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Amaru

 

Descriptions of Amaru, a formidable mythological creature from Andean folklore, are not consistent among written records. Though they always include some snake-like traits and most often wings. In a few tales, Amaru is described as a two headed snake of massive proportions—one head is a puma, the other head a llama. In other tales, those that seem to better describe the pictograms created before the arrival of the Spanish, Amaru’s serpentine body is covered in colorful feathers (like that of Quetzacoatl), but the long tail has fins like those of a fish and the head is that of a llama. Later descriptions of Amaru, those chronicled after the Spanish conquered the region, incorporate features corresponding to European Medieval dragons, like sharp claws and fire-breathing.

 

When living in the South America, the Spanish Jesuit and chronicler Bernabé Cobo (1580–1657) described many different types of serpents, most of which were presented by the locals as dangerous to human beings. Among this naturalistic chronicles, the priest also mentions a large creature “of the lineage of dragons and serpents, which the Peruvian Indians call Amaro.”

 

This mythical snake-dragon, later called Amaru, was also mentioned by the Jesuit linguist González Holguín, who described it as a serpent without wings but larger than a dragon, further implying a supernatural character for the creature in his mentions of mythical strength, and the danger it represented for the Andean people.

 

However, this vision of Amaru, as dangerous and diabolic, is not representative of how the Quicha people saw this creature. For the Quicha, Amaru was a celestial creature—a great mythic being, a water snake symbolic of disorder transforming into a new order—capable of controlling the weather, causing hail and thunderstorms by flying up into the sky, but also bringing rain in times of drought by gliding toward the horizon.

 

Amaru is also associated with the underworld, linking sky and earth, by sending lighting from the sky vault into the earth, creating seismic movements.

 

References

-Newman, P., 1979. The hill of the dragon: An enquiry into the nature of dragon legends. Kingsmead Press.

-Dracones, H.S. and de Armas, S., The Myth of the Amaru.

-Meddens, F., 2006. Rocks in the landscape: Managing the inka agricultural cycle. The Antiquaries Journal, 86, pp.36-65.

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