The Brazilian Great Mother by Mirella Faur (Part 2)

This article was originally published by The Beltane Papers issue #30 February 1998. FAR is republishing it with permission from the author in order to digitally archive this important work. Part 1 is available here.

The indigenous Brazilian tribes worshiped all Mothers and believed they created life without the male presence. All Goddesses were virgins, but their virginity was only a symbol of independence and self-sufficiency, without any physical meaning. In some myths, the virgins are impregnated by numinous energies, manifested as animals (snake, birds, porpoise), forces of Nature (rain, thunderbolts, rays of light), ancestors or Deities. As other native people, they weren’t aware of the male participation in the conception and respected and revered the menstrual blood as something sacred, filled with magical powers, because after the “supernatural” ceasing of the monthly flow, life was created. Only after the interference of the white settlers and the massive Catholic indoctrination that the native cosmology was distorted, the Father assumed the main place, the Son became the second one in the divine hierarchy and the Mother was transformed in a suffering and silent virgin. Even so, many native traditions survived in the legends, folk beliefs, shamanic healing and magical practices as the Pajelança and Encantaria.

Besides the “Good Mother”, some of the native legends also mention the “Terrible Mother”, Boiuna, the Giant Snake of the Amazon River. The bottom of the river was her habitat and she appeared only at night, destroying boats and devouring people. Her terrifying aspect and her connection with the darkness, death and night are, as a matter of fact, features of the Dark Goddess, the Reaper, who controls the eternal cycle of birth, life, death and transformation.

Another manifestation of the Dark mother is Caamanha, “Mother of the Woods”, protector of the wild life who punished all intruders and violators of her domain. In other myths, she was transformed either in the Curupira or the Caapora, strange male beings, with twisted feet, who walked backwards, thus acting as guardians by misleading hunters or even attacking them.

In some Guarani myths we find mentions to the “Mother of Gold”, described as a beautiful woman or a brilliant globe, which seduced the gold prospectors and took them deep in the mountains, far away from the gold mines. Considered a Guardian of Mother Earth’s treasures, she sometimes manifested herself as Boitatá, who could appear as a phantasmagorical snake, with a luminous body and huge eyes, or only as a giant head, floating over hidden treasures, frightening or punishing those who destroyed Nature in search of fortune.

The punishing aspect of Mother Nature, seen in her mission to protect her resources, was distorted by the Christian monks and historians, who created the story of the “Headless Mule”, metamorphosis of women who had sex with priests who showed up as ghosts on Friday’s nights (sacred day of ancient love Goddesses as Astarte, Aphrodite, Inanna, Venus and Freyja), frightening travelers and scaring secret lovers.

The most fascinating Tupi myth is the one about a mysterious water Goddess called Muyrakitan. By dividing her name in syllables we can  better understand her symbology: Mura means sea or water; Yara, Lady or Goddess, and Kitan, flower or bloom, thus forming “The Lady who came from the sea” or “The  Goddess which bloomed from the water”.

The cult of the Goddess Muyrakitan was reserved only for women, who wore special amulets called ita-obymbaé, made by the virgin priestesses, ikanyabás or cunhatay, These priestesses were dedicated to the Goddess since their childhood and underwent special preparation and training in healing, magic and prophecy. Once a year, during a special Full Moon, the women gathered on the shore of a sacred lake called Yacy-Uara (“the Mirror of the Moon”), chanting and rattling. The priestesses chewed Jurema leaves, who contained a trance inducing substance. After invoking the blessing and the protection of Yacy and Muyrakitan, the priestesses dived in the lake in search of a special type of clay. They received the green or bluish clay from Muyrakitan’s hands, modeling it still wet in amulets, shaped as frog, fish, snake or felines, with a central hole. They magically charged the clay with the Moon’s energy and, while still continuing their rhythmic sacred chants, they waited for the rise of the Sun to harden the clay amulets with His (or, better said, Her) rays. Women then wore the amulets as pendants or earrings because their use granted protection, magical powers and prosperity. They were also used by the priestesses to predict the future through their submersion in the lake during the full Moons and holding them on their foreheads to perceive the Goddess messages.

The scientists call these amulets muyraquitans, thus discarding their spiritual origin and considering them only as zoomorphic cult objects, made from different polished stones and used in fertility rites. Lots of them were found in the low Amazon area, between the Tapajos and Trombetas rivers, but few of them still exist as they were sold to collectors or destroyed. Folklore calls them “the green stones of the Amazons”, and we can presume this name is the material proof of the existence of a never found Amazon tribe. Records of the existence of this tribe include explorer Francisco de Orellana’s description of his encounter in 1542 with a tribe of “women living without men”. These women, called Amazons, were tall, strong, beautiful, with braided black hair, white skin, who walked naked and lived in freedom, but were armed with arrows and bows for defense and hunting. Once a year they chose men to be their children’s fathers, and gifted them with green amulets with animal shapes similar to those mentioned before. After giving birth, they kept the girls and sent the boys to their fathers. Some authors believe that the Amazons used these sculpted objects to barter with the travelers or the  neighboring tribes. By that time, the missionaries affirmed that the Tapajo Indians manufactured the amulets, but nowadays it is known that they only used  them as symbols of wealth, prestige or as sacred objects in weddings and burial rituals, and to seal alliances or peace accords between tribes. But their real origin is still unknown, as the science didn’t confirm yet the existence of the Amazons, despite their myths.

