Magwayen, Bisayan Goddess of the Sea & Underworld + Full Moon Eclipse in Pisces

Magwayen  by Vaughn Pinpin, 2013

Magwayen by Vaughn Pinpin, 2013

Magwayen/Maguayan is the primordial Goddess of the Sea and the Underworld in Bisayan mythology, who along with Kaptan, God of the Sky, created the world and the first humans. She is the female aspect of creation made by Kan-laon (the Supreme God) to balance Kaptan, and she personifies the great wide ocean that covers the entire world. She is nurturing, calming, and level-headed and worshiped as a great mother goddess and provider, yet can also be cold and ruthless when angered, capable of creating giant tsunamis, floods and heavy rains. She is pictured as a mature, naked woman carrying a budyong (conch shell) and sometimes a baby or accompanied by another sea goddess (thought to be her daughter Lidagat) and surrounded by fish. Magwayen has many magical shells and keeps a budyong that she blows on 3 times to transform herself and fight sea monsters such as Bakunawa, a gigantic sea serpent, who challenge her rule of the sea. 

Isabelle Daza as Magwayen in GMA Network's INDIO, 2013. Photo by EL-Ey Madridejos

Isabelle Daza as Magwayen in GMA Network's INDIO, 2013. Photo by EL-Ey Madridejos

Sometimes she is represented as a vast ocean whose waters reach all lands, including underground rivers, which led to the belief that her waters also flow into the Underworld, making her one of the few deities who can enter the realm of the spirits. This led to her evolution in myths as a goddess of the Underworld, pictured as a woman wearing grieving clothes, her face covered with dark cloth who ferries souls in her majestic balangay. Her transformation is sometimes credited to the fact that in a version of the creation story, her only daughter Lidagat has died of broken-heartedness. (I would like to note that Lidagat was not mentioned in early Spanish accounts, but in a version of the Bisayan creation story by John Maurice Miller from 1904.) Magwayen was so grief-stricken that she followed her daughter's soul to Sulad (a purgatory) and took up the role as ferrywoman of souls, to be near her. She ferries the souls of the dead to the underworld in her boat across a spiritual river called Lalangban, which divides Sulad and Saad, land of the ancestors.

Magwayen was highly venerated as Mother Goddess of the Sea and as the great provider by ancient Bisayans all over the central islands of the Philippines. But when the Spanish came and introduced Christianity, the worship for Magwayen was inevitably replaced by the veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary as the great mother of humanity, and in the end she suffered the same fate as Kaptan, whose worship diminished as time went by. However, her fame has endured the test of time and is very much alive in the stories of the Bisayan people. She is also one of the few female deities to have control of the sea as compared to mythologic traditions all over the world, which shows the respect and equality women received in the time of our precolonial ancestors.

Role in the Creation Story

At the very beginning there was nothing in the world except for the sea and sky and nothing in between. Within the world there was only the sky God, Kaptan, and the sea Goddess, Magwayen. They fought each other intensely and violently, Magwayen throwing her strong typhoon waves up toward the sky and Kaptan throwing large rocks and lighting back down. This long, bitter feud between the two deities lasted for a long time, until one day they drew the sea and sky closer together and created the islands. The sea and sky deities ceased their fighting, coming together as friends and eventually lovers. After they married, Kaptan planted a seed in the sea where it soon grew to become a bamboo reed. Out of the bamboo emerged Si Kalak, the first man, and Si Kabay, the first woman.

Magwayen is equivalent to the Greek Poseidon (combined with Hades), ruler of Pisces. The Pisces Full Moon Lunar Eclipse that occurs today is an emotionally energized eclipse with a cathartic edge. This watery Moon says, go with the flow, let go and surrender. Accept what is and what we cannot change. There is something sacred about this painful process, as sometimes pain is the breakthrough. The very act of turning towards pain is the start of a healing journey, by transforming the wound into strength. During this full moon eclipse, the boundaries between the spirit world and the living will be blurred. You may experience vividly symbolic dreams, coincidences, or deja vu. Follow the signs, listen for the message, ask your ancestors for guidance and trust in the universe. This full moon eclipse opens a portal for closure and healing on a deep soul level.


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