14. The dove’s carcass

(Sherente, Peru)

Long ago the sun god was displeased with the Indians who fought and killed each other, and even each other’s little children. The planet Venus (masculine here) had detached himself from the sky and come to live on the earth in a man’s shape, a man whose body was covered all over with stinking open sores and carnivorous flies buzzing around him. The people would hold their noses and run away from him, and whenever he came to their houses to beg for help they slammed the door in his face and refused to let him in or even talk to him.

Only one Indian felt sorry for him. Waikaura was the name of this Indian. He respected the old tradition of hospitality and welcomed the miserable stranger. At the polite questions of his host Venus replied that he had lost his way. Waikaura led the poor fellow over his threshold and sat him down on a new mat. He told his daughter, a virgin, to bring a bowl of clean water and wash the man’s sores. Afterwards he ordered her to sit on the man’s lap and to hug, caress and comfort him. Thanks to all that good care the wounds healed and the stranger got soon well again. 

When the evening fell, Venus said to Waikaura: “Do you want to live or do you want to die?” 

“I’d rather live of course,” the man replied. “Why?”

“The sun god can no longer bear with all those killings. His patience has come to an end. I advise you to secretly prepare your departure. But first you must go and shoot a dove.”

The man wondered why, but went and loosed his arrow at a passing pigeon, and when it fell he picked up the carcass and carried it home.

Venus did as if during the absence of his host he had violated the young girl: “I have been an unworthy guest. You brought me in though I stank and no-one else wanted me. You ordered your daughter to be kind to me and I took advantage of that, I dishonoured her. What will she do now? What man will marry her? You’d have every right to kick me out. Let me remunerate you for that.”

“No, no, you are my honoured guest,” the man replied with the utmost politeness, while he saw his guest out. “It was my pleasure and honour to welcome you, but please, tell me: “Why this dove?” 

Before he was taken up by a whirlwind, Venus transformed the dove’s carcass into an ark in which Waikaura and his family would be able to survive. 

From far away grumbling water masses rose, and heavy rain began to fall. All Indians were swept away and drowned. Only this man and his family floated safely in their boat, until the flood went down.