A story or myth is a powerful entity.  It can embody a culture’s experiences and mistakes, and provide a vision that guides its evolution.

In some cases, myth is presented as fantasy, false, or fake; this is in contrast to the world of science and reality.  Myth is a way to explain phenomenon for pre-literate, superstitious, hunter-gatherer type societies that don’t know any better.  Or, a myth is just a tale that people make up for fun, something that isn’t really real.

In other functions, myth presents a deep reflection of human society.  The underlying themes of myth are true for all time – greed and generosity, anger and death, love and ecstasy, sadness and humility, birth and metamorphosis.  Stories offer clues to the respectful interaction between humans and nature.  Stories help one to navigate the difficult world of uncertainty and fear; a world ruled by survival and adaptation.  A story may give hope to a world that struggles with destruction, corruption, addiction, and power.

The following are drawings inspired by stories from the Amazonian Indian tribes of Ecuador, Peru and Colombia.  The tribes include the Machiguenga, Siona, Kofan, Secoya, and Kichwa peoples.  This first set of pictures come from Los Cuentos de Los Abuelos compiled by Jaime Hernando Parra, The Storyteller by Mario Vargas Llosa, and Vine of the Soul by Richard Evans Schultes and Robert F. Raffauf.

Up in the sky, the jaguar woman sat in her hammock nursing her baby.  She kept watch, and protected the earth and all its creatures.

jaguar baby

One day, a woman washing clothes down by the river fell in love with a boa.

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They had a baby.  The baby boy had boas around his wrists, and leaches on his ears and face.

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The boy grew up to be a great fisherman, but he was bullied and pushed aside for being different.  With the magic of the cane plant flower and the help of his father, the village was flooded and drowned.  The boy’s family and kind friends went to live under water with the boa people.  They lived happy times singing and feasting at the bottom of the river.

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It is said that tiny little demons live inside the flowers of the Parascheelia palm.  Best to stay away from this plant….

palms

Ants live in the nodes of the Duroia hirsuta shrub.  They are the guardians of this plant that also belongs in the devil’s garden.

ants

There was another woman who fell in love with a river fish.   The fish had handsome scales and beautiful song.  In time, her husband grew suspicious, and saw what they were up to one day.  He managed to trap and kill the fish, then asked his wife to cook it for dinner.  The fish would not boil, not matter how hard she fanned the flames.  It just kept oozing foam and blood, and cried out for their union.

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This next set of pictures were based on stories told to me by Jonathon Miller-Weisberger, working in the lineage of Don Cesareo Piaguaje, Don Casimiro Mamallacta, Mengatue Baihua, and Juan Gringo.  I am told that the stories will soon be published in book form.  Hence, the text here is minimal.  You are welcome to use your imagination to fill in the missing parts, or to treat the pictures as a trailer of tales to come.

Some hunters went to a sacred mountain.  The silent one went to the guardian spirit to ask for embers.

huesos for ma

The hunters did not respect the animals they killed.  They mocked them and tore them to pieces.  The silent one knew what was goin’ down, and climbed a tall tall tree to hide.

comida for ma

That night, the guardian spirit sent her kids to suck out the hunters’ eyes.  Evil sees no visions, it only knows darkness and pain.

wiri for ma

On the way home, the silent one passed by some magical pots hanging by the river. Later, with a replica in hand, he went back to the site with the village elder.  They traded the pots, and brought back one of magic.  The pot was filled with abundant and everlasting sweet corn drink.

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Selfish youth, with spite in their eyes and jealousy in their hearts, broke the pot.  That was the end.

olla for ma

In ancient times, people went to visit the primordial god of the rainforest and skies.  He tried to teach them, but they ended up falling asleep.  Only the ones who could shed their skins, and transform themselves from within, stayed awake for the heavenly songs.

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By the river of all the colors, ancestors came to teach the way of flowers and birds.  “Are you ready?”  They asked.

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With a whisk of the wand, wings tore through the sky and opened up channels of light.  All the strands of the rainbow wove into one.

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