Mayan Elder visits SF Bay Area
Don Frew & Rachael Watcher
CoG National Interfaith Representatives
Don: In 2011, I went to Los Angeles to meet with Apolinario Chile Pixtun (affectionately known as “Tata” or “Uncle”), the President of the Mayan Confederation of Belize, Honduras , and Guatemala . (There’s a nice article and photo of him here: http://www.nbcnews.com/id/33261483/ns/technology_and_science-science/t/even-maya-are-getting-sick-hype/#.UjdT7D-8DW8)
My intent was to engage him is discussion around Mayan participation in indigenous organizing efforts in the United Religions Initiative. The then-Chair of the URI’s Global Council – Yoland Trevino, herself indigenous Mayan – told me, “BTW, Tata is a gifted healer. You should have him work on your arm.” I have suffered from painful and debilitating complications after an accident during surgery on my spine in 2007 and was willing to try anything.
Rachael Watcher went with me to translate. While I understand Spanish well-enough, I don’t speak it well or rapidly. Rachael and I have worked together on interfaith work relating to indigenous Latin Americans for several years.
The meeting with Tata and the treatment I received were described in this blog in April 2011. The healing was so dramatic that both my neurologist and my pain specialist have said to “continue doing whatever this guy says”. I saw him twice more in Los Angeles in the years since then, but a trip to Guatemala to work with him for a week at Mayan sacred sites was described in several blog-posts in July / August 2012.
Tata came up to the SF Bay Area just over a month ago (in August) to do 3-4 healing ceremonies with me. He also asked if I could arrange a special gathering for him. He said that when he travels he often gives talks on Mayan spirituality, however these talks are open to the general public and are usually filled with people who are hearing about Earth-centered spirituality for the first time. Could I gather a group of Elders who are already living a life of ceremony in relationship with the Earth, so he could speak to them at a deeper level? Remembering how CoG’s AAR reception gathered the Bay Area Pagan community in December 2011 (http://bayarea.pagannewswirecollective.com/2011/11/23/cogs-northern-ca-local-council-reception-for-aar/), I said “Sure!” I also thought that we could do this under the rubric of the People of the Earth events we have held over the past four years; this would just be the first invitation-only PoE event.
My wife Anna and I would be at CoG’s Grand Council in Salem MA until just before Tata’s arrival in the Bay Area, so I got things in motion for the PoE event and then left town with preparations in the able hands of Glenn Turner. I also left town with great concern over where Tata would be holding the healing ceremonies he planned for me. Mayan ceremonies usually involve large fires and California in August is very different from the jungles of Guatemala in August. Oh well, I thought, the Gods will provide. The more I thought about it, the more I realized the only possibility would be our own back yard.
As soon as we got back in town, I went to the local Fire Department and cleared things with them. If the neighbors didn’t complain, we wouldn’t have a problem. This meant going to all the neighbors in a 1 block radius and explaining that a Mayan Elder would be doing fire ceremonies in my back yard over the course of the next week and not to be alarmed by billowing clouds of smoke. This being Berkeley , the neighbors took it all in stride.
Rachael: On the day that Tata Polo was due in I swung by to pick up Don, who usually accompanies me no matter what time of day or night our guests arrive, and we drove over to the airport to pick him up. He was happy to see us and we took him out for breakfast as we discussed the next week’s plans. In typical indigenous fashion he knew what he wanted to accomplish, but had left arrangements totally up to us. So we spent a few hours discussing what he would need for the following days and when he would like to hold ceremony, after which Tata and I returned to my house to rest for the work ahead.
Don: Much as he had assumed that large fires would be no problem, Tata had assumed that many ritual ingredients common in Guatemala would be as easily obtained in the US . He was surprised to discover that acquiring many of the items he needed would take most of Rachael’s free time over the next few days. On the plus side, he was delighted to discover that many of the plants from which he would require fresh leaves or flowers were already growing in our back yard. This is what comes from having a Witch / botanist for a wife.
