The Mbyá-Guaraní Creation Myth

As a follow-up to the previous installment of my hummingbird folklore series, here is a version of the Mbyá-Guaraní creation myth, as rendered by Paraguayan anthropologist León Cadogan. He apparently got this story from an informant he names Cantalicio, the mburuvicha [chief] of Yvypytã (a site loated near Colonia Mauricio José Troche). This is my translation of his Spanish rendering.

In his text, Cadogan gives this myth in the context of his etymology of the term aju’y, the name still used by the people of Guairá for the black laurel (Cordia megalantha, I think). The chapter in his book is titled “La Columna de la Tierra”, which I’ll render “The Pillar of the Earth.”


The Pillar of the Earth

The Supreme Being, Ñande Ru Pa Pa Tenonde, assumed human form in the midst of the primeval darkness; he sat upon his throne (apyka), with a feathered cap (jeguaka), emblem of masculinity, on his head; with his scepter (yvyra’i), emblem of power, in his right hand; and he contemplated the immense darkness, the infinity of chaos, pytũ yma, before he began the task of creation.

He looked towards the east and there emerged the celestial vault, the original paradise, Yva rypy Tonde, divided into four regions: the first, that of the sunrise, considered by the Mbyá as the first of the paradises, is the abode of Karai Ru Ete, who was created simultaneously with his region in the heavens. Karai Ru Ete is the god of fire, the master of the sound of the crackling of flames, Tataendy Ryapu Ja. Karai Amba, the abode of Karai, is the name that we give to this region of the heavens.

The second region, that extends from the abode of Karai Ru Ete until the zenith or center of the original Paradises, Yva rypy mbyte, is the abode of Jakaira Ru Ete, created also simultaneously with his Paradise or Amba. Jakaira Ru Ete is the lord of the life-giving mist, tatachina, that appears every year at the beginning of spring, transforming the old year into the new year and infusing new life in all beings.

The third region, that covers the center of the heavens and extends from both sides of the zenith, is the Paradise of Ñandu Ru Ete, god of the Sun. It is Ñamandu Ru Ete to whom we owe life; without him it would be impossible to exist; we invoke him daily when we undertake our hunting trips or go into the jungle in search of honey; he is the fountain of all life and father of the gods, and we invoke him daily in our ritual greetings.

And from the Paradise of Namandu Ru Ete until the horizon extends the Paradise of Tupã Yma, the god of lightning, thunder, rain and hail, ruler of the sea and all the waters. His paradise, that of the setting sun, we call Tupã Amba, the abode of Tupã and him we call Tupã Ru Ete.

Having finished the task of creating the heavens and the great gods who later became the masters of the Universe, our First Father began the creation of the earth, causing to emerge from the darkness a miraculous tree, yvyra ju’y vatã, a miraculous pillar of hardwood to support the great mass of matter that was emerging from between his fingers. Then he created five eternal palm trees, Pindovy, one in the abode of Karai, one in that of Tupã, one in the center of the earth and one each to the north and south respectively. Upon these eternal palm trees rest the foundations of the Universe.

Among the branches of the ahu’y [black laurel] a small green grasshopper (tuku charãrã i) happily chirped. A hummingbird, (mainomby), hovered around the Creator, enlivening His tasks; while a small owl (urukure’a), sheltered Him from the rays of the sun already shining in the firmament. These three beings, the grasshopper with the earth, along with the tatu’i or small armadillo; the mbói yma or ñandurie (a tiny snake); and the ynambu pytã or great prairie partridge, are the only living beings that are not reincarnations of human beings who were later transformed into animals as punishment for their transgressions.

The aju’y is the transitory image, ta’anga, of the eternal, evergreen, hardwood pillar, yvyra ju’y vatã, created by Ñande Ru to support the earth; for this reason, we who still follow the precepts left to us by our ancestors prefer to use for the construction of our houses, in those places where it is abundant, the cedar (Yvyra Ñamandu), created especially for this purpose by our Father Ñamandu.

This, according to the guaraní traditions preserved by the Mbyá of Guairá, is the first chapter of the “Book of Genesis” of the indigenous race….


Cadogan, León.. “Yvyra Ju’y” (La columna de la tierra), from Tradiciones Guaraníes en el Folklore Paraguayo, Fundación “León Cadogan,” Centro de Estudios Paraguayos “Antonio Guasch,” Asunción-Paraguay, 2003. (Spanish)


Jungle at dusk, Paraguay. Photo by aranha. Source: Pixabay

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