The Bribri people are an indigenous group inhabiting the Talamanca region in southeastern Costa Rica. Their rich culture is steeped in complex beliefs, mythology, and rituals, with a strong emphasis on the roles of deities, heroes, and mythological creatures.

Cosmology and Deities

At the heart of Bribri cosmology is the belief in a multi-layered universe, with each layer associated with specific deities and spirits. The Bribri divide their universe into three planes: the upper world, the middle world, and the lower world. The upper world is the domain of deities, spirits, and celestial bodies. The middle world is inhabited by humans, animals, and plants, while the lower world is the realm of the dead and malevolent spirits.

Sibö, the supreme deity and creator of the Bribri universe, is central to their belief system. Sibö is the personification of good, order, and balance. He is responsible for creating humans, animals, and plants, and for teaching the Bribri their customs, rituals, and language. Sibö is often portrayed as a wise and benevolent figure who maintains harmony within the universe.

Alongside Sibö are various deities that govern specific aspects of life, nature, and the cosmos. These include:

  • Sulá, the sun god: Sulá is responsible for maintaining the cosmic order and regulating the cycles of day and night.

  • Térraba, the moon goddess: Térraba is believed to govern fertility and the cycles of life, death, and rebirth.

  • Dichi, the rain god: Dichi provides rain to nourish crops and maintain the balance of life on Earth.

  • Bákulu, the wind god: Bákulu is the messenger of the gods, responsible for carrying their messages between the upper and middle worlds.

Mythology and Heroes

Bribri mythology is filled with stories of heroes and mythological creatures that convey essential life lessons and moral values. Among these, the most famous hero is Tapir, who assists Sibö in shaping the world and teaching humans vital skills.

In one notable myth, Tapir defeats the malevolent spirit Soríkiki, who seeks to destroy Sibö's creation. By doing so, Tapir demonstrates the importance of courage, wisdom, and maintaining harmony within the universe.

Mythological creatures also play a significant role in Bribri mythology. For example, the mythical two-headed serpent Jala Jala is both revered and feared, symbolizing the dual nature of existence – good and evil.

Rituals and Unique Beliefs

The Bribri people place great importance on rituals, which serve as a means of connecting with the deities and maintaining cosmic balance. Rituals often involve offerings, dances, and prayers, with specific rites tailored to the deity being honored.

A unique aspect of Bribri culture is the role of the Awápa, or spiritual leader. The Awápa is a highly respected figure responsible for conducting rituals, interpreting the will of the deities, and maintaining the spiritual well-being of the community. Awápas are chosen based on their demonstrated wisdom and spiritual prowess.

Another distinctive belief among the Bribri people is their concept of sacred spaces. Certain areas, such as rivers, mountains, and forests, are considered sacred and are believed to be inhabited by deities and spirits. Bribri people show deep respect for these spaces, refraining from harming or disrupting the natural balance within them. Access to these areas is often limited to specific members of the community, such as the Awápa, who perform rituals and offerings to maintain harmony between the natural world and the Bribri people.

The Bribri also place considerable emphasis on ancestral spirits and their guidance. Ancestors are believed to possess wisdom and knowledge that can be passed down through generations, ensuring the continuity of Bribri culture, customs, and spiritual beliefs. The reverence for ancestors is manifested in various rituals and ceremonies, such as those performed during funerals and commemoration events.

In addition to deities and ancestral spirits, the Bribri believe in the existence of various nature spirits, each associated with specific elements or animals. For example, there are spirits that protect and guide the growth of plants, or those that watch over animal species. These spirits are also revered and invoked during rituals, as they are considered essential to maintaining the balance and harmony of the natural world.


The Bribri people of Costa Rica possess a rich and intricate belief system centered around deities, mythology, and rituals. Their cosmology, featuring a multi-layered universe, a pantheon of gods, and a wealth of mythological creatures, offers insight into the values and principles that guide their lives. Unique aspects of Bribri culture, such as the role of the Awápa, the concept of sacred spaces, and the reverence for ancestral spirits, further underscore the importance of maintaining harmony and balance in their lives, their communities, and the natural world.


Bribri Indian Legends, Myths, and Stories