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    Land of winds > Traditions > Festival | Issue 10 (May.-Jun. 2012)
    By Edgardo Civallero | Sara Plaza

Ngillatunes and camarucos

Ngillatunes y camarucos

Ngillatun (also written nguillatún, nillatún or guillatún) is a Mapudungu term (derived from ngilla, "rogation" and tun, "to make") which denotes not only the act of making rogations or prayers, but also the rogation itself and, by extension, every religious ceremony where prayers are made to the Mapuche spiritual entities, especially to the most important of their protective spirits ngen, the Supreme Creator Ngenechen (Nguenechén, Guenechén) or Füta Chao (in Mapudungu, "the Great Father"). A synonym of Ngillatun is the term kamarikun (castillanized as "camaruco").

The rogation or ngillatun takes place when there is need to pray for something, be it good weather, good harvest, good health, spiritual support, etc. It also can be celebrated after having a dream (pewma) or vision/premonition (perimontun) warning of a catastrophe in the community.

The ceremony is held in certain places of worship, the ngillatuwe (in Mapudungu, "rogation place"), regarded as sacred by Mapuche people. The community gather together in a large circle around a central rewe, or altar, a carved trunk standing in the middle of the ceremonial ground (that may include anthropomorphic motifs such as a human head at the top). This altar is embellished with token elements such as a sacred canelo foye branch and another of sacred maqui, muday or chicha pitchers, bread, lambs and so on. While the ceremony is taking place, the families of the community chat together (ngütram) sharing tales (epew), food and drink. Members of the neighbouring communities (witran) are invited to take part in the ngillatun, and it is also allowed the presence of koyetu, "stone guests" who remain mute and act as respectful observers.

The ngillatun is usually led by a machi, who, according to anthropological sources, is a shaman-like medicine person (usually a woman). The machi is helped by a ngenpin (in Mapudungu, "the word owner") and several piwichen or "sacred children".

Besides feasting, the ceremony includes ritual events such as lamb sacrifice, chants (ülkantun, specifically ceremonial/religious songs or tayïl), dances (pürrüm, among them the choike pürrüm), riders galloping around the rewe (awün), and the performance of traditional Mapuche instruments such as the trutruka, the kultrun, the kaskawillas and the pifilkas (in fact, a wide range of Mapuche recorded sound heritage comes from ethnographic recordings made at ngillatuns). It can last two to four days, during which time people pray and dance and at a certain moment the machi goes up the few steps of the rewe to present to Ngenechen the wishes of her community.

In the Argentinean provinces of Chubut and Santa Cruz (Patagonia) the term “camaruco” is commonly used to denote the ngillatun. For this reason, some sources indicate that it is a religious ceremony of the native people of this region, the Tehuelche. However, this is an incorrect statement, for most of the people living in the region (Gününa-küna or Northern Tehuelche) merged with the Mapuche along the 18th and 19th centuries, losing their own sense of cultural background while simultaneously acquiring new traditions (e.g. the ngillatun).

Nguillatun, in Wikipedia.
Machi, in Wikipedia.
Ngenpin, in Wikipedia [es].
Article. "El Nguillatún, fiesta popular de los Mapuches", by Rodolfo Casamiquela. In Temakel [es].
Article. "El rito del Nguillatún: identidad encarnada", by Pablo Castro. In Catholic University of Temuco [es].
Article. "El Nguillatún", in Cultura Mapuche [es].

Video 01. Camaruco (documentary trailer), by Alejandro Hartmann.
Video 02. Nguillatún

Picture 01. Rewe at the ngillatun.
Picture 02. Kultrun player at the ngillatun.
Picture 03. Awün at the ngillatun.
Picture 04. Pürrüm (dance) at the ngillatun.

Picture A.

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