Wounaan Creation Myth

“So in the beginning of Wounaan culture, um, humanity begins with one man on a beach with nothing on it. After years of living alone on the beach, he decides that he is going to bring all the stick that are in the sand and stick them in the sand so like they stand up vertically. He places them in vertical lines of hundreds.  And he spends months sticking the sticks into the sand. The number of sticks was over thirty-thousand sticks.  After he had finished putting all the sticks on the beach, he fell asleep on the beach.

We he awoke the next morning, the sticks were no longer pieces of wood but bodies of man. However they weren’t alive. They were just bodies. He then had to go and blow a breath of life upon every one of them. Once they’ve all came alive.  They all spoke the same language, but they didn’t have a name for it.  Deciding that they needed a name, they choice the name of the language, “Our Language” which translates to Wounaan. After spending time alone on the beach, they decided that there has to be more than just life on the beach. So they wondered up the rivers into the jungle.  And they discovered life and vegetation beyond what they had ever seen before. And they chose to live to live on the riverbanks instead of the beach.  That how the Wounaan’s became known as the people of the river.”

The informant was doing mission work in the Panama in the Darien Jungle. He lived with the Wounaan tribe for six months.  He was sitting in a hut at night around a fire, and a few of the tribe leaders wanted to share with him their culture.  This is a story told to children when they ask where they come from.

The Wounaan believe the man to be the original Creator of humanity and a deity.  The tribe members also believe when you take a stick and place it into the ground, the dead stick can give birth to new life and hence the new human lives from the sticks.

The informant does not think it is a true story of creation.  But he thinks that it would be a reasonable story to tell a child.  The older, non-educated generation believes this story to be true.  The more indigenous Wounaans believe this myth to hold sacred truth to the creation of their culture.

This myth is the creation story of the Wounaan tribe.  The story of the tribe addresses how the Wounaan people came about – from one single creator – and how they ended up in the jungle.  This is a very interesting creation story.  I found the idea that the man must breathe life into the bodies very interesting as it parallels the creation story in the Bible, when God breathed life into Adam.  I also find it interesting that they define a common language before they move to higher ground.  The idea that a common language is a defining factor for a tribe is common throughout culture.