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Diadoe • Origin of the matapi and of the pirarucu and traíras

Paintings by Feliciano Lana 

Text based on narratives by
Feliciano Lana, Desana from São João
Feliciano Azevedo, Tukano from São José
Miguel Azevedo, Tukano from São José



The man in this story was Muhipu, the Person-Star. Others say he was a powerful god. He lived at the Uaupés River, beyond the Jutica community. Every day he used to catch many fish. Other people from the village went fishing, but got nothing.


To fish, Person-Star used to take along his son, whose body was covered with sores, placing him on top of a tree branch over the river. The fluid that dripped from the boy’s sores would attract the fish, which gathered to lick the fat off his body. But the father did not kill many fish, only the ones he needed.


One day, the father went to the field. The boy stayed alone. “How does your father manage to bring fish everyday?”, the villagers asked the boy. Finding out the answer, one day, when Person-Star left, they took his sick son fishing.


The boy stayed on top of a tree branch to attract the fish. Where there are fish, there are snakes! Sitting on the tree branch, the boy complained that the people were killing too many fish. “You guys are killing too many fish!”, said the boy, as he could already see the Big-Snake coming.


The Big-Snake came at full speed and ate Person-Star’s son. There was no time to save the boy. He disappeared!


Later, Person-Star came back from the field. The villagers told him everything. The father found out that the snake had taken his son. The boy’s father asked where the snake had gone. Then he took a machete, a hatchet, a tuiuca pot, and went after the Big-Snake.


At a given place, Person-Star reached the snake. He ran ahead of the snake, trying to surround it by the Uaupés River, but the snake managed to escape. He ran after it again. Tired of carrying so many things, he threw out the tuiuca pot, and the pot turned into a rocky mountain by the Uaupés River.


The snake kept going down the Uaupés River and reached the Negro River. However, Person-Star did not give up; he kept running ahead of it until he arrived at the São Gabriel Fort. He quickly made a trap, setting up a big matapi and waiting there with his weapon. The snake saw that it had no escape. It had to enter the matapi.


When the snake died, Person-Star dragged it on the dirt to remove its scales. First, Person-Star removed the scales from the snake’s mid-section, throwing it down the river so it would turn into pirarucus.


Next, he took the tiny scales off the snake’s tail and threw them up toward the headwaters of the Negro River. Then they became traíras. Person-Star said: “You ate my son! Therefore, your generation will also be eaten by all humanity, until the end!”.