Belize’s Finados and Folklore Legends
The young nation of Belize has been made home by a diverse spectrum of people and cultures, all with their own beliefs and practices. As you can imagine having so many different people with different lore will lead to some interesting, albeit creepy urban legends and children’s stories. Check out these Belize Legends right out from the creepy archives.
Check out these creepiest creatures sure to keep you home on Halloween:
1 Imps – Duenditos and el Tata Duende
Duendes are common mythological goblin-like creatures that inhabit the campfire story ears of numerous peoples. Iberia, Latin America, and the Philipines all share tales of these forest imps, sometimes as benevolent fairies but more often as malignant apparitions. Duenditos are generally thought to be forest spirits who help lost travelers find their way home, and in Mexico, they live in your home walls and try to clip unkempt children’s toenails – but often fail and clip the entire toe! El Tata Duende, however, is a much more sinister figure, referred to as the “Grandfather Demon” by the Mayan inhabitants of this land. El Tata Duende had a tendency to prey on children by luring them into the forest and the stealing them (go figure!). Children were also told never to play marbles at night or they’d attract him – after he steals you he takes your thumbs. While it’s unclear what he did with all those kiddy thumbs it’s an unnerving thought that an ugly little troll would take a part of you away.
He was (is?) also a general mischief maker who loves playing the guitar and riding horses. Traces of him could be seen in the braids he’d leave in a horse’s mane after a night of galloping around your land on your horse making a commotion. Luckily for the troubled townsfolk, he isn’t invincible, nor too intelligent for that matter; he could be fooled by children who bend their thumbs behind their palms and show him, El Tata Duende will mistake you for one his smaller cousin and let you go free. If he keeps bothering your horses you can set up a guitar, and a bottle of rum on a still beside a mirror – the theory goes that he will play the guitar and get drunk then look in the mirror and permanently scare himself away!
2 Phantoms – Stone Woman and La Llorona
Goblins and imps while scary are quite avoidable – simply stay away from the forest, don’t be a child (literally) and don’t play marbles in Central America at night. Phantoms, however, are decidedly creepier, how do you avoid something you can’t even see? Well, that’s their game because you can’t. You can avoid locales that are rumored to be haunted but where is the fun in that? Cue up Xunantunich. The name literally translates to “Stone Woman”, a name begotten not from Mayan Symbolism or structural design but from the legend of a ghost that inhabits the site. The stone woman is clad completely in white, has fiery red eyes and typically appears in front of El Castillo to ascend the stairs and disappears into a wall near the top.
La Llorona, on the other hand, doesn’t mind her own business like the Stone Woman. La Llorona is said to be the spirit of a woman named Maria who drowned her children in the river as a sort of lovers revenge. After realizing that her little ones were dead she drowned herself. Maria was challenged on the whereabouts of her children at the gates of heaven and denied entry until she could locate them. Since then La Llorona wanders the river banks at night mourning the loss of her children by weeping and asking them for forgiveness by stealing living ones to drown to take their place. The tale of the Llorona is used by parents in Latin America to discourage their children from wandering out at night (maybe that’s why we don’t like the dark).
3 Hellhound – El Cadejo
El Cadejo comes in two flavors that vary in characteristics from region to region in Latin America. In Belize, the ironic version generally takes hold in which the white Cadejo (El Cadejo Blanco) is the evil one and tries to fool you with its appearance while the black Cadejo (El Cadejo Negro) is the benevolent one who guards drunks and vagabonds by night. El Cadejo usually refers to the evil one – whichever that may be in the town you’re in – and is described as a large dog like creature that isn’t exactly a dog. This creature can sometimes appear as large as a cow, has a dog-shaped body with goat-like hooves and glowing red eyes. Perhaps the inspiration for Cujo? El Cadejo can be considered a force of chaotic good for he appears to alcoholics who stagger through town in the wee hours. Its presence is made known by a strong “goat smell” in his proximity and the sound of chains dragging on the ground. Legends warn you not to speak to El Cadejo for speaking to it induces madness, as well, don’t turn your back to it as that has the same effect. Inversely if you have just been caught in the wrong part of town at the wrong hour El Cadejo’s counterpart – Black or white depending on the version you heard – will guide you home safely warding off his evil twin and any other harm that may have befallen you otherwise. Surely the better dog-goat to come across in any situation!
4 Polymorphs – X’tabay
What’s scarier than ghosts that hang out near your favorite swimming spots? Yup, a shapeshifting something hiding behind a tree. Lurking near the thorny trunk of your local Ceiba tree; is the X’tabay a shapeshifting creature right out from the deepest darkest Mayan imagination. The purpose of this monster? Seducing and murdering unsuspecting men – why does it always have to end with murder? Oh well… The X’tabay is said to be the spirit of a Maya Woman who was pure of flesh but cold-hearted, who envied the good nature of a local prostitute, Xkeban. After the death of Xkeban, Utz-colel was appalled by the sweet aroma of the corpse and the beautiful flowers that grew at her grave, jealously proclaiming that her scent would be sweeter and the flowers more beautiful. After her death, Utz-colel clung to an unbearable smell that came through even her grave and only spiny cacti grew above it. Enraged by this her soul called on dark spirits to bring her back to earth whenever she liked to perpetrate her twisted crime of envy on the local men in the form of how Xkeban was in life.
The X’tabay will appear to you under a ceiba tree in the form of a beautiful woman, sometimes as someone you know and/or are infatuated with and comb her hair until your attention is gotten. After which she will quickly get down and dirty with you, then kill you. Ladies, you are safe from this one, but do keep and eye on your significant others – for safety’s sake.
Other urban legends surrounding her tell of a horse faced monster who disguises itself as a woman and other equally chilling options for appearance.
5 Missing link – Sisitmito
This one seems to perhaps stem from a primordial urge to explain the gap between apes and humans – the concept of a missing link, part man part ape exists universally among people and in latin America takes on the name Sisimito. Good luck finding that word in any dictionary, it has no real English translation. Described as a hairy ape with a humanoid head the Sisimito is a jungle dweller who follows around anyone who happens across densely forested areas, or hunters who stray afar on religious holidays. The Sisimito has no thumbs, backward feet (maybe he had a run in with el Tata Duende) and feasts on raw meat including people.
The sisimito is another oddly sexist monster in that if a man looks into his/its eyes, the man shall die within one month, but a woman catching a glimpse of a sisimito will her have her life prolonged. The Maya believe that due to deforestation their patron god of the forest has taken the Sisimito into the densest tracts of forest leading to the rarity of seeing one today. If you do encounter one, however, there are ways to combat him; walking around in a circle will confuse him and stray him from your tracks, or making tracks through a bush will have the same effect.
If you intent to permanently get rid of him he’s said to be especially susceptible to his long hair being set ablaze – gruesome. The Sisimito is also afraid of otters and will avoid them at all costs, so we’re sure you can get creative with that!
Did you have any spooky encounters on Halloween? Hopefully not with any of these creatures!
Tell us about your eeriest urban legends in the comments below! 🙂
If you’d like to learn more about Belize Folklore and Culture The Lodge at Chaa Creek is offering a Cultural winter solstice Package for you to learn all about Belize and her Peoples!