Mapuche religion

The mythology and religion of the indigenous Mapuche people of south-central Chile and southwestern Argentina is an extensive and ancient belief system. A series of unique legends and myths are common to the various groups that make up the Mapuche people. These myths tell of the creation of the world and the various deities and spirits that reside in it.


In order to describe the beliefs of the Mapuche people, it's important to note that there are no written records about their ancient legends and myths from before the Spanish arrival, since their religious beliefs were passed down orally. Because of this, their beliefs aren’t necessarily homogenous; among different ethnic groups, and the family, village, and territorial groups within those ethnic groups, there are variations and differences and discrepancies to these beliefs. Likewise, it's important to understand that many of the Mapuche beliefs have been integrated into the myths and legends of Chilean folklore, and on a smaller level, folklore in some areas of Argentina. Therefore, many of these beliefs, including medicinal practices, have been more or less altered and influenced by Christianity, due largely to the evangelization done by Spanish missionaries.[1][2][3] This happened chiefly through the syncretism of these beliefs and also through misinterpretation or adaptation within both Chilean and Argentine societies. This syncretism has brought about several variations and differences of these core beliefs as they have become assimilated within Chilean, Argentine and even Mapuche culture. Today, these cultural values, beliefs and practices are still taught in some places with an aim to preserve different aspects of this indigenous Mapuche ideology.[4]

Above all the similarities between the common religion and mythology of South America and its indigenous people, the religious beliefs and myths of the Mapuche people stand out because of their unique characteristics that reflect the Mapuche moral, social, cosmological and religious idiosyncrasy.


Central to Mapuche cosmology is the idea of a creator called ngenechen, who is embodied in four components: an older man (fucha/futra/cha chau), an older woman (kude/kuse), a young man and a young woman. They believe in worlds known as the Wenu Mapu and Minche Mapu. Also, Mapuche cosmology is informed by complex notions of spirits that coexist with humans and animals in the natural world, and daily circumstances can dictate spiritual practices.[5]

The most well-known Mapuche ritual ceremony is the Ngillatun, which loosely translates "to pray" or "general prayer". These ceremonies are often major communal events that are of extreme spiritual and social importance. Many other ceremonies are practiced, and not all are for public or communal participation but are sometimes limited to family.

The main groups of deities and/or spirits in Mapuche mythology are the Pillan and Wangulen (ancestral spirits), the Ngen (spirits in nature), and the wekufe (evil spirits).


In the mythology and beliefs of the Mapuche people, the machi "shaman", a role usually played by older women, is an extremely important part of the Mapuche culture. The machi performs ceremonies for the warding off of evil, for rain, for the cure of diseases, and has an extensive knowledge of Chilean medicinal herbs, gained during an arduous apprenticeship. Chileans of all origins and classes make use of the many traditional herbs known to the Mapuche. The main healing ceremony performed by the machi is called the machitun.

Legends and mythical creatures

The most important myths are:

See also


  1. ^ Costanza Torri, Maria (2011). "The Influence of Christian Conversion in Mapuche Traditional Medicine in Temuco, Chile: Toward a Cultural Syncretism or a form of Ideological Assimilation?". Journal of Religion and Health. 52 (4): 1228–1239. doi:10.1007/s10943-011-9561-x. PMID 22203378.
  2. ^ Gumucio, Christian Parker (2002). "Religion and the Awakening of Indigenous People in Latin America". Social Compass. 49.1: 67–81. doi:10.1177/0037768602049001006.
  3. ^ Bendel, Maria (2002). "Intercultural health and ethnic community relations among the Mapuche people in Chile" (PDF).
  4. ^ Ortiz, Patricio R. (2009). "Indigenous Knowledge and Language: Decolonizing Culturally Relevant Pedagogy in a Mapuche Intercultural Bilingual Education Program in Chile". Canadian Journal of Native Education. 32.1: 93–114, 130 – via ProQuest.
  5. ^ Ngenechen, and Don Armando Marileo
  • Juan Luis Nass. Mitología mapuche. Volumen 40 de Colección 500 años. Colección 500 años (Ediciones Abya-Yala) ; 40. Volumen 40 de 500 años. Ediciones ABYA-YALA, 1991 (Spanish).
Absolute (philosophy)

The concept of the Absolute, also known as The (Unconditioned) Ultimate, The Wholly Other, The Supreme Being, The Absolute/Ultimate Reality, The Ground of Being, Urgrund, The Absolute Principle, The Source/Fountain/Well/Center/Foundation of Reality, The Ultimate Oneness/Whole, The Absolute God of The Universe, and other names, titles, aliases, and epithets, is the thing, being, entity, power, force, reality, presence, law, principle, etc. that possesses maximal ontological status, existential ranking, existential greatness, or existentiality. In layman's terms, this is the entity that is the greatest, highest, or "truest" being, existence, or reality.

