Monday, October 26, 2009
The second group of Fuegians, the Yagan boat people also had their own “clawed” beasts stalking them; they believed in the aggressive Kíshpix (or Cushpij), a “spirit” that was “evil and with a horrible shape” and which, according to Lucas Bridges, “terrified them”.
Besides Cushpij, there were other monsters such as the one that lived in a cave on Gable Island, the largest in the Beagle Channel [54°53’ S, 67°29’ W]. It was “a monster, a sea lion or seal that attacked anyone who came close to the island, sinking their canoes and eating those on board”; it was finally slayed by a young Yagan hero named Umoara.
He also killed another monster, a cruel giant that kidnapped women (this seemed to have been a common trait among the Patagonian monsters) and lived on Hoste Island; its only weak spot was its ankle. This Achillean ankle is a remarkable coincidence, identical to that of another monster, feared by the Aonikenk of southern Patagonia: Oókempam, of whom we will about in our next post, tomorrow.
See map here with Gable and Host islands.
Alakaluf: “Ayayema” and “Kawtcho”
The Alakaluf boat men of the western coast of Tierra del Fuego and southern Chile also had their own monstrous beings. Besides their relatively benign “snow man” Mwono, there were others not so harmless.
One of them was Ayayema that hunted prowling in the night; during daytime it lived in a bog called “Papi” and emerged when darkness fell stalking along the shore concealed by the gloomy thick forests. It also had a horrid stench, smelling like rot.
Another beast was Kawtcho; a nocturnal spirit that also had a putrid smell that was so strong that it awoke the dogs and made them howl. It was like a very tall man with a gigantic brawny body and sharp claws. Its head was covered with “hair hard and straight as nails”. During the day, just like the Mapuche’s evil púlli fucha, it walked under the ground -a cave perhaps or a burrowing creature?- and at night, like Ayayema, it would lurk along the beaches, coming upon its solitary victims from behind (it only attacked from the rear) emptying their eyes out of their sockets and killing them.
They Alakaluf avoided lighting fires in the open at night not to disclose the location of their campsites to both Kawtcho and Ayayema and only dared to do so inside their huts, to keep the beasts out, because both feared light.
These mythical Fuegian creatures share many similarities with those of the mainland’s Tehuelche people, as we will see in the next post: they were large, dangerous, man-eating, arrow-proof; they were fearsome creatures.
 Orquera, L. and Piana, E., (2003). Yáana Canoeros marinos de Tierra del Fuego. Ushuaia. Museo del Fin del Mundo, Biblioteca Virtual.
 Bridges, L., (2008). Op. Cit. pp. 159.
 Martial, L., (2005). Mision al Cabo de Hornos, la expedición científica francesa en la Romanche Julio de 1882 a setiembre de 1883. Ushuaia: Zaguier & Urruty Publications. pp.245-246.
 Emperaire, J. and Oyarzún, L., (2002). Los nomades del mar. Santiago: Lom Ed. pp. 299-300 & 305.
Copyright 2009 by Austin Whittall ©