After lunch we make our way as a group to the gallery of a local painter to hear his story and to talk with a local woman about Mayan beliefs as well as the symbolism in the local weaving. We enter into an enclosed courtyard, one side filled with glorious paintings of the local scenery, the other a small semi-circle of benches and chairs. In one of these, with a small table in front of him, sits the painter, working on a piece of canvas.
Our speaker come out, a traditional shirt called a hupil in her arms. The shirt is intricately woven.
She tells us something of herself and then begins to explain the weaving to us. The zig-zag pattern is to remind them that sometimes things are down, but they will always go up again eventually. Some weavings, like that of the women in Chichicastenango use the zig-zag pattern to represent the mountains; they also use a zig-zaged circle around the collar of the huipil to represent the sun. When the sun and the mountains are present on a woman’s hupil she becomes a symbol of mother earth, who along with father sky and grandfather sun, make up much of the traditional Mayan religion.
Their very specific calendars also plays a large role in Mayan society. The Mayans use the alignment of the stars, the sun and Venus to build their calendar. The Calendar is a lot more than a time keeping system, it tells Mayan people what days are good for planting, what days are good for resting, what days are good for harvesting. The calendar also outlines the role of a person within society. People born on certain days are healers, while people born the next day might be priests and people on the next are farmers.
Now, she lets us in on a secret. The world is not going to end on December 21, 2012. It is only the end of a certain measurement of time used by the Mayans called a Baktun. A Baktun Consists of 5, 200 three hundred and sixty five day years. December 21 is the end of the 13th baktun, and the beginning of the 14th. This day is so special because, the sun, Venus, earth, and the moon will all be in alignment. This alignment of celestial bodies will send high energy levels at the earth, the highest in 5,200 years. Humans may either benefit from this energy or it could destroy them, it is all up to how we use the energy given to us.
We can either use it to shift our paradigm to a more sustainable and holistic approach to life, or we can use it to accelerate the destructive path we are on. It may be used to cleanse the frontal cortex of the brain, which the Mayans believe to be the source of negativity and conflict in humans. This cleansing will only happen to people who are at peace with the three sides of themselves. In Mayan culture these are referred to as the emotional, spiritual, and physical parts of self.
As she informs us of that little tid-bit, my heart skips a beat. Here finally is a culture operating on the same thought plane as I am. Here are people more worried about the other two sides of life than will their material possession. The solid world is only 1/3 of what is going on around us, so why are we so concerned with it?
This belief in balance is the reason Mayan people are so happy, continues our speaker, the Mayan people know that despite their material poverty they are spiritually and emotionally rich. This trumps material wealth any day.
How are these people, despite losing family and friends and homes and living in poverty, so happy? That is the question I have wanted answered ever since our first meeting about this trip.
The rest of the speech is lost on me, as I was just handed the answer to my biggest question on a silver platter.