There are many conceptions of the Absolute in various fields and subjects, such as philosophy, religion, spiritual traditions, formal science (such as mathematics), and even natural science. The nature of these conceptions can range from "merely" encompassing all physical existence, nature, or reality, to being completely unconditioned existentially, transcending all concepts, notions, objects, entities, and types, kinds, and categories of being.

The Absolute is often thought of as generating manifestations that interact with lower or lesser types, kinds, and categories of being. This is either done passively, through emanations, or actively, through avatars and incarnations. These existential manifestations, which themselves can possess transcendent attributes, only contain minuscule or infinitesimal portions of the true essence of the Absolute.

The term itself was not in use in ancient or medieval philosophy, but closely related to the description of God as actus purus in scholasticism. It was introduced in modern philosophy, notably by Hegel, for "the sum of all being, actual and potential".

The term has since also been adopted in perennial philosophy.

Ana Mariella Bacigalupo

Ana Mariella Bacigalupo is a Peruvian anthropologist. She is currently an associate professor at the State University of New York at Buffalo, and has previously taught throughout the USA and in Chile. Her research primarily focuses on the shamans or machis of the Mapuche community of Chile, and the ways shamanic practices and beliefs are affected by and influence communal experiences of state power, mythical history, ethics, gender, justice, identity, and much more.

Book of Imaginary Beings

Book of Imaginary Beings was written by Jorge Luis Borges with Margarita Guerrero and published in 1957 under the original Spanish title Manual de zoología fantástica. It was expanded in 1967 and 1969 in Spain to the final El libro de los seres imaginarios. The English edition, created in collaboration with translator Norman Thomas di Giovanni, contains descriptions of 120 mythical beasts from folklore and literature.

In the preface, Borges states that the book is to be read "as with all miscellanies... not... straight through... Rather we would like the reader to dip into the pages at random, just as one plays with the shifting patterns of a kaleidoscope"; and that "legends of men taking the shapes of animals" have been omitted.

Although a work of fiction, it is situated in a tradition of Paper Museums, bestiaries, and natural history writing.


Chaotroquin or Chaotrokin (also known as Chaw Trokin, Chao God or God Trokin in the Huilliche mythology of Chile), is the most important god in Huilliche religion; he belongs to the Mapuche culture and is equivalent to the god Ngenechen of the Mapuche religion.

According to tradition, it was he who created his people. Chaotroquin is considered the father of justice, and he who provides food. To supplicate and/or thank the God Chaotroquin; the Huilliche people pray for the aid and intervention of the "Grandpa Wenteyao spirit" ("espíritu del abuelito Huenteao" in Spanish).

Chilean Argentines

Chilean Argentines are Argentine citizens of Chilean descent or Chile-born people who reside in Argentina. Argentina is home to the largest Chilean diaspora group. According to the Argentine 2010 census, there are 191.147 Chileans living in the country (born in Chilean territory). An estimate 2003-2004 estimated Chilean descendants, born in Argentina to a Chilean father or mother, in 190,000.Other figures, such as those by The World Factbook, show a total population (including those born in Chile and their descendants) of 429,708 people.Chilean immigration to Argentina dates back to colonial times. During the War of Independence of Chile, the period known as the Patria Vieja, ended with the defeat of the patriot forces at the Battle of Rancagua on October 1 and 2, 1814. The patriots who were crossing the Andes took refuge in the United Provinces of the Río de la Plata. Some of them returned to their country with the Army of the Andes in 1817 achieving restore the independence of Chile.

Both countries share language, customs, history and one of the largest borders in the world, among other things.

