10 years until the US anthropologist David Guss, from Tufts University, published an English version, expanded to include Civrieux's retelling of the "Medatia" myth cycle, which recounts the origins of shamanism.

"Watunna" presents myths explaining the discovery of fire, the origins of evil on Earth, of the night, of sexuality and food, and the story of the first rain, which gave birth to the rivers.

The following is an extract from "Watunna: An Orinoco Myth Cycle"

Seruhe Ianadi
There was Kahuña, the Sky Place. The Kahuhana lived there, just like now. They're good, wise people. And they were in the beginning too. They never died.

There was no sickness, no evil, no war. The whole world was Sky. No one worked. No one looked for food. Food was always there, ready.

There were no animals, no demons, no clouds, no winds. There was just light.

In the highest Sky was Wanadi, just like now. He gave his light to the people, to the Kahuhana.

He lit everything down to the very bottom, down to Nono, the Earth. Because of that light, the people were always happy. They had life. They couldn't die.

There was no separation between Sky and Earth. Sky had no door like it does now. There was no night, like now. Wanadi is like a sun that never sets. It was always day. The Earth was like a part of the Sky.

The Kahuhana had many houses and villages in Kahuña and they were all filled with light. No one lived on the Earth. There was no one there, nothing, just the Earth and nothing else.

Wanadi said: "I want to make people down there."

He sent his messenger, a damodede. He was born here to make houses and good people, like in the Sky Place.

That damodede was Wanadi's spirit. He was the Earth's first Wanadi, made by the other Wanadi who lives in Kahuña. That other Wanadi never came down to the Earth. The one that came was the other's spirit.

Later on, two more damodede came here. They were other forms of Wanadi's spirit.

The first Wanadi to come was called Seruhe Ianadi, the Wise. When he came, he brought knowledge, tobacco, the maraca, and the wiriki. He smoked and he sang and he made the old people.

That was a long time before us, the people of today.

When that spirit was born, he cut his navel-cord and buried the placenta. He didn't know. Now the worms got into the placenta and they started to eat it. The placenta rotted.

As it rotted, it gave birth to a man, a human creature, ugly and evil and all covered with hair like an animal.

It was Kahu.

He has different names. They call him Kahushawa and Odosha too. This man was very evil.

He was jealous of Wanadi. He wanted to be master of the Earth. Because of him, we suffer now. There's hunger, sickness and war. He's the father of all the Odoshankomo. Now, because of him, we die.

When that old Wanadi's placenta rotted, Odosha sprang out of the Earth like a spear.

He said: "This Earth is mine. Now there's going to be war. I'm going to chase Wanadi out of here."

He misled those people who had just been born. He taught them to kill. There was a man fishing. He had lots of fish. Odosha told them: "If you kill him, you'll have lots of fish."

They killed him. Odosha was happy. Then the people were turned into animals as punishment.

Because of Odosha, Seruhe lanadi couldn't do anything on Earth. He went back to the Sky and left the old people as animals with Odosha.

He didn't leave any of Wanadi's people on the Earth though. That was the end of the first people.

The birth of Kahu on that old Earth is a sign to us, the people of today. When a baby is born, we should never bury the placenta. The worms get it. It rots.

Another Odosha will come again, like in the beginning to hurt the baby, to kill it.

Like what happened when Kahu fought against Wanadi for control of the Earth. When a baby is born, we put the placenta in a nest of white ants. It's safe there. The worms can't get it.

That was the story of the old people. That's all.

To purchase "Watunna: An Orinoco Creation Cycle" click here:

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