Rachael: After breakfast the following morning (which was Monday) Tata and I set out to find a long list of items that he would need for the three days of ritual that he planned to do for Don and the fire ritual that he would do for the People of the Earth event the next Sunday. I took him to the Dollar store and we bought $80 of stuff which did not actually scratch the surface of his needs. Eventually we would end up spending more than $600 for the goods to produce these four rituals. We did get dried laurel, cinnamon sticks, animal crackers, and chocolate-filled chocolate cookies, along with ten glass “crystal” goblets, various candles and four plastic bowls. We left there with enough bags to fill the back of my Scion and he was elated, saying how much everything would have cost in a regular store. “I know”, I said. “That’s why I brought you here”. We came home and he began to comb through my ritual goods discovering my sweet grass and tobacco for local indigenous work, my bags of myrrh and frankincense, my sage which I had gathered and dried the year before and had wrapped for smudging, and my bottle of fairly expensive 151 proof rum which he directed me to put in a “more decorative bottle”. For what I had originally paid for that stuff you would think that the label would be decoration enough, but he directed me to put it into a plain glass bottle with a glass stopper that had been etched to cause a tight fit, very much like a bottle you might find in a lab that would be used for acid (or in a liquor store to store fine alcohol).
We were to meet Don and Anna for dinner, so before getting there we stopped at Glenn Turner’s store, Ancient Ways, to pick up specifically “Glass” candles (tall, thin glass jars filled with candles) of six different colors, camphor oil, Florida Water and lavender water. After picking up Don and Anna we headed to Andronico’s, a pretty high-end grocery store, where we continued our scavenger hunt for items. He wanted something that we could not find a translation for which Greg finally figured out was sesame seeds, some other spices, Mexican chocolate, and fruit. He wanted dried salmon as well but all that I could find was a couple of ounces at $10.00 a pack. When I showed it to him he said that it would be good and that he needed ten more. I must have paled considerably because he took one look at my face and asked if it were expensive. I told him he’d just asked for $200 in salmon and he laughed and said at that price he’d give the fire a tiny bit and he’d eat the rest. Then he told me to put it back.
After this, we all went to dinner and then returned to Don and Anna’s house to find that our work had only begun. He directed me to begin to break up all of the spices, leaves, branches, bark and incense telling me this had to be done by hand. Have you ever tried to crumble dried laurel leaves by hand? Then the cinnamon, and then he cut up my sage including the red string and as we were doing that he noticed Don’s Yule wreath which they dry by the fire place and burn at the next Yule. Having cleaned out pretty much all of my ritual supplies, he apparently planned on continuing the process with Don and Anna. He immediately glommed onto that as well and wanted us to strip the needles from a great number of branches, break up the branches and add the whole into the tub we were filling. We broke up a ball of Copal that Don had purchased from Tata years ago (when they had first met in Pittsburgh in 2000) which, as Don said, must have been meant for this all along. By the time we had finished we had thirteen ingredients mixed together, our hands were both sore and sticky, and we were ready to head back home. (“13” is a powerful number in Mayan cosmology & ceremony.) Tata stayed the night at Don and Anna’s so that he and Don could start Don’s first curing ritual at sunrise. Greg and I left.
Don: Tata stayed in our guest room. I got up a couple times during the night and each time I noticed that the light was on in his room. The next day, during the ceremony, he said that his sleep had been plagued by bad dreams and he had been up most of the night receiving disturbing visions.
At this point I need to explain that I won’t say very much about the details of the ceremonies Tata did with me. This is for three reasons. 1) Much of what was discussed is personal. 2) Tata said that he has had health problems associated with the same force that is afflicting me ever since he started working with me, and that his close family have had the same problems since my visit to Guatemala . The more someone knows about this force / entity, the more vulnerable they are to it. He especially enjoined me from sharing information with Anna, as she could be most easily affected. However, I can share what is common to all such ceremonies. 3) Based on his belief that we had been teacher (him) and student (me) in a past life, he started teaching me ritual practice that can’t be shared. I will try very hard to stick to info that I do not believe was intended to be secret; if I error to much to that side, I apologize.
