The Oxford Biblical Studies Online and Oxford Islamic Studies Online have retired. Content you previously purchased on Oxford Biblical Studies Online or Oxford Islamic Studies Online has now moved to Oxford Reference, Oxford Handbooks Online, Oxford Scholarship Online, or What Everyone Needs to Know®. For information on how to continue to view articles visit the subscriber services page.

Related Content

More Like This

Show all results sharing this subject:

  • Religion


Show Summary Details



Quick Reference


The sun god in Kamaiuran mythology. In the beginning, according to this Amazon tribe of the Xingu River, all was dark. It was always night. People dwelt around the termite hills. In the confusion life was squalid. The brothers Kuat and lae, the sun and the moon, did not know what to do. They could not make light. Since the birds already possessed day in their village, the sun decided to steal it from Urubutsin, ‘vulture king’. He sent the flies with an effigy, full of maggots, but Urubutsin could not make any sense out of the hum of the flies. When one of his subjects eventually interpreted the message, the chief bird realized that the delicious maggots were a gift and that the flies bore an invitation to the birds to visit the sun and eat many more.

So it was that the birds shaved themselves bald and started out. Meanwhile Kuat and Iae had hidden themselves in another effigy. As soon as Urubutsin landed on it in order to eat, the sun grabbed one of his feet and held it fast. Deserted by the other birds, Urubutsin agreed to let the sun and moon have day, which was brought as a ransom. He also explained the alternation of day and night, ending with assurance that day ‘will always come back’.

Subjects: Religion

Reference entries