Flood Myths - South America

Acawai (Orinoco)

Makunaima created the birds and animals and put his son, Sigu, in charge of them. Makunaima created a great tree from which all food plants grew. Agouti discovered it first but kept it secret, but Sigu sent Rat to follow him, and the secret was out. Sigu decided it would be best to chop down the tree and plant the seeds and cuttings so that the food would be widespread. This they did, but Iwarrika, the monkey, didn't help, so Sigu sent him to fetch water with an open-work basket. When the tree was felled, the animals discovered the hollow stump was filled with water containing all kinds of fresh-water fish. But the water began overflowing and threatened to flood the land, so Sigu wove a magic basket and covered the trunk with it. When Iwarrika returned, he saw the basket and, thinking the best fruits were under it, lifted it to look. A torrent of water flooded out and covered the countryside. Sigu led the birds and climbing animals to tall cocorite trees on the highest hill. He led the other animals to a cave and covered its entrance with wax, first giving them a long thorn with which to pierce the wax to determine when the water went down. Many days of darkness and storm followed. The red howler monkey cried in anguish so much at the cold and hunger that his throat swelled and remains so to this day. Sigu stayed with the birds in the cocorite tree, occasionally dropping seeds. He heard that it took longer and longer for them to hit water as the water dropped, and eventually they thudded on the ground. At that moment, the sky grew lighter. The trumpeter bird was in such a hurry to descend that he flopped into an ant's nest, and the insects gnawed his legs to the bone, giving his present appearance. Sigu rubbed two pieces of wood together to make fire, but the bush-turkey mistook the first spark for a firefly, gobbled it up, and burnt his throat, explaining why turkeys have red wattles today. The alligator was generally unpopular and was accused of having stolen the spark. To try to retrieve the spark, Sigu tore out the animal's tongue, so alligators today have no tongue to speak of. The plants which had been planted sprang to life, but the fish were not distributed evenly. Monkeys are as curious as ever but are now afraid of water.


In the Huarochiri area of Peru, the Quechua-speaking people have a myth of a deluge caused by a God whose presence was not recognized by the people. He sent a flood which wiped all of the villages away except for one woman who had befriended the God and was given instructions to take refuge on a high mountain.

Inca (Peru)

Pictorial records of ancient Incan rulers show that a flood rose above the highest mountains. All created things perished, except for a man and woman who floated in a box. When the flood subsided, the floating box was driven by the wind to Tiahuanacu, about 200 miles from Cuzco, where the Creator told them to dwell. The Creator molded new people from clay at Tiahuanacu. On each figure, the Creator painted dress and hair style, and he gave each nation distinctive language, songs, and seeds to plant. When he had brought them to life, he ordered them into the earth to travel underground and emerge from caves, springs, tree trunks, etc. in their various homes. He then created the sun, moon, and stars.

The creator god Viracocha made the earth and sky, and he created stone giants to live in it. After a while the giants became lazy and quarrelsome, and Viracocha decided to destroy them. Some he turned back to stone, and these stone statues still exist at Tiahuanaco and Pucara. He destroyed the rest with a great flood. When the flood subsided, it left the lakes Titicaca and Poopo, and it left seashells on the Altiplano at elevations of 3660 m. Viracocha saved two stone giants from the flood and with their help created people his own size. He reached down into Lake Titicaca and drew out the Sun and Moon to provide light so he could admire his new creation. In those days, the Moon was even brighter than the Sun, but the Sun grew jealous and threw ashes onto the Moon's face.

A large, rich city once existed on the Altiplano. One day, a group of ragged Indians came and warned the proud inhabitants that the city would be destroyed by earthquake, flood, and fire. Most inhabitants just scoffed and eventually had the ragged people flogged and thrown out. Some of the city's priests, though, heeded the warning and went to live as hermits in a temple on a hill. Some time later, a red cloud appeared on the horizon. Soon it had grown and covered the area, and its red glow eerily lit the night. Suddenly, with a flash and a rumble, an earthquake destroyed many of the city's buildings, and a red rain poured down. Other earthquakes and more rain followed, and a flood soon covered the ruined city; this water is Lake Titicaca today. None of the city's inhabitants survived save the priests. The descendants of the prophets became the Callawayas, wise men of the valleys.

