Archive for the ‘Halloween’ Category

October is the month of terror.  In the U.S. children look forward to Halloween:  The Night where they can dress up and be someone else as they go to parties and walk their neighborhoods, door to door, asking for tricks or treats.  In Latin America November 1st, El Dia de los Muertos, is the day families honor their ancestors with festivals, music, food, and flowers.

October is also the month of stories about ghosts, ghouls, and creatures of the night.  We love the safety of a good scary tale that creates chills of fear under the skin.  Many of these stories, though, were not meant as Halloween tales.  They were teaching tales:  this will happen to you if you do not behave (La Cegua), or watch out for strangers you meet in the forest (Mister Fox, The Grandmother’s Tale), or tales of greed (Sunday Seven).  Witches, ghouls, ghosts, vampires, werewolves, and any other critters of our imagination can make us shriek and jump in delightful fear around October or around a campfire.  We love a good frightful tale.

While living in Costa Rica I met some new critters of the night: the siren, La Cegua, who goes after men who should not be out at night drinking and womanizing; the three witches in Sunday Seven who give riches to the one who helped them and, well, other, not so pleasant things to the greedy.  Some of these stories reflect the Costa Rican culture from the changes that were made to tales from Europe and Japan while others reflect the originality of the Costa Rican culture.  Whether re-adapted or original these are tales that were born on the very soil of Costa Rica.

One tale, the one that sent chills of fear through my husband, Guillermo, when he was a child, is El Cadejo (kaw day ho).

There are two versions of how El Cadejo became.  The first is about a priest who did something so terrible that he was cursed and became El Cadejo.  The second is about a boy who would place an ox yoke under his bed sheet and sneak out of his house at night to party, return home in the early hours, and sleep all day in the shade of a tree or bush.  His father, not knowing that he was sneaking out at night, would find him sleeping instead of working the farm.  He finally became so angry that he cursed his son:   “Echado y a cuatro patas seguirás por los siglos de los siglos, amén.” (“You will continue lying down on all your four legs for centuries and centuries, amen.”) And so the boy turned into El Cadejo.

El Cadejo is a dog:  a big black dog from Hell.  His fur is hard, oily, and bristly, not what one would want to touch.  His eyes reflect the fires of hell and around his neck is a thick chain (hence the name El Cadejo) that weighs him down as he drags it along with a clankety, clankety, clank…  He appears before those who have done something wrong as a warning.  He stands there with those flaming eyes staring at the accused—a stare that sends icy chills through the veins.

Happy Halloween!

Clankety, clankety, clank…

Drawing of El Cadejo by Geannina Gutiérrez, ©2012

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