Chilean Mexicans

There is a small Chilean diaspora in Mexico. According to the 2010 census, there were 5,267 registered Chilean citizens living in Mexico, an increase from the 3,848 registered in the 2000 census. Chilean immigrants constitute the fifth largest community of South Americans in Mexico (after Colombian Mexicans, Argentine Mexicans, Venezuelan Mexicans and Peruvian Mexicans) and the fifteenth largest immigrant community overall.


The Chonchon (Spanish: chonchón from Mapudungun: chonchon) is a mythical bird from Mapuche religion also present in Chilean and southern Argentine folk myth.

Colo Colo (mythology)

The Colo Colo or Colocolo is an evil rat-like creature from Mapuche mythology. The marsupial monito del monte is sometimes called "colocolo" due to its similarity with the mythical beast.


Fucha may refer to:

AntarcticaFucha Peak, named after the Bulgarian villages Mala and Gilema FuchaBulgariaMala Fucha, village in Bobov Dol Municipality, Kyustendil Province

Gilema Fucha, idemChilemeaning "older man", in the Mapuche religionChinaFuchai or Fucha, King of Wu

a village in Huamen, Shuangfeng, Hunan Province

Fucha Township in Jiangxi Province

Fucha Gui-ren a character in the television series Empresses in the Palace.

Fucha Hengtai, main character in the Palace 3: The Lost Daughter television seriesColombiaFucha River, river of Bogotá

Fucha (TransMilenio), TransMileno station named after the riverJapanFucha Ryōri, vegetarian dish in the Japanese cuisine

Imajinarī Fūchā, Japanese name of Da Capo II manga novel

Fucha: The Other Side of the Melody, screenwritten by Hitomi ShiraishiUnited Statescharacter in the Marielena telenovela

Index of Chile-related articles

The following is an alphabetical list of articles related to the Republic of Chile.

List of religions and spiritual traditions

While religion is hard to define, one standard model of religion, used in religious studies courses, was proposed by Clifford Geertz, who defined it as a

[…] system of symbols which acts to establish powerful, pervasive, and long-lasting moods and motivations in men by formulating conceptions of a general order of existence and clothing these conceptions with such an aura of factuality that the moods and motivations seem uniquely realistic." A critique of Geertz's model by Talal Asad categorized religion as "an anthropological category." Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to explain the origin of life or the universe. They tend to derive morality, ethics, religious laws, or a preferred lifestyle from their ideas about the cosmos and human nature. According to some estimates, there are roughly 4,200 religions in the world.The word religion is sometimes used interchangeably with "faith" or "belief system", but religion differs from private belief in that it has a public aspect. Most religions have organized behaviours, including clerical hierarchies, a definition of what constitutes adherence or membership, congregations of laity, regular meetings or services for the purposes of veneration of a deity or for prayer, holy places (either natural or architectural) or religious texts. Certain religions also have a sacred language often used in liturgical services. The practice of a religion may also include sermons, commemoration of the activities of a god or gods, sacrifices, festivals, feasts, trance, rituals, rites, ceremonies, worship, initiations, funerals, marriages, meditation, invocation, mediumship, music, art, dance, public service or other aspects of human culture. Religious beliefs have also been used to explain parapsychological phenomena such as out-of-body experiences, near-death experiences and reincarnation, along with many other paranormal and supernatural experiences.Some academics studying the subject have divided religions into three broad categories: world religions, a term which refers to transcultural, international faiths; indigenous religions, which refers to smaller, culture-specific or nation-specific religious groups; and new religious movements, which refers to recently developed faiths. One modern academic theory of religion, social constructionism, says that religion is a modern concept that suggests all spiritual practice and worship follows a model similar to the Abrahamic religions as an orientation system that helps to interpret reality and define human beings, and thus religion, as a concept, has been applied inappropriately to non-Western cultures that are not based upon such systems, or in which these systems are a substantially simpler construct.

Machi (shaman)

A machi is a traditional healer and religious leader in the Mapuche culture of Chile and Argentina. Machis play significant roles in Mapuche religion. In contemporary Mapuche culture women are more commonly machis than men.


