Guide to Patagonia's Monsters & Mysterious beings

I have written a book on this intriguing subject which has just been published.
In this blog I will post excerpts and other interesting texts on this fascinating subject.

Austin Whittall

Friday, April 6, 2012

Horned beings and Loncomeo

horned being in Patagonian Rock Art
Horned creature. The caption in original text is "head wearing head gear (shaman?). From [1]

Continuing with my series of posts on Patagonian mazes and their possible link to those found in the Mediterranean basin (i.e. Cretan Labyrinth and the Minotaur myth), in this post I will write about Elel and the "initiation" dance...

Some more information on horned beings

A Spanish Jesuit priest, Sanchez Labrador (1717 - 1798), who interacted with the native Patagonians, gives us an eyewitness account on their ritual dancing (the "lonkomeo" mentioned in my first post of this series). He wirtes about their demigod, Elel as follows:

"Elel, among the -Tuelche [sic] prince of the devils, or perhaps (in my opinion) a devil mask that the president or governor uses during the dances...
Then the Indians, naked, painted red and decorated with feathers, so that they resemble devils, also place two groups of feathers on their heads, mimicking horns, and on their behinds, a tail made from feathers or horse hair....
" [1]

The "dance" mentioned above is a native dance represented all across Patagonia, by the Tehuelche and also by the Mapuche, who called it Lonkomeo, whereas the Tehuelche called it yagüjü'm'anü.

The horned being depicted in the image above at Loncomán (40° 47' S, 70° 10' O, Río Negro) is interpreted as a shaman, actually the Lonkomeo dancers were not shamans, just men belonging to the native clan. By the way, Loncomeo means, in Mapuche language: shaking heads (due to the spasmodic motions of the heads of the dancers, perhaps simulating they were bulls fending off invisible assailants with their horns).

This dance was really a pan-Patagonian celebration, and the native clans of different ethnic groups enacted it when a young girl had her first period and became a woman...

Men wearing "feather" horns dance in front of the "pretty house" . From [4]

English explorer George Musters, who rode with a group of Tehuelche from Puerto Santa Cruz, on the Santa Cruz River, to Carmen de Patagones in 1870, experienced the "dance" and his book included a plate showing the dancers with their "feather horns", prancing in front of the casa bonita or pretty house, a tent which was decorated and housed the young woman who had had her first period.

So, there is a link between the men disguised as horned creatures (Minotaur-like dancers) dancing in circles, chanting, and fertility:

The female puberty rites, or menarche rites were critical: they marked that a given girl had become a woman, and was capable, as a fertile member of the community to bear children and ensure another generation.

So we do have a link between horns, mazes and fertility rites... men wearing horned costumes, with tails and all (bulls) dancing in circles (the labyrinth – see below) when a girl becomes a woman, and thus becomes fertile.

The “dancing in circles” part is, according to Casamiquela what gives the name to Gualicho, which seems to mean “who spins”, “who turns around”, “wheels around”, he goes to greath lenghts to prove this, analysing the origin of many Tehuelche words in their northern, central and southern variants. Towards the end of his book, he writes: “Summing up, here we have Gualicho, full of surprises, as the guide within the labyrinth. A labyrinth that the initiated had to go through dressed as bulls ...”

However Casamiquela believed that the real meaning of Gualicho was related to rebirth after death:[2]

... the labyrinth and its mythical meaning: ... the road of the spritis on their journey to the Other World ... the being whose spirit had to climb the mystical spiral... the labyrinth where only the bull was lord...[2]

To be continued...

It is Easter and Pesaj so, a Happy Easter and Hag Sameaj! it is also the full moon after the beginning of Spring (in the Northern Hemisphere) so it is an appropriate time to write about fertility and initiation rites! (Here in Buenos Aires we are in early autumn, in a climate changing world with mosquitoes and a balmy 20 something degrees Celsius.


[1] Sanchéz Labrador, J. (1936). Paraguay Catholico. Los indios Pampas, Puelches, Patagones. Buenos Aires.pp.67 cited by Casamiquela Rodolfo, see [2] below, pp. 57
[2] Casamiquela, R. , (1988). En Pos del Gualicho. Fondo Editorial Rionegrino.
[3] Boschín, Maria Teresa, Tierra de hechiceros: arte indígena de Patagonia septentrional Argentina. Volume 146 of Acta Salmanticensia: Estudios históricos y geográficos
Volume 146 of Estudios Históricos y Geográficos. Publisher Universidad de Salamanca,
[4] Musters C. (1871) At home with the Patagonians plate at pp. 174. The Pretty House and Dance.

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2011 by Austin Whittall © 

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