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from the October 2005 issue


Note: The work was written originally in Yucatecan Maya, the most widely spoken indigenous language in Mexico. Miguel Angel May May, the writer and cultural leader, has been responsible for the formation of organizations of Maya writers and scholars and is responsible for much of the resurgence of interest in the language and culture on the Yucatán peninsula. Many other people work with him, including professors at the Autonomous University of Yucatán such as Alejandra García Quintanilla, who is not a native Maya speaker but a historian with a doctorate from the University of North Carolina, which has an important program in Maya studies and works with students in such places as Xocén, the place the Maya call "the center of the world."

A little more than fifty years ago, farmers who had a cornfield used the alux as a guardian of their crops. It is said that the alux is a clay doll that guards the farmer's field, scaring away thieves and making jokes to all the people who pass by or stop to rest near the place where he lives.

The alux is made of clay mixed with honey, molded into the shape of a little doll, and with the same clay provided with his dog and slingshot. To give life to the alux, the farmer offers a drink of saká1 on thirteen occasions. The offering must be made in the middle of the cornfield, where the alux is placed under a rock. This activity is carried out on Tuesdays and Fridays until the completion of the thirteen corresponding offerings. After lowering the drink from the branches of the trees where the farmer hung it, he does not drink, he only buries it under the altar on which he made the offering. Later, he smears nine drops of his blood on the mouth of the alux and the muzzle of the dog. When he has completed the thirteen offerings the farmer only feeds blood to the alux and his little dog on Tuesdays and Fridays so that the alux can complete his work of guarding the farm products.

Should someone want to rob the farm, intending to jump over the stone fence, the alux will hiss at him and throw stones. And furthermore, that person will hear the dog barking inside the milpa (small farm), even though he doesn't see him. The presumed thief, seeing how the stones that are thrown at him break into pieces on the barricade that he wants to penetrate, will flee.

When the farmer finishes working the land, he destroys the alux, smashing it to pieces against a rock. In this way, he can freely return to working the land, because it no longer has a guard.

If it is not done this way, the preparation of the land that the alux guards will scarcely have begun when he starts to whistle or throw stones at the farmer whom he thinks is an intruder, which could cause a distraction that cause the farmer to cut his hand or foot with a rake or a machete.

So that the alux stops fussing, the farmer must offer a drink of saká, trying to invoke the alux by giving him the drink. This invocation must take place each time that an offering must be made to keep the alux happy and able to accept the charm of the saká. In case the farmer wants to free himself once and for all of the alux, he must find the place where the clay doll is hidden to destroy him. It has to be done exactly at twelve noon, because at that moment the alux is asleep.

Actually, few farmers used the alux to guard their fields. Most of them do not know exactly what an alux is or his usefulness on the farm. It is said that this is because the older people who know how to work with the alux, having learned it from the jmeno'ob2, have not passed the knowledge on to the young. Of course, as these older people die, the number of farmers who use the alux diminishes.

In view of the fact that the jmeno'ob of today do not teach the farmers how to use the alux, it is believed that they do not have the same knowledge as the ancient Maya priests. In order to pass on this knowledge, which would teach the usefulness of the alux, the idea would have to be dropped that the aluxes only frighten and sicken those who find themselves in their presence.

The stories that we often hear about the aluxes frightening people with their mischief and causing many bad things are not without some justification, because it really goes along with the task for which they were made. What happens is that anyone who enters the land where the alux lives is so frightened that he goes away and leaves the farmer's harvest untouched.

It is also said that the person who is alone when he sees the alux can get sick if he talks about it immediately. The alux does not like this and he will vex him.

Because of this, if you do not want to get sick in the event you see the alux in your house or in the forest, do not talk about it to anyone right after your experience. Wait for a few days so that you can do it without danger. Otherwise, you will be punished.


1. A drink made of cornmeal and water, with a little honey

2. Traditional Maya priests or shamans

Originally published by Creencias, profecías y consejas mayas, Mexico, INI-Sedesol/Rockefeller Foundation, 1993.

Spanish translation by Joaquín Bestar after the translation by the author.

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