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Monday, March 30, 2009

Mayan Bloodletting and Human Sacrifice

This is perhaps the 2nd most frequent question I hear about the Maya, and it seems to be raised as a kind of objection to the validity of Mayan wisdom. The Western conditioned mind tends to recoil at the thought of these rituals, so I hope this article may bring more understanding and assist some in deciding whether or they can be comfortable embracing Mayan wisdom. As a student of multi-cultural spirituality, I feel it is important not to discount all aspects of a civilization that could be "barbaric" enough to practice bloodletting and human sacrifice. We need not idolize or ridicule a culture, just understand it. My motto is to integrate what resonates within and leave the rest behind.

Studies of the Maya and other Mesoamerican cultures indicate that bloodletting and human sacrifice occurred from the early classic period (100 AD) through the late classic(900 AD). The proof has been found in the remaining art, (Lady Xoc, with a barbed rope cutting through her tongue, can be seen at the Field Museum's Ancient Americas exhibit ) dug up from the floors of the tombs and written about by the horrified conquistadores (while they decimated an entire culture). In A Forest of Kings Linda Shele envisions quite graphically what these rituals must have looked like. Her work may have been influencial on Mel Gibson's film Apocalypto who, in my opinion, aggrandized these practices for the sake of profit. The best part of that film for me was the very first scene, when the Maya in the jungle were living an eutopic life. Mel blew an opportunity to capture the essence of Mayan cosmology, but icouldn't because he may not conceive of it himself. He made it look as if the Maya were doing this for entertainment purposes, which doesn't appear to be accurate.

What's interesting from a spiritual perspective is that the royal bloodletters are never depicted on the glyphs with expressions of pain on their face. They are ecstatic. My mind connects to the ascetics and sadhus of India who do outrageous things in the name of enlightenment: keeping one arm up in the air or the Naga babas who stand on one leg for years, until they reach samadhi, never showing pain either. The swammi in the film Shortcut to Nirvana shows a guru wrapping his penis around a long pole, tucking it through his legs and up his back, then asking an audience participant to stand on the pole ends, adding weight and pressure. This, too, is done without a grimace.

These bizarre acts of spiritual committment seem to me more healthy than the Catholic practice of flagellation or Islamic suicide bombing. All of them reach the judgment corridor of the Western mind which houses the notion of what is unacceptable and unforgivable. What strikes me odd is how so much humanity has been able to place war and genocide outside of that corridor.

Schele and Freidel make it clear that the Maya used bloodletting rituals during the classic period as a quest for a vision and communication with the supernatural world. They would sacrifice individuals to sanctify the construction of a new building. They used the ritual of war for taking sacrificial victims early on. Shele says "Giving the gift of blood from the body was an act of piety used in all of their rituals, from the births of children to the burial of the dead. This act could be as simple as an offering fo a few drops of one's blood, or as extreme as the mutilation of the different parts of the body to generate large flows of this precious fluid. Blood could be draw from any part of the body, but the most sacred sources were the tongue for males and females, and the penis for males...The aim of these catharic rituals was the vision quest, the opening of a portal into the Otherworld through which gods and the ancestors could be enticed so that the beings of this world could commune with them. The Maya thought of this process as giving "birth" to the god or ancestor, enabling it to take physical form in this plane of existence." (p. 89)

My impression is that as the civilizations "matured" these rituals became more numerous and lost touch with the spiritual element by the time the Aztecs were raging all over Mesoamerica in the 1400's. A recent dialogue through the Aztlan Digest, a FAMSI (Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies) debated how many sacrificed bodies have been found near Mexico City at Teotihucan. The range was from hundreds to hundreds of thousands.

Keeping the Calleman/Lungold Long Count calendar theory in mind, this was occurring in the middle of the National Underworld, when consciousness was all wrapped up in law and order, right and wrong, judgment, guilt and punishment. What was going on in Mesoamerica was the equivalent to the Dark Ages/inquisition in Europe and Genghis Khan in Asia, none of it very pretty. Collective consciousness on our dear planet Earth was experiencing wild and wooly times everywhere. It has all been necessary, part of the plan and on schedule.

In 1976, anthropologist Peter Furst wrote extensively about the practice of bloodletting and sacrifice, finding similar beliefs that were practiced in many other societies in Asia and the Middle East. Indeed, there is a 2009 news item about the Iraqi Shi'ites bloodletting from young men's heads, a mourning ritual for Ashura, the martyred grandson of Mohammed. This consciousness, as morbid as it seems, is still in play today!

A discovery of mass graves of Aztec warriors near Mexico City was reported in February, 2009, by National Geographic. 49 bodies were found buried Christian style, but probably buried by the Aztecs. These discoveries accentuate a more significant issue about the nature of the blood and killing rituals. The Maya practiced bloodletting and human sacrifice as a means to access supreme consciousness, which, in my mind, pales in comparison to the ritual of war and genocide practiced by the imperialists and conquistadores who came later.

Contrary to Western scientific evidence, Don Alejandro, 13th generation Mayan Priest and head of the Guatemalan Council of Elders, told us that the Maya were a gentle loving people that did not practice human sacrifice. The Maya today are descendents of those that survived the Spanish conquest by outsmarting them in many clever ways, and now live in a spiritual place where the veil between the dimensions is very, very thin. It is no wonder that visitors to Mayaland today can readily embrace the wisdom and teachings of the Maya, despite accusations about rituals long since past.


