Folklore Profile: The Jarjacha
Passed down from generation to generation within the South American country of Peru, the legendary Jarjacha is a creature that is as feared and as famous as the ferocious werewolf of European and North American legend. Widely considered to be more of a curse than a creature, it is most often thought of as a form of punishment for Christians in Peru that engage in one of the worst acts of all, the sin of incest. After the depraved individual committed the unforgivable sin, superstitious Peruvians believed that “God” would transform the sinner into the demonic and gruesome monster known as the Jarjacha.
The cursed individual was said to transform into its new monstrous form after the sun went down and it was said to look like a mix between a llama (or an alpaca) and a human being, most often showcasing a distorted version of its true human face upon a sickly and deformed llamas body. Some legends tell of the creature retaining its human hands and feet, while others describe fleshy looking hooves that caused unbearable pain with every step. After being transformed, the new monster would be doomed to walk the earth under the cover of darkness with an inability to sleep and an insatiable, gnawing hunger. While on the prowl beneath a darkened night sky, the Jarjacha would be on constant look out for unfortunate victims to savagely murder and ultimately consume their brains.
At the time when the Jarjacha was thought of as a real creature and not as a folktale, Peruvians believed that the soul of a human being resided in the brain. Because of this belief, it was thought that if the Jarjacha consumed the brain of its victim, it would also consume the soul, and if it consumed the soul, it would absorb the souls power and could potentially be set free of the curse (a pure and “clean” soul was thought to wash away the sins covering a “dirty” soul). Another legend spoke of how ingesting the victims soul would make it impossible for anyone to kill the Jarjacha. Because of this, the only way to defend yourself against the monster was to carry a mirror. If the creature saw its own reflection, it would become disgusted by its appearance and so ashamed of what it had become that it would turn and flee back into the darkness. This would allow the lucky individual to run to safety. If the Jarjacha was encountered prior to consuming a clean soul, it could potentially be killed by any common blade or metal object that could be used as a weapon. But that is only if it didn’t end up hypnotizing it’s would-be killer first with its piercing demonic eyes and forcing them to sacrifice themselves to it in order to feed.
Stories of the Jarjacha were not all just about death and curses though, others spoke of how to capture and basically control the monster for personal gain. It was said that the best way to capture a Jarjacha was to somehow force it to flee from its own reflection and into a small lockable dwelling or room. The four walls of the trap each needed to have their own mirror attached to the center in order to keep the Jarjacha in a constant state of disgust and panic. It was commonly believed that after being captured and if held until morning, the beast would return to its human form as soon as it’s skin came in contact with daylight. Once it was human again and it’s true identity known, the captor could then blackmail the unfortunate cursed individual into paying them a large sum of money to keep the disgusting fact about them having incestuous relations with a family member a secret.
Basically when it comes down to it, you can think of the Jarjacha as a disgusting cousin of the Werewolf. One that the Lycanthrope family keeps trying to ignore and remove, but ultimately still shows up for Thanksgiving and Christmas every year even though it didn’t get an invitation.
-The Pine Barrens Institute
*Image Credit: Google