When we talk about the Brazilian indigenous people, we are talking about more than 305 ethnic groups, who speak 274 different indigenous languages, not counting some groups who prefer to isolate themselves and have no contact with civilization.
From there we can already begin to understand the richness and diversity of cultures and traditions existing in each one of them.
Each tribe has its own customs and traditions.
There are more than 180 indigenous tribes, besides several isolated groups living only in the Amazon, the largest biome in the world. Many of them keep the tradition of using Hapé as a sacred medicine.
The best known gods of Brazilian indigenous mythology are part of the Tupi-Guarani mythology, which is the most widespread and preserved among the indigenous peoples.
Many anthropologists and researchers say that there may have been some changes in these myths due to the catechization process in the 16th century.
But in any case, they are myths that can show the rich history that they had and that has been passed from generation to generation.
The pantheon of Goddesses is undoubtedly very rich and varied, and all of them have a close connection with the forces of nature.
The Gods of Tupi-Guarani Mythology
Nhanderuvuçu – Creator God
He is considered the main figure, the God creator of everything.
According to the tale, he first destroyed everything and then created two souls, from which matter was created.
He also created the lakes, the fog, and the wind. He separated chaos and order and gave origin to other gods and divine beings such as Tupã, Yara and Curupira.
He was also responsible for the creation of Kayuá, “the gift of the word”, which began the narrative of the world.
Tupã – God of Thunder
In many versions of indigenous mythology, Tupã is considered the creator of the universe, however, it is believed that there was Jesuit interference in these versions and some scholars claim that Tupã was actually the manifestation of the creator god in the form of thunder.
The lord of thunder, Tupã, is the creator of the sky, the seas, the earth and mankind. He is also responsible for teaching men about hunting, craftsmanship and medicinal plants. It was the god Tupã who granted the Pajés the knowledge of medicinal plants and magical healing rituals.
Guaraci – God of the Sun
Son of Tupã, Guaraci would be the guardian of the day.
The Sun God helped his father in the creation of all living beings. He is the brother and husband of Jaci, the personification of the Moon. It is said that during the passage from day to night – the encounter between Jaci and Guaraci – the wives ask for protection for their husbands who are going hunting.
As in other mythologies that have deities related to the Sun, Guaraci would be an important god for the Tupi-Guaranis, like Apollo in Greek mythology, Osiris in Egyptian mythology and Brahma in Hindu mythology.
Jaci – Goddess of the Moon
Daughter of Tupã, she was the most beautiful of the goddesses and the personification of the Moon.
Some versions of Tupi-Guarani mythology tell that Guaraci, tired, ended up closing his eyes one day, and then darkness fell over the Earth and Tupã created Jaci to light up the night.
When he awoke, Guaraci fell in love with Jaci.
She is the protector of plants, guardian of the night, of reproduction and of lovers, one of her roles is to awaken longing in the hearts of warriors and hunters, hastening their return to their wives.
A story associated with Jaci concerns the creation of the Victoria Regia plant.
According to the legend, Jaci felt lonely in heaven, so she came down to Earth to take virgin Indians to heaven and turn them into stars. The Indian Naiá wanted very much to become a star and every night she ran away in search of the moon. One night, watching the moon reflected in the waters of a lake, she ended up drowning. Jaci witnessed the event and transformed her into a regal victory, to live forever between the moon and the lakes.
Rudá – God of Love
Inhabitant of the clouds, Rudá is the god of love and affection in Tupi-Guarani mythology.
Guaraci would have created Rudá as a messenger of his love for Jaci, since they were separated between day and night.
The full moon and the new moon was the ideal time for the Indians who wanted to call for Rudá to protect their amorous intentions.
According to some versions of the myth, Rudá lived accompanied by Cairé, the full moon, and Caititi, the new moon. This god is the equivalent of Eros in Greek mythology and Cupid in Roman mythology.
Ceuci – Goddess of the Fields and the Dwellings
The Jesuits compared her to the Virgin Mary, because she gave birth to the son of the sun, Jurupari – a guiding and guardian spirit – through the fruit of the cucura-purumã (a tree that represents good and evil in Tupi mythology).
Some versions of the legend say that Ceuci became pregnant after eating a forbidden fruit that expelled a liquid that inseminated her.
For disobeying a law of Tupã, she was struck by lightning and became a star in the constellation Pleiades.
This constellation appears in the sky during the fruit ripening period and is also a special time for hunting. This would explain the goddess’ representation in relation to farming.
Sumé – God of Agriculture and Discipline
Responsible for maintaining the laws and rules, he also brought knowledge such as the cooking of manioc and its applications.