This first ceremony was for Tata to introduce himself to the spirits of this place – my home, the Bay Area, California – and to the spirits of the people who have lived here, especially of the various native tribes. This was to be polite and make sure that there would be no resistance to the work he would be doing. (How would YOU feel if someone came into your home unannounced and starting doing a ritual?) This was mostly between Tata and the local spirits, and so translation was not needed. I could understand him well enough for this part of the process.
For this and the following ceremony there would be two fires: a fire for prayers & offerings and a fire for cleansing & banishing. The cleansing fire was much simpler and was just in the middle of a large dirt circle, without embellishment.
The offering fire was nearby on a concrete pad and required more setup. First, Tata established the quarters. These were Red in the East, Yellow in the South, Black in the West, and White in the North. (Elemental associations were very much secondary, but were Fire, Water, Earth, and Air. However, all four elements were represented at each quarter.) Each quarter was decorated with a candle, a glass goblet of juice, some fruit, and potted flowers, set on the ground – e.g. in the East: a red candle, some cranberry juice, some red apples, and a small potted plant with red flowers. In the West, dark purple could stand in for Black.
The fire was then built in a metal fire-pit in the center. This started with a design laid out in sugar. First, a circle. Then the circle was quartered – East to West, then North to South. Then a design particular to the ceremony was drawn with the sugar. Incense cones – each about 3 inches wide at the base and brought from Guatemala – were laid out over the sugar in the same order, then placed to fill in all of the space. Then a fire was built over this, using large pieces of split wood to form a cross oriented to the directions and a smaller cross (at “cross-quarters”, if you will) made of “ocote”, or fat-wood, to get things burning.
The circle started with Tata chanting to the Elements in Mayan, and then to the quarters, followed by a recitation of the day-count – “Chol’Qij” in Tata’s K’iche’ or highland Mayan, “Tzolkin” in the more well-known lowland Mayan. The Chol’Qij is the interlocking of two cycles: the number count of 1 to 13, in which each number has a meaning, and a 20-day count of 20 “nawales” or day-signs. Each day has a number and a name. For example today, September 16, 2013, is 13 Toj. 13 – as one might expect in a 13 day system – is a powerful number representing completion. Toj represents harmony, balance, and equilibrium, especially the balance between Water and Fire, making this both an auspicious day for performing acts of harmony, but also a dangerous day on which one should be especially careful NOT to act out of harmony. As part of establishing himself as an Ajq’ijab’ – or day-keeper – he recited a full sequence of the number/nawal cycle in Mayan, starting with the number “1” and today’s name “Toj”, so: “1 Toj, 2 Toj, 3 Toj…” etc., ending with “13 Q’anil”, the last number and the nawal before Toj. With ach count from 1 to 13, Tata counted out 13 cacao beans in his hand and then offered them to the fire.
Many offerings of candles were made to the fire as Tata invoked the many Gods and spirits of his pantheon and addressed the spirits and ancestors of the tribes of California on behalf of me and my ancestors and their Gods and spirits. Everyone had to agree before we could move forward. Tata watched the fire closely for signs: What did the fire do and what was he saying when it happened? Did it spit? Did the flames lean in a particular direction or spiral? He also placed eggs in the fire and how they acted were signs that could be interpreted.
After considerable time spent with the offering fire, we moved to the cleansing fire. This was much simpler, involving primarily wood and hot chili peppers. Needless to say, the smoke was acrid and made breathing difficult, but the this was the point. I walked through and around the fire a specific number of times and in particular directions. All the while Tata observed the behavior of the flames and , once again, eggs to see how things were progressing.
