Un blog de mitos, leyendas, costumbres y tradiciones de México

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Myths and legends from Tamaulipas: The Deer

THE DEER

Folk story from San Carlos Mountains, in Tamaulipas

One afternoon, Emily and I went off horseback riding near the ranch while Don Evaristo was dealing with some other visitors. Suddenly, without warning, we were surprised by a magnificent deer, standing right in the middle of the path in front of us! We stopped in our tracks, and he didn’t move a muscle! Slowly and deliberately, we moved our horses closer and closer to the deer, but apparently neither the horses nor the deer felt at all nervous. Our animals were almost touching noses with the deer, when it finally reacted, and trotted off into the bushes. Emily even managed to get some photos!

Later that evening, during supper, we told don Evaristo about our encounter with such a magnificent animal. He was all ears. At the end of our tale, doña Almanda said: “I bet it was El Viejo.” Legend written by Homero Adame.

El Viejo? Who’s that?” we asked.

“Oh, it’s a very old deer that’s been around for many years. We see him from time to time, and he’s never afraid of anyone.” She answered. “Evaristo, tell them the story about the magical deer. Remember?” She suggested to her husband.

“Yes, of course. It’s a very nice story, and we always like to make a connection between this tale and our dear viejo, here on the ranch! You will remember that in universal mythology the deer is an extremely beneficent animal, by all accounts.

“Now, in the woods and mountains all over Mexico and Central America, you can hear similar stories about a poor hunter who makes the spirit of the woods angry, because he has shot and wounded too many animals. Of course, the story varies, according to the area or the type of landscape, and in many cases the spirit locks the hunter in a cave and won’t let him out until he has cured all the poor animals. I’ve heard this story in the mountains of Puebla and Oaxaca, but this version comes from the Sierra de San Carlos, in the state of Tamaulipas.” Don Evaristo explained.

“Not so many moons ago, there was a young man who used to go hunting every single afternoon. There was never a day when he didn’t return home with a rabbit, an ocelot, a coyote, a boar or something that used to run on four legs in the forest. He would shoot any animal that crossed his path in the woods. Much more than he could ever eat. But his favorite game of all were the deer. He was a good hunter, but, one day, the hunter himself became the prey!

“This is what happened: one afternoon, the weather was too bad to hunt. Early the next morning, however, he took his rifle and set off for the mountains, where he found a trail that led him deep into a canyon. He crossed the river several times. Always alert — like the good hunter he was —, he suddenly heard something moving close at hand, and then he saw it. It was the biggest deer he had ever seen in his life! Folk story written by Homero Adame.

“Very quietly and carefully he lifted his rifle and… bang! He shot at the deer. But the deer did not fall to the ground. By no means! Instead, it walked a few paces towards the hunter! The hunter shot again! And again! And he knew for sure he had hit the animal three times! But that brave deer just moved slowly but surely, closer and closer to the hunter! When the deer and the hunter were only about one meter apart, the animal jumped up, leaped over the hunter’s head and disappeared into thin air! The hunter was so scared that he gave up hunting that very moment and never shot another animal again. He realized in a flash that the guardian spirit of the mountains was warning him to stop hunting animals, or face the consequences.”

“What a beautiful story,” Emily said. “And I agree with the moral: the hunter became greedy, and killed many more animals than he needed for food. When his hunting became an obsession, it became a vice, instead of a natural means of subsistence!”

“Why do you say that the deer we saw, el viejo, is related to the story?” I asked don Evaristo.

“Well, it’s just that we have never ever seen such an old deer anywhere else! And there are so many hunters around. But not one of those hunters has ever managed to shoot our dear viejo. But we’re sure he can sense when people are just out in the woods in search of natural beauty and peace of mind, like you two, this afternoon. He has come up to us too, so many times… Story found at: https://adameleyendas.wordpress.com/2010/11/01/myths-and-legends-from-tamaulipas-the-deer/

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Written by Homero Adame and translated by Pat Grounds. Originally published in the English textbook Orbit 3. By Homero Adame, Pat Grounds and Carol Lethaby. Ediciones Castillo, S.A. de C.V. Monterrey, Mexico. 2000. Pp. 192-193.

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You can find more Mexican myths and legends on this link: Mexican folk stories.

