Legends of volcanoes
Historical accounts mention them because many of Chile’s indigenous groups have their own legends describing the origins of lots of volcanoes.
The Mapuches believe that they are the home of the founding father of all races and lineages, called Pillán. When Pillán is offended the volcano unleashes his anger using thunder, lightning, tremors, smoke and lava. Even though they did not fear him, they made sacrifices and offerings, asking him for help in different situations.
The Incas, on the other hand, generally gave ten young virgins as a sacrifice to the volcanoes in order to ward off their anger because they feared them.
The Parinacote and Pomerape Volcanoes
These are two majestic volcanoes whose peaks soar over 6 000 metres above sea level. There are three popular legends about them:
One of the legends tells of two lovers, whose love was punished by a sorcerer who did not want them to be together. They were turned into twin hills so that they were near each other and could see each other but could never touch each other. When the volcanoes become active people believe that the lovers are trying to communicate with each other.
It is also said that the Inca treasure which was saved in the rescue of Atahualpa, lies hidden in their peaks, a treasure including a valuable quantity of jewels, gold statues belonging to the kings and silver ones belonging to the queens of the Sun Temple and the Moon Sanctuary. They say that when there is not much snow you can see the steps leading up to the peak, which proves that the Incas had reached the summit.
According to the tribe los Payachatas, these volcanoes are a prince and princess of enemy tribes who wanted to marry but were killed in order to prevent the union. Nature avenged the crime on the two tribes and both towns were turned into the Chungará and Cota Cotañi Lakes. Meanwhile the two beautiful volcanoes rose up over the prince and princess’s graves.
The indigenous people in this area call it the Snow Devil (Pire Pillán) or the Enemy of Heights (Hueñauca). Indigenous groups from the farthest reaches of southern Chile arrived here every ten to twelve years to gather at the foot of the volcano with offerings to ask for help against their enemies in their wars or to quell its anger during times of fury or eruption.
The legend tells of a famous Inca who loved to go to coast of Arica because of the warm ocean waters. Every year this Inca travelled to the beaches with his entourage to enjoy the endless parties and orgies. He was always accompanied by many beautiful women and his beauty was such that the sirens became jealous and envious because lots of sea creatures were drawn to admire such a handsome specimen. One night, so many sea horses and sirens rampaged the waves that they wiped out the Inca and his entourage. These were the waves that put out the volcano’s fire and they say that the bodies shone so brightly at the bottom of the sea that the place was filled with birds attracted by the shining lights.
This volcano is 60 kilometres east of San Pedro de Atacama. Its maximum height is 5 916 metres above sea level, at which point you can see the San Pedro de Atacama oasis, the Atacama Salt Plains and the Green Lagoon in Bolivia. A 12 hour hike will take you to the peak, but you need to be an expert and have suitable climbing gear. You are advised to visit it in the winter as you will be able to see the frozen lagoon inside the crater.
The story tells of how the Inca people believed that the Licancabur Volcano’s spirit let the inhabitants of the surrounding areas know how angry it was by bellowing loudly. In order to appease the spirit the people prepared stones sculpted into shapes as well as other offerings, which they carried up to the peak on their back. Then they built cairns where they left their offerings and said prayers to pacify its fury. From this point onwards all of the descendants of this tribe revered the spirit of the volcano.