The Mapuche are a group of indigenous inhabitants of south-central Chile and southwestern Argentina, including parts of present-day Patagonia. The collective term refers to a wide-ranging ethnicity composed of various groups who shared a common social, religious and economic structure, as well as a common linguistic heritage as Mapudungun speakers. Their influence once extended from the Aconcagua River to the Chiloé Archipelago and spread later eastward to the Argentine pampa. Today the collective group makes up over 80% of the indigenous peoples in Chile, and about 9% of the total Chilean population. They are particularly concentrated in Araucanía. Many have migrated to the Santiago and Buenos Aires area for economic opportunities.

The Mapuche traditional economy is based on agriculture; their traditional social organization consists of extended families, under the direction of a lonko or chief. In times of war, they would unite in larger groupings and elect a toki (meaning "axe, axe-bearer") to lead them. They are known for the textiles woven by women, which have been goods for trade for centuries, since before the arrival of European explorers.

At the time of Spanish arrival the Araucanian Mapuche inhabited the valleys between the Itata and Toltén rivers. South of it, the Huilliche and the Cunco lived as far south as the Chiloé Archipelago. In the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, Mapuche groups migrated eastward into the Andes and pampas, fusing and establishing relationships with the Poya and Pehuenche. At about the same time, ethnic groups of the pampa regions, the Puelche, Ranquel and northern Aonikenk, made contact with Mapuche groups. The Tehuelche adopted the Mapuche language and some of their culture, in what came to be called Araucanization.

Some Mapuche mingled with Spanish during colonial times, and their descendants make up the large group of mestizos in Chile. But Mapuche society in Araucanía and Patagonia remained independent until the Chilean Occupation of Araucanía and the Argentine Conquest of the Desert in the late 19th century. Since then Mapuche have become subjects, and then nationals and citizens of the respective states. Today, many Mapuche and Mapuche communities are engaged in the so-called Mapuche conflict over land and indigenous rights in both Argentina and in Chile.

Mapuche history

The Mapuche people of southern Chile and Argentina have a long history dating back as an archaeological culture to 600–500 BC. The Mapuche society had great transformations after Spanish contact in the mid–16th century. These changes included the adoption of Old World crops and animals and the onset of a rich Spanish–Mapuche trade in La Frontera and Valdivia. Despite these contacts Mapuche were never completely subjugated by the Spanish Empire. Between the 18th and 19th century Mapuche culture and people spread eastwards into the Pampas and the Patagonian plains. This vast new territory allowed Mapuche groups to control a substantial part of the salt and cattle trade in the Southern Cone.

Between 1861 and 1883 the Republic of Chile conducted a series of campaigns that ended Mapuche independence causing the death of thousands of Mapuche through combat, pillaging, starvation and smallpox epidemics. Argentina conducted similar campaigns on the eastern side of the Andes in the 1870s. In large parts of the Mapuche lands the traditional economy collapsed forcing thousands to seek themselves to the large cities and live in impoverished conditions as housemaids, hawkers or labourers.

From the late 20th century onwards Mapuche people have been increasingly active in conflicts over land rights and indigenous rights.

Mythologies of the indigenous peoples of the Americas

The indigenous peoples of the Americas comprise numerous different cultures. Each has its own mythologies. Some are quite distinct, but certain themes are shared across the cultural boundaries.


Ngenechen (also known as Ngunechen, Nguenechen, Guenechen, Guinechen) is one of the most important Ngen spirits within traditional mapuche religion; and is the most important deity in the present beliefs of the Mapuche people.

Ngenechen originally was only the Ngen spirit "governor of the Mapuche people" and not their creator god; but as a product of syncretism with Catholicism, Ngenechen is now also the "Supreme Being" in Mapuche religion, and is synonymous with the term God as used in Abrahamic religions.


The Nguruvilu "fox snake" (also: Guirivilo, Guruvilu, Ñuruvilu, Ñirivilu, Ñivivilu, Ñirivilo o Nirivilo; from Mapudungun ngürü "fox" and filu "snake") is a creature found in the Mapuche religion of Chile.


Witchcraft or witchery is the practice of magical skills and abilities exercised by solitary practitioners and groups.

Belief in witchcraft is often present within societies and groups whose cultural framework includes a magical world view. It often occupies a religious divinatory or medicinal role.Witchcraft is a broad term that varies culturally and societally, and thus can be difficult to define with precision, and cross-cultural assumptions about the meaning or significance of the term should be applied with caution.

Related groups

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.