Ever since I was a child, my grandmother told me stories about little elves or spirits, often naughty and playful, who used to live in patios, out in the fields, and in caves. Various ceremonies, altars, or offerings were dedicated to them.
As opposed to making me afraid, these stories about magic beings, who I always considered as protective children, awakened my curiosity. And yes, sometimes I did experience their pranks…coins were lost, earrings and other items later appeared mysteriously in a different place. Then I understood that the “aluxes” were not a myth from the ancient Maya; rather, they are beings who coexist with us and who we can honor in various ways. At my house we always have some candies and little toys in a bowl, and we ask for their protection.
This belief is present all over the Yucatán Península and extends to Guatemala. You can find representations of these beings at Cobá in Quintana Roo and at Yaxchilán in Chiapas. Their name refers to their short height, because they look like children with the face of men, and it’s believed that they wear traditional Maya clothes with espadrille or without shoes and sometimes walking with a dog. Normally they are not visible but you can feel their presence as a shadow or as wind, especially when you are in contact with nature, in caves, cenotes, caverns and in the fields.
The myth explains that they were originally made of clay, placed in a nearby tree and then came to life. That’s why, when you are building in a new area or going to the jungle, you should ask for their permission and perform a ceremony, if you don’t do it you could experience their pranks.
It’s a custom of the farmers to make an offering to them during the planting time, to ask the aluxes’ help to protect the harvest, frighten off thieves or prey animals, and scare away any intruders who enter their fields. This is why an altar is built, and gourds are placed there with honey and corn, taking care to also provide water and candies. This construction is known as “the house of the alux.” The ceremony must be repeated each year.
Sometimes the aluxes are distracted from their tasks and they can become visible, if they are not taken care of correctly; they can provoke a “bad air” that causes fever and body pains, they can throw stones, or perform similar pranks. You shouldn’t be afraid, you must continue with the offerings and remember that they are the guardians of the lands and the harvest.
Nowadays you can find alux clay figures and perform your own protection ceremony for your home. Just remember to always have water, honey, or candies available in your altar…or you might be the recipient of one of their pranks!
By Violeta H. Cantarell
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