In Mexican folklore, Chaneque or Chanekeh are legendary creatures associated with elemental forces and particular places. These creatures were first described by the Aztec (i.e., Ohuican Chaneque). Mentions of these creatures are common within the Mexica Mythology, while in Mayan folkloric tradition (Yucatán Peninsula), these elementals are known as Aluxob.
Traditionally, they are conceived as small, sprite-like beings, elemental forces, and guardians of nature. However, nowadays, Chaneque are most often described as elf-type creatures, attached to a particular household, river, creek, meadow or well-delimited patch of jungle.
It is difficult to describe the physical appearance of a Chaneque. Not only such appearance varies according to the habitat of each Chaneque, as these creatures are highly attuned to their environment, but also there have been very few sittings of such beings.
When attached to a household, these beings would attack intruders, frightening them so that their soul would abandon their body, which the Chaneque would then enclose in the depth of the land. If the victim did not recover their soul through a specific ritual, he or she would become ill and die soon after. In nature, they are conceived as protectors and guardians of their territory. They would leave people alone as long as nature is respected, but those who dare damage their environment will pay for such mischief.
In some regions along the Mexican Pacific Coast (Oaxaca, Guerrero), it’s believed that the Chaneque are not protectors of the household but naughty spirits dedicated to create minor accidents or spread temporary misfortune. In such cases, the presence of a Chaneque within a house is revealed by the subtle stink of rotten meat.
Some other contemporary legends describe the Chaneques as children with old faces that make people stray during three or seven days, after which the victims cannot recall anything that happened. It is thought, however, that during that time the victims are taken into the Chaneque’s home in the underworld.
In Pre-Columbian Mesoamerican and other present day Latin American folkloric traditions Chaneque occupy a similar niche than Leprechauns or Brownies as describe in European Folklore.
Chaneques are often referred in Spanish as duendes, which is commonly translated as goblins.
-Kilian, L. E. 2010. Missionaries' Beasts in New Spain: The Utilization of the European Bestiary Tradition in Sahagún's Florentine Codex (Doctoral dissertation, University of Oregon).
-Henderson, Caspar. 2013. The Book of Barely Imagined Beings: A 21st Century Bestiary. University of Chicago Press.
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