The ceremonies ended with a sort of aura cleansing done with 3 eggs and 3 limes. The eggs were then cracked into a large bowl of water with the juice of the limes added as well. This would be left out overnight to be “read” the following morning. The whole ceremonial process was about two and a half hours long.
Rachael: I took Tuesday off while Don and Tata began the series of healings which was one of the main reasons that Tata had come to Northern California . On Tuesday also, it turns out, the local Mayan community had heard that Tata would be up in the area and contacted him, asking him to come and speak with them. He arranged to visit with them from about three in the afternoon until about seven in the evening when Don’s Coven would be holding its Full Moon Esbat , which he wanted to attend. I was torn between my own coven and attending Don’s group, but Tata asked that I be there even though there were a couple of other people who spoke Spanish. The ritual was great and Tata was well aware of what we were doing and seemed to be very comfortable. Afterward we went inside to enjoy all of the offerings of food that folks had brought and chat about any number of things before I headed back to my place where Greg and my coven had held ritual earlier that evening. Once again Tata elected to stay at Don’s in order to be there at sunrise to continue the healing sessions.
Don: My coven is Gardnerian, so we have an Inner Court , initiate’s form of the ritual and an Outer Court , non-initiates form. We did the latter with Tata present. Also, a local woman named Luz who would be acting as translator for Wednesday’s sunrise ceremony had arrived in the afternoon and would be staying at a nearby hotel. She joined us for the Full Moon. Rachael, being more familiar with Wiccan ceremony, translated for Tata.
Even though our forms were somewhat different, the essence of what we were doing was familiar enough for Tata, such that he had only a few questions about the ceremony when we sat for Cakes & Wine.
We broke early so those of us getting up for sunrise could get some sleep.
The next morning – Wednesday – Luz arrived before sunrise. Her hotel was only a few blocks away. This day’s ceremony would start to get into the depths of the healing process. For the reasons given above, I can’t say much about this ceremony. The egg and lemon augury form the day before was not good and indicated the seriousness of the problem. Tata took great care to make sure that Luz would be protected as he addressed my health issues.
The ceremony was similar in structure to the one the day before except that 1) Tata didn’t have to spend so much time introducing himself, as this had already be done, and 2) much of it consisted of conversations between Tata, me, and the spirits involved. The two fires were both used and things ended with the same egg and lemon augury process. This ceremony was a little shorter – about two hours. Tata said that the ceremony on Thursday could start later. Luz had to return home, so Rachael would translate. The rest of the day was free and Tata planned to spend it with Rachael.
Rachael: On Wednesday I had planned to swing by and pick up Tata to take him to the Redwoods after the ritual. I had to go to work for a couple of hours in San Francisco and then we headed for the big trees. This is a relatively new growth forest as Redwoods go and the trees are mostly juveniles with a few massive elders sprinkled in between them, but he was deeply impressed never having seen anything of this size and height before. He was deeply awed to find trees that he could actually stand inside of and was overcome by their age.
On Wednesday evening he asked to come back to my house where he said that he was able to sleep better. Mainly I think, because my son’s dog insisted on sleeping with him. Shadow is a very small something or other that includes Chihuahua . He is a major cuddle slut and will lie with anyone who is in that bed. He will even abandon my son, who had to sleep on the couch. That dog is many things, but a fool he is not. He knows where the softest bed with the most space is. I think it helped Tata feel a bit less alone. I’m sure that the dog helped him ground, well that dog, my dog and my cat. Fortunately it is a very large bed.
What I also discovered is that they expected me to help translate for the next day’s healing ritual, even knowing how I really hate that. So up we got and over to Don’s at “oh my Goddess its early hours”. Don was waiting for us. The first thing that Tata did was direct me to freshen up the ritual space with fresh water in those Dollar store crystal goblets, at each direction, Heaven, and Earth, and make certain that the fire circle fruit and flowers were in place and the fire offerings were set out. Once everything was ready he set the fire and lit all of the candles. The fire he marked off in quarters with sugar and added an entire package of chocolate, and bags of each of the cookies along with generous helpings of other food and wood. I was so focused on this process that I never noticed that Tata somehow managed to lay out the back yard at Don’s in the wrong directions and Don has worried ever since about the effectiveness of his healing rituals but his hand is steady as a rock and the only problem that he is currently having is that there is a bit of numbness in part of his thumb and forefinger.
