Posted by: Craig Woolheater on February 12th, 2007
When it comes to tales of enormous and legendary amphibians, Scotland boasts its elusive mascot in the waters of Loch Ness, China shares rumors of a gorge-dwelling creature that chases fishermen, and South Africa reports fearfully on a half-horse/half-fish that keeps eating people’s faces.
New Mexico, you might think, should have nothing.
New Mexico shouldn’t even enter such conversation, and yet New Mexico has Avanyu.
One object of worship for the former residents of Pecos Pueblo was said to be an enormous snake—a serpent god named Avanyu, the Plumed Water Snake—a terrifying, man-eating demigod that lived in a hole beneath the pueblo. Some accounts say it lived solely on live human babies, which it feasted on about once a month, though others say it also devoured the tribe’s sick and dying.
The size of the snake varied with every account of it. In Death Comes for the Archbishop, a 1927 novel containing a version of the legend, author Willa Cather intimated that the snake was generally kept nearby in the Santa Fe Mountains and carried down by torch-light, in a heavy chest, for ceremonies. Most other accounts, however, say the snake was prehistorically gigantic—huge enough that it left a track like a small arroyo, and that whenever it slept underground, the earth would seem to rise and fall.
The legend of Avanyu, the giant snake, grew far beyond the walls of Pecos Pueblo. According to Art Latham’s Lost in the Land of Enchantment, the snake entered Hispanic folklore when what would later turn out to be a dinosaur skeleton was discovered in a sandstone wall near Ghost Ranch, seventy miles northwest, and thought to be the snake’s remains. And in his 1844 Commerce of the Prairies, Josiah Gregg wrote, “The story of this wonderful serpent was so firmly believed by so many ignorant people, that on one occasion I heard an honest ranchero assert, that upon entering the village very early on a winter’s morning, he saw the huge trail of the reptile in the snow, as large as that of a dragging ox.”Mike Smith
Co-founder of Cryptomundo in 2005. I have appeared in or contributed to the following TV programs, documentaries and films: OLN's Mysterious Encounters: "Caddo Critter", Southern Fried Bigfoot, Travel Channel's Weird Travels: "Bigfoot", History Channel's MonsterQuest: "Swamp Stalker", The Wild Man of the Navidad Destination America's Monsters and Mysteries in America: Texas Terror - Lake Worth Monster, Animal Planet's Finding Bigfoot: Return to Boggy Creek and Beast of the Bayou.