Bringing a Magical Clay Doll to Life
The fire from the traditional stone kiln glowed against the cool Yucatan evening. Three of us sat not far from it, feeling its heat, and gazing into its dark abyss where pottery, made in the old way, was feeling its trial by fire. Within the kiln were sacred statues of tiny people, magical and powerful. They were created according to prescription to become guardians that would be brought to life through shamanic ceremony.
I know very little about how they are created, although I do have some stories. It is a long process that includes only working on Tuesdays and Fridays because that is when their souls are asleep. Now I am sure that you are already dismissing the idea of little clay figures having souls. It sounds like a legend, something out of a fairy tale. I used to think that too. Until I had my first personal experience with an alux.
Sitting there in the half-light, it was easy to float off into another space. Don Sergio, the master potter was speaking of the aluxes he creates. There are details that are missing. These ancient Maya beings have been guarding the lands and sacred spaces for millennia and Sergio told us stories of people encountering them. It was easy to imagine the settings and action he described. Farm fields filled with delicate new corn stalks are vulnerable to theft from both people and animals. The alux throws stones or creates a forceful wind to drive off invaders. Don Sergio told us of people being scared off by unseen protectors. He explained that a person can even get sick with a high fever if he doesn’t leave the property alone. But the details he left out were the ones about how the little clay figurine is brought to life.
I have been collecting stories about these magical beings for many years. I have hundreds of tales from local people and have also had numerous personal encounters. I don’t just believe they are real, I know it because I have experienced their power. But getting to the core of things is a lot trickier than just discovering tales of encounters.
An alux has two forms. It is a figurine, a small person. The figure is made from clay, stone, or wood. Clay is the most powerful because it is the most like humans (made from the clay of the earth). Once the figure is formed, it needs to be animated. If it is not animated, then it will remain just a powerless statue. An ancient and secret ceremony that takes several days and includes a blood ritual is done by a shaman (English word…Mayan J-men). The ceremony imbibes the little being with the soul of an elemental being. Elemental beings are sentient beings composed of the 4 elements: air, fire, water, or earth. An alux is air. That means it takes the form of air and can use the power of air (think anything from a gentle breeze to a hurricane force wind). It can also use sound (air).
Once the alux is animated, it’s energy/air can move away from the figurine. It needs to be able to move around to do its job, which is to protect whatever it was assigned to. It is usually invisible but sometimes people do see them and they usually look like small children, although they can also take the form of anything in nature. It is said that it is very dangerous to see one looking at you in the eyes. I have seen one. A shaman was quite upset by my revealing this and asked if it looked at me in the eyes. It didn’t (thankfully) I only saw its back.
Almost ALL of the stories of aluxes I have heard have been about the animated form of this elemental being. You might think of it as a spirit, but it is actually nature. To see the physical figurine that was brought to life is very rare. So rare, that after 7 years of collecting stories, I have only one photo of a real alux figure and I have never seen one myself.
Sitting there in front of the kiln fire, with alux figures solidifying in the heat, Don Sergio told us how he has a beautiful piece of land in the jungle which his is building on. A few traditional palapa-topped structures were in construction on it as we spoke. To keep the land safe, a week previously, he had invited a shaman to do the ceremony to animate an alux statue and bring it to life! He showed me some video of the ritual (which lasted two full days!) and allowed me to see a couple of photos of the figure they brought to life. It was the first time in 7 years I had gotten so close to one of these powerful beings.
Don Sergio is a lovely person. We took a pottery class from him and he taught us much about the ancient art. He showed us the statues he makes in the ancient and magical prescribed way. And now he has agreed to take us out to the jungle to see the alux they brought to life! Yes! Two weeks from now I will get to see it with my own eyes!
I hope to ask him more about the creation process. I understand that some of it is information too sensitive for him to share and I am so very thankful that he is willing to reveal what he will.
This is real magic.
This is ancient.
I know some of the missing details will come to light. And I feel so privileged to be privy to them. Much of what people would love to know is considered too dangerous to share. It is real. A lot is at stake. I know that aluxes are mystical powerful entities. I have tremendous respect for them, and I am in awe to meet a man who creates them.
I will not be able to take photos while I am there (not of the alux), but I hope to share more about the specifics of these beings who have been guarding the Mayalands for thousands of years. But of course, some of it will remain secret, for that is the way of things.
Excited and with tremendous respect.