"This is where the hat turned into a snake."
We were standing on top of The Hill of The Aluxob (plural for alux). Certainly it was once a stone Maya building of some sort, possibly a small pyramid, although now it is covered in young ceiba trees and strangler figs. A small circle of stones, rather like an old well, lay at our feet. Francisco, our shaman-guide told us that people had often stolen the stones because they are sacred. They hoped to bring good luck home with them only to die the next day of a sudden high fever.
Below us stretched acres of farm land, corn fields, limestone strewn ground, and smaller, still unexcavated, ruins. The day was clear and hot and tabanos (biting flies) disturbed the peace as we tried to listen to the details of the story Francisco was carefully sharing with us.
The mul (hill in Maya) was the most sacred place for miles around. It was the site of regular ritual offerings to the rain god, Chac, and also the home of several aluxob which were created many years ago by Francisco's grandfather, a very powerful shaman indeed. Francisco explained that his grandfather made the aluxob from the parts of various animals and water from the pool deep in a nearby cave. He believed his grandfather had created two, very powerful aluxob to guard the hill--aluxob that also needed yearly sacrifices in the form of smoked meat cooked in banana leaves buried in the earth with hot coals, water, oranges, and gifts of alcohol and grain.
The aluxob were created to protect the hill with good reason. Not only was it the meeting place between man and rain god, but it was also the hiding place of buried treasure.
The land has been in Francisco's family for many, many years. Long ago, a man found seven treasures there (possibly seven large gold Maya coins). But he was greedy and did not share them with any of his children. Because of his greed, he came to a horrible and untimely end, leaving the treasures behind. Someone found the treasures, and seeing that they had been responsible for the man's death, buried them on top of the hill and covered them with a sombrero which, when placed over the buried treasures, turned immediately into a deadly snake.
That was when Francisco explained, without missing a beat, that if you want one of the treasures, you can come and take it quite easily. Just bring your first born child and give it to the snake. While the snake is eating your son or daughter, you will have time to take one of the treasures and escape before the snake eats YOU!
No wonder grandfather-shaman made the aluxob. I guess the real question is; What was he trying to protect?
Avoiding picking up anything I find among the rocks,