Foto: Wilson Dias/ABr, 2011

Guarani Kaiowá

  • Other names
    Pai-Tavyterã, Tembekuára
  • Where they are How many

    MS31.000 (Funasa, Funai, 2008)
    Paraguai12.964 (II Censo Nacional Indígena, 2002)
  • Linguistic family
    Tupi-Guarani

Mythology and rituals

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The Guarani relate that the process of creation of the world began with Ñande Ramõi Jusu Papa or “Our Eternal Great Grandfather”, who constituted his own being from Jasuka, a primordial, vital substance with creative qualities. It was he who created the other divine beings and his wife, Ñande Jari or “Our Grandmother”, who was raised from the center of his jeguaka (a kind of crown that covers, as ornament, the forehead and head), ritual adornment. He also created the land that, at that time, took the shape of a ring, extending it to its present shape; he also raised the sky and the forests. He lived on the earth for a short time, before it was inhabited by men, leaving it, without dying, because of a misunderstanding with his wife. Overcome by deep anger caused by jealousies, he almost destroyed his own creation which was the earth, but he was prevented from doing so by Ñande Jari who chanted the first sacred song performed over the earth, and was accompanied by the takuapu: a female instrument, made of taquara bamboo, about 1.10meters long, which is pounded on the ground producing a deaf sound – thud - that accompanies the male Mbaraka, a specific kind of rattle and seeds.

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The son of Ñande Ramõi, that is Ñande Ru Paven (“Our Father of All”) and his wife Ñande Sy (“Our Mother”), were responsible for the political division of the land and the settling of different peoples in their respective territories, creating mountains to delimit Guarani territory. Ñande Ru Paven stole fire from the crows and gave it to men; he created the sacred flute (mimby apyka) and tobacco (petÿ) for the rituals and was the first to die on the earth. Like his father, he decided to abandon the earth as a result of a misunderstanding with his wife who was pregnant with twins. The myth of the twins is one of the most told and widespread throughout South America. Pa’i Kuara is the grandson of Ñane Ramõi. After many adventures on the earth, he is given the responsibility of taking care of the sun, as well as of his brother, Jacy, who would take care of the moon.

 

 

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Thus, Ñande Sy left in search of her husband and often asked for her son, who had still not been born, which way was to be followed. Pa’i Kuara even indicated the wrong way to his mother who had denied him a flower that he wanted to play with along the way. Ñande Sy came to the dwelling of the Jaguarete or “the truly savage beings” (who are the jaguars). The grandfather of these ferocious beings tried in vain to save his wife’s life. Their children, on coming back hungry from a hunting expedition that had failed, killed Ñande Sy, leaving only the small twins alive. These twins, after they grew up, met up with the “good-speaking parrot” (parakau ñe’ëngatu) who told them of their mother’s death. They decided to take vengeance. Pa’i Kuara and his younger brother Jasy prepared a trap in which all the jaguarete died, except for one who was pregnant, which is why the jaguarete (jaguars) remain in the world.

Pa'i Kuara and Jasy went through numerous adventures on the earth until the Pa’i Kuara decided to go to the skies in search of his father. His preparation for that consisted of fasting, dancing, and praying until he felt sufficiently light to be able to arise. He then shot a series of arrows, one after another, until he was able to make a way to the skies, where he entered through an opening made by his arrows. His father Ñande Ru Pavë recognized him as his real son, and delivered him up to the Sun to take care of him.

The Paï consider themselves to be direct descendants, as grandchildren, of Pa’i Kuara, the divine being to whom they refer most in their myths and to whom they most systematically address themselves at times of need or sickness.

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Outside of the classic mythology and considering the creation of the world up to the departure of Pa’i Kuara to the heavens, the Guarani have innumerable stories and myths the heroes of which are animals. They have also created a mythology in which the events of the last 200 years are narrated. The myths of Kasíke Guaira and Kasíke Paragua, for example, are interpretations of conflicts and wars with Brazilians and Paraguayans who occupied their territories.

Other important divine figures are the four “caretakers of the souls of men”, located in one of the seven heavens and in the four cardinal directions; besides them, there are beings that take care of the waters, the animals, the plants and other, highlight being given to Jakaira, responsible for the fertility of the gardens.

Rituals

Guarani religious activities are frequent, including chanting, praying and dances that, depending on the place, the situation and the circumstances, are held daily, beginning at nightfall and going on for several hours. The rituals are led by the ñanderu who are religious leaders and guides; they think of the ongoing necessities such as harvesting, lack or excess of rain.

Among the Kaiowa, the outstanding ceremonies include the avati kyry (new, green corn) and the mitã pepy or kunumi pepy (held in various communities in Paraguay; in Brazil, one community celebrates it). The first is celebrated at the time of the new plants (February, March) and has the avati morotĩ (white corn), a sacred plant that controls their agricultural and religious calendar, as its principal reference. Weeks of work and involvement of many families to prepare kãguy or chicha and the place for the ceremony, precede its realization. Kãguy is a fermented beverage, made, in these ceremonies, with white corn (but also with manioc, sweet potato or sugar cane) and prepared by the women.

The ceremony in itself, guided by a religious leader, begins at sundown and ends at dawn on the following day. This shaman must know the mborahéi puku or “long song”, the verses of which, not repeated, cannot be interrupted after the ceremony has begun. Each verse chanted by the ñanderu is repeated by the community, always accompanied by the mbaraka made and used by the men and the takuapu used by women. At dawn, having finished the mborahéi puku (long song), there is the baptism of the harvest (manioc, sugar cane, pumpkin, sweet potato, corn etc.), which has remained on the altar. On the following night the ceremony of avati kyry continues with songs and secular dances, the kotyhu and the guahu, performed by the whole community and by many visitors who participate in the ceremony.

Besides these rituals, there are the ceremonies of mitãmongarai, occasions when Guarani priests bring children together for baptism, when they receive tera ka’aguy (forest name) or Guarani names.