Once that was done he fetched a bowl of water in which floated three limes and three eggs. The eggs were floating around in the water but otherwise seemed to be pretty much together though the lime juice had cooked part of the whites. This was to be an indication of how Don’s healing was progressing. Because the limes were floating separate from the eggs (raw eggs by the way) he said that progress had been made and it was a good sign that the limes were floating as well. He gathered the limes carefully using a bag over his hand to protect it and encapsulate the limes at the same time turning the bag inside out around the limes once he had them all. The water and eggs he dumped into the garden where they could soak in and feed the plants. The limes were tossed carefully into the trash for pick up.
Then the ritual began in earnest. The fire was lit and Tata prayed to it for the healing that Don needed while scrying within to see what the fire had to say this morning. During this he placed three raw eggs, still in the shell, into the fire. Two he placed together and a third further down into the fire. For some reason, Don leaned over and said, “that egg is yours”. It made no sense to me and as I was there only to translate I said nothing trying to lose myself in the translation.
At last Tata began to explain what the fire had told him. It was about how everything was progressing as well as could be with Don’s arm but that Anna would be a great help in his healing as well and that the fire spirits would help her because she, through her family, had known great pain in the past. Just at this point as I finished translating that, the third egg – “mine” – exploded all over me covering me in baked egg. Talk about egg on my face… Tata was laughing gently and telling me not to be afraid or to worry; it was ok, as he picked egg out of my hair. The fire, he explained, was just asking me what I was doing there. Had it not wanted me the egg would have burned me. He then proceeded to tell me all kinds of horror stories about being burned by exploding eggs.
After this Tata announced that it was time for the curing fire. In this fire he placed, not all of the sweet things of the other fire but purgatives such as whole chilies, bay leaves and Laurel leaves. Have you ever stood in the smoke of a fire fed by chilies? Pure joy, let me tell you, and all I had to do was stand to the side. Don had to cross and re-cross that fire, once it was high enough, as he put it, to burn his…um…crotch. By the time the ritual was done Don and I were both coughing up a storm and could hardly breathe through the caustic fug. Tata was very satisfied.
“Now”, he assured me, “we are near the end”. He sent me for a clean bowl of water and then cut three more limes cross ways and put them in the water and then three raw eggs were added. “Now” he said, “we’ll see what they have to say tomorrow.”
It was now eleven and I was starved, neither Tata nor I having eaten prior to ritual. I tell you those animal crackers were looking pretty good by that point. Don took us to breakfast at a place he likes and we talked for almost an hour over breakfast about esoteric topics which Don may better recall. I was struggling so hard to translate all of these ideas that the conversation in general did not stay with me. I will swear on anything you like that Don does little more than sit around thinking up conversations that will call for the largest amount of really big words that he can think up. To add insult to injury, tiny pieces of egg kept dropping into my plate and onto my lap. Tata returned home with me and we spent the rest of the day resting.
(Don: We were just comparing notes on Wiccan and Mayan theology and cosmology. It wasn’t that esoteric a conversation, under the circumstances, but it certainly wasn’t using a vocabulary that Rachael would have picked up when she learned Spanish. I though she did admirably.)
