La Lechuza

History Uncovered Episode 63:
La Lechuza, The Creepy Witch-Owl Of Ancient Mexican Legend

Published June 26, 2023

Centuries-old stories speak of a fearsome witch-owl who prowls the border between Mexico and Texas — ready to devour everyone from little children to grown men. This is the terrifying tale of La Lechuza.

In Mexican and Tejano folklore, chilling stories have long been told of a creature known as La Lechuza. As the legend goes, La Lechuza appears in the form of a massive owl, standing seven feet tall with a wingspan of fifteen feet — and the face of an old woman.

While some say La Lechuza is a witch who has sold her soul to the devil, others say that she was once a woman who was wronged by the members of her village. In certain regions, stories say that the woman’s child was killed by a drunk — or that the woman herself was killed — leaving her to stalk the skies at night, waiting to enact her wicked vengeance by preying on drunk men stumbling their way home from the bar.

There are several variations on the legend of this witch-owl, however. In some tellings, La Lechuza mimics the cries of children to lure unsuspecting victims out of their homes and devour them. In other versions, hearing the cry of La Lechuza is an omen of death.

The creature is said to bring storms and feed on negative human emotions, often appearing outside homes where there is a domestic dispute, where it waits for its victim to emerge. And in some versions, she craves the blood and flesh of newborns, particularly those who are not yet baptized.

La Lechuza

Getty ImagesSome stories claim that La Lechuza is a witch, while others say it is an owl sworn to do a witch’s bidding.

Like many legends, the exact origins of La Lechuza can be difficult to pin down. But this creepy story appears to be several hundred years old and likely emerged during the time of the Spanish conquest of the Americas.

Before then, civilizations in Mesoamerica had a complicated relationship with owls. Though they had a spiritual connection with numerous animals and often saw them as spiritual allies or deities, owls sometimes played a slightly darker role in their mythology. In Mexico, for example, ancient people associated owls with the god of rain and saw them as a bad omen. In Peru, owls were sometimes seen as minions of the underworld.

But then the Spanish arrived starting at the end of the 15th century — and the reputation of the owl plummeted even further.

That’s because the Catholic Spanish saw any sort of spiritual connection with animals as paganism. This devilry, they decided, must be stamped out. The Spanish spread the word that animals like owls were associated with dark forces.

And since Spanish Catholics especially feared witches, owls and other animals like cats were increasingly associated with witchcraft. With that, the legend of the evil La Lechuza began to take root.

Uncover the creepy legend of La Lechuza.

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