Hidden in indigenous myths, legends and folk beliefs, we can discover and retrieve many vestiges of the ancient traditions and native Brazilian cults. Shedding the Christian and literary distortions of the original truth, we may find our way back to the Ancestral Mother, Creatrix of all forms of life, of everything that exists in the Universe, weaver of the eternal cycle of birth, death and rebirth, whose shrines are everywhere and whose names are kept inside our hearts. As women, we know there is no distinction between  Mother Earth and us, because we are Her daughters, part of the planetary female energy and therefore responsible for the creation and protection of life on Earth.

This is the challenge and mission of Goddess loving women, remembering that every tree, animal, stone or plant has a mother, that there are guardians watching and judging our actions and that the only way to guarantee our survival is to respect, care and love our Planet, the sacred ground we walk upon, that nurtures, sustains and protects us. But we cannot forget that  Mother  Nature has also a terrible face and, before she turns her rage towards us, we must change our behavior, our values and creeds, we must heal the wounds we inflicted upon our Mother’s body, expand our awareness, reconstruct our beliefs and consecrate our lives to leave a better legacy to our children.

May the Great Mother forgive our mistakes and help us save Nature and keep peace on Earth!  


Mirella Faur is a writer and priestess of the Great Mother, leading a pioneer work on the Goddess Path in Brasilia, Brazil’s capital. She  has conducted women’s circles, public Full Moon rituals, Sabbat celebrations, rites of passage and shamanic workshops for women.  After she moved away from Brasilia her work is continued by her disciples and adepts in the same way at the Unipaz (University for Peace Work) in Brasilia. She now lives in a small rural town and occasionally gives lectures and  has a private astrological counseling work. Mirella was initiated in the Esoteric Umbanda by the priest and writer W.W. Matta e Silva, having received the initiatory name Cynayá. She is author of six books  about the Sacred Feminine, Northern Mythology, Runes, Moon Astrology and Shadow Archetypes.

Categories: Goddess Spirituality, Indigenous Spirituality

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3 replies

  1. Fascinating information in this essay. I spent some (3) years in the Amazon and submerged myself in the female culture finding parallels with others. I am fascinated still by these Amazonian women and wish there was some way we could tap into more of this tribal culture…

    If we are willing to dig deep enough and acknowledge that mythical truths are real, the door is open to reconstructing our individual/cultural past. Today, I think that it is more important than ever that we see each of our stories in BOTH a particular and collective light because what we need the most for women to move forward is a sense of UNITY. The many faces of the goddess are one Too often the parts are still more important than the whole – and individual stories can and do SEPARATE us if we let them. This essay invites us in!


  2. Beautiful post, Mirella, thank you! I agree with Sarah, your telling of these stories brings us together; the many faces of the Goddess are one. I did not know about the tribe of “women living without men” encountered in 1542. Is there a connection with this tribe of Amazons and the naming of the Amazon river? This reminds me of the native Greek myths about Amazons in Asia Minor and on Samothrace, also women living without men, and also the many Greek myths about parthenogenetic reproduction by priestesses who were ‘impregnated by numinous energies’. As you know, Marguerite Rigoglioso has researched this very thoroughly in her books ‘The Cult of Divine Birth’ and ‘Virgin Goddesses of Antiquity’. It is wonderful to see the worldwide scope of these ancient myths affirming women’s power and autonomy. I think restoring an awareness of women’s power is our best hope for creating a culture of peace and saving Nature, as you ask the Goddess to help us do.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you Laura for your kind support and comment. The Brazilian folklore has a story describing how on the shores of the river Jamunda in Amazonia, lived the Ikanyabás ou Icabiamas, a tribe of free women, warriors and hunters, that escaped from the Mountain of Tunai, dominated by men and their God Jurupary, the Son of the Sun.These women revered the Mother of Muiraquitan and used Her sacred stone as amulets, pendants or earrings to grant protection, magical powers and prosperity. The similitude of this indigenous tribe with the Amazons served as a base for the speculations of many historians and folklore writers, establishing a connection with the naming of the Amazon river. In fact, the myth of the Icabiamas was not a mere copy or reproduction of the Greek Amazon story, it represents the universal feminine resistance in face of the masculine domination. As a modern adaptation of this myth, the women of the tribe Aruak from Xingu realize every year a ritual called Yamaricumã, representing the “rebellion of the women”, opposed to the Karytu ritual that emphasizes the strength of men and the patriarchal power.During their ritual, the women do everything that usually is prohibited for them- as using weapons, shouting, dancing, using feather headdresses, fighting, hunting. Meanwhile, the men retire in the forest for two days to escape from the vengeance of the women supposed to use magic and sorcery to diminish their male power.


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