Brazilian Mythology October: Boto
Pink Boto (Inia geoffrensis) is how Brazilians call the Amazon river dolphin, a freshwater river dolphin with a characteristic carnation pink color.
The story goes as far as the 18th century, and it’s very popular in Northern Brazil. According to the legend, the pink boto walks out of Amazonian rivers in June Festivities. He has the ability of transforming into a handsome, tall and strong young man, dressed all in white. He goes to parties in search of beautiful women, covering the blowhole on the top of his bald head with an equally white hat. The boto is very charming and talkative, and seduces young, pretty and single ladies. He takes them to the river, convincing his prey to swim with him. There, he gets the woman pregnant, and becomes a boto again in the following morning.
Besides his seduction games, he is considered friendly towards fishermen, and helps drowning people, taking them off the water. There is a popular expression called “son/daughter of the boto”, referring to children whose father’s identity is unknown.
Although not related, the imagery chosen here for the boto is purposefully similar to the one of the stereotypical Brazilian Malandro created by samba lyrics for the kind of personality, behavior and clothing.
Sources: Sua Pesquisa | Toda Matéria | A-Z Animals
Brazilian Mythology October: The Little Black Herding Boy
Possibly one of the saddest legends of Brazilian mythology, The Little Black Herding boy is an African-Christian tale of the southern region, popular in the 19th century to defend the end of slavery.
Although the tale is older than that, it was first published by writer João Simões Lopes Neto, and tells the story of a very small enslaved boy, an orphan who believed himself to be the godson of the Virgin Mary. His master was an extremely cruel and rich estancieiro who had the habit of punishing and torturing him. Once, as he fell asleep after being harmed by him, he lost his owner’s horses, and was beaten mercilessly. He found the horses and slept for a second time, and again the animals were gone. This time, the master not only tortured him, but threw his moribund body over an anthill, leaving only after the ants covered the young boy.
Three days later, the estancieiro returned, and no more he saw the youngster suffering. He was there, but his skin was healthy and soft, his wounds had been healed, and the last ants were leaving his body. Virgin Mary was by his side, indicating his death and the divine compensation for his pain.
Oral tradition gave the boy immortal life and supernatural powers, turning him into some kind of a popular saint with devout followers, who believe he can find lost objects if you light a candle for his Godmother.
On another note, the patroness saint of Brazil is Our Lady of Aparecida, after a statue found in 1717. The Virgin became very popular with Afro-Brazilians for being a black Madonna, and because one of her first attributed miracles was freeing an enslaved man called Zacarias.
Sources: Wikipedia | Jangada Brasil | Universidade Federal de Pelotas
Brazilian Mythology October: Cuca
Nana, neném (Sleep, baby)
Que a Cuca vem pegar (Or the Cuca will get you)
Papai foi pra roça (Daddy went to the field)
Mamãe foi trabalhar (And mommy’s off to work)
The name Cuca comes from a similar Lusitanic legend called Coca, referring to the word côco, a colloquial way of saying head in Portuguese and Spanish. That’s because the European version has a pumpkin from a head, but that doesn’t quite apply to the Brazilian version of the creature.
The Cuca is described as an evil kind of anthropomorphic bogeywoman with alligator head. She is described as old and hideous, appearing only at night and targeting children who don’t behave and sleep later than they should. No one knows what she does to the kids she kidnaps, but one thing is sure: after she appears, they never come back.
Sources: Wikipedia | Brasil Escola | Jangada Brasil
Brazilian Mythology October: Iara
Iara (from Old Tupi yîara, meaning “Water Lady”) is a beautiful mermaid-like creature living in a river in Amazonas. The legend comes from different beliefs, including the European mermaid, ancient local myths about water snake spirits and, possibly, African goddesses like Mami Wata and Yemanja.
Originally, Iara was the best warrior of her tribe, living somewhere in the Amazon rainforest. She was the daughter of the pajé (the spiritual leader or shaman of a tribe), and the constant compliments from her father regarding her incredible skill made her brothers so envious they planned to murder her during the night. Iara had a particularly good hearing, and was able to prevent their attempt, but ended up killing them to defend herself. The father, unaware of what truly happened, tried to catch her as she fled. Her body was trown in the meeting of the rivers Negro and Solimões, but the fish brought it back to the surface, and she turned into a mermaid.
Iara is described as having dark hair and skin, and her beauty is so irresistible she has the power to lure any men she intends to marry to the bottom of the river with her singing voice. Like in many legends, Iara has an ambiguous motivation: some say she seeks for victims, enchanting men to their death, either to eat them or to watch them kill themselves, while others see her as a lonely figure, keeping her lovers underwater until their mortal end.
People associate her to the deaths of many people, and it is said that even today natives of Amazonia avoid travelling near water at night.
Sources: Wikipedia | Brasil Escola | Arte e Educação | Purple Cottage
It is the Season of Saci
We’re getting close to Halloween, and everyone on Tumblr seems to be really excited about it. I really get why - although the holiday is not something big in my country, both the foreign excitement about October 31th and the fact that me and my girl celebrate our relationship’s anniversary in the same day made me like Halloween as well.
October 31tst means another thing in Brazil - it’s the Saci Day, to celebrate one of the most iconic figures of our mythology and folklore, the Saci Pererê. It’s not just a tumblr thing; as Halloween became more and more popular in South America, some Brazilians decided to turn this into a thing to give value to our story and legends and not just to euro-centric ideas, so they created the day. Thinking about all of this, I wanted to join both things. Yes, now I, like all of you, love Halloween now, and I wanted to do art with it, but I didn’t grow up with zombies and pumpkins and vampires (actually, October tends to be a hot month of the year in my tropical land, unfitting for the whole pumpkin thing).
In other words, don’t be surprised if you see a lot of Brazilian Mythology in your dashboard this month, because I’m going to dedicate this blog exclusively to post a new art series dedicated to the supernatural creatures of my culture during October.
And the first one will be…
Young lad exploring an abandoned town.
Another commission; helyksittainen's lovely version of Prouvaire, mildly inspired by "The Death of Marat".
Grantaire, commissioned by librium (as a twin piece for this Enjolras).