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Myths and legends from the State of Hidalgo: The Turkey

THE TURKEY

Folk story from Alfajayucan, State of Hidalgo

Don Evaristo’s apparently endless repertoire of stories from all over Mexico never ceases to surprise us! In a single evening he can choose any topic, such as animals, saints, or witches, or whatever, and then go on to tell us stories about that topic, from numerous different states, for hours!

The other night, for example, Don Evaristo started telling us some terrifying stories about sorcery, witches and wizards. For some reason, my pocket cassette recorder, which usually records everything, didn’t record a single thing that night! Maybe it was afraid too! However, I do recall one particular story, from a place called Alfajayucan, in the State of Hidalgo. And this is more or less the way that Don Evaristo told it: https://adameleyendas.wordpress.com/2010/10/25/myths-and-legends-from-the-state-of-hidalgo-the-turkey/

“Now, we all know that there are many animals of the night, which some people believe really to be witches or sorcerers, who know how to take on the shape of an animal. This practice is called ‘nagualism’, and it is a fairly common motif in Mexican mythology.”

“Yes. There are similar beliefs among some of our American Indian tribes, too.” I said.

“Of course there are!” Don Evaristo replied. “Don’t forget that most elements of mythology are universal. That’s why stories with similar content are told all over the world in different cultures. Anyway, the typical animals occurring in ‘nagualism’ are coyotes, crows, and owls.” He continued.” In Mexican mythology, there’s also the turkey – the ‘guajolote’, as we call it here. In many parts of the country, you can hear tales of ‘guajolotes’ who are really men or women who practice the art of ‘nagualism’.” Tale written by Homero Adame.

“Can you give us an example, please?” Emily asked.

“Well… there’s one place in the State of Hidalgo, Alfajayucan, where many people say they have seen a huge, strange light in the dark. For example, they may be just walking across a field at night, when suddenly this enormous light shines out from nowhere. And, according to some beliefs, those lights are used to disorient the person, who immediately feels lost, even if he knows the path perfectly well. As a result of his confusion, he gets really lost and can often walk all night without finding his way home. However, there is a magical way to break the spell.

The person has to embrace a tree and stay there with his eyes closed for as long as he can. The light turns into a ‘guajolote’ and starts to hit its victim really hard with its wings. Shortly after this, the ‘bird’ will go away and the person will finally find his way home.” Legend written by Homero Adame.

“What happens if that person opens his eyes and sees the turkey?” I asked.

“Well, according to some legends, if he sees the ‘guajolote’, he will also see the real face of the sorcerer or witch, but the sad thing is, he will not live long enough to tell anyone about it!”

“Is that true?” Emily asked.

“That I cannot say.” Don Evaristo replied. “But legends are legends, and many people say they know of people who were found dead, embracing a tree, their bodies bruised by some inexplicable blows – the blows of the ‘guajolote’s’ wings, perhaps?” Folk story found at https://adameleyendas.wordpress.com/2010/10/25/myths-and-legends-from-the-state-of-hidalgo-the-turkey/

  • Written by Homero Adame and translated by Pat Grounds. Originally published in Activate! 2, by Carol Lethaby, Homero Adame and Pat Grounds. Ediciones Castillo, S.A. de C.V. Monterrey, Mexico. 2003. P. 134.

If you wish to read more Mexican legends, just follow this link, surf and enjoy!

Myths and legends from San Luis Potosi: The ahuichote

THE AHUICHOTE

Folk story heard in Las Carboneras, Matehuala, San Luis Potosi

A long time ago, I was doing some work in the highlands, in the Altiplano Potosino, and of course I took great interest in the local myths and legends. Every evening I spent time talking to the local people and hearing their stories. It was very surprising to learn about an ahuichote ― a sort of animal spirit that announces death. In the Aztec folklore there’s a mythological animal called “ahuizotl”, but its description and its purpose has nothing to do with the ahuichote (also referred as “ahuizote”, “agüichote “or “güichote”) I found in the Altiplano. In the end I concluded that this spirit was “new” to universal mythology, and should be included.

