The meiga and the snake

In Canabal de San Pedro, Lugo, in the year 1935, the writer Leandro Carré Alvarellos heard a friend telling the story of the meiga and the snake (meiga means witch in Galician):

It seems that the narrator’s uncle-grandfather was a very talkative waiter, who had fallen in love with a girl named Catuxa. He had met her in one of the many pilgrimages and parties he attended and the decision to ask for her in marriage was maturing. One day he told his godmother, who was also his aunt, his intention to marry the girl. Aunt Marica, considered by all the comarca a meiga (witch), briefly recommended not to marry her. This man asked the logical question: “Why?” and his godmother answered with a “Is not my advice enough for you?” His godmother’s reputation was enormous, so he fell silent and left, pensively, to his house.

But the comment his aunt did did not get the girl off of his head. La Catuxa was a desirable female and, in addition to being cheerful and pretty, she had a respectable heritage… In fact, she was a good match and she promised a stimulating life at her side. Therefore, after a few days, the waiter asked the meiga again for the reasons of her recommendation. Somewhat annoyed by this questioning of her authority in the matter, Aunt Marica summoned her godson to visit her next Saturday at her home, after midnight. And there our protagonist returned for the third time. He was intrigued by the revelation that, at such an advanced hour, he was going to be welcomed by his godmother. Once at home, Marica gave him a wine of rare taste that soon made him go into a trance.

His dream transported him to a beach where a figure who looked like the devil played with a large group of naked women. The women wallowed happily in the sand. Some of them were young and appetizing, but most of them were old. Looking at his side, he was surprised because he was next to Aunt Maruja. The aunt approached him with a smile, encouraging him to continue observing the scene while she herself met with the group and also participated in their games and chants. The waiter’s astonishment was immense when he realized that one of the naked women was his Catuxa.

She was galloping on a man’s back and shouting. After a few moments she ended up falling on the sand and it was the man who climbed on her back, while she was crawling along the beach with the man on her. After a while, the devil figure who was leading the meeting blew a horn and everyone stopped their games, sitting in a circle. Then the devil asked everyone what they had been doing throughout the week. The assistants were narrating all kinds of evils that they had been inflicting on the neighbors. The worst thing was when Catuxa commented that she had instigated an anemia in a little girl and the consumption to a boy, in addition to overturning a chariot of wood on an old man…

In the midst of enormous anguish, the uncle-grandfather of the confidant of the writer of the legend woke up in his aunt’s kitchen. He got up and went quietly to his house. Shortly after, when he was walking down a street in his village, he met Catuxa. She asked him if they were going to see each other later and our protagonist replied “no”, because he had been on the Cangas beach (where his dream had developed). She realized that something was wrong, as he gave her a bad look and went on his way.

That night, while he slept, the waiter noticed a bite in his neck. He stirred quickly, trapping with determination what was hurting him. When he got up, he found that what he was grabbing was a snake. He then hit the snake’s skull hard against the ground until it was dead. Immediately, he went to the water pile to clean the wound and then apply a cloth with brandy. He returned to the bed with the intention of resting but, being sore from the wound and disturbed by the incident, he was agitated all night. The next day he woke up late. His mother was waiting for him in the kitchen with the news that Catuxa had died that night.

According to what they had told him, they had found her with the head broken at the foot of her bed. Impressed, the waiter ran to his room to find the body of the snake but he could not find it. And this is the legend of the meiga and the snake.

Text by Ignacio Suárez-Zuloaga and illustrations by Ximena Maier

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