What it’s like to witness a Mayan Ceremony

My Spanish school provided us an opportunity to observe a traditional Mayan ceremony, which was quite beautiful. I’d hate to lie to you all and tell you I remember exactly what all the symbolism used in the ceremony meant, so I will mainly share some of the pictures I took. There was a lot going on during the ceremony, but I’ll try to share the bits and pieces that I remember.

The Mayan priest began by forming a circle with sugar, then layering various offerings, including coals made from pine sap, chocolate, tobacco/cigars, and herbs. Everything placed in the circle has a meaning, such as sugar for the sweetness of life and the cigars for the memory of the ancestors.

The different colored candles are placed with the wicks towards the center, and each color is associated with a cardinal direction. Red is the east and the sunrise, black is the west and the sunset, white is the north and the air, and yellow is the south and the earth/material things. (Notice how those four colors are also the four colors of corn.) Blue and green candles are also added to the center.

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Next, a student helped the priest light the candles.

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During the ceremony, the priest honored the ancestors, the 260 Nawales (spirits), the elements and nature. He invited other students and teachers to add more candles and seeds to the fire. Towards the end of the ceremony he added honey and liquor to the flame.

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As a neutral observer I found the ceremony to be quite relaxing and peaceful. Definitely a cultural experience I’m happy I was able to witness.

-S

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