Sunday, November 27, 2011

El Caleuche - Chiloé Island, Southern Chile

According to Chilean legend, based on the mythology of the people of Chiloé Island, located about 600 miles south of Santiago, a ship sails the oceans of the world manned by those who have drowned at sea. The ship is El Caleuche, the ship of the dead.

El Caleuche, or the ship of the dead according to Chilote mythology, sails the oceans collecting souls that have drowned

The ship is actually a figure or being of the Chilote Mythology that appears as a brightly glowing, lively masted sailing ship.  It is said that when it is approached, it will suddenly turn into a marine animal or an inanimate object to disguise itself.  It sometimes travels under the water where it cannot be seen.

According to the legend there are three ghostly figures of the Chilote Mythology that carry the drowned victims to El Caleuche.  They are siblings, two sisters and a brother:  La Sirena chilota who is a mermaid, La Pincoya chilota who is another type of water spirit, and the El Pincoy who is the brother, a merman.  Once they place the drowned victims on El Caleuche, the victims come to life again and live happily and celebrate with the other crew.  However, they can never leave except once a year to visit their family.

Depiction of La Sirena chilota

It is said that another type of crew that visits the ship and those are Brujo chilote, a type of sorcerer that are said to be carried to El Caleuche on the backs of Caballo Marino or a type of phantom sea horse that dwells in the ocean.  These visitors are different than the drowned in that they are of the evil sort and like to try and spoil the party.

Depiction of El Pincoy and La Pincoya chilota

El Caleuche is said to be helpful in that when it finds other ships in distress, it helps them and leads them to safety.  However, ocean travelers that cause harm to the creatures in the seas in any way, face the wrath of El Caleuche.

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