Image from a Condor in Live Encounters
The Copihue and the Condor
©Consuelo Rivera- Fuentes
Licanray loved diving naked in the river which flowed noisily near her house made of mud and straw. Her friends, the sparrow, the swift and the chucao, used to wake her up at dawn with their broken songs of freedom and joy. The willow and the mañío tree offered her their protection from the sun in the hot, humid summer. The tiny, brown pudu ate with no fear from her rough hand; the alpaca loved warming her up with her wet breath. The salmon and trout laughed with the sliding laughter of fish; happy to see the adolescent enjoy the hug of transparent waters.
Her favourite friend, however, was a puma of bright and deep eyes, beautiful soft fur and ferocious claws which could tear to pieces the bravest of the warriors. However, they were like the wings of a butterfly when they caressed the princess, who had given the feline the name of Maputen. She looked at herself in her eyes, caressed her back, kissed her face and ran with her in a perennial game of laughter and language that only the two of them could understand.
‘Why are you always so sad’? asked Maputen, licking the round face of the woman.
‘It is not sadness; I'm always very angry because my lineage, whatever that means, has destined me to offer my drum of life to Guenechen, the cruel god of life and death.’
‘Can't you just run away with me into the mountain’?
‘I wish I could, but my father and brothers would have to share the shame and the anger of Guenechen. My younger brother would never be elected as the cacique of the tribe and my other brothers and sisters could never become warriors or hunters.
The puma didn't ask any more questions, but she wondered why Licanray couldn't just free herself from that responsibility. Life was supposed to be lived by everybody. She tore another bloody piece of flesh from the chulengo she had just caught that morning and stopped thinking about Licanray's strange way of facing responsibilities and beliefs.
The princess enjoyed her transitory life trying to immerse her round hips in the green of the trees and ferns, and soak her soul in the blue transparency of the southern waters. She loved the smell of Maputen, and the blinding brightness of the snow in the nearby volcano, which from time to time threw up her rage in a murdering river of fire and lava.
One early afternoon, as she rested her head on Maputen's warm belly, she saw one of the women warriors of the tribe entering the river to refresh her body, tired and bruised from the exercises of combat. She was shorter and stronger than the princess; her muscles had the hardness of oak and her skin showed the scars of some battle injury, smooth and beautifully dark. Licanray's eyes attracted the warrior's who stared at the magnificent scene of the naked princess and the puma lying idly by the river.
‘Pachamama be with you, Licanray’, said the warrior. ‘I am Millaray.’
The princess was not surprised when the warrior called her by her name. Everybody knew who Licanray was. But she was amazed to feel fire flowing from her nape to her chest and then to her womb when Millaray slowly, very slowly approached her without uttering another word.
Millaray had been raised by her parents in the secrets of hunting and they had prepared her body for the struggle against the white invaders. She had grown up in the woods and frequently went hunting for guanacos. She played chueca and practised the mysteries of war every day. Although she was only 17 years old, she had gone on several raids to fight the intruders who had killed her mother and raped her sisters. The thought of the white knives penetrating her mother's exhausted body always gave her the strength to plunge her fighting spear into the murderers' flesh.
After their first encounter, the two women met every day by the river to chat and swim naked in the cold water.
‘Don't look at me like that’
’Like what’? asked Licanray
’Like you are going to take my breath away in your eyes.’
‘Well, I'm going to, but not only in my eyes. In my lips, as well’, said the princess, sinking her hands in the warrior's black hair and tenderly kissing her face, nose, eyes, neck many shivering times...feeling Millaray's strong heart beat in her throbbing mouth.
Maputen, the only witness of these encounters, cried with dry tears, did not hunt to eat and gradually lost away her silky fur, weight and the joy of living. Her piercing eyes only lit up when Licanray caressed her head or sang in her ear when the woman warrior was not present. She struggled against a strong, excruciating wish to tear off Millaray's breasts each time the two women laughed with the flowers they both adorned their hair with, after having turned love into a melting whirlpool of tongues and sighs. The puma did not understand why Dawn and Sunset felt so happy for the daily meeting of the two lovers or why the butterflies scattered dust of stars on their shiny hair. She only wanted to take the skin off Millaray's hands each time she stroked the naked body of the princess. Still, she had to admit that the crops were abundant, probably due to the joy of living that the passionate young women transmitted to everything they touched. Eventually, she learnt to live with her feelings, recovered her appetite and even accompanied Millary when the woman went hunting or to battle against the metallic men who wanted to subjugate their people.
