Museum of Chinese Art and Ethnography Xaverian Missionaries - V.le S. Martino, 8 - Parma, Italy 0521-257.337

Myth of the Hunters and the Armadillo

 

Kayapò myth: the Myth of the Hunters and the Armadillo
Myth of the Hunters and the Armadillo

One of the most beautiful of Kayapo myths tells of an encounter between the hunters and the armadillo.

At the beginning of time men lived in the sky. One day, as they were wandering around among the clouds, a group of hunters came across an armadillo. Since the animal had no intention of being caught, it ran off, followed by the hunters. It came to a cloud with a hole in it from which hung a rope. Without a moment’s hesitation, the armadillo grabbed hold of the rope and disappeared into the hole.

When the hunters came to the edge of the hole they stopped and began to discuss whether it was worth following the armadillo down or give up the chase. But it was impossible for them all to agree, so some decided to take the risk and slide after the armadillo while others remained behind. They weren’t to know, but the rope actually stretched from the sky right down to the earth, so that those daring enough to brave the unknown in fact became the first men to reach the earth. These were the ancestors of the Kayapo people.

The hunters who lacked the courage to go down the rope stayed in the sky and are still there. The evidence of their presence are the stars, which are the fires they light each evening.

This object consisting of two sections refers to this myth. The lower part (me-kutàm) – a beeswax skullcup – symbolizes the earth. The upper section (àkkà-pari) – a colorful radiating arrangement of feathers – represents the rays of the sun or the sky. The little bar uniting them recalls the rope used by the Kayapo to reach the earth.