Llorona

It happens every year. Autumn arrives, trees begin to change, and all of a sudden I want to wear color.

Like, real color.

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This design has been a long time in the making, so I hope you are ready for a long story.

I purchased the yarn (from The Haus of Yarn) and planned it out a year ago last October. Then I began to knit. When fall dissipated and winter set in, I couldn’t help it. My craving for color waned.

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remember this?

 

But like clockwork, like the seasons, like death, or like dormancy (if you’re a perennial, as so many of us are ;-)), color mania descended upon me again.

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This year, it came as a she. A she who was a ghost. A ghost who haunted me through a song, a song that would not relent, and which hearkened back to a campfire story I was told many years ago. Horrifying and beautiful, I became enchanted not only with the dying blaze of autumnal color, but with the ghost of La Llorona.

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This all makes sense if you take into account the thinning of the veil – This very time of year, when the barrier between life and death is most permeable. It gives us the opportunity to salute both Death Herself, whom we all meet, and the beloved dead who have come before us. In the same vein, it is the time of the Mexican holiday, Dia de Muertos. Take a look at this mind-blowing animated short:

This piece was recommended to A. by a Mexican-American colleague as a way to learn more about “the real” Mexican Dia de Muertos. I watched it and thought it was kind of weird (because I can be kind of prudish), what with the tequila/crotch/death worm. Of course it’s amazing, though. Afterwards, the song, “La Llorona”, as interpreted by Eugenia León, stuck with me in my thoughts… relentlessly.

And as is my habit, I went searching to learn more.

The legend of La Llorona, or the weeping woman, derives from a most intriguing web of story. Most simply, she was a woman who drowned her own children upon discovering that their father had betrayed her love. As such, she is a ghost who wails in the night, liable to abduct unwary children. This is the version of the story I heard when I was little, huddled around the warm glow of a campfire, and yes, it made camping out in the woods deliciously terrifying.

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But La Llorona is more than just a scary story for children. She is a cultural icon. She is linked to an ancient Aztec goddess called Cihuacoatl, or “snake woman”, who abandoned her son at a crossroads, and who returns there time and again to weep for him. She is also linked to an indigenous Mexican (Nahua) woman known as La Malinche, who was the translator, slave, and lover of Hernán Cortés, and who, by betraying her people, assisted, perhaps unintentionally, in the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire. Malinche’s name has become synonymous with “traitor.”

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As a cultural figure, La Llorona is striking in her multivalence. She forever mourns the fate of the indigenous people of Mexico, her people, at the same time as she is a betrayer of those people, and the murderess of her own children, all because she has been driven to insanity by the pragmatic infidelity of her true love. She is, as they say, doomed six ways to Sunday. And so, she has earned the power of a tragic beauty.

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Although a mere knitting pattern could never capture her essence, La Llorona is basically the inspiration behind this design. Or at least, she haunted me constantly as I created it. So I consider it an homage to her.

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pattern: Llorona (my Rav project page)

yarn: Aslan Trends Royal Alpaca

colorways: Tangerine, Crimson, Rich Red, and Baby Pink

needles: 4.0mm (US 6) 60″ circulars

View or purchase the pattern on Ravelry here.

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