Summer and autumn died away. Rain, hail and frost silvered the avellanos leaves and burnt the crops. Mud covered the soft carpet of moss and the storm took possession of the heart of the machis who refused to treat the suffering people until a princess was sacrificed to placate the fury of Pillán, the god of rain, thunder and lightning. Despite the growing starvation and the mud surrounding their rucas, the two young women nourished each other with that untransferable love that transcends flesh, without suspecting that in the nearby village their fathers, brothers, Toquis and Caciques were deciding the death of their terrestrial love.
‘Pillán is angry with us; we must send the spirit of our three virgin princesses to him to appease his fury. The huinca men will take possession of our land if his rage does not stop eating up the bodies of our young children, warriors and wise old men’. Licanray's father said this with his hoarse voice cracking like a chestnut shell and a wet look in his tired eyes.
The day came when Licanray saw her father dressed up for the ritual; his eyes glowing with emotion, pride and sadness. Then she knew... She was not prepared for the surprise. She had always known that her shadow would live in the mountain of fire and that she would sleep a long and everlasting sleep. But now, her body, her mind, pleaded pity to her father and brothers...everything in vain, however; absolutely in vain. Everybody and everything was ready for the sacrifice of the virgins. Now the rain would stop, there would be food for the tribe and the warriors would have the strength and wisdom to face the cruel and bloody struggle against the whites.
The machis, traditional healers and religious leaders, washed Licanray with rain water, combed her black hair and put on a headband made of red wool and a trarilonko (silver ornament) on her forehead. They dressed her with the black dress of the maidens and adorned her chest with a silver necklace called trapelacucha. The wrinkled ashy faces of the machis showed contempt and anger at the sight of the shaking, terrified princesses begging for their lives. ’You should be happy to have been chosen by our wise men to live forever with the god up there in the mountains. Why are you making such a fuss’? said a machi with the cold voice of women who have seen life and death too many times to be impressed by a weeping princess. ‘Come on, walk now!’
Before walking to the sacrifice altar, where the cinnamon tree was waiting for her with its penetrating smell, Licanray, with no more tears to shed, talked to Maputen, who had tried to comfort her with a sad shadow of love in her feline eyes.
‘Maputen, my love, bring Millaray to me, to the white mountain, run, Maputen! I need to see her once more.’
The high mountain was already throwing up thick and black smoke in a lustful happiness for the three souls it was going to swallow. When the sun set, the priests raised their silver knives and three chests felt the thorn drilling, the blade penetrating, tearing tissues. The three virgins could feel the warm blood gushing out through the open wound and the priests' hands poking in their chests to take out the palpitating scarlet hearts.
Maputen and Millaray also felt the torment, the savage pain of martyrdom: Licanray was calling them, sharing her agony with them. The feline and the warrior ran to the furious, roaring mountain, climbed and climbed; their chests open, their hearts bleeding, their brains melting away with Licanray's anguish. Finally, they arrived at the open mouth of the volcano which had fused with Licanray. One mountain and one princess, screaming, yelling, expelling their life in hot, glistening rocks and Licanrays’s woman love in infernal fire. Her flaming blood ran down the slope burning her beloved trees and animals, incinerating her sisters and dissolving the pride of her race under the ardent lava of her ghost trying to escape the fatal marriage to the starving god of death. The black cloak the machis had dressed her with, turned into jet-black feathers, the silver necklace into a silver collar, the band on her forehead turned out to be a red crest and her dark arms gave shape to impressive black wings.
Free at last from the excruciating pain of fury and duty, Licanray flew to the top of the volcano to see her lovers, the warrior and the puma, hugged in death, their souls fused together in one beautiful, red tear-of-blood flower.
Since those times it is possible to find, down the slope of southern volcanos and hills, red copihues intertwined. Do not cut them, for if you do, you are killing Millaray and Maputen again. If you look at the light blue sky, you'll see the haughty, majestic condor flying over the crater of volcanos. Do not kill her; it is Licanray's soul wanting to kiss the red copihues. If you kill her, she'll die for ever.