Influence of Geological Processes in the Cosmovision of the Mapuche Native People in South Central Chile

C. A. Bastiás, R. Charrier, C. V. Millacura, L. Aguirre, F. Hervé, M. A. Fariás

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We present an interpretation of how natural geological and meteorological events influenced the cosmovision of the Mapuche people from south-central Chile. These events resulted from the geodynamic conditions and related processes occurring along the South American active continental margin and the climatic conditions in the region. Their influence on the Mapuche cosmovision is clearly reflected in the most important myths and legends of the Mapuche acquired knowledge. One particularly illustrative myth refers to the combat between two huge snakes, Trentrén and Kaikai. Kaikai, representing the ocean, continuously tries to encroach upon the earth, and Trenten, representing the earth, opposes Kaikai by uplifting the ground to save the inhabitants. This is interpreted as an allegory for what happens during earthquakes when the back-and-forth movement of tsunami waves makes it appear as if the earth sinks and uplifts. Several hills named Trentrén are topographic heights that people can climb to be safe from the effects of the tsunamis. Other myths and legends refer to other characteristic geological phenomena in this particularly active tectonic environment. This article illustrates how the mythical interpretation of geological events configured the understanding of the surrounding world and produced the exquisite body of myths and legends in the Mapuche culture.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)581-606
Number of pages26
JournalEarth Sciences History
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jul 2021


  • Andean tectonics
  • geological processes
  • Mapuche cosmovision
  • myths
  • southern Chile

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History and Philosophy of Science
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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