Amazon Legends Native Legends




Shipibo Legend - Bari Rahua


he ancient Shipibos had the concept that the earth was flat.  If you wanted to go heaven, you only had to travel to where the Sun rises or sets.  They thought that the earth was fixed and that all around it other worlds rotated. 


According to the Amazon legend, one day Bari Rahua was getting ready to go hunting.  While he was preparing his hunting gear, he told his wife, “Woman!  I’m going hunting.  Take care of the children.  Don’t let them go very far from the house.”  In those days, it was common to make requests such as this because there were many beings with supernatural powers.  Many of these sorcerers transformed themselves into human beings or family members and easily kidnapped their victims who were never to be seen again. 


Bari Rahua was hiking in the hills trying to clear his head when suddenly he heard a noise that came from underneath a fallen tree and beneath it he could see something that was moving.  “Wow!” exclaimed Bari Rahua.  “It seems like a tail of a yanguturu (armadillo).”  With the idea of catching it, he came close and grabbed the tail and pulled it.  To his surprise, he began to slowly descend and enter the interior of the earth. 


Being spellbound and curious, Bari Rahua did not let go of the tail.  He found himself in the interior of the earth and realized that the tail belonged to a yanguturu. After a while when the air began to become exhausted, the yanguturu left for the surface, taking Bari Rahua with it.  Now on the surface, Bari Rahua stood up and meticulously observed the place which was strange yet marvelous. 


“Where am I?” he asked.  And attempting to find some sign of life, he walked a long ways, arriving at a great river.  There he only heard the sound of the river current, the singing of birds, and the howling of animals. 


Tired of walking, he sat down on the bank of the great river.  Suddenly, he was surprised by a parrot landing in a nearby tree.  “My friend!  Could you please tell me where I am,” he asked the bird.  The parrot explained, “You are in Heaven, my brother.  This great river that you see before you is Heaven.  The river flows to where the Sun sets.  Many beings live here, including the seven goats and other creatures.”  Then the parrot flew off into the thicket. 


Exactly as the parrot had indicated, in the distance he heard voices.  Soon he saw a boat and inside were seven goats, just as the parrot had told him.  As the boat was passing in front of him, he pleaded, “Friends!  Friends! Help me.  Please take me with you.”  The seven goats responded, “Friend, we can not pick you up or take you with us because in our canoe only seven beings can fit.  Therefore, we are not authorized to take any one else as ordered by the Father Sun.”  Despite his pleads to take him with them, the boat with the seven goats traveled down the river without him.


He waited there for a short time and in the distance he saw a great boat on the river and inside he saw various persons.  “Friends!  Friends!  Help me,” pleaded Bari Rahua.  Upon hearing his pleads, the boat full of friendly men approached him and they invited him to come aboard. 


“Welcome aboard,” said one of his rescuers.  The boat proceeded on its journey.  Now inside the boat, he became keenly aware of the situation.  “You are in the boat of the Father Sun,” he was told.  “There in back inside the Pamacari (cabin) our master is resting.  We cruise this river every day.  Sometimes, when it rains and there is a lot of lightning, we moor the boat until the storm passes.”


Bari Rahua observed that in the front part of the boat there were fourteen oarsmen, all of them black in color.  In the center, there was a great Pamacari and in the stern there was only one man, the helmsman.  From time to time llama tongues came out of the Pamacari.


He was told, “We are the men of the Sun.  You will ask why the oarsmen are black in color.  This is because they are so close to the Father Sun.  The helmsman only has a black head, as the rest of his body is covered by the Pamacari.  We are known in your world as vultures and the helmsman as the Garza Manshaco (a type of heron with a black head).” 


In this way, our friend Bari Rahua traveled constantly on the great river (Heaven).  According to the Amazon legend, now Bari Rahua was one more of the crew of the men of the Father Sun.


Matis Indians
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