The cadejo (IPA pronunication /ka.ðe.xo/) is a monstrous dog from Central America folklore.
In popular etymology, the name cadejo is thought to have derived from the Spanish word "cadena", meaning "chain"; the cadejo is at times represented as dragging a chain behind him. There is a fairly large member of the weasel family, the tayra, which in common speech is called a cadejo and is cited as a possible source of the legend.
Cadejo usually appear in the form of a large (up to the size of a cow), shaggy dog with burning red eyes and a goat's hooves, although in some areas they have more bull-like characteristics. When the cadejo is near, it is said to bring about a strong goat-like smell.
There is a good, white cadejo and an evil, black cadejo. Both are spirits that appear at night to travellers: the white to protect them from harm during their journey, the black (sometimes an incarnation of the devil), to kill them.
Black Cadejo features
The black cadejo ranges in many sizes according to different tales in various regions. It lurks in graveyards and dark alleys, waiting to attack a passing victim. It has a distinctive smell of concentrated urine and burning sulphur. It rattles with a jerking motion contracting its pharynx. Its gaze freezes anyone who makes eye contact. It glitters in the pitch dark with skin and short hair, similar to that of a pig.
There are three types of black cadejos:
- The first is the devil himself in the form of a large, wounded dog with hoofed feet that are bound with red-hot chains. It is said that not even the white cadejo is able to completely stop him. Unlike the regular black cadejo it is not likely to pursue and attack a passing human, as it is a scout - the eyes of evil. Instead, anyone who spots him will have a sad event. In the short story "Leyenda del Cadejo" ("Legend of the Cadejo") by Nobel Prize laureate Miguel Ángel Asturias, this variety of cadejo terrorizes a young abbess and robs her of her braid.
- The second type of cadejo is the regular cadejo, the mysterious evil dog. It kills and savagely tears through its victim. First it demoralizes him with a series of sounds and other signs that it is nearby. Then, after the victim is scared, it leaps forward, and will kill him if the white cadejo is not near.
- The final, and least powerful type of black cadejo is the offspring of a normal dog and the 'regular' cadejo. It is a mortal hybrid and can (with difficulty) be killed by a strong man (bearing in mind that most men in those regions only carry a machete for protection). Once dead, it will completely rot in a matter of seconds, leaving behind a stain of evil, on which grass and moss will never grow again. This cadejo will never bite its victim. Instead, he kicks and pecks them with his snout. After this happens, people say "Lo jugo el cadejo"-which means "he\she was handled by the cadejo". The victim goes mad. This term is sometimes applied to people that are born with a mental illness.
According to the stories, many have tried to kill the black cadejo but have failed and perished. Also it is said that if a cadejo is killed, it will smell terrible for several days, and then its body will disappear. Some Guatemalan folklore also tells of a cadejo that guards drunks against anyone who tries to rob or hurt them. Most people say never to turn your back to the creature because otherwise you will go crazy.
A fairly popular version of the legend in El Salvador talks about two brothers who walk into the house of a black magician. During a storm, he asks the boys to help him with some logs for a fire. Both boys slack on the job but eat the man's food. Once he finds out the little bit of food he had is missing and that there is not enough wood for his fire, he puts a curse on the road that leads to the boy's village. Voices bother the boys and when they turn their backs on the voices they get turned into creatures: a white Cadejo and a black one. After going back to their village in their cursed form they get kicked out and have no choice but to wander.
- Burchell, Simon (2007) Phantom Black Dogs in Latin America, Heart of Albion Press