Sent by Tupã, Sumé is often depicted as an old man with a white beard, as a prophet is usually depicted.
He is considered the guardian of agriculture, and many accounts claim that his figure represented issues of discipline and social organization for many indigenous people before the arrival of the Portuguese.
Some legends say that he had two sons, Tamandaré and Ariconte.
Anhangá – God of the Underworld and Protector of Animals.
A figure present in the mythology of several indigenous people, Anhangá is represented as a protector of animals and hunters, but also as an evil spirit, capable of attracting bad luck. Some versions point out that he is a wandering spirit, the god of the underworld, or hellish territories.
It is also said that this deity could transform himself into many animals. Some tribes said, for example, that when an animal managed to escape from a hunt it was because Anhangá protected it.
Teju Jagua, God of Caves and Fruits
The god Teju Jagua is one of the seven legendary sons of Kerana (daughter of Marangatu, one of the first humans) and Tau (evil spirit). Teju was a monster who had the body of a lizard and seven dog heads.
His representation was the most terrible among the seven brothers, but his temper was controlled by Tupã, who managed to make him calm and harmless. He fed on fruit and is considered the god of caves and fruit. In some books it is also mentioned that he was a shining protector of hidden treasures.
Mboi Tu’i – God of Watercourses and Aquatic Creatures
The Guaraní name Mboi Tu’i means parrot-head.
Considered the god linked to the waters and sea creatures, he was depicted as a huge serpent with a parrot head. He is the second son of Kerana and Tau and patrols the swamps of the forests.
Moñai – God of the Fields
The third son of Kerana and Tau, Moñai is represented as a monster with two erect horns and responsible for the disappearance of the indigenous people’s material goods. According to the legend, he was an excellent thief and used to hide his thefts in a cave.
Eventually he was defeated by the beautiful and fearless Porâsý, who persuaded him to celebrate a wedding with all the other monsters inside a cave. Even though they could not escape, Porâsý ordered them to set fire to the cave to get rid of the evil monsters.
The gods, observing the Indian woman’s sacrifice, transformed her into the morning star.
Kurupi – God of sexuality and fertility
Also known as the yellow curupira, this monster was also one of the sons of Kerana and Tau. His representation is that of an ugly, yellowish dwarf that fed on garbage and lives in creepy places. According to legend, he abused Indians and Indian women who might be lost in the forests.
Ao Ao – God of the Hills and Mountains
Also known as Ahó Ahó, this god was another monster son of Kerana and Tau. In some versions of the legend, he was depicted as a large sheep and in others, as a large dog. Both presented this god as dangerous and evil, capable of killing and eating people.
The origin of the legend is associated with the creation of evil beings by the Jesuits at the time of the catechization of the indigenous people.
Luison, God of Death
The last son of Kerana and Tau, Luison is represented as a wolf or a red-eyed monkey. His figure is similar to the werewolf. Like this other mythological creature, he is the result of a curse that falls on the seventh male child of a couple and on full moon nights he transforms into this frightening creature.
Important gods of other Brazilian Indigenous tribes
An important god in the mythology of the Araras Indigenous, settled in the state of Pará.
Akuanduba is represented as an imposing flute player, responsible for the order and obedience of the people.
Legend has it that he once became enraged with the disobedience of the population and ended up causing the drowning of almost all human beings. The survivors had to learn a new way of living from then on.
Settled between the territories of Brazil and Venezuela, the Yanomami have a vast mythology.
Yorixiriamori is one of the best known deities of this people. He is a character from the myth of the “singing tree”. As he had exceptional beauty and an enchanting voice, he attracted all the women he desired. This ended up angering the men who planned his murder. The god eventually fled in the form of a bird, never to return to Earth, and the singing tree disappeared from Earth.
This god appears in the mythology of the Iecuana people, who settled between the Brazilian and Venezuelan territory. According to the legend, the Sun would have created three primordial beings to inhabit planet Earth. However, only Wanadi was born beautiful and perfect. For this reason, he represented the good things in the world. His brothers, deformed and imperfect, would represent all the bad things that happened in the world (hunger, disease, death).
For the indigenous Dessana population, settled between Brazilian and Colombian territory, Yebá Bëló, “the woman who appeared from nowhere,” is the creator goddess of the universe. The legends related to this deity explain the creation of the Sun and of human beings. The goddess is said to have appeared from nothing and created people from the leaves of the ipadu (coca leaf) that she used to chew.
It is also said that her illuminated dwelling was made of quartz.
Yebá Bëló is also known as the “grandmother of the universe.
These are just a few divinities of the Brazilian indigenous pantheon, and one wonders at this priceless wealth of culture. Enchanting!