Myths of Chiloe Island,Chile
“After all, I believe that legends and myths are largely made of ‘truth’, and indeed present aspects of it that can only be received in this mode; and long ago certain truths and modes of this kind were discovered and must always reappear.” J.R.R. Tolkien
There is a rich legacy of myth and magic infused into the island of Chiloe. Mythology and religion live side-by-side on these shores, which is a testament to a history molded by both the indigenous Mapuche and Spanish conquistadors.
The Jesuits who came to Chiloe did not wipe out the Native culture but incorporated it into a religious context.
The wooden chapels of Chiloé are considered as UNESCO World Heritage sites for their cultural significance, blending native and Spanish beliefs into the churches.
Each chapel has southern-facing front doors to protect them from the rain.
We see many of them throughout the island.
i appreciated the calming, subtle colors of the church’s interior and the solid construction of its supports, all made from wood.
You can see how functional and integrated into daily life these churches are.
Residents of Chiloe call themselves Chilotes instead of Chileans. Their remote location, enabled them to keep their identity and remained loyal to Spain for many years.
The first thing we seen in the town of Castro are small children dressed in the costumes of these mythological creatures.
I am surprised they let us photograph them.
The teacher tells me in Spanish “I am bruha (witch) like my people. I know who is bad and who is not. “
Witches and Warlocks are often blamed for the unexplainable things in Chiloe.
Every night there is a post card with a child’s drawing on our bed at Tierra Chiloe. It is one of the colorful supernatural mythological creatures of Chiloe with an explanation in English and Spanish. It is from books written by the hotel manager’s wife and illustrated by their children.
La Pincoya is one of the most ancient mythical creatures In Myths and Legends of Chiloe.
It says that “If Pincoya appears to fishermen facing the sea, their catch will be abundant. If her back is to the sea, the fish will be few.”
Huenchula is a girl who falls in love with the King of the Sea.
“The legend of Huenchula lays down a number of rules about how to extract shell-fish from the sea:
Take them out by hand; don’t fight over them; don’t use wheel-barrels or trucks to extract them.”
Fiura is an ugly woman with bad breath. She lives in the woods and seduces young men before driving them insane.
Trauco, the forest troll, seduces young women and is blamed when they return — pregnant.
Caleuche is a ghostly ship which glows in the fog and travels at great speeds both above and below the water, emitting beautiful music, carrying the witches to their next stop.
Journeying through the archipelago, it’s crewed by shipwrecked sailors and fishermen who have perished at sea.
There are many more creatures. I realize at the end of my visit that these stories, like the scenery, architecture, handicrafts and food is part of the essence of Chiloe and a bit of what makes it so special.