This mythical sea monster, a spirit of the sea in the mythology of the Yamana Indians of Tierra del Fuego, is one of the most dangerous sea creatures found in the waters off the coast of South America.
This creature, and its progeny of water spirits, have been known to tip canoes over, pull their occupants out, and drag them under to consume, leaving their entrails to float to the surface.
When angered, the lakuma can also create huge waves, summon whirlpools, and whip up storms to damage larger vessels or even to inundate coastal regions.
Form far, it’s not easy to recognize them, because they can adopt the shape of many marine animals like whales, dolphins and squids. At times, they rest with their backs protruding out on the water’s surface like a small island encrusted with unusually large mussels. That’s how they wait for a canoe to approach, then attack. Only an experienced chaman—yékamus—knows the right chants to calm down the lakuma. In fact, a powerful yékamus, can even tame a lakuma so that it becomes an obedient servant.
The lakuma will also attack people who break taboo, but they have a weakness for flattery and sweet voices. A well-known legend says that one of the singers of the Yamana tribe, a woman with a very sweet voice, had to paddle long to the coast to pick up mussels for supper.
One day, she discovered a shorter path crossing by an little bay that some whales liked for resting. It is taboo to distress whales when they rest, and because there were so many of them there, the lakuma also came to rest in the bay, camouflaged in between the other animals. The singer knew as much, and as she was crossing, each time a lakuma approached her canoe she sing and talk to it. “How are you doing today, dear grandfather? Are you well?” she said friendly. The lakuma liked the woman’s voice and her friendly words and let her pass. Just as the singer, many others tried to cross the bay unharmed, but they were rude to the lakumas or their voices where shrill and unpleasant, and the lakuma attack and eat them.
-Montecino, S. 2015 Mitos de Chile. Enciclopedia de seres, apariciones y encantos. Santiago: Catalonia, 2017 ISBN: 978-956-324-375-8
-Chapman, A.M., Calderón, C. and Gusinde, M., 2006. Lom, amor y venganza: mitos de los yámana de Tierra del Fuego. Lom Ediciones.