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Monday, 30 September 2013 00:07

The Snake

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One of the first stories I heard when I moved to Central New Mexico was a rumor about a group of medical doctors investigating a human sacrifice in one of the communities in the Española Valley. It seemed as if I had just stepped off a train into another time and place—and where people were allowed (to a degree) to live life in a slightly different manner. If the doctors gathered any information from this odd investigation—it never got out to the rest of us. But sometimes that is the way it is, information does not reach the ears of curious people who have no real need to know. At any rate, I never heard any more about the subject, at least not until many years later.

Over time, I would hear tidbits here and there about this horrible ritual, but nothing witnessed first hand or in much detail. Stories seem to begin around the turn of the twentieth century, but may extend back for centuries in certain areas. It eventually became clear that a large serpent was involved in these human sacrifices.

I developed a friendship with someone whose parents lived in the suspected community and she was very forthcoming in information her mother had handed down to her.

The serpent was enormous and in perfect health. He was shiny, healthy, fat, and it took at least ten men to lift him up and move him. An adult human head would easily fit into the snake’s mouth—and unhinged, it could easily swallow the rest of the man’s body. Only when he was lifted mid-way up into the air, could one observe the snake’s powerful muscles that never stopped moving and writhing. It was suddenly easy to see how big and long he really was—about 23 feet in length. He was said to be very old and lived through many generations of people who took care of him. His name was something like—El Viboron (Sp. El Vibora = the viper). His name indicated a fanged and poisonous viper (like a rattlesnake) but these types of snakes just don’t grow that large. The overall description of serpent image in the story seems to be more consistent with that of a large boa constrictor from South and Central America. However, the species assumption of a large constrictor snake only presents another problem. To keep an exotic creature like a boa constrictor or anaconda in this arid and relatively cold New Mexico environment would be close to impossible. The caretaker would have to provide plenty of constant warmth and moisture. Could people even keep exotic animals like this alive and healthy—back in those days of little or no electricity? Great care was taken not to stress the snake or expose it to any hardship conditions, ensuring it’s longer than average lifespan.

I was shocked to learn that the human to be sacrificed to this huge snake was a small child or baby. Apparently, this was done in order to ensure a good harvest and hunting season for the entire community. I suspect this was a yearly ritual, but I suppose it could have happened more than once a year or just during lean and hard times. Ritual dates and times were hard to pin down.

A few stories exist of other people in the area who have occasionally come across a monster snake. The huge snake’s coils are so big that they look like stacked car tires. The stories of this type of encounter are usually painted as a sort of spiritual experience for the person finding the snake. Sometimes individuals claim the snake turns up unexpectedly in places as common as—a dry arroyo. One story reveals that if you let the snake kiss you on the forehead or on the back of the neck, you will become a powerful healer. I don’t know if I could sit still long enough for that to happen.

My friend related a generational story about a ceremony in which a huge snake was brought out. Some of the male members of her family helped carry the reptile. She figured that the last time this was done was probably in the 1930’s. During this mysterious (modern day) snake ceremony a human life was sacrificed to the religious entity. But as I mentioned before, no information was forthcoming and I never heard of the rites taking place again. If the ceremony is still conducted, the snake (and the ceremony) has been moved so far back into the locked and hidden corners of the communities that it will never be seen again. That’s not to say it didn’t happen, or does not continue to happen. Perhaps this is an embodiment of the dark side of Quetzalcoatl that has been maintained and cultivated by human individuals who find more power and control over fearful observers—than in the benign power and dignity of constructive white magic and belief.

The ritual itself may date all the way back to the Emperor Montezuma and Quetzalcoatl (the feathered serpent). Stories from this far back are often conflicting, but Kukulcan (probably the same as Quetzalcoatl) was against human sacrifice. Quetzalcoatl (the feathered serpent) always had me wondering what sort of animal it actually was. I have often thought that the Axolotl Salamander looked suspiciously like a snake with plumes on its head. This amphibian’s only natural habitat is in central Mexico—in Mexico City. Did this creature have something to do with the descriptions of a plumed serpent or did another entirely different, but related, creature exist?

Before the arrival of the Spanish, Kukulcan (a bit like Moses) appeared to be a blond Caucasian, bearded, and he wore a black robe and sandals. He attracted large masses of followers as he traveled the Americas on foot. Kukulcan opened the eyes of the natives and taught them reading, writing, architecture, astronomy, mathematics, etc. Unfortunately the masses were persuaded by other entities (or individuals) to practice hate and use negative energy. Kukulcan became angry at the masses because of their choice of using black magic over white magic. When he couldn’t change the popular diversion to the dark side, he left broken-hearted—never to be seen again.

I have also heard legends that the real Montezuma was not killed, but actually escaped Cortez and came north to settle forever in the mountains now known as the Sangre de Cristos by Las Vegas, New Mexico. He also brought Quetzalcoatl/Kukulcan with him. Many towns and sites in Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico are called Montezuma’s Castle, home, etc. This seems to indicate a wide belief of the possibility of Montezuma’s escape. Some sites were probably only named after Montezuma for publicity or tourist attraction reasons. However, I have often found that even through the murkiness of human memory or popular legend, that one has to search through tons of mud (or worse) to find just one precious diamond of truth.

Those of us living in the present would probably be quite surprised at the intellect and the comforts available to most, in ages past and forgotten. We tend to feel a bit superior and smug about our own current situation and feel only sympathy for those in the past. Instead of uneducated humans running around, blindly succumbing to invading hordes of Europeans, maybe they had skills, integrity, and compassion that far surpassed most educated and religious men of the time. I am sure that there have always existed advanced and spectacular individuals throughout all of history—no matter which age they were fated to live within. I think we would like to have known all of them a little better.


—Raven DeVille

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Raven Q. DeVille

Raven was born in the extreme SE corner of New Mexico, lived in the 4-corners region for 11 years, and has spent the last 50 years in Española, Santa Fe, and especially in the city of Los Alamos. She writes of her own various first-hand experiences, second-hand tales of friends, and various theories regarding ghost stories, legends and general oddness of Enchanted New Mexico.


  • Comment Link Michael Miller Wednesday, 09 October 2013 14:35 posted by Michael Miller

    Enjoyed your story Raven. In the 1960s while trapping kangroo rats and mice on the Las Dos Ranch with my Dad (a wildlife biologist who was studying plague in New Mexico.) we found a 10 foot rattlesnake coiled around a live-trap with a tiny kangaroo rat inside. We waited patiently for the snake to leave(catch and release) and retrieved the trap and rat for further study.

  • Comment Link William Mee Monday, 07 October 2013 19:21 posted by William Mee

    My wife's great grandfather had a story where he killed a giant snake in the Caja del Rio by the Diablo Canyon in the 1890's. It was like 12-15 feet long and colored like a rattlesnake but had no rattles. He used an axe and it took three whacks of the blade to lobe its head off, and then it went wild. He chopped it into many pieces until it stopped moving. I always wondered if it was a boa constrictor that fell off the train.

  • Comment Link Jim Baca Monday, 30 September 2013 02:36 posted by Jim Baca

    Thank you Raven!

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