Did you know that pink dolphins are actually mermaids in the worldview of the people? They are often called “yakuruna” – the water people or the people who live in the water. They are described as enchantingly beautiful “gringos” believe it or not. The women mermaids are generally described as bewitchingly beautiful with white skin, blond hair, and blue or green eyes. The mermen are equally as beautiful with the same white skin and light-colored eyes. While the mermaids are always described this way, they aren’t the type of people or “beings” you want to run into. They are kind of like body and/or soul snatchers. They steal people and take them to their world under the water.
Enchanted is a word that is often used for the world that the people on the river live in. By enchanted we mean a world that is much more than what it appears on the surface or physical plane, a world where a dolphin is a dolphin, but sometimes it’s also a devilishly beautiful white person trying to lure you to your death.
All week we were in a discipleship workshop with all the believers from the 3 main villages where we serve. This is always an amazing time of worship, praying together, encouragement, and discipleship. Early on, we noticed that this particular week was a little different from normal. There were a lot of spiritual encounters.
– I’m using “encounters” and not “spiritual attacks” because it’s too easy to assume that “spiritual attacks” are logistical or health problems...etc. that we can indirectly account for as being ways the enemy is trying to distract or keep people from knowing or growing in their walk with Jesus Christ. But when I say “encounters” here in this blog post, I’m talking about direct spiritual manifestations.
Right after the workshop kicked off, the people began to mention on a daily basis little spiritual manifestations that they were noticing. One of these that one of the teenage girls mentioned in passing was that she had been visited by a merman in a dream after traveling from her home village to the village where all the believers were meeting. This merman appeared to her, exquisitely beautiful, and told her that he was coming for her, and that he would take her before the end of the week, before she got back to her home village.
The night before everyone was going back to their home village, we meet up at one of the believer’s houses for one last time of worship and sharing from the week. Three teenage girls, from three different villages, seated in different areas of the house, mentioned that someone touched them from behind at different moments in the house, and when they looked to see who was touching them, there was no one. Again, most westerners, even worse – missionaries, would say, “you have an overactive imagination!” and immediately discredit any and all possibility that there is any truth or reality in what the people are saying they have just experienced. While we were all more than a little puzzled, thankfully none of the team responded in a way to doubt the girls’ testimonies about what they had felt.
After the evening meeting was done, everyone loaded up in canoes and headed to the homes of the hosting church members. Nem and I were in the canoe with the girl who had dreamed earlier in the week with the merman, and she was also one of the girls who said someone was touching them while they were in the meeting. Let’s refer to her as Ana. We all unloaded from the canoe and eagerly headed up to the house for some much-needed shuteye. After getting back to Cristobal’s (one of the believers from the hosting village) house, the 25+ believers staying in the house were busy hanging up their mosquito nets and getting ready for bed. What we didn’t realize is that after everyone had quickly filed out of the canoe and up to the house, Ana had quietly stayed behind. She is one of 4 teenage girls from the village downriver, and they are always together. Her friends tried to talk her into coming up to the house, but she refused to go willingly, and so her 3 friends, when they couldn’t get her to come up to the house willingly, they forcefully dragged her from the canoe up to the house, to which she smartly replied that when they were asleep she would just sneak away. Now, let me assure you Ana is not a smart-Alec or a drama queen or a problem waiting to happen. She’s actually quiet, shy, attentive, kind, and hates being the center of attention – really she avoids it at all costs like most of the teenage girls on the river, so her weird, abrupt change in behavior was puzzling and scary for her friends.
My first thought was that I was witnessing some kind of demonic possession, but it threw me that she appeared to be almost asleep with her eyes tightly closed and that she still appeared very much to be herself in some ways (i.e. her voice and expressions were her own). At first I thought the girls were playing around, so I got down on my knees and started talking to her and holding her hand, but she didn’t respond like I thought she would. She continued thrashing around, almost throwing off her three friends again and again, groaning, and mumbling with her eyes closed. While I didn’t understand initially what was happening, the people had sent for us to pray, so with 2 other leaders from the different villages, we all started praying. While we were praying, the pile of people trying to hold Ana down grew to 8 people as she almost managed to throw off the people several times in her attempts to run for the door. The group would quickly grow tired and groan whenever she would hit, knee, claw, or bite them.
After seeing that praying a quick, initial prayer wasn’t going to be enough, the Mark 9:29 passage came to mind, and I realized this wasn’t going to be a quick thing. In fact, the people in the house started getting ready to be awake all night and to take turns holding her down. Every once in a while Ana would say, “they’re coming,” or “they’re here to take me.” At one point, when her friends asked her “who? Who’s here?!” Little bit by little bit, asking her simple questions, Ana was able to communicate that the merman who had appeared in her dream was standing in the doorway with another man, wanting to take her with them, but they couldn’t come in the house. They were waiting for the people to sleep, so they could take her.” A little while later, she got more agitated and violent and said her mom was calling her and that she had to go to her mother. Her mom was far downriver in her home village, but Ana was sure that her mom was in the doorway. The people explained what was happening and told us of similar experiences that they had had or seen in the different villages. It was creepy that the phrases that Ana repeated as she thrashed around were word-for-word verbatim for what the people told us that people being stolen by yakurunas/mermaids generally say in these types of situations, especially the part of getting confused and thinking that their mother is calling them. Apparently, this type of thing is not uncommon. Most of the people had at least one story of someone “going crazy,” saying similar things to what Ana was saying, and trying to throw themselves into the river. In the cases where the person succeeded in throwing themselves in the water, the people said that the crazed-person would try to swim under water as if they were trying to drown themselves.
To be continued in part 2....