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Guarani Mythology: Myths, Legends, And Monsters From Paraguay Part 2
Go here for Guarani Mythology part 1
Pombero is perhaps the most famous and widespread of all the creatures of Guarani mythology. He is known not only throughout Paraguay, but also in Argentina and Brazil. He is usually described as a short, ugly man with harry hands and feet that give him the ability to walk virtually silently. Sometimes he is clothed with a large hat and knapsack. He is a wandering vagabond character. His original Guarani name was Cuarahy Jara, which means “Owner of the Sun”. In Argentina, he is sometimes known by the Spanish translation “Dueno del Sol”.
Pombero is nocturnal, living in the forests or rural areas. He roams about at night in search of mischief. He is famous for performing pranks like opening gates, stealing eggs, or scaring horses. Since he is a forest spirit, he can imitate the sounds of animals, especially birds and is sometimes considered a protector of them. He is also known for impregnating young girls, either by mere touch or by raping them. Many unwanted pregnancies are attributed to him. In this way he is like another mythological figure, Curupi. He is a kind of Boogyman and his stories are used to frighten unruly children.
He often whistles, so if you see a strange vagabond at night whistling, you can be sure it’s Pombero. People will try to avoid being the victim of his pranks and leave offerings for him like cigarettes and alcohol.
Whereas most of the other monsters of Guarani mythology are dismissed, belief in Pombero is still widespread even today. I was in contact with a Paraguayan man who is not superstitious, but who claims to have seen Pombero. He was gathering firewood one night with an American friend, when they saw a strange creature about 10 feet away. He said it reminded him of the maned wolf, but it had a human face! After a few seconds it disappeared into the woods. The next day, after hearing the story, the local farmers confirmed it was Pombero. One of them even said he had missed a chance to make a deal with Pombero. If he had offered it alcohol, cigarettes, or yerba mate, (a kind of South American tea) in exchange it would protect him. The same farmer claimed to have been doing the same thing since he was 15 and never had had any problems with is enemies.
Mala Vision is an evil spirit that roams the forests at night and attacks hapless travelers. According to legend the spirit was a woman, who maddened by jealousy, murdered her adulterous husband. She buried the body and covered it with hot coals to cremate it. On the seventh night after the murder, during a terrible thunderstorm, the corpse of her husband suddenly appeared before her and she died of fright. After that, her spirit wanders the mountains and valleys at night.
The apparition can manifests as a gust of wind and appears as a beautiful woman dressed and veiled in white and lets out an eerie cry or shriek. Alternately, she appears as a tree, with a humanoid form and long branches and hands. It is said if you respond to her cry three times, the ghost will bite your skull and eat your brains. The Guarani Indians said she is a protector of nature and attacks those who disturb the tranquility of the forests. According to a different version, Mala Vision is a damned spirit and can only be released if it scratches the face of its intended victim. The victim will be killed or driven insane and in death become the next Mala Vision.
I read one real story of Mala Vision online. It attacked the author’s wife’s uncle. A group of friends were returning home from a party through the forest. Suddenly, they heard an eerie cry and long footsteps. Some said it was Mala Vision, and started to run. The uncle didn’t believe the story and was left behind. Soon, the apparition appeared as a white ghostly figure floating and whistling above him. Remembering the story, he quickly took off his shirt and tied it around his face. Then it attacked him. The others ran back to help and found the man alive, but his whole body was scratched and bruised. It seems belief in Mala Vision is still very much alive.
Paye is not a creature or spirit, but a form of magic like voodoo. In the Museo Mitologico, the paye statue is a small, ugly, humanoid creature emerging from a large egg, but this is only a figurative representation. It can be used in many ways; as a love potion to win someone’s heart, to prevent injury, to become rich, happy and so on. However, it is often used to cause painful illness and death of the creator’s enemy. The creation of Paye can take several days and is usually a pouch, filled with various ingredients like soil, stones, a piece of fabric from the victim’s clothes, feathers of the cabure, a kind of owl, and strangest of all, blessed saint medals, which give paye extra potency.
