Q:Hello! I'm doing a bit of research for a story I'm writing, where the main character is Puerto Rican who recently moved to the US. It's an urban fantasy, and I'm incorporating real world mythos and tales as creatures and characters. I did some wiki, but it's a bit unclear - is the term "Bruja" used for witches in PR, or something else? Have you heard of the Duende, of the top of your head? Also, what kind of mythos/creatures are commonly known over there? Thank you so much!!! :)
Hello! I’m here to add to the already super-awesome reply Kwii already covered. I have a few stories I’ve picked up over the years, mind you, a bit of this has been due to travels and research and not as much hear-say from my family as I’d like since I grew up in what would be considered an “American household” (my mother’s father was a Slovakian immigrant from Bronx and my grandmother came from a once-rich Spanish-Puerto Rican family and lived in New York for the majority of her life) yet I’ve grown up in a pretty rural area and my dad is very superstitious, so I’ll do what I can from that end! Correct me if I’m wrong, though, we can all learn from this and help the fellow anon out! So I’ll skip over the Chupacabra (because it’s the myth of my hometown and bleh tired of it) but I WILL say we DO have a vampire myth called el Vampiro de Moca (The Vampire of Moca). Okay let’s continue!
For the term “bruja” meaning witch could portray to several practices like Santería and Yoruba, though there’s a few people who will strictly label them as “esa persona es Santero(a)” (this person is a “santero(a)” (one who practices Santería)) to “esta persona es un brujo(a)” which is a more general sense of anything that doesn’t follow standard Catholic/Pentecostal/Evangelic religion but is instead more influenced by our African heritage. There are both good witches and bad witches as you probably already know and there’s some good articles about that online. (Be sure you know which one you pick though, they are pretty different)
El Cuco is one of my favorite stories aside from Vejigantes (which I’ll cover in a bit). The rough translation IS much like the Boogieman, he eats naughty kids who don’t go to sleep or misbehave. We have a lullaby that goes as follows:
hmm, “bruja” is just the Spanish term for witch, but if you’re referring to actual covens in the island, I’m not sure I can help you on that front. There are groups of people who still actively practice Santeria, though, if I’m not mistaken.
As for the Duende… only once or twice, and only by name. I think it’s like a mischievous imp thing?
There is folklore of the Chupacabra, though, and we often talk about El Cuco, which is kinda like the Boogeyman. As for other superstitions, off the top of my head I can only think of muerte chiquita (lit. “little death”), which is used to describe that sudden shiver you get out of the blue. Could be a) a ghost walking right through you, or b) someone walking over the ground that will one day be your grave. The other prominent character I can think of is the Vejigante, which is this horned creature who gets its name from the word “vejiga”, Spanish for ‘bladder’, due to the custom of blowing up cow bladders. Today folks dress as Vejigantes by hollowing out coconuts to make masks and wearing loose-fitting jumpers with extra fabric on the sides to simulate bat wings.
I don’t know if this counts, but a prominent ghost story I’ve heard numerous versions of is that of La Llorona, or the Weeping Woman. Many versions exist, ranging from that of a mother who drowns her children in order to be with the man she loved, only to be spurned, to one where her son disappeared near a lake, and when she dove into the lake to look for him, her head got hacked off my a sheet of metal protruding from the bottom of the lake, so she often roams the area near the lake at night looking for her son (and her head).
I have a few friends who are much more versed in this topic than I am so YEAH HELP AN ANON OUT.
and MAN I wish there were a more comprehensive list of PR folklore on hand cos I’m a major sucker for those.
I feel dumb
Duérmete niño, duérmete ya
(Sleep child, sleep now)
Que viene el Cuco y te comerá
(Or the Cuco will come and eat you up)
The word “Cuco” also derives from the word “Coco” and if you know Spanish, you guessed it, is what gave the “Coconut” its name. Here’s the Wiki for it for full information.
(As for the Muerte Chiquitita, even I didn’t know about that since as a kid mom always just said: “oh that’s because you have to pee” so I’ll skip that one)
So we have the monster that is mean and eats you up, but do we have any protectors? Well, yes and no.
