Saturday, January 8, 2011


On our way back to La Antigua from Lake Atitlan, Jim decided to show us a little known Mayan ruin that he and his family had discouvered the year before.  He said when they visited it, they had the place to themselves.
As we pulled into the parking lot, there were many more people, mostly Guatemalans, because of the Xmas holiday.  Still, it was a beautiful peaceful spot nestled in the pine forests of Central Guatemala. It was called IXIMCHE" and dates from the 1400 century K'che' Maya.  As we walked the grounds and saw the ancient site, it was fun to imagine what life must have been like before the Spanish conquered these lands.

Ruins at Iximche'

As we were wandering around the grounds, Jim, Steve, Joaquin, and myself decided to walk down a forest path, just to see where it went.  We came upon a clearing where some Indigenous people were performing some sort of ceremony.  There were just a few people standing around, as and we got closer, we could hear the shaman chanting in native K'che'.  He was holding a chicken and blessing the four corners of the space they had covered with pine needles.  I wasn't sure if I should take pictures, but moved farther to the trees and tried to be discrete.  What we were witnessing was not a public display of made for tourists.  It was an actual sacrificial ceremony, probably from centuries past, and Denise thought it may have something to do with harvest.
After the Shaman blessed the grounds, the helpers poured alcohol down the chicken's throat, I am not sure why, but soon the chicken was on the ground and his head was cut off.  Quickly, the women slit him and reached in and grabbed the heart which was still beating.  The Shaman then offered the heart to the alter that was near the clearing.  The chicken was then held upside down, still flapping, as his blood poured out at different spots on the clearing, and even, purposely,  on some of the participants.  It was hard to watch, but also fascinating, as one could tell , they were very serious, and it was from a very ancient rite that the Mayans used.
An Indigenous family had arrived and had settled in the background and were also watching the sacrifice.
After the blood was drained, the chicken was cut in half and offered to the fire, where he was burnt, while the shaman poured salt on him.  Then, everyone involved in the ceremony drank the rest of the alcohol.  I looked around to see how my grandson,Joaquin, was handling the event, and caught this picture of him....biting his lips with hands over eyes.  Not exactly watching, but also wanting to see what was happening!
We felt we had just witnessed something very primal and extremely interesting.  We took the road less traveled  and that led us to something most visitors to Guatemala never see, and added to our understanding of the ancient Mayan culture.

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