Paye is not only in Paraguay, but is common in the Corrientes province of northern Argentina, which shares a border with Paraguay. The very soil of the province is said to contain “Paye” and can affect anyone who treads there and follow them wherever they go. This feeling is expressed in the folk music and dance Chamame and is equivalent to the Portuguese word saudade, which means a feeling of melancholy, love, loss, and nostalgia.
Cuarajhy ra’y (Kwarahoo Ra oo)
Now for something nice. Cuarajhy ra’y is the son of the Sun. From his father he received the power of protector of the universe. He is a small, beautiful child, fair and blond. He is a kind of fairy spirit and represents a benevolent, creative power. The Guarani Indians say that with great agility, he passes throughout all the land and climbs the highest trees and cliffs to ripen fruits. He also passes through the lowlands and gullies to make white clay which is used to make funerary urns. He is responsible for bringing the color red to many flowers and strength to birds of the forests. His warm glow extends to seedlings and he brings vitality and fertility to male and female animals. His power is ever present in many places; the flowers, branches, and trunks of trees and plants. He brings harmony to the song of the cicada and vitality to seeds. It’s suggested he’s responsible for the water cycle and rain which waters and nourishes crops and fields. He is also said to punish the wicked who destroy fruits, bird’s nests or hunt animals for no reason.
Mboi Yagua (snake-dog)
This is the least mythological creature of all. Mboi Yagua is the Guarani name for the anaconda. The mboi yagua of legend is an enormous serpent with the head of a large dog which often appears at night especially during rain and thunderstorms. It is a dangerous monster, devouring both humans and animals. It lives in impenetrable forests and deep rivers and can grow up to 10 meters long. (All of which is not far from the truth.) It slithers through the vegetation to attack its victims and will also attack lone swimmers. This is particularly true for residents living near the Corrientes River in the area of San Estanislao. During floods, the sound of a dangerous snake will cause a panic. Also in the area of Itacurubi del Rosario, residents have heard the barking of some large serpent during stormy nights. The statue at the mythological museum is a serpent with a large dog-like head and two large spikes growing out of its tail. Real anacondas have large, flat heads that might resemble a dog, but I don’t know the significance of the spiked tail.
The ancient people of the areas of Ita, Paraguari, and Yaguaron spoke of the creature Yaguaru, that lives in mysterious caves and is Lord of the Caverns. He name means “Father of Dogs” (or wolves). Yaguaru is a huge black, dog-like creature with five eyes and he always shows his large white teeth, ready to bite. He is believed to guard the forests and is protector of birds and wild fruits. Yaguaru is the personification of time. When the sun rises in the east, he begins to open two eyes, which he uses in the daytime, two keep vigil at night, and the fifth is in his neck and is constantly looking to the past. I’m not certain, but I think this means two eyes look to the future, two to the present, and one to the past. He controls all things in nature. He is endowed with extraordinary vision and acute hearing.
Plata Yvyguy (plata uuvugu)
This one’s a little weird. On a stormy night, when thunder and lightning spreads across the sky, a traveler may encounter a mysterious flame moving from place to place or at the foot of a tree or other plant. In the same place, one can see the form of a white, headless dog. But if you see it, don’t be alarmed, you’re in luck. Plata yvyguy is guarani for buried treasure. If you dig at the spot where the apparition stood, you’ll find a buried fortune. This phenomenon has occurred throughout the country, but it especially occurs in areas where bloody battles took place. Many people have claimed to have dug up this fortune hidden under the soil. It is believed only good and generous people can find the desired treasure plata yvyguy.
Ca’aguy Pora (forest-spirit)
Ca’aguy Pora is like a guardian angel of the ancient forests. Tupa, the almighty creator of the Guarani sent this protector to watch over the forests, rivers, trees, birds, and all animals. It can transform into a unique tree-like creature. Its mission is to protect all inhabitants of the jungle from heartless hunters who kill for no reason and will relentlessly punish its enemies. Alternately, it will befriend those who truly care for the forests and animals. It has only one luminous eye, tree like appendages, and three, sharp, barbed teeth.