Mischievous “aluxes,” an extraordinary water serpent named Tsukán, and Sip the deer. Animals, humans, and Maya gods all have a leading role in the stories of Yucatecan folklore which are still current today.
Passed on from generation to generation, the voices of our grandparents and elders have shared their teachings and words of wisdom through popular stories which are partly based in truth, and partly based in fantasy and symbolism. Throughout time, these stories have created a universe which is just as incredible as the worlds our favorite books and movies bring to life. Are you ready to get to know more about our fantastic beasts?
The Alux: The Maya Leprechaun
The alux is perhaps one of our best known and most beloved Maya mythological beings. Legend has it that they were originally made out of clay and honey; they are small (80 cm at the most), have a childlike appearance, and a fiercely protective, but playful nature. They “come to life” when you make an offering of Saká, a corn beverage which is sweetened to “activate” the alux’s protective qualities so that they help in the harvest. They usually live in cenotes, caves, and even dwell on some properties or in private homes. Usually, they won’t let you see them, but you can feel their presence in any of these places because they love to play tricks on us humans: they throw pebbles, or hide objects so that you think they are lost, but later they turn up in an unexpected place. If you decide you wish to protect your home with an alux, you can buy one made of clay… just don’t forget to offer it candies and the odd toy!
Tsukán, Keeper of the Cenotes
An enormous snake with the head and mane of a horse that lives in a cenote? Sounds impressive, right? This is how we picture the Tsukán (“tsuk” means horse, and “kaan” is snake in Maya). She is the guardian of cenotes, caves, and wells; and protects water sources in general as priceless resources which are essential to life. It is believed that she lives in the deepest of waters without any human contact, so you don’t have to worry about bumping into her. According to legend, she comes out from time to time and slithers around the grass only to return to her keep once again. When Tsukán gets older, she will grow wings and fly until she finds the ocean.
Sip, The King of Deer
Just as the lion is considered the king of the jungle; in Yucatán, Sip the deer sits on the royal throne. Sip is considered a messenger of the gods, and protects animals from harm in general, but especially from hunters. Story has it that he is a deer somewhat smaller than most, with jade eyes. His antlers are larger than those of regular deer, and they hold up a wasp nest which protects Sip from his would-be attackers. He lives in nature and moans to alert other animals of nearby hunters, aiding in the conservation of species.
Aluxes, or leprechauns in Ireland, giant snakes that live and protect our water sources, deer and lions that protect the jungle and nature. In many cultures we find similar stories of beings with special traits or powers which protect our homes, our water, other animals, or that notify humans when they sense danger. It’s only logical that we find these fantastic beasts and timeless legends in Yucatán as we do in other parts of the world.
These fantastic, protective, and mythological creatures bring our imagination to life and help us find a balance between mankind and nature.
Editorial by Violeta H. Cantarell
Photography by Patricia Suárez for use in Yucatán Today
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