Myths for Monday -- The Paez Version of Creation

The PAEZ Indians of Colombia, also known as the NASA, are found in an area called Tierradentro in the Department of Cauca (today's department) and Huila. Based on their total population, they are the second largest indigenous group in Colombia with a little less than 140,000 people.

In 1536, the Spanish conquistador, Sebastian del Belalcazar, tried to subdue the Paez Indians, but to no avail. Later, Belalcazar ordered the construction of a city -- San Vicente de Paez, right in the heart of Tierradentro. However, in short order, the Paez had destroyed the city. Belalcazar was reported to have said, "What we don't win with our weapons, we will win with our priests!"

Indeed, the next weapon tried to pacify the Paez was the Catholic religion. However, this tactic was also unsuccessful. One priest reported, "The Paeces are the most barbarian of any people found in these new lands. They resist everything....They laugh out loud when they are taught (the catechism). It is impossible to believe that they are rational." For this reason, they garnered the name "Indians Without Peace," and it took over 150 years for the Spanish to subdue them.

This proud, fierce group of Native Americans, clung to their religion and history. Today's myth/legend is the Creation story of the Paez.

The Paez origin of the earth and man: T'IWE N'HI 'YU'I NAS

Originally, there was no land and no people. There was only KS'A'W WALA, the "great spirit." KS'A'W WALA was both male and female at the same time, as such, it was able to reproduce itself. Thus, there were born other wise spirits like EKTH' E, the spirit of wisdom; WEET'AHN the spirit that controls sickness; KL'UM, who controls the environment; the spirit of social control, DAAT'I; S'I ', the spirit of transformation; TAY the sun; and many others. Everything had its spiritual creation, and all the creations lived in the enormous house of KS'A'W WALA.

When the eldest spirit children reproduced, they created the spirits of the plants, animals, and minerals. They also created a new and special child, his name was NASA, and he was the first human spirit. All the major and minor spirits lived together. They spoke a single language -- the NASA Yuwe or Paez language, and they knew all things.

One day, KS'A'W WALA told them that they needed to build their own place to live in. It was then, that the spirit children of KS'A'W WALA began to make their own homes. But, it was also when the children became divided, each building their homes in different areas and living separately. They lived in great conflict. The sun spirit, TAY, used its rays to burn the homes of his siblings. The water spirit, YU', caused floods that destroyed the homes of others.

Seeing this, KS'A'W WALA ordered them to join together and form a single household. This they did, bonding together and thus forming the earth. By uniting, they became solid, and they began to reproduce, each after its own likeness -- plants, animals, minerals, and man.

Photo -- A Paez child -- by Diego Tabares


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