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La Patasola: the vengeful protector of the Andes

3 min read

Colombia is full of magic and mystery and there is a single village in the country that does not boast its own spirit or superstition, often passed from generation to generation.
Some ghost stories have become so entrenched in the national psyche they are known countrywide, by scaring children and keeping errant spouses in their place.

Imagine you are alone, deep in country’s central Andean region. Maybe you are cutting down lumber in the lush forests, or prospecting for some minerals, gold, for istance, in one of valley creeks. All perfect until, at dusk, amidst the cooing of rare birds and the crackle of a fire, you hear a blood-curdling human scream. Of course, you are brave enough to set off through the dark forest to help, and then you meet a beautiful woman, impossibly pale, standing alone in the wilderness. Approaching, you suddenly realize that she’s standing on only one leg.
You were so lucky that you see La Patasola or, as her name roughly translates, “the one-legged woman” and it would, according to legend, be your last sight….

The patasola lives in dense jungle and is especially feared by miners, hunters, farmers, hikers and loggers – not least for the pace with which she moves through the jungle on just one leg. Some say she appears as a beauty who entices men into her lair then traps them as an ugly, wild-eyed woman, and according to others she attracts men by screaming for help before transforming into a murderous, blood-sucking beast.
Despite this figure appears in various forms and under numerous names, La Patasola is a recognizable legend from Colombia’s Pacific coast in the north to Ecuador in the south, with details of her appearance and deadly charm largely consistent.
In a version of the story, La Patasola was a really beautiful woman who she cheated on her husband, so he cut her leg off. Thus she escaped into the jungle and swore revenge against all men. She appears in the nighttime, singing with a celestial timbre and, sometimes, she screams for help so they come to save her. That’s when she traps her victims, sucking out their blood. Then she heads back into the jungle to hide.

It is believed the tale originated in Tolima, located in the Andean region, in the center-west of the country. Men supposedly tell the story to frighten their wives into being faithful, but also to instill a wariness of the jungle.
In fact, she is also a protector of plants, rivers, trees, and animals, thus she is unforgiving when humans enter her domain with the intent of destroying it. It is said she’s caused landslides to block tracks through the jungle, and she’s altered landscapes to disorient hunters. In most accounts the leg was said to terminate in an animal’s hoof and, despite her disability, she was reported as moving nimbly through the trees and undergrowth.
All over the world, and also in Latin American tradition, myths and legends (especially the most macabre) often served as moral tales offering cautionary advice. In countries such as Colombia, which used popular culture to control the sexual behavior of the people, particularly the lower classes, such tales have deep reaching effects on the Collective Unconsciousness. In fact, establishing and policing appropriate sexual behavior is considered an important part of maintaining a well-ordered society. The Patasola is a clear warning to men to avoid the seductive whispers of beautiful women.
And good luck if you do stray into the woods with a lover, because the Patasola is waiting with a horrid punishment….

Images from Web – Google Research

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