The Cherufe is an evil demonic entity in Chilean folklore. The demon lives in the volcanoes of Chile.
The legend of the Cherufe originated among the native Araucanian tribes who live in the valleys and basins of south-central Chile between the Biobío River in the north and the Toltén River in the south.
The Araucnian tribes included the Mapuche, Picunche, and Huilliche.
Chilean folklore claims that the Cherufe causes deadly volcanic eruptions and destructive earthquakes.
The Mapuche tribes used to appease the Cherufe by sacrificing people to volcanoes. They would throw live humans into the volcano, hoping to satisfy the demon’s desire to cause death and destruction to human communities.
According to Theresa Bane in the Encyclopedia of Beasts and Monsters in Myth, Legend, and Folklore, the Cherufe’s preferred sacrificial victims were young females.
The Cherufe consumed the body of sacrificial victims and then ejected the head out of the volcano as lava.
Mapuche was a demon resident in volcanoes
Mapuche mythology and folklore portray the Cherufe as a vile demonic entity. The Cherufe is a supernatural humanoid who lives inside active volcanoes.
He can live inside magma-filled volcanic chambers because his body consists of hot magma or lava, a form of hot molten rock.
The volcanic Cherufe is a demon of subterranean places. When angry, he shakes the earth’s foundations and causes destructive earthquakes.
He can also emerge from his underground caverns and shoot across the skies as hot lava. The natives fear the Cherufe because his wrath causes widespread destruction and mass death.
Sorcerers collected the Cherufe’s volcanic rocks
People associated the Cherufe with volcanic rocks formed from lava that erupted from volcanoes. Volcanic rocks have magical powers, according to Chilean legend and folklore.
Native sorcerers used volcanic rocks to make magical stone axes.
The Cherufe as a comet, meteorite, or asteroid
Folklore also associated the Cherufe with comets, meteorites, and asteroids.
According to Louis Faron in Hawks of the Sun (1964), the Mapuche considered fiery objects and phenomena manifestations of the Cherufe.
Thus, they associated the Cherufe with fireballs, shooting stars, meteorite stones, comets, asteroids, and other bright or fiery objects believed to have descended from the skies (Folktales of Chile by Yolando Pino Saavedra, 1967).
According to Faron in The Mapuche Indians of Chile (1968), the Mapuche believed that fiery objects contained an evil essence or spirit called the Cherufe. Hot and bright things were also called Cherufe.
Meteorite stones have magical powers
Among the Araucanian tribes, volcanic rocks and meteorites were magical objects. Witchdoctors, medicine men, sorcerers, and magicians collected and used them to enhance their magical powers.
Sorcerers used volcanic rocks or meteoritic stones to perform evil deeds. They hurled them magically to strike their enemies dead.
Sorcerers also used magical rocks to remotely drain their enemy’s blood or inflict them with incurable diseases.
The Cherufe as an ill-omen
According to Chilean folklore, the Cherufe may manifest as a comet, meteorite, or asteroid.
A meteor is a harbinger or portent of doom. The appearance of a comet in the sky is an omen of evil. It heralds a natural disaster such as an epidemic, a destructive flood, an earthquake, or a severe storm.
Comets and meteors may also warn of the death of a tribal leader or the birth of a great personality.
The natives represent the comet form of the Cherufe as a fiery giant serpent streaking across the skies. It has a humanoid head and spews fire and lava from its mouth.
Some portray it as a giant or a fiery dragon with wings. The dragon sometimes has seven heads.
When a meteorite or asteroid hit the earth, causing death and destruction, the people attribute the incident to the Cherufe.
The Cherufe as a horned devil-goat
The Cherufe also manifests as the classic horned, bipedal, devil he-goat wielding a pitchfork. Some folklorists see the influence of European mythology in the he-goat form of the Cherufe.
It can also manifest as a will-o’-the-wisp or a ghostly light hovering over bogs, swamps, and marshes.
The Cherufe as the spirit of whirlwinds and violent storms
The Cherufe is also the spirit behind violent and destructive atmospheric disturbances, such as whirlwinds, windstorms, tornadoes, firestorms, thunderstorms, and hurricanes.
It is the demonic force behind thunder and lightning.
Sightings and Tales
A Cherufe legend
Once, the Cherufe married the Cloud, and they had a daughter called the Snow.
The Wind kidnaps the Cloud
The Cherufe was a jealous husband who kept his wife in seclusion. But the Wind kidnapped the Cloud and made her his wife.
The Wind would taunt the Cherufe by making the Cloud pass over the mouth of the volcano. Still longing for her former husband, the Cloud would weep, and her tears came down as rain.
In moments of wrath over his abducted wife, the Cherufe would cause a devastating earthquake or a violent volcanic eruption.
To ensure Snow’s safety, the Cherufe isolated her on a mountaintop. He protected his daughter from exposure to sunlight because he believed the heat would kill her.
The Snow escaped confinement
But after she grew up, Snow’s curiosity about the outside world increased. She wanted to see the world. So one day, she escaped and went out in the daylight to explore the world.
The Snow wandered around the world and fell in love with the earth’s beauty under the Sun’s brightness. She’d never been out during the day, so she found the sights of nature under sunlight overwhelming.
She fell in love with the brilliance of the Sun. She loved the beauty of the sparkling brooks, colorful blooms, greenery, and the diversity of life on rolling fields and hills.
The Sun kills the Snow
But as she wandered around marveling at nature’s beauty, the heat from the Sun began affecting her health and strength.
When the Cloud saw her daughter dying under the Sun’s glare, she tried to rescue her.
But the Wind would not let the Cloud save the Snow from danger. When the Cloud attempted to protect her daughter, the Wind blew her in the opposite direction.
When the Sun saw the Snow wandering in daylight, he fell in love with her and shone brightly on her. But the heat only further weakened the Snow.
When Cherufe realized that his daughter had escaped, he searched for her. But by the time he found her, it was too late. The Snow had transformed into a pool of water in the embrace of the Sun.
|Other Name/s||Cherruve, Cheruvoe, Cheurvoe, Cheurvue|
Where to find
Dictioinary of gods and goddesses by Michael Jordan (2004).
The Mapuche Indians of Chile, Louis C. Faron (1968).
Hawks of the Sun: Mapuche Morality and Its Ritual Attributes by Louis C. Faron (1964).
https://books.google.ca/books?id=DvYWDAAAQBAJ&pg=PA84&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q&f=false, “Encyclopedia of Beasts and Monsters in Myth, Legend and Folklore,” by Theresa Bane (2016), accessed on March 21, 2023.
https://books.google.ca/books?redir_esc=y&id=Tc8iAAAAMAAJ&focus=searchwithinvolume&q=cherufe, “Folktales of Chile,” Yolando Pino Saavedra (1967), accessed on March 21, 2023.
https://abookofcreatures.com/2016/01/22/cherruve/, “A Book of Creatures: Cherruve,” accessed on March 21, 2023.
Featured Image: The Cherufe is a demonic entity in Chilean folklore. It lives in volcanoes. Pic credit: Pixabay