Just the other day we were out in the milpa (corn fields) with our friend and guide, Francisco. As we walked down the narrow, red earth trail, trying to avoid the stinging bushes that occasionally slapped our shins, Francisco, our shaman, shared a tale with us about a sacred hunt and an entity we had never heard of before. An ak na’am.
The ak na’am is a forest guardian that can be quite dangerous when it is crossed. It is a shape-shifter. And I will tell you all about it in just a minute, but first, I want to tell you this. . .
There are beings in the jungles of Mexico that are well known to the Maya people. Their purpose is to guard. They guard the earth, the animals, the cenotes. I once asked why it seems are so many dangers among the dense trees and the wide open milpas of the Yucatan Peninsula. The answer was enlightening.
When we walk on the earth, we damage it. Every blade of grass we crush, every insect we step on harms the earth. So, we should walk gently, ask permission, and give thanks and respect. Simple things that seem harmless to us cause harm we know nothing of.
That being said, you will see some reason as to why the ak na’am behaved the way it did.
The story as told to us by Francisco:
The men gathered in the jungle for the sacred hunt. Candles were burning in the dark night as prayers were said and preparations were made when one of the men noticed one of the candles flickering.
It wasn’t the flicker of a breeze. It was more like someone was running their finger through the flame, causing it to almost disappear and come back again.
A dark shape appeared behind the candle—a large shape of some sort of creature shadowed in the deep darkness of a remote jungle. The men could not distinctly make out the shape, but that didn’t matter because they all knew instantly what it was.
“It’s an ak na’am!” One of the men shouted into the stillness of the night. “Arrgh! I am going to kill it!”
At that moment, the creature lunged forward out of the shadows, becoming smaller as it came until it was only the size of a small squirrel. A ferocious squirrel that left to the man’s face, attacking him, biting his lips and hanging on firmly hanging from them.
That is all we know of the story except that the man, who lived into his 80’s, carried a nasty scar around his mouth from the attack for the rest of his life.
The take away?
Don’t threaten to kill forest guardians. They get very angry when they feel threatened.
The ak na’am is a shapeshifter that looks large when you see it from a distance but appears as a creature as small as a squirrel when you see it up close. (This was confirmed by our friend, Francisco)
We still have questions to ask. Like: Why did the ak na’am appear to begin with? Did the men continue with their effort in the hunt? Was there anything that could have been done differently in order to not arouse the ak na’am?
We still have so much to learn.
I guess this means we will go again to see our friend and do some more traipsing through the jungles with stinging bushes slapping our legs.
It’s a small price to pay for the stories of a people.