Jivaro (eastern Ecuador)

Two boys found that the game they had hunted for a feast kept disappearing while they were gone. One stayed in camp and discovered a large snake was responsible. They built a fire to drive the snake out of the hollow in a tree, where it lived. The snake fell in the fire, and one of the brothers ate some of its roasted flesh. He became very thirsty, drank all the water in camp, and went to the lake. He was transformed first into a frog, then a lizard, and finally into a snake, which grew rapidly. His brother was frightened and tried to pull him out, but the lake began to overflow. The snake told his brother that the lake would continue to grow and all the people would perish unless they made their escape. The snake told him to take a calabash and flee to a palm tree on the highest mountain. The brother told his people what was happening, but they didn't believe him. He fled to the top of a palm tree on the top of a mountain and returned many days later when the waters had subsided. Vultures were eating the dead people in the valley. He went to the lake and carried away his brother in a calabash. [Kelsen, pp. 140-141; see also Roheim, p. 156]

A great cloud fell from heaven, turned to rain, and killed all the inhabitants of earth. Only a man and his two sons were saved. One of the sons was cursed by his father; the Jivaros are descended from him. [Gaster, p. 126]

According to some Jivaro, the flood was survived by a man and woman, who took refuge in a cave on a high mountain along with samples of all the various animal species. [Gaster, p. 126]

Two brothers survived the flood in a mountain which rose higher and higher with the flood waters. They went looking for food after the flood, and when they returned, found food set out for them. To find its source, one of the brothers hid himself and saw two parrots with the faces of women enter their hut and prepare the food. He jumped out, seized one of the birds, and married it. From this union came three boys and three girls from whom the Jivaros are descended. [Gaster, p. 126]

Makiritare (Venezuela)

The Star people listened to Jaguar and killed and ate a woman. Kuamachi wanted to punish them, but they were too many and too powerful. He went to Wlaha, their chief, and invited them to help in picking dewaka fruit. They were suspicious, but Kuamachi left some fruit with them, and they liked the taste so much they decided to go help pick fruit. Kuamachi and his grandfather Mahanama led them to the trees. The star people climbed the trees and started eating fruit; they weren't afraid of only two people. Kuamachi dropped one fruit; water came out of it, spread, and caused a flood, covering everything but the trees. Kuamachi thought "canoe," and a canoe appeared. He and Mahanama stayed in the canoe. Mahanama threw the baskets he was weaving into the water, and they turned into anacondas, crocodiles, caimans, and other deadly animals. Kuamachi set a termite nest on fire, filling the forest with smoke. He and his grandfather got bows and arrows they had hidden in a cave. When they got back and the smoke cleared, the Star people were begging for mercy. The two shot them. The people fell down into the water below and were attacked by the dangerous animals. Kuamachi and his grandfather ran out of arrows before shooting Wlaha, the leader of the Star people. He had turned himself into seven people and caught seven arrows. The surviving wounded Star people climbed back into the trees. Wlaha shot the arrows into heaven, and with the help of Ahishama, who changed into the troupial, and Kütto, who became a frog, he formed a ladder which he and the surviving Star people climbed up and became stars. Ahishama became Mars; Wlaha became the Pleiades; Mönettä, the scorpion, became the Big Dipper; and Ihette, One Leg, became Orion's belt. Kuamachi also decided to climb up. He had Kahshe, the piranha, cut the vine behind him so that the demon Ioroko couldn't climb up with his basket of poison. Kuamachi brought Akuaniye, the Peace Plant, with him, which he offered to Wlaha, and they stopped fighting. Kuamachi became the Evening Star. Before this, the night sky had been empty and black.


The son of Omauwa (one of the first beings) became very thirsty. Omauwa and his brother dug a hole for water, but they dug so deep that water gushed forth and covered the jungle. Many drowned. Some of the first beings survived by cutting down trees and floating on them. They became foreigners and floated away. The Yanomamo survived by climbing mountains. Raharariyoma painted red dots all over her body and plunged into the lake, causing it to recede. Omauwa then caused her to be changed into a rahara, a dangerous snake-like monster that lives in large rivers.