Myths of Chiloé

Buried Treasures

Chiloé abounds with stories of buried treasure, and of the fortunes made by people who have seen the flames and followed the trails to find riches buried by the Spaniards, or by rich tradesmen who found no better way of guarding their wealth than by burying it, and then died without revealing their secrets.

During St John’s night (mid-winter) flickering flames are said to appear in the countryside, indicating the site of a buried treasure trove. If the flame is red, the treasure is of gold, if white, then it is silver. When you discover the existence of a buried treasure you should take a lighted candle with you.

Place it on the ground and where the candle starts to sink into the earth indicates the exact spot where the treasure is buried. When you go to dig up the treasure, take nothing with you that has been blessed, because then the treasure will move or disappear. When you are digging, you must not name God or any of the saints as the treasure will move. You may see visions of monstrous animals, snakes and skeletons, and hear the clanking chains and the weeping and wailing of souls in torment. If in the fright produced by these visions you name God or any of the saints, the hole where the treasure is buried will fill up with excrement.

When you open the iron chest or pot, do not breathe the vapour from the silver or the poisonous gases from the buried jewels or coins. To be unharmed you must throw a black cat or dog into the hole. Anyone who does not do this and breathes the gases will die within a very short time.

The Caleuche

A magic or phantom ship which sails the waters to the south and east of CHILOE. It comes to the aid of boats which are adrift, and is crewed by sailors who have been drowned or lost at sea.

This mythical ship appears on dark nights and is only seen clearly lit up when you are close enough to hear the song of Chilote Marin.

Invunche

The Ivunche guards the entrance to the cave of the Wizards of Quicavi. It is a new-born baby stolen or given by a wizard, which is brought up in the cave where it becomes deformed with one foot growing out of its back.

It is fed on goat’s milk and decomposed meat, and when it has grown big enough it is set to guard the entrance to the cave where the wizards of Chiloé gather to work spells and cures and cast the evil eye.

Basilisco

This creature with a snake’s body and a chicken’s head, born from the egg of an old hen or a solitary cock, is a parasite on the sick. It hides under wooden houses and feeds on the energy of sick people, sucking their phlegm and leaving them without the energy or desire to move.

Their bodies start to dry and shrivel to a skeleton and they die in their beds in agony.

Pincoya

A goddess of the sea and of fertility, gay and sensuous and endowed with dazzling beauty. The Pincoya lives on rocky shores, or rises from the depths of the ocean. She appears robed in seaweed. 

At certain stages of the tide the goddess dances her fertility dance while singing a song which captivates the fishermen, announcing scarcity or abundance, depending on which way looks as she dances; if she looks towards the sea, the catch will be abundant, but if she looks towards the mountains the catch will be bad. Men are entranced by the sensual dance of the Pincoya…

Trauco

This famous little man, with his horrible face and his clothes made of quilineja (a local shrub), lives in the forests of Chiloé. He is a great seducer and carries an axe in his hand with which he beats the trees, making a sound which attracts women.

Enchanted by his magic, they fall unresisting at his feet. The old women say that when the Trauco chooses his bride he takes her off into the forest to make love to her.

The Horse of the Sea

This prodigious horse of Chiloé witchcraft is big, ugly and very strong. The thirteen wizards of the "mayoría" can ride in comfort and safety on its back. It is more than twelve fathoms long and may be over four fathoms high.

It is the wizards’ means of transport to the phantom ship. When they need it they go down to the beach and call it up by a special form of whistle, to which it comes at once. When the journey is done, a slap on the rump sends the horse back to the depths of the sea.

You may see it appear as you round a point on the coast, dripping with water as it returns from the bottom of the sea after its task is done with the “pelapechos” of the Caleuche.

If the Horse of the Sea is seen close to the fishing enclosures, it augurs a shortage of fish in the enclosure before long.

The Widow

A very tall woman, dressed in black and with her head covered by a shawl to hide her face. As she walks her petticoats rustle, and she shows her bare feet, white as milk. She appears in lonely places and is the terror of the beaches.

She goes out at night and roams the roads looking for lovers. She pursues good-looking young men and creeps up on them unawares, embracing them from behind and bewitching them with her breath. Once she has one powerless, she takes him to her hut and forces him to satisfy her repeatedly. At dawn she leads him far away from her dwelling and abandons him.

After a few days the young man recovers his reason. She also has a passion for horsemen, leaping up onto the croup of their horses, embracing them and trying to bewitch them. If the rider is immune to her breath, she grips his neck and strangles him. She has a habit of prowling around houses, but if anyone meets her and talks to her she melts into the shadows and disappears.

Wizard (Calcu, Pela Pecho, Mal Cristiano)

The wizard is the enemy of "clean" people. His power is tremendously strong and he has an incredible ability to transform things or people, astounding even the most incredulous.

The wizards of Chiloé form an institution known as the “recta provincial” which has its main home or “mayoría” close to the village of •Quicaví. It is here that they hold their “aquelarres” (wizards’ meetings) quietly and without interruptions, since they are guarded by the Invunche.

A wizard must comply with certain requirements in order to belong to the “mayoría” and practice his art. They can be recognised as follows: throw a handful of chaff onto the brazier and if someone sneezes he is a wizard. He can be eliminated by being caught in the act of casting his spells, and in that case he will die within a year.

Fiura

A repugnant women, small in stature and with disgusting breath. She lives in the forests, not far from the “Hualdes”. She is coquettish and wears bright, eye-catching clothes. She often bathes in springs or waterfalls, where she takes great delight in combing her long, thick hair with a crystal comb. After bathing she spends hours sitting naked on the moss.

She is the feminine manifestation of evil and tireless lover of unmarried men. She takes pleasure in speaking ill of anyone who rejects her, whether an animal or a human being, torturing them with her breath. The Fiura has great powers of seduction, and once her sexual appetite is sated she drives her unfortunate lover to madness. The power of her breath can produce sciatica, and leave animals crippled. If someone wishes to make fun of a woman he may call after her "Where are you going, Fiura?"

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