Anyway, I heard different stories of this ahuichote, and all of them spoke of how such spirit was the messenger of Death. One night, while drinking hot chocolate by the fire place, and old lady told me: “Years ago, for several days we heard a strange howl and we knew something bad was going to happen. A couple of days later we learned that Chencho died in Monterrey. His corpse arrived at midnight and we all went to his poor house to veil him. All the time we were veiling Chencho, we kept hearing a strange noise. It was like a cry of a coyote, but not quite the same. It was an inhuman howl; not from this world. We could hear it, and we all knew what it was. Yes, it was the howl of the ahuichote itself, because he was saying that there was a dead person in the village. And that dead person was Chencho, who was from this village but living in Monterrey. The ahuichote cried all night. Legend written by Homero Adame.

“Next morning, after the service offered by a priest from Matehuala, we all went to the cemetery for Chencho’s funeral. And the frightening howl of the ahuichote was harder and sadder than ever. When the grave was covered with soil, the howling stopped. We didn’t hear the ahuichote again that day, and not for many days.

Here we all know that when the ahuichote howls, somebody is going to die”. Homero Adame’s folk story found at: https://adameleyendas.wordpress.com/2010/10/22/myths-and-legends-from-san-luis-potosi-el-ahuichote/

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You can find more Mexican myths and legends on this link: Mexican folk stories.

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Myths and legends from Tlaxcala: The nagual

THE NAGUAL AND OTHER NASTY SPIRITS

(Folk story from Nativitas, Tlaxcala)

Every place in the world has many folk stories and often several versions of a single story. One good example is this very interesting story I heard in Nativitas, Tlaxcala, where people talk about the Weeping woman and a headless horseman up in the Calvario hill. According to them, this horseman without head passes on his horse near the ravines. However, there’s another story people tell and it is about the nagual, a spirit that has many different interpretations all over central Mexico. In Nativitas, they say that such nagual appears at about two in the morning. That nagual is not the devil, because the devil is printed somewhere on a rock in the hill. Legend has it that San Miguelito found the devil inside a church and then pursued him. When he caught him, he lashed him without mercy, and the poor devil ran away pretty scared. He was going so fast that he crashed against the rock; and since then you can see its evil figure imprinted on those walls by the hill. But that’s another story…

The nagual in Nativitas, according to some people, is a spirit, some kind of a witch or sorcerer from the past that decided to live in a cave in the Calvario hill. It is certainly a very dark place, especially after dusk, and many people believe that if you dare walk near that cave in the middle of the night, you will never return. Legend has it that many people have disappeared from the face of the earth right on that hill, and the general belief is that they have gone into the domains of the nagual. Written by Homero Adame and found in his blog at: https://adameleyendas.wordpress.com/2010/10/20/myths-and-legends-from-tlaxcala-the-nagual/

  • If you wish to read more Mexican Folktales, just follow this link, surf and enjoy!

Myths and legends from San Luis Potosi: The Ghost Wagon

THE GHOST WAGON

(Folk story from Vanegas, SLP)

The story I’m about to tell you is true; it often happens here, in Vanegas. And I have seen it myself!

On that side of the road ― “The Barrio”, as we call it ― a lot of people say that they often see an old wagon pass at midnight. Nothing else, just the mysterious shape of an old wagon, bumping slowly along the road, with a silent driver in a big, black cloak… Ghost Wagon - picture taken by Homero AdameWhat’s more, you can also hear the wagon, clattering and creaking, as it makes its way along the dusty, old, unpaved road. Homero Adame’s folk stories.

The strange thing is that whenever anybody sees or hears the old wagon go by, everyone knows that something awful is going to happen. As you very well know, people don’t generally drive these old wagons anymore; they’re almost obsolete. Only a few small farmers still use them now and again, to carry their alfalfa or other crops at harvest time. So, it’s rather unusual to see such an old wagon these days.

Now this is the good part of the story ― or maybe it’s the bad part, really! From time to time, feeling very brave as young people often do, some youth or other will start to follow the wagon. But guess what? When they see that the wagon drives straight to the cemetery, they all run away as fast as their legs can carry them. Then, the wagon drives straight through the locked gates and… disappears! Folk story taken from Homero Adame’s blog at: https://adameleyendas.wordpress.com/2010/10/20/myths-and-legends-from-san-luis-potosi-the-ghost-wagon/

  • If you’d like to read more Mexican Folktales, just follow this link, surf and enjoy!

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