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The Jaguar Princess

[Lencas, Latin America]

This is a tale the old folks tellamong the Lenca Indians of Latin America.

Many, many years ago (two centuries at the very least) a noble princess came to the Lencas from far away. Her arrival marked a turning point in their history, and they called her Comizahual, or "Flying Jaguar", after the might jaguar which is so much feared and respected among the Lencas.

Comizahual was a woman of great dignitiy and extraordinary beauty. Her people adored her, and they were happy to obey her, for she was a natural leader. She was a sorceress, and worked wonders with her magic arts. She was different from the women of the Lencas and other Indian tribes in all sorts of ways; but the strangest thing of all was the whiteness of herr skin.

When she first appeared in the land of the Lencas, she travelled far and wide. Followers flocked to her banner. Then she built a palace in Cealcoquin, the loveliest and most fertile part of the land, and began to rule. She was a strict ruler, with many servants and soldiers, but anyone could appeal to her if they felt they had been treated unjustly.

For some time there were still tribes holding out against her, but Comizahual led her troops in battle and defeated them, so that they too became part of her empire.

Comizahual's magic powers made her all the stronger. One day she rose into the sky and disappeared for many hours. When she came back she was carrying a rock with three outcrops that looked like faces, a magic talisman that put her enemies completely in her power. THere were rocks with faces all over Cealcoquin, some like people and others like animals, many of them pumas. Pilgrims came from far away to pray to them, and the most revered of all were the puma heads.

Comizahual never married, but she had three sons, bearded men who loved her dearly and held positions of great power among the Lencas. They had skins of white like Comizahual, and some say that they were her brothers, not her sons.

Many years passed, and the Jaguar Princess grew old and weak. In the end she fell sick, and people feared that she would die. She still issued orders from her bed, but she no longer could get up and walk. At last she felt death draw near, and called her sons and loyal chieftans to her. Sadly they all gathered round.

"Soon I must leave you," she told them. "My sons shall govern my realm between them. Their rule shall be strict, but fair, and my people shall obey them as they obeyed me. Do not quarrel, my sons. For you can preserve your kingdom and protect your subjects only as long as you live together in harmony. You must neither give unjust orders, nor tolerate injustice in others. Help the poor, my sons, and make my country rich and strong."

Her sons could not bear to think of losing their mother.

"Stay with us, mother," pleaded the eldest, stepping forward. "Our people need you."

"No, my son," replied Comizahual, gently but firmly. "My time on the Earth is over. Fate wills it so. Here, take my crown, and carry me into the streets so that I can take leave of my people."

The servants raised the bed and carried it outside. When the people saw their Jaguar Princess, they rushed out and surrounded her, weeping and asking her blessing.

Suddenly a bold of lightning split the sky, and the air shook with thunder. Everyone threw themselves on the ground. And at that moment Comizahual vanished, and a bird with colours like the rainbow blew up into the sky.

"She has turned into a bird and gone to heaven," cried the Lencas, full of fear and awe.

Even since then the Lenca Indians have worshipped Comizahual as a goddess, and every year they hold a great festival in honour of their Jaguar Princess.

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