Enter the Vejigante. (Well one of them anyway)
We actually have 2 variations of the Vejigante and they both come from different places in the island and its building materials vary (and I will explain why)
The first we have is my favorite (only by design and I mean by JUST a bit), the Ponce Vejigante:
This wonderful creature that is CLEARLY not trying to compensate for something or anything, is a mythological demon that is both a trickster and a protector (my kind of guardian if you ask me) as, much like Kwii said, will beat you senseless with a vejiga (bladder) to scare you back into church. This is a bit more Spanish influenced as it comes from the Spanish idea of the Vejigante being the devil the knight had to vanquish (the devil representing the Moors back in the days) but it’s connotation has long changed since then. I once went to a Vejigante shop where the lady told me the more horns a Vejigante has the more it’ll protect you from evil spirits. (She also told us of this drunken guy who broke into her shop once, and ran away screaming when he saw one of the masks and swore it was going to attack him.)
The other mask is made in Loíza (waaay on the other side of the island) which was mostly populated by escaped and free African slaves of the time. Which you can tell more by their design which is far more trickster-ish and the materials for this one is made out of coconut instead of the traditional papier-mâché of the Ponce masks. (I suggest you get a map if you don’t know how far Ponce is from Loíza)
(Note: Every Vejigante has a similar outfit, the biggest difference is the mask)
For it’s wonderful change in connotation as I mentioned before, we have the African and Taíno influence to thank for this. You can get Vejigante masks and characters practically anywhere to ward off evil spirits.
The myth of La Llorona is well covered here since it’s such an obscure story that, correct me if I’m wrong, also has its own myths in other countries like Mexico. (Imagine like a Hispanic Banshee basically)
Many of our stories are influenced by Catholic upbringing that was brought onto by the Spanish. So yes, if you look for short stories of any town it will most likely involve the devil in some way (the Catholic one) and usually a drunkard because it was so common at the time. For example this story I heard about 10 years ago when I went to visit Aibonito (a town in the center of the island) with my brother. Nearby there is a bridge called “El Puente del Diablo” where, as the story goes, this drunken man was walking the bridge on his way home. The moon was covered by the clouds so he couldn’t see very well but then for a moment, he heard the weeps of a baby. He goes over and does, in fact, find an abandoned child near the edge of the bridge. He picks it up and feels responsible for it. Reaching into his bag, he takes out a piece of bread and starts chewing on it to soften it for the child. He then hears a deep voice say: “You do not need to chew, for I have teeth”. When the clouds moved and the light of the moon shone, the man sees that the baby has glowing red eyes and sharp teeth. Stunned and scared, he drops the baby and runs for his life, swearing to never drink again.
Other stories include la Capilla de Cristo which is an old chapel in Viejo San Juan. The story for this one goes that in Santa Catalina street, the man don Baltazar Montañez y Mújica was horse-racing against another man in the San Pedro festival (though when they told me, it was for the hand of the daughter of a rich man but ok). The man fell off the giant walls that surround the city but miraculously survived. Hence the building of the chapel. (source (in Spanish))
Basically a lot of stories you’ll hear involve someone miraculously surviving something and they built a chapel out of it.
If that’s not your thing, I know a few taíno stories that might interest you. One called El Gigante Dormido de Adjuntas (the sleeping giant of Adjuntas)which you’ll REALLY have to bear with me because this story was told to me when I was 9 and only once, so…okay, it may be different. (-Googles- holy shit yes it’s very different and like 500 times cooler)
Basically there it this mountain in the town of Adjuntas that looks like a sleeping giant.
(and I mean Attack on Titan giant)
What THEY had told me was that this dude was friendly. He was the protector of the Taíno people, but then the Spanish came. The shaman, fearing for the lives of everyone, put the Giant to sleep (okay) and turned the taínos into the yellow butterflies we see every now and again. I was but a wee little Cosmographia, so welp.
