Sunday, January 17, 2016

Taita Imbabura and Mama Cotacachi

Each region of Ecuador has its own myths and legends.

In Imbabura Province, many of the legends center around the love affair between the volcanoes Taita Imbabura and Mama Cotacachi.

Imbabura is the male protector mountain. He is sometimes known as Manuel Imbabura. The female protector mountain is María Isabel Cotacachi.

When Imbabura was young, he would sometimes walk alone at night, hoping no one would recognize him and criticize him for not being at home.

One night, he came across María Cotacachi. Later, they would walk together. But Imbabura had a hard time telling her how much he loved her. One day, he finally declared his love. Cotacachi confessed she had the same feelings.
As time passed, they would have a son called Yanaurcu who sits near his mother. There is a real mountain called Yanaurcu.

Today, the indigenous make offerings to María Cotacachi and Manuel Imbabura, hoping the two can ensure a good harvest.
It is said when Cotacachi has snow in the morning, it's because Imbabura came to visit her at night.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

The Children of the Year - Waka Wawa

Napu runa, the Amazonian Kichwa people of Ecuador, tell that the group of stars that they call Wata or Year (the constellation of Pleiades), were children before.

 In total there were three of them, two boys and a girl. They lived in the jungle together with Yaya Apustulu. He was a friend of God who had been left on the earth to take care of the Napu runa.

Wata Wawa, or the Children of the Year, had a grandmother who was a screech owl, called Wakawa. In that time the brothers Killa, the moon, and Inti, the sun, still lived on the earth with the rest of the people. As did all of the stars and many animals.

Wakawa had not become an owl yet but she was married and lived with her husband. One day her husband left her to go to the jungle to build a trap for the animals.

When he left he said to his wife: If, for a chance, I might die in the trap, you must rip my penis out to bury it.

He made the trap and since he was a little slow on though he got inside of it to try it. The trap fell on him and crushed him. Back at the home Wakawa could hear her husband cry.

Old Wakawa ran to see him and found him already dead. As her husband had said, she ripped his penis, buried it and hid it under a jar.

In the ground a sapana grew. Sapana is a large earthworm that looks very much like a penis.

Every morning the grandmother would wake up to go release herself. She would move the jar and squat on the earth.

In the afternoon, after she had bathed, she would do the same thing. Her grandchildren could see this. And they would ask each other: Why grandmother squats on earth like that? It can’t be grandfather because he is dead. Let’s go see!

One of the brothers removed the jar and said to his sister: There’s a worm here. Let’s throw it away. You sit on it and we’ll get the rope.

They span cotton and made a rope from it. They tied the rope over the hole in the earth and each brother grabbed a hold of one extreme.

When they were ready, their sister squatted over the hole exactly as their grandmother used to do.

They beat the earth and sapana started to come out. Instantly the two brothers tightened the rope and tied the worm and pulled it out.

The boys threw the worm against the thorny trunk of a chambira tree. The noise could be heard far away.

Their grandmother was working on the chakra, sowing corn. When she heard the noise, she came back shouting: They are killing the grandfather!

While she came towards the house running, the Wata Wawa made a ladder from wood they found in the jungle. And they were ascending to heaven as fast as they could.

The sister was carrying a basket and in the basket there was a piwichu bird. The bird was singing all the way up.

They were already up in the sky when their grandmother finally reached the house. She shouted at them: Why have you left me? Come back children! Don’t leave me!

The grandmother cried and cried while she watched her grandchildren disappearing between the clouds.

On the sky the children, the basket and the piwichu all became stars. When the grandmother saw this she said: What will I turn into? I will become Wakawa!

Then she lifted up on her wings and flew away, screeching: Wakawa! Wakawa!

In her beak she carried the penis of her husband. And from that day on the screech owl lives eating snakes and worms. It is Wakawa, the grandmother who was left alone and now cries her sorrows in the night.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Feast of the Old Year - Wata Mama

Ecuadorian Old Year’s Feast is a very peculiar kind of celebration.

The old year is burned so that the New Year can begin.

His wives are left behind, as widows. Traditionally they carry the baby of the new year around. Asking for money to raise him.

Today the widows are young men disguised as women. The baby is most times forgotten. But the old year is burned with religious fervor.

All around the country effigies, dolls made from papier mache or sewn and filled with sawdust, are sold to people. The most popular ones have the faces of politicians or figures of popular culture.

This year among the most popular ones were the Ecuador’s current president and the characters from Star Wars.

Where does this tradition come from? One of the legends come from Napu runa, or Kichwa people of Ecuador’s Amazon basin.

The group of stars that Napu runa calls Wata Wawa (the Pleiades) helps them to count the years.

Wata Wawa disappears from the sky in the month of May. Hiding themselves in the side of the sky where the sun sets, or the west.

Close to the winter solstice (the summer solstice on the northern hemisphere) the stars appear again. This time like children from the side of the sky where the sun rises, or the east.

It is the winter and very cold when Wata Wawa appears. This is also the season when the rains are hardest in the Amazon basin.

At the dawn one can see Wata Wawa together, like a ball of light, over the jungle. Every day they climb higher, until they reach the top of the sky and are seen over our heads.

Thanks to this group of stars our ancestors learned to count the years. Wata Wawa appears every year to announce the arrival of summer later on.

The summer in the Amazon basin is long. It is the time when it doesn’t rain as hard as during the winter months.

The festivities of old year are the time when people throw away the old year, Wata Mama, the mother of the year. It is time for her to go and the year to renew itself.

After winter solstice the New Year appears, again as children, Wata Wawa, year children. Little by little these children will grow old and become Wata Mama again.

In the old times during the month of May Napu runa would celebrate the Wata Mama. People would play shilingatus and rondadoras.

The people would dance the tushuna with small steps. The women would form a line and grab hold of a man from behind.

The people would sing:

I bring you Wata Mama
Today I take her for a walk,
I take her to dance.
I take Wata Mama for a walk.
Today she is coming,
Through the whole house I’ll walk her.
I just bring her,
I take Wata Mama for a walk,
To your house I’m taking her.

After the dance it was the time to cut the wood. Umisha is a sacred trunk of wood. While she was cut the runas would play sacred music with their shilingatus.