Mapudungun: The Earth Is Speaking

Armando Marileo Lefío, Chile

The Ngenpin, or Ancestral Spiritual Authority for the Mapuche Community in Lake Budi, Chile

(Submitted by the author)

One of the most important achievements of our ancestors was the development of a communication system wholly reliant on the languages of the earth and nature, that is, natural codes, sounds, messages and means of communication.

In the cycle of the seasons or stages of the year, messages are constantly being delivered by birds, rivers, the rain and wind, leaves, and insects such as crickets. These messages can guide our actions, to the extent to which we are able to decode them. Otherwise we remain puzzled.

If our ancestors had not managed to understand such messages from nature, they might not have been able to determine our role in nature, our reason for being and our destiny. Fortunately, they realised the fundamental importance of understanding the messages from the earth and nature, so that by deciphering the sounds of rivers, the whistling of the wind, the howling of the sea, the singing of birds, the sounds of leaves, insects and animals, the Mapudungun – the Mapuche language – was created: the “speech of the earth”, a very specific way of communicating.

An open book
Our grandparents used to say, “The universe as a whole, the whole of nature and the earth is an open book. They guide us, help us to foresee danger, and teach us. All that is required to receive that message is to pay attention and to open up our hearts.”

Birdsong has a specific melody or sound depending on its intended message.
At dawn, mists or reddish clouds determine the day’s weather. Mists waving over the mountains like smoke coming out of a ruka, or house, indicate that the spirits of nature are beginning their daily activity.
The noise of the sea, the direction of the wind, the flight of seagulls or the angle of the moon can enable us to determine with great precision the day and even the time of the coming rain. The blossoming of the quilas* announces a big event, maybe a famine or a war.
The position of the moon at certain times of the year tells us which economic activities should be pursued and when: sowing, castrating, ear piercing, logging or even traveling into another dimension through the “Door of Time”.

Everything has a message which can be deciphered, depending on the time of year and our desire to learn from nature’s mysteries and challenges.

Decoded by our ancestors, such messages enabled them to create a means of communication called the Mapudungun, which belongs to the land and not to us, because it wasn’t we who created its sounds but nature itself.

* The Mapuche name for a bush in Chile which never flowers nor bears fruit, except to augur disaster.

Image credit: Ian Britton:



Submitted by Justin Milby (Science Teacher) on Wed, 05/26/2010 - 09:41.

Thank you for this very nice articles. I found another good articles about discovering the earth at

Submitted by Claire Terry on Wed, 05/26/2010 - 13:53.

Thank you, Justin, will check them out - and glad you enjoyed the articles!
Best Regards,

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