by Bob Makransky
The entire Mayan area of Guatemala and southern Mexico is so thoroughly imbued with the spirit of the Mayan spirits, that even an interloping tourist can easily make a connection to the Mayan spirit world for him or herself. Every Mayan town has sacred places – usually nearby mountaintops or caves – which ooze energy and are used by the locals to invoke spirits and perform healings (just ask anyone in a Mayan town where to find the local power spots. You can often hire a local priest to perform a ceremony for you, if you like; just ask around. Mayan priests are delighted to have foreigners at their ceremonies, and patiently explain Mayan beliefs and culture to people who are interested). One power place not far off the beaten path is located just off the road to the popular tourist attraction Lake Atitlan. Visitors should check out the small cave located just beneath the scenic lookout point in Aldea San Jorge (on the road between Solola and Panajachel), which is a deep cleft in the rocks used by local priests for ceremonies and invocations; and which commands a stunning view of the lake and volcanoes.
While the great majority of ancient Mayan ruins have their own power places and are still occupied by the ancient gods (who can be invoked at them), nonetheless the premier destination for both exoteric tourists and pagan seekers is the city of Tikal, Guatemala. Located in the remote jungles of the Peten, Tikal was abandoned mysteriously a thousand years ago, and the jungle swallowed it up until its excavation in the 1960’s. The archeological ruins are now part of a national park-cum-nature preserve administered by the Guatemalan government and can easily be reached from nearby Flores international airport.
The principal Mayan deities who preside over Tikal are the nine Creators-Formers, or Bolontiku, who in Mayan legend (as recounted in the sacred book of the Mayan nation, Popul Vuh) fashioned the first human beings from maize. Previously the gods had experimented with and destroyed two human-like races – the first made of mud and the second of wood. These attempts were unsuccessful because they lacked the intelligence and spirit to worship the gods. When the Creators – Formers made the first four humans they were a little too successful: these creatures were so clear-sighted and proud that the gods had to blow mist in their eyes to dumb them down a bit and make them more respectful. The first humans fashioned by the Creators – Formers were made of nine drinks of ground maize. To this day special propitiatory ceremonies to invoke the nine Bolontiku, called primicias, are still performed in Yucatan and Belize. At these ceremonies nine gourd cups of maize gruel are blessed on the altar and then drunk by the participants. The nine Creators – Formers made the first four men out of ground red maize (their blood), ground white maize (their bones), ground yellow maize (their skin), and ground black maize (their hair); and then they made them four wives. These four couples are the eternal guardians of the four cardinal directions.
The nine Bolontiku are also associated with the nine portals in the human body: two eyes, two ears, two nostrils, mouth, genitals, and anus. They are also symbolised by the nine colours of the rainbow; i.e., rainbows are considered a manifestation of the Bolontiku, a communication link between the Heart of the Heaven and the Heart of the Earth. In the Mayan worldview, these nine gods are the creators and formers of human life; and as such they have dominion over all human activities. They have their own calendar count, i.e. every day is not only under the influence of one of the twenty naguals of the Chol Qij (260-day sacred ceremonial calendar and basis of Mayan astrology), but it is also ruled by one of the nine Creators – Formers in sequence (for a complete explanation of the Mayan calendar, download the free Mayan Horoscope sacred calendar calculation and interpretation software posted at: http://www.dearbrutus.com/body_mayan_text.html).
The names of the Bolontiku are: Tzacol, the Builder and his consort, Bitol, the Former-Shaper; Gucumatz ( or Kulkukan), the Feathered (quetzal) Serpent and his consort Tepeu the Conquerer or Sovereign; Qaholom the father god and Alom the mother; and Xmucané, the Midwife or Shelterer, is the consort of Xpiyacoc, the Patriarch or Protector. These last two are the grandparents of Hunajpu and Ishbalankej, the hero twins of the Popul Vuh creation myth, who journeyed into the underworld to kill the Lords of Death and avenge the murder of their father; and who then rose up to the heavens and became the sun and moon. The ninth Bolontiku is not equivocally defined in the Popul Vuh; Mayan deities are not as distinct as e.g. Greek gods and goddesses: Mayan deities shade into one another, and are usually dual male-female. The foregoing eight deities are joined in the creation story by the three gods of the lightning: Caculhá Huracán is the lightning that blazes across the heavens; Raxa-Caculhá is the lightning that strikes the earth and kills; Chipi-Caculhá is the lightning that jumps from one cloud to another or flashes within the clouds (Mayans regard lightning as the way that the gods – who are frequently identified with local mountains and volcanoes –communicate with one another). These three lightning gods form a trinity which together makes up the Heart of Heaven. They are always in the background directing and guiding the creation story.
