Re: Amimal Myths

karl h schwerin (schwerin@UNM.EDU)
Fri, 9 Feb 1996 15:04:55 -0700

On Thu, 1 Feb 1996, Mr P.R.M.G. Healey wrote:

> Dear list members,
> Does anyone know of material dealing with myths or stories about snakes,
> giant snakes in particular. Material in portuguese, English or Spanish
> would be best. I am looking at Latin America in particular.
> Personal experiences would be interesting.
> Thanks in advance for any replies.
> Paul Healey
> Institute of Latin American Studies.
> University of Liverpool.
Paul -
The Karinya of eastern Venezuela say that the Orinoco is inhabited by a
giant magical serpent called "Akodu"mwu" ("du"mwu is the Karinya word
for "father," so I suppose this might translate something like "father of
waters"). The rainbow is also said to be a giant serpent, which may be
why one should never look directly at the rainbow.

In the Karinya community of Cachama, located in the central part of the
Mesas Orientales, giant serpents are also believed to inhabit each of the
streams draining the mesas. As the streambeds cut down and the stream
flow diminishes, they say that the serpents have gone away to the sea.
There they learn to become shamans (medicos). When they return, it is
they who teach the Karinya medicos about curing. Novices learn the power
of curing by being swallowed by a snake teacher. Then the snake sings
and plays his rattles, which the student hears from inside the belly of
the snake. After several of these encounters the novice shaman learns
the snake's song, how to cure withy tobacco and how to perform magic.
(see my paper on this subject: "Orientations materielles de la religion
Karinya," Techniques et culture 6:31-42. 1985. p. 36)

Karl Schwerin SnailMail: Dept. of Anthropology
Univ. of New Mexico Albuquerque, NM 87131

There are people who will help you get your basket
on your head because they want to see what is in it.
-- African proverb