Myths for Monday -- How Death Came to Earth

Curripaco (aslo called Kuripaco, Kurripaco, Koripako, Waquenia, Karrupaku) is an Arawakan language spoken by 7,830 people (in 2001) in the departments of GUAINIA (today's department), Vaupes, & Vichada, Colombia. The are approximately 5,000 other Curripaco Indians in Brazil and Venezuela. Their culture has been largely lost as they have been taught by Evangelical Christains. However, one of their myths has been recorded and preserved. It tells of how DEATH was brought to the world.

Ñapiríkuli was walking over the hills of Guainía, when he ran into a woman with her child. The child's name was Kuwai. Unfortunately, soon after, the child died. But Ñapiríkuli did not want to let death enter the world. So, he placed Kuwai in a room and told the mother to be at peace. "Nothing will happen to your son, in 3 days he will walk out of this room alive." Ñapiríkuli then told the woman that the door to the room needed to remain closed for the duration of the three days. She was told not to enter the room, open the door, or even call to her son on the other side of the door.

Bitterly, the mother wept for her lost son. "Kuwai, not my son Kuwai!" she wailed. For two days, she cried non stop. But before dawn on the third day, she thought, "Ñapiríkuli is not here. I will merely go to the door and call to my son to see if he is alive." Quietly, the woman approached the door, and disobediently, she called to her son.

" Kuwai…?"
" Ahhh… !" Responded a weak voice.
" My son, are you alright?"
"Yes," he replied.

At first, she remained outside. Not wishing to open the door. But, after a few minutes, she could not control herself. She simply had to see her son. She entered to see Kuwai standing in the middle of the room. He was pale, very pale. His hair was missing and he had mud on his forehead. At the sight of her standing son, the mother let the tears flow from her eyes. Unfortunately, the tears fell on Kuwai -- who, upon becoming wet, melted away -- leaving nothing remaining but his bones.

Furiously, Ñapiríkuli entered the room. "This should not have happened. You are to blame. It was your tears that caused this death to enter the world. Now, you will cry forever."

Then, Ñapiríkuli took out tobacco and began to smoke. The smoke gradually ascended skyward, creating a dark house called Yarudati. It is there that the Spirits of deceased men go to dwell. He then made a door for the house out of macanilla. Next, taking the bones of Kuwai, he threw them through the open door declaring, "Kuwai, here you will live forever." With the bones inside, the door to the dark house closed with a moan.

It is said that even today, when there is a death among the Curripaco, you can hear the moan as the door to Yarudati closes behind the Spirit of the departed.


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