Rachael: On Friday morning Greg left for a long planned camping trip and we set out for Don’s early to see what the eggs and lime had to say and to see whether another ritual was necessary. When we looked out on the back yard it was to discover that, unlike the two days prior, the squirrels, raccoons, and many species of bird were having a field day with the ritual items which had been left to delineate the space. “Well”, I said to Don and Tata, “the animals think that we’re done at any rate”. Tata agreed but wanted to look at the water to see what it had to say. “What do you see” he wanted to know. Both Don and I saw that the limes were floating completely free of the eggs and that the eggs were pretty much together in the bottom of the water. Also, the egg yolks had stayed intact rather than making the water cloudy as on previous days. We thought that this was a good omen and so I said to Tata. He agreed absolutely and pronounced the animals correct, that there was no need for further curing rituals during this trip. He told Don that the next step would be a purging ritual. Oh boy, more chilies and exploding eggs. Actually it did turn out to involve explosives as it happens… real ones. For the final ritual Don will once again have to travel to Guatemala (mainly because you can’t get ritual explosives around here). Tata then hastened to assure me that my translation was fine and that I had done very well, which now has me worried that he plans for me to go down and get involved in something to do with Don and gunpowder in the outback of Guatemala .
Don: Tata said that the ceremonies needed to be followed up with 1) Specific directions for a copper armband for my left arm. This was so similar to a traditional Gardnerian priest’s armband that I asked if I could add to the design to make it serve dual purpose. Tata consulted his oracles who said “Absolutely!” 2) Six quart jars of a tincture of datura flowers in alcohol to rub on my arms at night with a specific visualization and chant. 3) A specific ritual to be performed as the sun rises on each Aq’ab’al day (the nawal of my birth) every 20 days.
Rachael: Tata stayed with Don for the day. Don went out and did yet more ritual shopping in preparation for Sunday while Tata rested and then prepared for some friends to come and pick him up to stay with them for the evening. They were planning a major ritual, B’aqtun eight, and wanted “Tata Polo” to be a part of it. If it seems to you as though we were forever shopping for ritual necessities, you are not alone. It did to us too. He explained that when one was up here one could not reasonably rely upon just everything that one was used to have on hand being available, and one had to learn to make do, (apparently with anything and everything else}.
My son also left early on Friday taking both of the dogs with him as Greg and I had to be away from home twice in the next two weeks, so I was really more alone in the house than I was used to. The cat was missing the dogs too and crawled in bed with me which she never does and thus we fell asleep only to be awakened at four in the morning by my phone. Needless to say panic shot through me. Was my son in the hospital with seizures? Had something happened to Greg on the road? I answered the phone to find Tata on the other end. He had left the suite case containing all of the items he had hoped to sell at Don’s house. Would I kindly remember to bring it with me when I came to the ritual in the morning? Oh by the way it started at eight.
Don had called me that night before to tell me that the irritation from the chili power smoke had gotten worse and he was thoroughly congested and feeling like… not well enough to go to a ritual. Now I had to waken him and Anna on her day off at seven in the morning to get a suitcase and go to a ritual that I hadn’t been planning on attending.
Three hours in the sun did nothing much for me, or my complexion, though the ritual was really great! Apparently the San Francisco Mayan group is heavily into Hollywood costuming and had created some massively beautiful costuming that was something between Mayan and Aztec, Hollywood and over the top. While it had been cold and overcast in the morning by the time the ritual started the sun was out and it was warm, though not uncomfortably so. Like almost all of the older women there I took my shawl and folded it to place it on top of my head to shade my face and eyes but it didn’t help. As of this writing my forehead, nose and upper cheeks are literally bright red and I look ridiculous.
This ritual was assisted by Native American drummers who played a Sun Dance song that I recognized and a Navajo song that I also recognized and a couple more. The ritual was basically in this order:
1. Participating Elders, with dancers behind them, file into the circle with censors, each quarter couple peeling off at their direction. (The directions were delineated by palm fronds set into the ground and tied at the tops to form a lovely quarter arch or portal in which each couple stood.)
