A mystic told me a story about a dragon that lives in the cenotes. Well, there are many of them really—dragons, that is—and cenotes too—many dragons and many cenotes.
Now, you must know that I have been collecting stories all through the Yucatan and, if you know that, then you must also know that one of the stories I have been most looking for is the story about the cenote dragons.
A couple of years ago I heard my first story about a cenote dragon and it really caught my fancy. (You can read about it here.) After that, I always imagined this dragon in every cave we went in, in every hole in the ground, in every watery cavern abyss, in every dark and bottomless pool. I asked about him (the dragon) everywhere we went and occasionally I heard a few mumblings, but no-one seemed to know much about this elusive creature, save Sebriano (story above) and Eliadoro (read about him here). And their stories seemed so very different from each other’s that I thought they could not possibly be talking about the same beast.
So, in my mind I imagined him. I pictured him usually as red with silver-sequined sparkles or sometimes as transparent, almost invisible. I imagined that he could transform himself from brilliant red to transparent and hide in plain sight. And, because of the story Sebriano told me, I imagined that sometimes he was as black as night and that he could fly up out from the underworld and into a starry sky, his inky body absorbing all light and blocking out the stars without leaving any form but a black space where the stars should have been.
People laughed at me.
Some didn’t laugh too hard though. I think because they half-believed in the cenote dragon living beneath the earth in the endless river passageways filled with stalactites and stalagmites closing in like giant dragon teeth.
And then I heard the story. The one told by the mystic who was also an artist, a Maya mystic, a teller of tales, a keeper of lore, a living history book for his people.
“Yes, there is a dragon,” said the mystic when I asked. “There are many dragons living deep in the cenotes.”
Listen to his story, for here is all that he told me:
There are snakes that live in the cenotes. They eat. And when they eat, they grow. Some grow much stronger than the others and they eat and eat until they grow to be very large. They grow to be so large and so strong that they must be confined deep in the cenotes.
These become dragons.
Very rarely, they will appear to people. For they are energy and they are spirit and even though they are contained, they can still be felt or even seen by some.
They appear to each one in the form that each one expects to see. If a person expects them to be evil, they will appear terrifying. If another person expects them to be full of light, then they will appear glorious. They appear in the colors of the four cardinal directions which are the same as the colors of the four energies.
These four colors are: Red, the color and energy that comes from the east and is life and passion. Black, the color and energy that comes from the west and is of transformation and change. Yellow, the color and energy that comes from the south and is like the color of the leaves at harvest time when they fall to the ground. And transparent, the color and energy that comes from the north and is of the quality of transparency, the clearness of truth.
If a person carries the energy of life and passion, he will see the dragon as red. You understand? And if a person is transparent in their own quality, the dragon will appear transparent to them. If a person is changeable, unstable in all their ways, then the dragon will appear black, and so on.
I had heard a story of nets being placed deep in the cenotes, secured to the walls to keep the dragons from coming to the surface and bothering people swimming in the deep, crystalline pools. I asked the mystic if this was true.
No net could hold the dragons. They are animals of energy, of power, and of magic! They are of earth and of spirit. They soar in the night sky when they desire and yet they are held in the bowels of the earth where they are fed so that they might continue to grow in both size and power until the time when the earth comes to an end. And in that time, in the time of the end of all things, they will be released.
My mind was reeling.
I had imagined the cenote dragon to be sometimes red and sometimes invisible. Of course, that was just in my imagination, but did that mean I was full of life and passion and also transparent by nature?
Sebriano had physically seen a dragon years ago. He’d seen it with his eyes wide open at midnight coming out of a cenote deep in the Yucatan. He said it was as wide as a queen-sized bed. He said it was huge. To him it was black and terrifying. Did that reflect his fears? Did that mean that his nature was changeable?
And what of Eliadoro, who also told me about the dragon? Eli told me the great serpent was beautiful, sparkling and transparent. He told me that you can summon him by raising your hands to the sky and opening and closing your fists as you call to him with your mind. He said that the dragon is a powerful being whose nature is glorious and that when he appears, you are drawn into a state of total bliss. He said he had personally experienced it.
The mystic’s story did explain why Sebriano and Eliadoro had such different experiences. But of course, it did not explain definitively whether this magical being was what some might call “real.”
But then, what is real?