The Mayan Moon Goddess, "Lady Rainbow"

The Mayan moon goddess is Ix-Chel (Chak Chel in Quiche Mayan). You will no doubt come across her in Martin Prechtel's work, especially Secrets of a Talking Jaguar. The glyphs depict her as a crotchty old woman with a serpent on her head.

In Mayan Gods and Goddesses, a book thus far only available in Guatemala, daykeeper Vinnie Stanzione writes:
"Ix-Chel is best known as "Lady Rainbow", but she is also referred to as "Great Rainbow" "Red Rainbow" and "Red Tree." She is a mother and a grandmother, an old goddess of divination, childbirth, medicine, healing, weaving, feminine wisdom, sorcery, sweatbaths and sustenance. If ever there was a Creator Mother, this is she!

She provides humanity with her nurturing rains of abundance, but she was also queen of floods and their destruction. She was the "first mother" as grandmother, the weaver of destiny and birth giver of fortune. Her blood was the vital liquid that flowed from women at both menses and childbirth, yet she herself was beyond menses. Chak Chel was the waning aspect of an aging moon. As destroyer, she was nature's great devourer, for her blookthirsty hands were the paws of the ravenous mother jaguar that silently stalked the jungle for prey. Ix (jaguar) was her day and red was her color.

The jiote tree (also known as the sunburn or tourist tree because the bark is a thin red skin, like the tourist who got sunburned) was her sacred abode.One was her number and "one-footed" hurricanes were her specialty. She was the archtetypal midwife of the world and mother of maize as well as the first pair of Hero Twins from the Popul Vuh. Most importantly, Chak Chel embodied the wisdom of nature's eternal return symbolized by the rainbow serpent that she wore as her headdress and crown.

Carl Johan Calleman wrote an article on diksha guru Sri Bhagavan's Experience Festival site about the Mayan moon cycle of 29.53 days (similar to other early cultures) vs Jose Arguelles' Dreamspell calendar and other calendars that inaccurately peg the moon cycle as 28 days.

Also, Wikipedia's page on the Mayan moon goddess is worth reviewing.


Saturday, March 28, 2009

Earth Hour, a Tribute to Mayanist Ian Lungold's Teachings

A good day to ask for pardon for our digressions and those of our ancestors. A good day to sit on a rock, PERFECT FOR EARTH HOUR.

Reminded often of Ian's teachings, especially since I have seen his "Eagle and Condor"DVD about a hundred times. Just a few years ago, before we earthlings participated in Earth Hour, Ian explained the Mayan custom of extinguishing all fires, everywhere in the kingdom, in order to sancitfy the beginning of a new "calendar round" (52 revolutions of the Tzolkin and Tun calendars). It was an auspicious time, indeed.

He said all fires went completely out around noon, even the embers, and were not allowed to spark again until the next morning. He asked us to imagine our modern society trying to turn off all power, all lights, even the batteries.

And so tonight, when you turn your ACL powered lights off from 8:30-9:30 PM, will you have your wi-fi on? How about your i-Pod, phone, washing machine? Does a fire in the fireplace fit the Earth Hour protocol? Can we do this?

We shall, but will surmise that burning wood is ok, afterall, we do need heat.

In the darkness, let us use this intention, as provided by one of's participants. It's absolutely beautiful.
In Lak'ech,

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As you can see by scrolling down, my spring Mayan calendar training events in the Chicago area have come and gone. Presently I am ramping up for the Gathering of Elders in AZ coming up in late April which promises to provide additional understanding and content for my work.
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Monday, March 2, 2009

2012 Mayan Film Festival & Fair Trade Bazaar, Saturday, March 21

This unprecedented event will be held at:
Equilibrium, Energy + Education
Dearborn Station
47 W. Polk Suite M-5

Register at 312.786.1882 or
$10 per show, or $30 for all screenings
group discussion after each show, hosted by Barbara (BJ) Sadtler

12 to 1:30 PM "The White Road"
A documentary of the gathering of elders, indigenous priests and shamans that took place in the Yucatan on spring equinox, 2003, this film immerses us into the Mayan world. We follow the White Road (sac be) the spiritual path of the Maya, in such rituals that bring forth the prophecy of the unification of the Native people from North, Central and South America, known as "the eagle and the condor."

1:30-3:30 PM "2012, the Odyssey"
What lies ahead for the human race? Will we reach the destiny that awaits us? Mayan calendar experts Gregg Braden, Jose Arguelles, John Major Jenkins, Alberto Villodo, Moira Timms and others provide insights on the meaning of the 2012 end-date of the Mayan calendar.

3:30-5:30 PM "Between Two Worlds"
According to the film, reintroducing the Mayan calendar is an emergency plan for the people of planet earth and a road map to salvation. The Maya understood that the order of the universe is goverened by a single timing frequency that keeps everything in balance and in harmony. Their calendar system and its potential for modern world consciousness is explored and compared to the mentality that the Gregorian calendar supports.

6:00-9:00 PM "The Mayan Calendar Comes North"
Infamous presenter Ian Lungold walks us through the Mayan calendars, marrying science and spirituality, art and energy, reason and intuition. Step-by-step, Lungold builds a case for the significance of Mayan pyramid design, evolution and historical events, leading us to some massive conclusions that help us understand what is happening now in a larger, much needed, perspective.

In conjunction, our fair trade bazaar of Mayan textiles from Maya Works will be open all day.