The nine Bolontiku are invoked by the Mayans for all earthly and spiritual transactions: for healing, divination, success in agriculture, trade, politics and war; for help in personal matters such as love, childbearing, grief; for carrying (telepathic) messages over distance; and so on. Each of the Bolontiku has his or her own specialty. The Bolontiku communicate with their votaries through what we would call channeling and prophetic dreams, which to the Maya are as much a part of everyday life as the telephone and internet are to us. A dream prompted by the Bolontiku can be distinguished from a normal dream by the invariable presence of one personage who says nothing but who stands in the background of whatever scene is unfolding. Upon awakening the dreamer realises that this mute personage was actually inducing and directing the entire experience, and is in fact one of the nine Creators – Formers revealing a message of importance. Non-Mayans do not necessarily see the Bolontiku as Indians: to my benefactress they appear (in dreams) as long-haired hippies; and when they have appeared to me they come in three-piece suits.
The cult of the nine Creators – Formers has fallen into general neglect among the Maya. At the same time, the fragile ecosystem of the Mayan area has been and is being threatened by the destruction of massive tracts of tropical rainforest. As a result, the Bolontiku have been calling foreigners in to revive their cult, to publicise their ecological concerns, and to buy up and preserve as much virgin rainforest as possible.
The Bolontiku themselves are delighted to see their sacred city of Tikal restored to at least part of its former grandeur. They welcome tourists to come visit them (which is why they directed the designers of the national park to lay out the main entrance by their temple, so they can see and bless everyone who enters the place); and to enjoy the spectacle of immense pyramids and plazas set in the midst of impenetrable jungle teaming with exotic birds, howler monkeys and jaguars. Moreover, the Nine promise to give a valuable lesson to any visitor to Tikal who wishes to invoke them, using the following ritual:
The temple to the Nine Mayan gods is the first small pyramid you come to on the right after the entrance to the park proper (Complex Q). In front of this pyramid there is a row of eight steles, with a ninth stele in front of the row of eight. Before each stele is a squat, cylindrical altar. Do not sit or lean on these altars (this is disrespectful).
Wait for a moment when there are no other tourists or park authorities around. Take a small offering to the top of the pyramid. This can be some little gift you made yourself, or even a flower or pretty stone or leaf (if you want to take a flower, get one from the parking area before you enter the park since there are none inside the park). With a feeling of good will, offer this gift to the Bolontiku and ask them to please give you a lesson. Make the offering either aloud or silently, as you prefer, using your own words and sentiments. Don’t be afraid; just relax and feel good. Although the Nine can have a fearsome aspect, they are actually a joyous bunch of spirits. They come in the winds and they sing with the birds. Rest assured that any petition made to them in good faith will be answered. Then thank them and descend from the pyramid, and go off and stroll around the rest of the ruins.
If you don’t get a message right away, don’t worry about it. You may get a message in your dreams that night (you’ll recognise it by the presence of a silent personage directing things from the background). If you don’t get a message, you can repeat the ritual the next day. Before you leave Guatemala, you will receive a message loud and clear.
“Heart of Heaven, Heart of Earth! Give us our descendants, our succession, as long as the sun shall move and there shall be light. Let it dawn; let the day come! Give us many good roads, flat roads! May the people have peace, much peace, and may they be happy; and give us good life and useful existence! Oh thou Huracán, Chipi-Caculhá, Raxa-Caculhá, Chipi-Nanauac, Raxa-nanauac, Voc Hunahpu, Tepeu, Gucumatz, Alom, Qaholom, Xpiyacoc, Xmucané, grandmother of the sun, grandmother of the light, let there be dawn, and let the light come.”
– Popul Vuh
(excerpted from Magical Almanac free monthly ezine: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/MagicalAlmanac)