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Goddess Stories: Húanaxu

By Pat Monaghan

[Snip] The mythology of the Yamana people of Tierra del Fuego, at the farthest southern extreme of South America, is known today only because of the region’s female storytellers. They recited the ancient tales to non-native missionaries and anthropologists, who recorded the information and who are credited with its authorship. Especially important was Nelly Lawrence, a Yamana woman married to a white man, and a middle-aged woman known only as Julia. Without their work, the myths of the Yamana people may have been lost during the period of colonization.

Among the tales these women recited for transcribers was the story of Húanaxu (or Hanuxéakuxipa), one of the primal ancestors, who was the spirit of the moon and wife of the rainbow-god. She was the women’s leader, and as such as leader of all the people, because at that time women ruled.

She brought her people from an unknown land to the east to a place called Yáiaasaága, where they settled and built villages. There the women performed all the necessary rituals while the men did housework and raised children. Some talented male hunters provided the women with meat, because the women could not be bothered with hunting or gathering, busy as they were with the socially important work of religion.

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