When you think of fairies and where they might live, you probably immediately think of Great Britain or Scandinavia. But fairies are far more widespread than you would think and you can find them in seemingly unlikely places – such as the deepest, darkest rainforests of Mexico and Guatemala. Here, there is a lingering belief in the Alux, or Aluxob – little Mayan sprites associated with various natural features such as caves, rivers, fields and forests. Bearing more than a passing resemblance to the Celtic leprechaun, the Alux are only knee high but have a cheeky, capricious nature which can even extend to outright malice if you happen to offend one of them.
Supposedly born in moonlight, Alux can be called upon to become guardians of your property, and in fact this was a practice among Mayan farmers, who would summon them by building a little house for the Alux somewhere on their property. It was believed that the Alux would come to live in their fairy house for seven years, and during that time they would perform various useful tasks around the farm, such as scaring off thieves and predators, helping the crops to grow and even summoning rain. But when the seven years was up, the farmer was to seal up the windows and doors of the little Alux house to trap the creature inside, or its period of helpfulness would draw to an abrupt end and the little sprite would turn wicked and begin to play tricks on the very people it had spent seven years helping.
Every now and then, an Alux might present itself to a human in order to beg for an offering. If the offering is duly given, the Alux may help the generous mortal by protecting them and bringing good luck. But if the human does not yield up an offering – things are liable to take a grim turn. Easily offended and as changeable in their moods as children, Alux have been known to play cruel tricks on anyone who angers them.
Unsurprisingly, it is children who often have encounters with Alux, sometimes even playing with them on the beach or in the rainforest. American writer Signe Pike supposedly saw one of these Mayan elves during a trip to Mexico, though it appeared more as a mental image of a short, squat troll-like figure than as a tangible form – but it was enough to give her quite a fright! Not surprising when you consider that many contemporary Mayans avoid Alux like the proverbial plague, in the belief that encroaching on their territory may lead to swift – and fatal – retribution by these eerie little people of the rainforest…