This is about my friend Tanya. Her mother is a Basque Spanish woman and her father is from Haiti. Her parents slit quickly and before she was born. She had a bad, a real bad, childhood.
Wherever she travels in Mexico, she says, they withhold her and want to see all her papers, the Immigration officials never believe that she is Mexican, they always suspect that she is an illegal from Honduras or Cuba. For years she was mad as hell about this, now she just laughs and always is careful to carry her papers with her. After the earthquake in Haiti a few years ago she dreamt repeatedly of what she imagined were her Haitian ancestors and that moved her to search for her father, who is a medical doctor in Mexico City. She found him and a ton of cousins from Haiti. But instead of feeling taken in by a lost family she perceived that they wanted to use her, the woman, as a servant, including her father, who is old now.
"He just wanted me now so that I can take care of him. In Haiti, Kiki, they are at least 50 years backwards and more machos than anywhere else in all America!"
What also bothered her was that they scolded her for being "half white" and not a "real Black" and so she also left that part of the family behind.
Tanya is a single mother of two very blond and very blue - eyed men and most people do not believe that these men are really her biological sons.
Tanya works with women, she is a Xamana, a BRUJA, she does rituals when the full moon shines, she uses Mayan flowers and Back Flowers, she does rituals for dead souls and she tells me that often she perceives the dead sould behind her.
All once in a while she comes and unburdens her heart with me.
You have a Chulel and I have one. It is something like the soul. Something like your animal totem. First I understood that everything has a Chulel, some people understand it that way, but our guide, our old friend Chip Morris says, no, human - beings have a Chulel and corn has a Chulel, but other plants do not. But then, this might vary from one Mayan community to another.
Each Chulel - soul - is made of 13 layers. If you fall down, for example - as I do a lot because of my waning eyesight - it means that the Lord of the Underworld - el Señor del Inframundo - plays a trick on you and falling one of the 13 levels gets out of harmony. Then you need a shaman to put your Chulel - layers back into a straight line again. For that you need to sacrifice a hen, clean yourself with Copal - Incense and A lot of Basilikum as well as drink Coca - Cola!
We bodies with Chuleles live on the surface of the Earth, where things can be seen, but what we see is not the truth, it tricks us. The Real World is the Underworld, el Inframundo, and that is at the same time where Heaven is, especially inside caves and mountaintops and there are also the saints and that is where the dead go and that is why cemeteries are always on mountaintops here in the land of the Maya. The Real World, the one underneath the surface is the World of Dreams. The one we walk in is just an illusion.
We the people in bodies inhabited by Chuleles have to make splendid fiestas so that God sees he has made a good world. Otherwise he will consider this world a failure and destroy it to work at a next and better attempt. The Snake - energy (Remember Quetzalcoatl, the highest Divinity of the Aztecs, the Plumed Serpent?) leaves the Earth whenever a rainbow appears and that is an extremely bad sign and the world might fall apart soon.
That is why Mayans give what they have and more to their fiestas. After many years of not attending any I went yesterday with a few people to the Fiesta of Santa Magdalena, a village of about 5 thousand people about 2 hours from San Cristóbal.
The procession of saints was gorgeous: each Saint carried by four men, men dressed in colorful costumes of ancient origin, the saints covered in the most amazing brocades. Women carry Copal - incense, so much of it that even though it was a clear and sunny day everything was veiled in smoke and I felt myself entering the Real World of Dreams. Firecrackers went off so loudly, we had to cover our shaking ears with our sweaty hands. There were ancient drums and flutes, a military band, mariachis and a rock band all playing at the same time. Alferezes of San Andres Larrainzar - where the Zapatista movement began a few decades ago - came in their long dark chuks (IN BETWEEN A SHIRT AND A COAT) WITH THEIR GORGEWOUS BRIGHT READ HAIR SCARFS, MEN FROM Magdalena’s with their short white trousers, embroidered shirts and bags, Mashes from Chamula, the eternal clowns in colorful uniforms inspired by the French soldiers a few centuries ago. They drink and dance and sing and paint and write poetry, they make fun of the world and the Tzotzil word for writing and weaving and painting and singing is one and the same. They create. And the weavers are the highest, because weaving is a sexual activity: threads are interwoven and something new, a garment, is created….
I listen to Chip explaining all this, I smell the Copal, the music vibrates to the inner core of my bones and when the Saints arrive and are greeted I stand there crying. I am utter emotion. I cannot hold so much beauty and such intense faith inside my heart.
And I fully understand again why all these many years ago I fell in love with this country in the first place….
Yesterday I sat with a woman whose son took a rowing boat out on the ocean in Baja California and the boat returned without him. His body was never found. People called her and said they had seen him, but he never returned home, never sent a message. This was 17 years ago.
Today I sat with a young indigenous woman, who married a man from Scandinavia and the relationship broke apart. She had a nervous breakdown and went to a psychiatric hospital, where she repeatedly tried to kill herself and saw herself dead lying below her. She was reminded of her Mayan ancestors, of her Chulel, of the fact that her life is not in her own hands but guided from above or below or some greater force.
Both womens´ hearts opened in love to the world and I fell in love with both of them.
"My father was a Mayan healer," explains my friend Xmal (Mayan for: Maria)," He had many women and I am sure he has more than 50 children. Today he lives in the US with an American wife. He still knows every herb and he still heals and I have made my peace with him. He brought my mother and my sisters and me to live here in town, which was still unusual for a Mayan back then. My mother stopped talking Tzeltal to us and once I entered school I became a whole Western girl. Later I married a foreigner and when that relationship fell apart so did I. During that crisis my old life, my Mayan roots returned to me. I remembered how as a girl my twin - sister and I had communicated by telepathy. I remembered that when I walked to the little river behind our house, I had met Jesus. I had not known about Jesus then, later I learned to identify that white figure as him, who laid his hands on my head every time I met him there. My grandfather came to me in my dreams, especially in a very vivid one when he died - while I was on another continent. I started leaving my body at times....I returned to my Chuleles!"
"Tell me more about the Chuleles!" I ask her
" We each have Chulel, actually we each have 4 Chuleles," she explains," One is the Spirit, the next one is the Waijel, the part of the spirit that leaves us and travels into other dimensions while we dream. Then there is the third Chulel, which is like the Animal - Guard, your Nagual, the fourth Chulel is the one who unites us with others so that healing can happen."
I remember my recent exploration of Chulel Chulel
that stayed very incomplete and ask more questions.
"Each of us has these 4 Chuleles," Xmal explains," and each Chulel has its guardians, these we have to bring offerings, flowers, fruits on our altar or just feeling gratitude. If the guardians fail to guard our Chuleles we get sick and then need a shaman to bring the Chuleles back into harmony. Not just Corn has a Chulel, every living thing has Chulel and also every non - living thing has it, because everything comes from the Earth and without Chulel nothing could come into existence...."
Today Xmal is a healer herself. She says without her terrible crisis she would not have found her Chuleles, her life´s path, her destiny. We need to go through these deep crises to find our destiny.
A little after we have said good - bye to each other a woman calls me. The woman who calls me is a hairdresser in town and a friend of the mother of a murderer. She asks me if I will receive that unlucky man´s mother in therapy, a woman in the deepest imaginable pain, out of her wits.
My path and my destiny?
Photograph by Kiki ( Mayan embroidery from Zinacantan with Mayan clay jaguar from the Tzeltal - village of Amatenango)