Along the rivers in Mexico a wailing woman wearing white can be see and heard as she comes up drenched from the waters. She is desperately looking for her children she herself drowned. And according to the legends of La Llorona or the wailing woman, you are next.
Along the rivers in Mexico a wailing woman wearing white can be seen and heard as she comes up drenched from the waters. She is desperately looking for her children she herself drowned. And according to the legends of La Llorona or the wailing woman, you are next.
“The scariest part was not that La Llorona was a monster, or that she came when you called her name three times in the dark, or that she could come into your room at night and take you from your bed like she’d done with her own babies. It was that once she’d been a person, a woman, a mother. And then a moment, an instant, a split second later, she was a monster. – Jaquira Díaz’s 2019 memoir, Ordinary Girls
This Mexican legend is one of the more well known, international as well now, as the movie came out a while back. But she has been around for centuries, a legend so well known it is now more or less an important part of the Mexican heritage and culture as well as in the Chicano Mexican community of the US.
Read Also: Check out all of our ghost stories from Mexico
La Llorona is Spanish meaning the weeping woman, or the wailer. She is perhaps a bit older than most think as well. The origin of the legend can have roots as far back in the Aztec legends and being one of ten omens foretelling the Conquest of Mexico and has also been linked to Aztec goddesses like Cihuacōātl.
Cihuacōātl was one of a number of motherhood and fertility goddesses. She was also the mother of the hunting God Mixcoatl, whom she abandoned at a crossroads. Tradition says that she often returns there to weep for her lost son, only to find a sacrificial knife. This story can help us understand why sometimes the story of La Llorona sometimes is set on a crossroad, not a long a river or some form of water.
The most common lore about La Llorona is about how she was being an Indigenous woman who murdered her own children, which she bore from a wealthy Spaniard. The villainous qualities of La Llorona have also been connected to the stories about Doña Marina, also known as La Malinche, or Maltinzin. She has been portrayed as a scheming woman who betrayed her people when she assisted the conquistadors and bore their children.
The Dangerous Wailing Woman in White
As well as finding similarities to the old Aztec mythology as well as working as an allegory about “betraying her own people”, the legend of La LLorona is something we can find similarities to all across the world. The story has also the ring of ‘White Woman’ often found in European legends as well as Greek mythology stories like with Jason and Medea, a scorned woman, killing her children when her man betrays her.
The difference between the European trope of the Woman in White ghost is that La Llorona are often described as being more dangerous to those encountering her than her European counterpart. This makes her more like the vengeful spirits we often read about in Asian ghost stories as with the Japanese Onryo or the Korean Virgin Ghost for instance.
The story of La Llorona takes many turns and has today many variations. The ghost of La Llorona, the wailing ghost woman appears in crossroads, by lakes or rivers, on the road and has many variations. Even if she is most well known as a Mexican folktales there are other variation of the stoghost story in other South American countries as well like in Guatemala and Venezuela.
And as the history of Mexico, with its changes and social unrest, the story of La Llorona has followed closely behind, reshaped to fit the narrative of the time. Therefore, we will relate one of these variations and one of the common one told in the modern era.
The Story of La Llorona
The most told version of the story of La Llorona is set in a small village in Mexico, were a young woman lived. As mentioned she is often portrayed as an indigenous woman. Her name was Maria and came from a poor family. She was known in the village for her beauty, but will be remembered as La Llorona, the weeping woman. A tragic club to be in.
One day, a very wealthy man came passing through town. DEpending to when the story is set, he was a Spanish conquistador or a wealthy rancher. He stopped when he saw the beautiful Maria and approached her. She was charmed by the wealthy man and when he proposed, she accepted at once. Maria’s family was overjoyed that their daughter would marry into a rich family and have a chance at a better life. But the father of this wealthy man however, was deeply disappointed at his sons choice of bride and didn’t approve of their marriage.
They chose to ignore the disapproving father and Maria and her now husband built a house in her town to get away from his judgmental father. Time went by and Maria gave birth to two twin boys. A seemingly happy marriage and life from the outside.
But not everything was rosy colored as it seemed. Her husband was always travelling and almost never spent any time with the family. When he was home, he only spent time with the boys, and Maria knew he no longer loved her and she started to fear that he would leave them.
One day the husband went away and never returned. Many years went by but they didn’t hear from him and they didn’t even know if he were living or dead. Still, there seemed to linger a faint hope in Maria, that he someday would return to them and they would once again be a happy family.
Maria and her boys was out walking along a river one day when the faint hope she had been carrying came crashing down. A carriage was pulled by and to her greatest shock she saw her once husband sitting in it. By his side a much younger and beautiful woman sat and it was clear that he had abandoned them for good.
Maria was furious and desperate as her world fell apart and she could no longer fool herself. Without thinking she picked up her two boys and threw them in the river, drowning them in a fit of rage, of desperation and perhaps even a horrible psychosis. Only after she saw the floating bodies of her now dead sons she realized what she had done. She jumped out after them to die with them. Now she spends rest of eternity on the hunt after her children along that river.
The Haunted Rivers and Dangers of her Ghost
Doomed to linger in purgatory for her sins, she haunts the place were she committed her crime. Exactly where this place is differs as the legend about her ghost now has gone into the cultural sphere and is more like an entity in itself than just a singular ghost.
It is said that is you hear the crying of La Llorona close to rivers or other forms of water, you must run the opposite way as she is known for being a dangerous ghost to encounter, still mad and filled with rage that will harm you.
In some variation of the legend the children were illegitimate children, and she murdered them so that they wouldn’t get taken away from her and be brought up by another woman the father was legally wed to. In any versions though, the legend about La Llorona invokes pity for her fate as well as fear for her actions.
According to the legends, she still calls after her children “ay, mis hijos” and is said to be on a hunt for her children like she doesn’t remember what happened to them, still unable to accept what she did. It can bring bad luck, even death if you hear her cries.
If you are pregnant, you must be extra careful of her because La Llorona is attracted to children and wants them to join her. Therefore children should not walk alone along rivers and she has become some sort of cautionary tale to keep them away from the dangerous waters.
It is said that in some versions of the story, she kidnaps kids that are reminding her of her own and asks for their forgiveness. Then she murders them to take the place of her own.
La Llorona in Popular Culture
Although the legend about La Llorona is an old one, it is still an iconic figure to feature in books, movies and songs. There she differs from being a misunderstood female ghost to a full on evil spirit that are out to harm people.
In movies there have been made stories about her since the 1930s, mostly horror movies, and it even got its own spin off in James Wan’s The Conjuring Universe in 2019.
The popular folk song called La Llorona that were popularised in 1941, was also included in the Pixar movie Coco in 2017. So it’s safe to say that the legend about the wailing woman still lingers in the Mexican and US cultural sphere and fears of her ghost doesn’t seem to fade away anytime soon.
3 Comments »