But here’s the real story: A long time ago there was the giant whose head could easily look over the mountains and his arms could go over the valleys. Every native wanted their land because holy shit was it fertile! (and I don’t mean his shit made it fertile but I’m not dissing that possibility either) So one day, a shaman has a vision that the giant would eventually fall asleep, he concluded that the giant COULD be slain by striking him with a poisoned arrow right in its eye. He went and did it, nailed it, and the giant banged around until he made the valley under the mountain, then fell, never to wake up again. Nobody bothered to move him, scared he’d wake up and break his curse, they left him there until he turned into a mountain.
I’m leaving my version because I SWEAR TO GOD someone told me that the yellow butterflies were the taínos and I need someone to clarify that to me.
But yeah, we have a few mountains like El Yunque which is where the gods descended to the land and even las Tetas de Cayey (Cayey’s tits)
Finally, I’ll finish off with the most fucked up story about the creation of women (tw: rape)
So this post is getting long so I’ll have to cut it up and finding information on the Internet about Puerto Rico is so difficult, jesus christ. So, long story short, the taíno lives in caves and such until one day all the women went missing (kidnapped, most likely by the neighboring tribe). Without the women, the babies started crying for their mothers until the gods, sick of their screaming, turned them into the creatures of the night (that I admit, sound REALLY loud so it didn’t fare much either) but now the men were without women and children. They look out into the forest and spot green, slimy people living in the forest tops.
However, BECAUSE they were slimy, they were very hard to catch. They asked the help of the snail-people to lure them and trap them (again, depends on the version) Once done, they realize the creatures had no holes for them to have sex with, in response, they grabbed a woodpecker and made it peck a hole and eventually a vagina into these creatures, saving the population.
However, because of this, the woodpecker was stained with blood and that’s why its neck is red.
I hope these stories help you in your writing endeavors as they’ve helped me on my own projects. If you have any questions, message me. Don’t forget, the best you can do is try and go to websites with folklore or your local library if you live in Puerto Rico. Many of these stories have died out or have several variations on the matter, so it’s best you take what I’ve said with a grain of salt.
Here’s a few short ghost stories (In Spanish)
Legends of Puerto Rico (In Spanish)
Good for the stories, I DON’T KNOW why it has Pocahontas there as a cover image but what can you do. :I
Superstitions (In Spanish)
AH YES HERE WE GO ANON
Also I feel I’m cramping on Eliana’s style but just wanted to let anon know I’m always available if they want to know a bit more of the native mythological side (or even the Yoruba religion). I’m super bad at urban legends and folklore but I’ve been studying Taíno religion for a couple of years (since I’m an anthropology and archaeology student) and could probably provide some information on various deities and mythological heroes. Like, a lot of people still believe in Yukiyú and Jurakán and that’s just not true, that’s the christianization of the native pantheon in a form of syncretism to make colonization easier. So far I’ve learned of around 13 Taíno deities with hardly any of them being good or evil; they just are. And don’t even get me started on the Taíno Underworld, it’s my favorite conception of an underworld ever.
I’ve studied Santería and Vodun a bit too but not nearly as much as the local traditions. I still know a thing or two about the orishas and the loa, though.
Son, you better make that a post so I can rub my face all over it.
Luke and I were looking at Hieronymus Bosch’s painting The Garden of Earthly Delights and discovered, much to our amusement, music written upon the posterior of one of the many tortured denizens of the rightmost panel of the painting which is intended to represent Hell. I decided to transcribe it into modern notation, assuming the second line of the staff is C, as is common for chants of this era.
so yes this is LITERALLY the 600-years-old butt song from hell
I can’t NOT reblog a 600 year old butt song from Hell.
<3 I am SO GLAD there is a recording of this that can be listened to.
Always reblog butt song from hell.
I don’t really use lines much anymore, unless the style calls for it. (ie: chars had thick black lines -> bg will have m too).
I sketch my scene, maybe do a color test. Then I extrude the shapes like this. I still need to work on choosing the right balance in not making the pieces look to plastic if they aren’t made of plastic, haha.
MAYBE YOU meant something else tho;; haha the pre-this phase or something.