|Landa's church, dedicated to St. Anthony of Padua|
|Israel's circle after the ceremony, many objects removed.|
I didn't know what to expect from Israel's ceremony. I'd done a little reading (part of Maya Cosmos: Three Thousand Years on the Shaman's Path, by Freidel, Schele and Parker), but hadn't taken much of it in. What was I being cleansed of exactly? What was corrupting me? Was I signing up for something like Catholic confession? That didn't sound good. I've made a few big mistakes in my life, but I've never hidden them, never let them turn poisonous in the dark. If my impurities were those I'd "caught" from modern culture, I would have been happy to kiss them goodbye, although I wasn't sure what habits or resources I'd be able to put in their place. And how exactly would Israel cleanse me?
|Israel with the conch shell.|
What did the stones he was moving around and behind my feet signify? Why was he blowing his giant conch shell right next to my head? Why was he blowing it so long and loud? Was it necessary to wave that smoky substance all over me?
I was anxious about many things. I wished the rest of the group wasn't watching. Apart from my husband, I'd known these others exactly one day.
What if I didn't get it? What if this young man brought his wisdom to bear and it rolled right off me? What if my corruption was too deep?
What if everything Israel was doing was hocus pocus? A chorus of scoffing voices erupted in my head.
My purification lasted about ten minutes. Later a new friend from the group told me what he saw: Israel setting a black stone behind my feet--signifying something that had happened to me that I needed to leave behind--and blowing the conch shell to call my soul back into my body.
Whatever the nature of the ceremony, when I sat down afterward, under the trees that surrounded the altar, I was confident that Israel, this shaman, this doctor, could be trusted. He had helped me. I felt lighter, ready for something new.
More to come.
Photos by Tracy O'Neill