2. Elder speaks explaining the holiday’s importance (repeated in English)
3. Tata speaks explaining the importance of the fact that these folks have kept the ceremonies. (also translated into English)
4. *Call to the four directions,
5. Native American drummers drum and sing a song
6. Elder speaks to the fire asking for a vision for the community
7. Pour five pounds of sugar on the fire from different directions
8. All those in costume dance
9. Rinse and repeat for each direction from *.
10. Offerings - Here each individual offers to the fire. We were asked to offer at one of the four directions.
The priest was a delightful little guy, literally. He came to about my chin. He kept saying now we are at the center of the ritual. I kept wondering if we would get past it, but we finally got to announcements and then the soak and smoke.
You may remember that I told you about the smudging in Guatemala . Nothing has changed. There were a man and woman in each of the directions keeping the copal going during the entire ceremony and, of course the twenty pounds of burning sugar as well as the wax from all of the candles offered.
Then each person was smudged…in thick smoke. After that each person was soaked. I mean soaked here, not sprinkled. They had a five gallon bucket full of water, Florida water, and other floral fragrances which were being applied very liberally, as in dripping down my head and into my eyes, a perfect cure for a very sunburned face.
A lengthy explanation of the specific celebration followed along with an explanation of why it was being held on a Saturday rather than a week day as it should normally have been in order that those who worked could attend as well, thanks to the creator that Tata Polo could be there in attendance, and it was over. I beat feet to the shade. I was about to leave when Tata informed me that he would be going with me but please to wait just a bit. I was immediately fed and people lined up to thank me for caring for Tata. Many pictures followed, most of which I took so that the community could all be in them and then they all insisted that I be in at least one of them and of course everyone that had a camera wanted that shot too. I was invited to return to other celebrations and names and numbers were exchanged as well as the location of our own ritual the next day. I was in bad shape by the time I got Tata loaded into the truck and we headed home.
We crashed and when I got up I made a fruit smoothie for each of us which, by that time I felt like smearing all over my face. I didn’t feel like cooking at all and Tata suggested that we go out. He said that he really liked Chinese food so I took him to the best restaurant in town at which one of my tenants just happens to be a chef and he immediately asked if they had sushi. Turns out that what he really wanted was Japanese food. My friend however was extra attentive to us and helped him choose a Hunan plate with prawns and veggies with garlic. He ordered a white wine which my friend also suggested and he was very happy over all. We spent a long and casual time over dinner and then he surprised me by insisting on paying. He was a very generous tipper too! Tata is a walking contradiction. In many ways he is very cosmopolitan and in others he is missing huge amounts of information. He knows what wines to order with fish or red meat but hadn’t been aware that DNA studies could tell you where you come from and Quantum Physics is as good as science fiction to him.
We retired early and tried to sleep in a bit on Sunday but Tata’s phone was ringing by 8AM and I gave up and went down to make breakfast. Tata’s phone rings almost constantly unless he mutes it or turns it off. So many people call him for advice, healing, or as a spiritual advisor, that I’m surprised he gets much done at all. He is a very patient person, very full of good sound advice. During his time with me I came to respect him more and more as a person of substance.
We had been talking of what makes a good marriage and I told him that Greg is usually in my head and can be a real pest if he doesn’t hear from me or gets worried, and he can drive me crazy. I believe that I told you in my report from Guatemala that my phone did not work as advertised and that I could not find a burner. I was going crazy trying to find a way to contact Greg. Tata told me that this was really the first time he recognized me as a person. He realized what was happening and loaned me his phone. I certainly remember that as he told me to take care of Greg and not to worry about the time or cost.
When everything was in place we left to drive over to the site of the talk and ritual. When almost there, Tata suddenly became very quiet and stared straight ahead. Then he turned to me and said, “There is a spirit in the car with us. He says that he is of this place from long ago. He is a young man and he says that when we need him he will help us. He says that he will keep a watch and help you in the future as well.” That seemed to be all he could say on the matter. He said that was all that he could understand.
