La Sirena: Belize’s Mermaid

La Sirena- Half woman- Half Snake- Source: Sandro Halpo

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In order to preserve and share Belizean Folklore the following text is from Characters and Caricatures in Belizean Folklore: By Belize UNESCO Commission 1991.

“When she lures you, she takes you to the lonely road where she leaves for lost all those who fall under her spell.” ‘sic’ ( I think they were going for, She leaves all those who fall under her spell lost.)

La Siguanaba or La Sirena.

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“A weeping spirit associated with water and streams, La Sirena has long, black hair and is fully clothed in white. Stories of La Siguanaba in some Belizean communities indicate that she is the same character as La Sirena. The word Sirena translates literally from the Spanish as mermaid, whose half-woman, half-fish body is comparable to the half-woman, half-snake body of La Sirena. Her face, which may sometimes be hidden, is described by some as beautiful and by others as ugly. Some versions even say she is hiding a horse’s face or skull underneath the cloth she wears over her head.

La Sirena.

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La Sirena is believed to be the spirit of an evil woman who grew tired of her child and threw it into a stream to drown. She now sits near the river at night, and many people fear seeing her, for it may be an omen of their death. She will sometimes carry children off for three days, and when she returns them, they are disoriented and unable to function normally for several days. Most often, however, she chooses men who are roaming late at night, especially drunks, as her victims. She impersonates men’s sweethearts and leads them down a path from which it is difficult to return, and those who search for a way out become frustrated and delirious.

La Sirena and her child. Source: Howstuffworks

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One Maya legend about La Sirena tells that she was created by the supreme evil being from objects in the environment. When he was ready to put hair on her, his eyes rested on a nearby tree and he used its branches to form her hair. The following story is often attached to this legend.

La Sirena- Source: Deborah Duflon

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A young villager had been drinking with his friends all day and was returning home on horseback. His journey took him through some forested areas, and in one such area, an attractive woman suddenly appeared before him. He dismounted in order to approach her, and as he came nearer, she tried to embrace him. He then realized that she was the enchantress La Sirena spoken of in his village, but he was under her spell already and was being compelled to follow her. He tried to stop himself from going further by grabbing on to the branches of a tree and was immediately released from her spell. The tree had held on to was the same one used to make La Sirena’s hair, and legend has it that pulling on the branches of the tree makes her feel as if someone is pulling her hair.

La Sirena. Source

Among the Garinagu, stories are told of the Agayuma, who resides near the water, and seduces men with her long, silken hair and shapely body, whose form she can change to resemble various water creatures. Agayuma’s victims are plagued by dreams of her, and only a special item given to them by the buye or medicine man will keep the dreams away. If, however, no precautions are taken, the victims waste away and die.

Some years ago, in the village of Barranco, five girls told of their encounter with the Agayuma during the dry season. They had all gone to fetch water from the pond, and while there, they saw an apparition which each reported as a fair woman, dressed in full white. She sat near the edge of the pond, from where she rose floating toward the bush, disappearing into the trees. They thought they had seen the Blessed Virgin Mary, but the elders of the village heard the story and concluded that the girls had, in fact, seen the Agayuma.”

La Sirena: Described sometimes as having a horses face. Source: Octophiliac

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Belize Folklore: Alux

Alux Illustratuon: Credit: Melissa Garlington Dávila

Alux pronounced “Alooosh”, are an important part of Yucatan Culture, especially Mayan Culture. This is a bit of a read, but it is well worth it!

The following text is from Characters and Caricatures in Belizean Folklore: By Belize UNESCO Commission 1991.

“”…to create an ALUX is difficult and prolonged work, needing much knowledge and proper support of offerings, and prayers to the secret beings who govern the life on earth, in the water, and in the air.”

The primary role of the ALUX is to guard ancient archaeological sites and their surroundings. His role as protector extends to man as well, and he punishes those who are lazy and neglectful of their duties. He is a moral watchman of the villages, keeping an eye our for wrong doing.

The ALUX is a dominant character among the Yucatec Maya, and is spoken of mainly in villages such as San Antonio and San Jose Succotz in the Cayo District and San Victor, Patchakan, Progresso, and Xaibe in the Corozal district. Stories of him are told at Ambergris Caye as well. He is also referred to as “Duendecillo” and “Donato and his brothers.” Although only one foot high, the ALUX has the appearance of a robust, arrogant Maya. When solemn rituals were still a part of daily life among the Maya, milpa owners who wanted someone to take care of their lands often requested an ALUX from the priest of the village.

This is Chac Mool NOT an Alux Statue

After the owner had made a suitable payment, the oldest and most knowledgeable man in the Maya community created an ALUX through a complicated process. For seven Fridays, he moulded an intricate clay figure, kneading into the clay the fluids and flesh of various animals so the ALUX would possess the finest qualities of forest creatures.

On the first Friday, he formed the legs and the feet of the ALUX, mixing in the clay the blood and the ground legs of a lizard so his step would be light and silent, and the flesh of a deer so his legs would swiftly and tirelessly.

On the second Friday, he added to the clay a mixture rain water which had been cooled in the night air for nine nights, and with this clay he formed the stomach. adding a small portion to tender corn to it. This would ensure that the ALUX would not be gluttonous and that his appetite would be small.

Alux figurine

On the third Friday, the priest formed his thorax and his heart. He took great care to saturate the heart with the blood of a dove, so the ALUX would be tender and devoted to his master, and with the blood from the jaguar, so he would be brave and fierce and unforgiving to his enemies and would posses a heart that would not feel fear, sadness, or envy.

