Bachué -- The Birth of the Chibcha People
According to Chicbha legend, Humans in general were created by Sugamuxi and Ramiriquí under the direction of Chiminigagua. But where did the Chibchas come from? They also have a creation myth that surrounds their arrival on the Altiplano Cundiboyasense.
According to the legend, in the area around Tunja there exists a lake called Iguaque. It is from the waters of this lake that Bachué (bah chewAY) first appeared. She was surrounded by light and was accompanied by a three year old little boy. She walked down the mountain to the plains and built a hut -- the first Chibcha dwelling -- in the area of what today is the town of Iguaque. When the child grew up, Bachué married him -- the first Chibcha wedding ceremony.
The couple was very prolific and Bachué was very fertile. With every pregnancy, she bore 4 to 6 children. The couple would travel to different areas and in each, they would leave children. This is how they were able to populate the land. When the two were very old, they called all of their descendants together for a large meeting on the shores of the Lake Iguaque. There, Bachué gave them her final words of counsel. She exhorted them to live in peace and harmony with each other. Once she had finished giving her words of advice, she and her husband changed into large snakes and swam out into the lake.
Bachué and her husband became venerated as gods. The lake then became a place of worship. The Muiscas would make pilgrimages there where 2 "Bohíos sagrados" -- sacred huts were built. One hut was for Bachué and the other was for her husband. In one hut was a solid gold figure of a little three year old boy. With the boy was a solid gold statue of a rock that is used to grind corn.
When the Spanish arrived, they found a number of offerings that had been made to the child statue including beautifully made blankets, gold bars, tejos, and other small figurines.
The Island Sanctuary of Fúquene was another site of religious pilgrimage. There the Chibchas would worship many different gods, including Bachué. It was there that priests could learn their craft in a sort of seminary called a CUCAS. Also, there were 100 priests assigned to take care of the shrines and help the pilgrims that came to visit.
The legend of Bachué had an impact on Chicbha culture and that impact continues today. Because of Bachué there was a worship of the feminine. Families were matriarchal. The power of the Cacique was passed not through the father, like in Europe, but through the sister of the current leader (the oldest nephew). Mothers were respected and loved and they were the 'true leaders' of the family.
The historian and author Javier Ocampo López points out that this legend has also lead to a certain respect for lakes. Even today, campesinos in Boyacá and Cundinamarca have a certain fear of them. They believe that there are spirits and enchantments that are related to them. The will not swim or wash their clothes in them. And, when passing them, the campesinos today will make the sign of the cross. Some believe that the spirits not only inhabit the water, but they can travel below the ground and sap human strength.
Photos by dgolzano