Don: Sunday was the day for our People of the Earth event at the Fellowship of Humanity hall in Oakland CA . It had an indoor space where we could prepare and eat food and an outdoor garden where we could have a fire and a ritual. This was our first “invitation only” event. I think attendance suffered because I was out of town at CoG’s MerryMeet at a crucial time leading up to this event, but even so we ended up with about 40 people representing 16 Pagan organizations (including Afro-diasporic, Heathen, Indigenous, Pagan, and Wiccan). A half-dozen people from Tata’s Mayan ceremony the day before also came to this gathering. Luz was back to translate for Tata.
The afternoon started with a brief opening ceremony by Tata. After that, he gave some basic background about Mayan spirituality and about the Mayan system of counting days and years. Then he got into the message he wanted to share with the Elders who had come, the message about the time of the current B’aqtun. In brief, while the Mayan calendar obviously didn’t end last December, it’s largest cycle of time – 5,126 years – DID return to its starting point and start over again. This means that last Winter Solstice (2012) the first recorded age of humanity on Earth came to an end and the next one began. Through somewhat complex day-counts and Mayan number systems, it relates to the two large phases in a person’s life… In the first phase each person focuses on themselves and then on their own immediate offspring & family, and then as they get older and mature each person looks outwards and thinks about the needs of the wider world. In other words, humanity has passed through its “me” phase and has now entered its “us” phase.
In the grand scheme of things, there will have been billions of people who lived and died in the first age; and there will possibly be trillions of people who live and die in the second age, but there is only a relative handful of us who have lived in both ages. As such, as spiritual practitioners who have devoted our lives to living in a right relationship with Mother Earth, it falls to US to be the spiritual midwives of this new age, to make sure that the world starts off on the right path.
After this, we broke for supper and discussion, then returned to the circle for a ceremony addressing the spirits and the ancestors and asking their help in aligning all of us with the great work and great responsibility that lay before us. The ceremony followed the same pattern as the three leading up to it, but was more elaborate, with more flowers, colored banners in the directions, etc. There was some resistance on the part of the local spirits to having all of us “foreigners”, including Tata, doing ceremony on their sacred land, but all was smoothed over. The local spirits especially appreciated the fact that most of those who had come to this event were women, as “the energy of the mothers” was especially needed now.
Late in the ceremony, each person had the opportunity to bring make their own offering to the central fire and request guidance and assistance. This went on for some time, as each person had to circumambulate a large circle to get to the point of making offerings and then return to their seat before the next person could of, but indigenous ceremonies tend to be as long as it takes for each person to have enough time for what they need.
Before we closed, Tata invited folks to share what was in their hearts. Many people spoke and were appreciative of Tata’s coming and of the attendance by our Mayan brothers and sisters. For their part, the Mayans were appreciative to the point of tears. Some said that they could never have imagined being in a Mayan ceremony in the United States led by a Mayan Elder, with Euro-Americans attending as equals. Each Mayan there said that they hoped that we would have more opportunities to share like this in the future. (We’ll make a point of more outreach to the local Mayan community now that we have these connections.)
After a long cleanup, everyone went home. Tata stayed at Rachael’s since she would be driving him to the airport in the morning, but I would be going with them.
For more photos of this event please see:
Rachael: On the way home Tata shared a few things that he had not wanted to share with the general group. First he said that he had received word that the women at the ritual would serve a special purpose but he could not figure out any more about what that meant. (That part he had shared.) Then he said that many ancient spirits had gathered around him demanding to know what he was doing there. He said that he was very afraid but then the spirit that had appeared earlier in the car came forward and spoke with them for a long time explaining that we were there to help and that we worshiped the Mother and would do no harm. He explained that we were seeking to heal the Earth. This apparently appeased the spirits and they allowed us to go in peace with a blessing of sorts to do well upon the Earth.
Don: So… My hand is neither shaking nor in pain. My neurologist and pain specialist are mystified, but are taking copious notes. I will see Tata again soon, and then complete the process with a visit to another sacred site in Guatemala . It’s a complicated, ongoing process, but one I need to undergo if I am to fulfill my own role in midwifing the next age.
Thanks & Blessed Be,
Don & Rachael