The Achuars, or “people of the swamp palm”, have a culture that goes beyond every Western belief or tradfition. One of their most known legends, as many of their stories, includes a woman and nature.
In the Achuar territory, which is formed by more than 60 communities and a large territory inside the Peruvian and Ecuadorian Amazon, men and women have different tasks. While men hunt, women take care of the gardens.
Achuar gardens have different types of plants, and this is important to say because gardens are the main source for food in the communities. There is a story about a woman who protects the Achuar gardens, and her name is Nunkui.
Nunkui, the protector of gardens
Achuar gardens are called “chakras”, and their care depends exclusively on women. The female spirit called Nunkui is believed to have created every plant in these gardens and also control them, and for this reason the gardeners must develop and maintain a good relationship with her for their gardens to blossom and grow healthily.
To achieve those purposes, Achuar women sing “anents”, which are magical prayers in the form of chants that will make the plants grow successfully. Plants are children to their caretakers, so they must receive the same love a human child would receive.
- These chants are private and are the most spiritual way to connect with Nunkui. If she is pleased after each one of them, she will reward women with beautiful plants and flowers, and delicious food such as yucca, one of their main ingredients.
When women sing their anents, no one can be present: they can sing them in their heads because the only one that must hear them is Nunkui. Some women have had a good fortune because Nunkui has appeared in their dreams to tell them a special secret: the place where a magic stone is hidden. This stone must be buried in the garden to feed the soils and enrich the gardens.
Relevance of Nunkui
Gardens are very important for the Achuar women, since they provide the food they will give to their families, and also because women give birth in gardens. However, gardens are not kind places; quite the opposite: they became dangerous places since the time when Nunkui saw how some people treated her “children”. From that very moment, the only way that they could flourish was through the respect women would show to them.
- Manioc plants are extremely unsafe for this reason: Achuars believe that they could drain the blood out of any person who threats them. Therefore, the songs that the female gardeners sing are intended to protect their families from the dangers of manioc plants.
It’s amazing the way people treat nature in the Amazon, more than other civilizations that have more advances in many areas. Visit Kapawi to admire the beautiful gardens that surround our lodge!