Depiction of an Alux.

On the fourth Friday, the preist formed his arms and hands, using the blood and flesh of a boa constrictor and a monkey, guaranteeing that the ALUX would be strong and agile.

On the fifth Friday came the most intricate part of the entire process, the creation of the neck and head. The ALUX had to be very talented and cunning; his throat and mouth should be able to imitate the voices of all the animals in the forest, and he should understand the languages of many races. His eyes would be formed using the pupils of an owl so he could see even the smallest detail on the darkest of nights, his ears would contain fluids that would make his sense of hearing sharp enough to take in sounds from the soil on which he stood, and his nose would be equipped with a keen sense of smell. These tasks were of the utmost importance, because if anything went wrong here, the personality of the ALUX could become completely different from what was intended.

On the sixth Friday, the figure was baked in a clay oven over a fire fed by the wood from the ceiba and guanacaste trees. Even the wood was expected to instill qualities into the ALUX, making him have endurance and resistance to the harsh conditions with which he would have to cope in the forest.

Maya Art showing the offering to the Alux

On the seventh Friday, the little figure was complete, and the priest dressed himself in priestly roves and took the ALUX to the temple, where its future owner waited. In a sacred ritual, the priest called upon the gods to breathe life into the clay figurine. The he dressed the ALUX in rich clothes and jewels and handed it over to the owner who took the clay image, which bore a mocking and haughty expression, to his home to introduce him to his friends and family members. He then placed the figure in a small cave or in the hollow of a tree trunk in the foresst, dictated the services he expected from the ALUX, and a promised his offerings in retunr. After the owner had left and night had fallen, life entered the figurine. It moved its limbs and flexed its muscles and became the efficient, effective ALUX.

Alux House

When not guarding his owner’s milpa and other property, the ALUX’s mischievous self comes to the fore as he plays in the forests, climbs trees, bathes in streams, and explores caves. Even then his role of protector shines through as he befriends animals in order to convince them not to harm his owner’s belongings.

Kneeling Alux

The owners obligation to the ALUX involves providing him with a corn drink and tortillas every Friday. He must carry these into the forest adjoining the milpa, and if he fails to do so, his entire family comes down with a fever. He is also expected to conduct specific rituals when he leaves his property permanently or when a death occurs.

Another service of the ALUX is to enures that visitors to the Maya mounds and archaeological sites do not desecrate them or steal any artifacts.

As with all folklore, the ALUX has prompted many stories. Legend has it that people often find a small, finely carved clay figurine by the roadside. They take it home, only to find it missing the following day, because it has returned to its original place. Those who have heard of the ALUX leave the effigy alone; those who do not insist on taking it home, begin to suffer physical  discomfort and have unpleasant nightmares. The figurine mysteriously returns to its original place each time.

The ALUX is seen by humans mostly as a still figure, but rare sightings of the ALUX in living form have been reported. Some hunters claim to have heard growls or screams of wild animals, and on turning on their hunting lamps have only spotted the body of a husky dwarf. On the night of a full moon the figure of a little man could be seen dancing on temples in ancient Maya sites. Persons in milpas have seen a dwarf beckoning to them. Those who have seen the ALUX become fever-stricken and cannot be cured until an offering is made at the spot where he was seen.”

Belize Folklore: Tata Duende

From Characters & Caricatures in Belizean Folklore by Belize UNESCO Commission (c)1991

One of the most popular folklore characters in Belize is TATA DUENDE. TATA is the mayan word for “old man” or “grandfather” and DUENDE, spanish for “dwarf.”

Tata Duende

He is described as a short man, three feet in height, with an ugly old face, wearing a large red hat, sometimes wearing animal skins, often carrying a machete or knotted stick, missing both thumbs, and with feet facing backwards to throw people off his trail.

He is often sighted when it rains, and during Lent, especially around Good Friday. Almost all Tata sightings occur at night. When Tata approaches, a whistling sound can be heard, if the sound is loud and close, have no fear, Tata is a trickster. It is time to worry only when the whistle is distant, because that means he is actually close by.

Tata Duende is the traditional guardian angel of all animals and people of the forest. A kind creature by nature, he is often said to feed, protect, and cure people hurt or lost in the forest. He is a close friend to the animals and punishes hunters that kill more game than they need.

Tata Duende

The Garifuna call him DUENDU, and say he is also the guardian of hidden treasures. If a someone wants a meeting with him to reveal his treasures, they only need to carve a message to him in pine wood. Meetings generally occur at noon, and those wishing to find the treasure must bring a white rooster and a white sheet on which to make the offering. To further persuade him, one can promise Tata their first born as part of the deal.

Tata does not have thumbs, and this fuels his strong desire to steal anyone’s thumbs he encounters. The only way to stop him is to hide your thumbs in the palms of your hands as soon as you see him. If you are quick and hide your thumbs, Tata takes an immediate liking to you. If Tata likes you, he will teach you to play his silver guitar or any other musical instrument you wish to learn.

When Tata is vexed, he can make anyone who sees him or is seen by him immobile, speechless, and fever ridden for many days after their encounter. Tata’s  mean streak comes out when anyone attempts to imitate his whistle.  He is feared by hunters, because if Tata sees them carrying a gun or a shovel in the forest on Fridays, he will chop off their heads and use them to decorate his own home.

Next time you hear a whistle in the jungle, we suggest hiding your thumbs.