On a cold winter evening, we got to the ruka where the local mapuche community called Ancestral Paillahueque Lof usually gather for different activities. Lof is the word to refer to a mapuche family living in the same place. This mapuche-williche family living in Alerce village had kindly invited us in order to tell us how they live, where they come from, what they do and what being a mapuche means.
We all sat round the fire, which was burning in the middle of the ruka. We could feel the warmth of the flames and the warmth of the people who kindly shared some dried apple chips, known as orejones, and mate. As soon as the logko arrived, we started talking about their daily life. The word Logko, means “head” and it is also used to refer to the leader of a mapuche community. They were not wearing their traditional clothes this time though, but they always do when they celebrate some rituals or carry out special public activities.
In the course of a year, the community may have different traditional rituals such as the gillatun, the we txipanthü, or a machitun. A gillatun is a rogative which they perform whenever they feel there is a necessity in the community. For example, when they want a good harvest, good weather conditions or they wish for the spiritual well-being of all its members. Their last gillatun was performed after the last eruption of Calbuco volcano on 22nd April, 2015. They asked for the welfare of all the people in the area. A gillatun may also be celebrated whenever the logko of the community calls for it. this means he has has a deam in which the spirits have told him when to do so.
Another ceremony is the one called We Txipanthü which is the mapuche New Year’s Day and it is celebrated on 24th June. This is the only celebration that has a fixed date in the community.
The mapuche people also practise some healing rituals, which are performed by a machi, who is a person that has a connection with the spirits and with nature. The Paillahueque lof community does not have a member who has this role, so they have to call a machi from another place. He comes to the ruka and performs two kinds of rituals: a machitun and a lepuntun. The former is done when he wants to heal a person from an illness, and the latter is carried out in order to heal people spiritually.
The machi has a health programme which could be a complement to the traditional medicine given by doctors. In fact, this lof suggested the National Health Service to implement this programme as alternative medicine to heal people, but there is some resistance to this view on the part of doctors.