The strange legend of El Imbunche – Chile



This myth is terrifying for several reasons. First of all, it focuses on a child. A first-born son was sold by his parents before his ninth day of life to a member of the Centre Comitee, a special guild of warlocks from Chilean folklore.

Secondly, the baby was deformed with dislocated limbs. Two months later, his tongue was forked. Eventually, the warlock began a process that resulted in the baby’s head being turned 180 degrees. The last part of the transformation consisted of cutting a deep incision under the right shoulder, inserting its right hand into the gap, and sewing up the wound. When it healed, the Imbunche was complete and ready to take his role as guardian of a cave.

This myth is one of the few being portrayed in popular culture outside its country of origin. British writer Alan Moore, famous for works such as Watchmen and V for Vendetta, used the Imbunche as an enemy on his run in Swamp Thing in the 1980s.

According to legend, the invunche is a first-born son less than nine days old that was kidnapped by, or sold by his parents to, a Brujo Chilote (a type of sorcerer or warlock of Chiloé). If the baby had been christened, the warlock debaptizes him.

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The Brujo chilote transforms the child into a deformed hairy monster by breaking his right leg and twisting it over his back. When the boy is three months old his tongue is forked and the warlock applies a magic cream over the boy’s back to cause thick hairs. During its first months the invunche is fed on black cat’s milk and goat flesh, and then with human flesh from cemeteries.

Besides guarding the entrance to the warlock’s cave, the invunche is used by warlocks as an instrument for revenge or curses. And, because it has acquired magical knowledge over its lifetime spent guarding the cave, even if the invunche is not initiated on wizardry, it sometimes acts as the warlock’s advisor.

The invunche leaves the cave only in certain circumstances, such as when the warlock’s cave is destroyed or discovered and the warlock moves to another cave, or when the warlocks have need of him, and they carry the invunche while he’s thrashing and yelling, scaring the townspeople and announcing misfortune to come. The invunche also comes out when the warlocks take it to the Warlock’s Council.

The invunche is fed solely by warlocks and is only allowed to search for its own edibles if food is lacking inside the cave.