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Black Magic

The Mayans who live in the jungle where I lived are deeply superstitious. For example, the woman who was Luis Felipe’s personal secretary was said to be a witch, and most of the other Mayan women steered clear of her. When someone new moved into a house, if the previous owner was thought to have been a bad person, there was a ritual to rid the house of the evil spirits first. Statues of pagan gods shared the altars in Catholic churches next to the relics of saints, leaving nothing to chance.

I had heard their creation myth and I found it beautiful. All was stillness, silence and water. There was no light, no land, no plants, no people, no animals. Six dieties covered in blue and green feathers lay in the primordial waters and helped the Sky create the Earth. To separate the sky from the earth the gods planted a tall ceiba tree, making space on the surface for all forms of life. The roots of the ceiba penetrated nine levels down to the underworld. The branches reached up to the thirteen levels of the upper-world where the gods lived. After plants were created, then came animals, and finally humans who were formed of white and yellow corn. They could speak and pray to the gods properly.

Now I am not the woo-woo sort. I don’t believe in crystals or witchcraft or magic potions, but I was fascinated by the beliefs and rituals of the Mayans, and I intended to learn more.

A few days after I moved into my house I bumped into a Canadian friend of Luis Felipe’s. He asked how I liked living in the jungle so far.

“It’s exciting. Everything’s so new to me, though. Once I get settled, I’d really like to learn more about this jungle. And about the Mayan culture,” I said.

“Well, I can tell you one thing. This jungle is where the alien Mayan king landed in his spaceship a long time ago. One day he’ll come back here again.”

I blinked hard. “Right,” I said, tentatively. “You mean that’s a legend the Mayans beliieve.”

He shook his head. “No! it isn’t just a legend. A few years ago a spaceship came back to this jungle again. It hovered right up there for a few days, but it never landed.” He pointed above the thicket of trees in front of me. “Some of the workers who live here saw it and told me about it. The aliens were watching us too, I guess. You can ask them.” he said with his eyes still fixated on the sky. “Man, I can’t wait for that ship to come back again.”

This man wasn’t Mayan, he was Canadian. Oh my God, I thought. I didn’t know superstition could be contagious! But I dismissed the story he told as so much malarkey, even though it was obvious that he believed it. Later, I scoffed at the phone sessions Luis Felipe paid to a witch he had met from California who helped guide his decisions by interpreting signs. She had given him a wooden amulet that he wore around his neck for good luck after his heart attack. I couldn’t understand how an educated man could put his faith in such things. Better he should have gotten more exercise and watched his weight if he wanted to improve his health.

But the longer I lived in the jungle, cut off from people who were more like myself, the more I questioned my own perceptions as stranger and stranger things began to happen. I couldn’t be sure if what I thought was really happening was real, or if it was my imagination. Was there something to fear, or was it just insecurity getting the better of me? In want of answers, maybe I was making things up. Or maybe it was just the gods toying with me. I still can’t be certain. Anything in the jungle is possible.

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