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Coniraya and Cavillaca - A Peruvian Myth about an adorable Virgin that was seduced by a deceiving Spirit

Coniraya and Cavillaca

A Peruvian Myth about an adorable Virgin that was seduced by a deceiving Spirit

The following myth was first recorded around 1570 by Christoval de Molina, a priest of the hospital for natives at Cuzco. He was a master of the Quechua language and could communicate with the native chiefs and learned from men who remembered the Inca empire in the days of its prosperity. He was also intimately acquainted with their culture.

The spirit Coniraya was at times mischievous. He even pretended to be the mighty Viracocha, who the Incas believed was the force behind all creation. But in ancient times he wandered the world in the form of a very poor Indian clothed in rags, so that men reviled him and called him a wretch.

Coniraya indeed created all the villages, the fields and all the beautifully terraced hillsides: he spoke them into existence with merely a word. It was he who taught the use of aqueducts and he made the water flow by letting fall to the ground a single blossom of the reed called pupuna. As he went along, he made many things.

Coniraya’s great wisdom and great cunning enabled him to deceive and to play tricks wherever he went. One day, he caught sight of a most beautiful virgin named Cavillaca, who was adored by many, but refused any admirers. So Coniraya turned himself into a fabulous bird of wonderful plumage and flew up into the Lucuma tree under which Cavillaca was sitting, weaving a mantle. Perching in its branches, Coniraya made his seed into a ripe and luxurious fruit, which he dropped at Cavillaca’s feet. With much delight, she grasped and ate the fruit; thus, she conceived a child.

When her nine months came to completion, she bore a son whom. She knew not whose child it was, nor how she had conceived it. At the end of a year, when the child crawled, Cavillaca demanded that the Huacas (sacred objects/spirits) of the land should assemble, to declare which of them was father to her son. Delighted at the opportunity to impress the beautiful Cavillaca, each Huaca adorned himself in the best possible manner, combing, washing, and then dressing in magnificent clothes. Each desired to outdo the others in the eyes of the beautiful Cavillaca, that she might select him for her husband.

And so, the gods assembled at Anchicocha, a cold inhospitable spot, and seated themselves in order. Cavillaca addressed them: “I have invited you to assemble here, O worthies and principal persons, that you may know of my great sorrow at having brought forth this child that I hold in my arms. Now the child is one year old, but I know not, nor can I learn, who is his father. It is widely acknowledged that I have known no man, nor have I lost my virginity. Now that you are assembled you must reveal to me which of you did this harm to me, and which of you is father of my child.”

The gods, remaining silent, looked at each other, waiting to see who would claim the boy. No one came forward. Now forced into action by the silence of the gods, Cavillaca said: “As none of you will speak, I shall let the child go, and doubtless he will crawl to his father - his father will be the one at whose feet he rests.” So saying, she loosed the child. In the lowest place of all sat Coniraya in his beggar’s rags; the beautiful Cavillaca had scarcely looked at him while addressing the gods, for it had never entered her head that he could be that father. The child passing by the assembled company went towards the ragged and dirty Coniraya. Happy and laughing, he rested at Coniraya’s feet.

Cavillaca was so mortified and so annoyed that she snatched up the child, crying: “What disgrace is this that has come upon me, that a lady such as I should be made pregnant by a poor and filthy creature.” Then turning her back, she fled away towards the seashore. Coniraya, who so desired her friendship and favor, immediately changed into magnificent golden robes, and, leaving the astonished assembly, ran after her, calling: “O my lady Cavillaca, turn your eyes and see how handsome and gallant am I”. And his splendor illuminated all the land.

But Cavillaca, shamed and disdainful, refused to turn her head. Instead, she increased her speed, calling out: “I have no wish to see anyone, since I have been made pregnant by a creature so vile and filthy.”

Coniraya continued the pursuit, and meeting a condor, asked if he had seen Cavillaca. The bird replied: “I saw her very near this place, and if you go a little faster, you will certainly overtake her.” Coniraya rejoiced and blessed the condor in the following manner: “I give you the power to go wherever you wish, to traverse the wildernesses and valleys and ravines; to build where you shall never be disturbed; to eat anything that you find dead. And he who kills you shall himself be killed.”

Coniraya now sped on his way, and soon encountered a fox. Again, he asked for Cavillaca, but the answer he got infuriated him. It was in vain for Coniraya to follow her, the fox advised, since she was now so far away. “Never shall you go abroad save at night,” Coniraya cursed. “Always you shall have a hateful smell,” he continued. “All men shall persecute you and hunt you from afar.”

Faster and faster ran the god, who was soon encouraged by the hopeful reports of a puma he met. “All shall respect and fear you,” he told the puma. “I appoint you as punisher and executioner of evil doers. Even after death you will be honored, for whoever kills a puma will wear its skin at festivals. That is the blessing I give your kind.”

Thus, he rewarded all animals who gave him news that accorded with his wishes, and thus cursed all those whose answers he found disagreeable.

Coniraya at last he reached the seashore, but it was too late. In her desperation to escape the ragged beggar who had so shamed her, Cavillaca had turned herself and her child to stone.

Background information on the myth of Coniraya and Cavillaca

Some of the traditions mentioned in this story became inviolably rooted in the hearts of the people even after the Spanish Conquest: condors were considered sacred, and never harmed, puma skins were brought out on special occasions; and whenever anyone saw a fox, the entire village turned out to chase it.

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