Guarani – Mythology and Cosmology

The Guaraní people are the indigenous group that live in the Latin American countries of Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Bolivia. While they are related to the Tupi indigenous people, the Guaraní speak their own language. Over the years, colonization reduced their population and minimized their culture, but their language is still commonly spoken. In fact, it is recognized as an official language in Paraguay. The Guaraní also have a very strong spiritual tradition, which has been passed on orally from generation to generation. Their religious beliefs could best be called animistic pantheism, and much of these beliefs are reflected in their mythology and cosmology.

The Guaraní believe that the world was created by Ñande Ramõi Jusu Papa, or “Our Eternal Great Grandfather.” This deity created other divine beings in Guarani mythology including “Our Grandmother.” He also created all of the Guaraní land.

Ñande Ramõi Jusu Papa lived on earth for a time before mankind came about, but ended up leaving due to a disagreement with his wife. In fact, his anger almost caused him to destroy the earth. However, Ñande Jari prevented him from doing so by creating the first sacred song.

Ñande Ramõi Jusu Papa’s son Ñande Ru Paven (“Our Father of All”) and his wife Ñande Sy (“Our Mother”) are also an important part of the culture’s mythology. These deities settled people into different territories and also created the mountains to set apart the Guaraní’s land. Ñande Ru Paven was also responsible for giving men fire. In fact, he stole fire from the crows to give it to man. Similarly to Ñande Ramõi Jusu Papa, Ñande Ru Paven also ended up leaving Earth after a misunderstanding with his wife.

One of the most frequently told myths involves Ñande Sy and her twins. She set out to find her husband who had left her, and came to the home of a dangerous Jaguar. The jaguar’s children killed Ñande Sy when they came back from a hunting expedition, but left her twins alive. After the twins grew up, they talked to a “good-speaking parrot” that told them the truth about how their mother died. They took vengeance on the jaguars, but left one alive who was pregnant at the time. Jaguars are still alive to this day due to the fact that Ñande Sy’s children didn’t kill them all.

Also popular in Guaraní mythology is the tale of the four caretakers of the souls of men. Each one is located in one of the heavens. There are also special entities that handle water, animals and plants. Aside from the creation myth, many of the Guaraní stories involve animal heroes. They also have detailed stories that explain the wars with the Brazilians and Paraguayans who occupied their territories.

The Guaraní people have a vivid and rich history of mythology and oral storytelling. Aside from their creation myths, there are also a host of different spirits, monsters and legends. These rich stories are passed down from one generation to the next and still remain important to the Guaraní to this very day.