The Lair of King Crow
(Part one of a seven part series)
By Hunter Liguore
The lair of King Crow is thought to be haunted. To a sensible twenty-first century scholar, like me, superstitions of endless tunnels, time portals, strange voice, ghosts of and Spanish soldiers are easily explained away. Especially when the myths of the Mayan people are ripe with explanations in the forms of magical spirits, ones guilty of an array of disturbances, like floods, and other natural disasters, that killed off groves of fruit trees, or flocks of livestock, or if the spirits were unmerciful, whole villages. If the devilled spirits weren’t to blame for superstitions or calamity, then the plentiful array of Mayan gods and goddesses were always on hand. But throughout history, the lair has been detached from any myth or legend, instead, clinging to the shroud of superstition, remaining an enigma, and a haunted one at that.
Despite having a rational mind, one spent in studies of the ancient Mayan culture for the past thirty years, the pleasures of allowing myself to sink into a good, old fashioned, haunted tale is still enjoyable. Be it my interest in the macabre, or my love of ancient magic practices, the lair of King Black Crow has always captivated me. As a small boy, I was first introduced to the Mayan when I read the adventures of John Rockwell, the Scottish explorer, when he first set foot in the Yucatan. His journals, Travels of Danger in the Yucatan, gave me my first glimpse of the little known culture of this ancient people. Of course, it wasn’t until much later, when the lost pages of his journal were discovered and revealed the existence of the lair.
I’ve often tried to picture Black Crow’s lair from Rockwell’s careful depiction, the sculpted walls that glistened with sparkling dust, gems, and fossilized crustaceans; the cryptic hieroglyphs etched across the stone like a legion of beetles, the message still unknown; the bronze passages of pictographs depicting the secret customs of the Crow people; even the ceiling is carved with a steady hand, and said to contain the missing links to the Mayan calendar that abruptly ends on the winter solstice in 2012. If only someone were brave enough to venture into the deep recesses of the cave to unlock the code.
The lair of King Black Crow was the twentieth site on Rockwell’s long journey, conducted with other scientists and explorers during the 1840s. Rockwell called the lair the Forty-Fifth Step. There are varying opinions as to his precise meaning. Some experts, including myself, attribute the forty-fifth step to be some type of finale or final point in the esoteric initiate ceremony to the Crow Goddess. The ceremony, held on the winter solstice, allowed initiates to dance through the labyrinth’s forty-four different trials, or steps. If they reached the forty-fifth, successfully, they would need to pass one final test by jumping off into a type of vision quest. Glyphs surrounding the entrances of the lair suggest that the ritual was designed for those dedicated to the Crow Goddess, for which King Black Crow was said to be a direct descendant. Hallucinogens were most likely in use and would’ve allowed the initiate to experience a sacred vision during the “jumping off” finale, whereby the initiate would feel as though they were flying. Once in flight, the initiate would become one with the crow, and hope to commune directly with the Crow Goddess, to bring back to the tribe valuable information pertaining to daily or personal life. The king’s shaman, who would dress in a full bridal of black crow feathers, would provide further interpretation of the visions.
Of course, the fact that Rockwell never returned home from the lair on his second expedition started the superstitions of the haunted lair. Later, when the lost pages turned up along side a human skeleton, during the construction of a soccer field built upon the sacred site, the rumors began to resurface. The human skeleton undoubtedly is thought to be Rockwell, though the carbon dating would suggest the bones were much older than Rockwell would’ve been at the time of his disappearance. Further, the last line of the missing pages warns travelers to “beware the path of C—.” Most scholars assume the last word to be crow, and that in some way, Rockwell was warning others of his day to keep out of the lair. Locals who live near the cave take it as an omen, bearing witness to strange lights and sounds that come out of the cave at night, and keep away. If truth be told, no one has ever made it to the fabled forty-fifth step and lived to tell about it.
A skeleton, a missing explorer, an ancient calendar, a portend of danger, and strange occurrences. It’s one of the world’s greatest unexplained mysteries. Beware what, Rockwell? What were you trying to tell us?
Sitting from my home in Manchester, England, I have on my desk a map of the Yucatan, sketches from Rockwell’s journal of the area, undecipherable hieroglyphs from the entranceway and two inner chambers, the farthest anyone from this century has managed to venture without some unpredictable accident befalling them. I have the missing pages, underlined, and nearly memorized. A compass given to me by my father when I was eighteen and boarding a plane that would take me to Africa, and then to a ship that would then take me to Antarctica, my first adventure, before spending the duration of my days in academia. Off to the right, beside a dry glass of sherry are my retirement papers and a passenger ticket to Mexico dated for tomorrow. It’s been my life long dream to enter the cave, to walk where Rockwell stepped, to uncover his lost secrets. I know there is a possibility I may never return, and for the reasons mentioned above, I have put my affairs in order, and finalized my last will and testament.
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Hunter Liguore holds a BA in History and is finishing her MFA in Creative Writing. She enjoys writing in different genres, and even more so mixing genres, rather than limiting herself to one. Her work has appeared in diverse publications, including, "Katie Ireland," in Miranda Literary Magazine, "Piece," in Terra Incognito, and "The Wizard of Peillon," forthcoming in Mirror Dance. If you would like to follow Hunter Liguore on her journey around the world in thirty stories and thirty genres, visit: http://www.theworldinthirtystories.com
Labels: Hunter Liguore