Chilote folklore: The ghost ship called El Caleuche

The Chiloé Archipelago is situated off the coast of Chile and the people who live on these islands are isolated from the mainland and are forced by circumstances to be independent and self-sufficient.  Their island society evolved and developed around the natural resources of their environment and being island folk  the sea is a big part of their lives.  

They evolved their own ways of explaining the world which grew into their own unique mythology and folklore and many of the stories revolve around the sea.  One of those stories tells how the sea is kept clear of the dead bodies of those who are drowned at sea who must sail for eternity on a ghostly ship the Chilote islanders call El Caleuche.

El Caleuche

This strange phantom ship is believed to be a living being that is always awake and on its guard against unwanted intruders.  It appears as a shining white ship  with  three masts  that carry five sails.  Read more

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Supernatural beings in the Chilote mythology of Chile

The Chiloé Archipelago lies just off the southern coast of Chile. The islands are remote and isolated and over the centuries the people developed a unique mythology and many folk traditions that enriches their island culture. Their mythology tells of how the archipelago was believed to have been created and the deities that take care of the sea. They also have a number of supernatural creatures and entities that have evolved along with the mythology. The following examples give an insight into the rich culture that grew up among the island people.

The Basilisco chilote

The Basilisco chilote is a strange beast that has the body of a snake and the head of a cockerel. It is hatched from an egg that has been incubated by a cockerel. It is said that creature will slither under houses and dig a hole to create a lair. From there it draws the saliva, phlegm and moisture out of the bodies those who sleep there, causing their flesh to shrink and shrivel against their skeleton and death through dehydration. At all costs one must avoid looking into the eyes of the basilisco as its gaze turns humans to stone. It is best not to let Basilisco chilote hatch, but to kill one the egg must be burned immediately it is laid and the chicken that laid it must be killed to stop more eggs being laid. The only one way to be free of the Basilisco chilote once it has targeted a victim is to burn the house above its lair to ashes.  Read more

The Royal Family of the Sea in the Chilote mythology of Chile

The Royal Family of the Sea in Chilote Mythology

The people who live in the Chiloé Archipelago of southern Chile have developed their own unique mythology over the centuries which helps to explain their environment and its maintenance. Being islanders they rely upon the sea for much of their sustenance and they have evolved a hierarchy of divine figures who take care of the ocean. This hierarchy is made up of a Royal Family who consist of a king and queen, a prince and two princesses.

The Millalobo

Millalobo is the king of the seas and was said to have been born from a union by a beautiful woman with a sea lion during the epic battle between Tenten Vilu and Caicai Vilu that created the Chiloé Archipelago.

He had a human wife, Huenchula and they had a son, the Pincoy, the prince of the sea, and two daughters, the Sirena Chilota who was a type of mermaid and the Pincoya a sea nymph. The prince and the princesses helped their father and mother take care of the sea.  Read more

The Chilote mythology of Chile, South America

Chilote mythology

Chilote mythology is the mythology of the people who live on the Chiloé Archipelago lying near the coast of southern Chile. The biggest of the islands is Chiloé, which means “land of sea gulls” and pronounced, Chee-lo-way. Archaeologists believe the islands have been settled by humans for at least 5,000 years. The people of the Chiloé Archipelago are known as Chilotes and are the descendants of Huilliche and Choncho Indians and the main language spoken is now Spanish.

A unique mythology

Their lives and well being, in the past, present and the foreseeable future are inextricably linked to the sea. This dependence has seen the evolution of a unique mythology, folklore and traditions to help them explain and make sense of the world they live in. Naturally, for an island people, the sea plays a large part in this mythology, reflecting its importance to the people.

Spanish ships bring Christianity

Another important influence was the arrival of the Spanish from across the other side of the world in huge ships with masts and sails. The first sightings of these strange ships, perhaps sailing on the distant horizon and maybe stopping off at an island, must have had a profound effect on the native people. But in 1567 the Spanish stopped at the islands bringing with them from across the other side of the world, Christianity.  Read more