Mayan Culture

Today we had the chance to participate in a traditional Mayan ceremony, which was performed by a Mayan priest. One of the ideas embedded within the Mayan culture is to “do as your heart desires.” This is evidenced by the fact that you only participated if your heart told you to. We stood in a circle around a fire, and gave praise to the sun, moon, wind, fire, and water. We gave thanks for both the good and the bad because the Mayans believe the past affects who we are now and what we will become. We gave chocolate, candles, wood, tobacco, and liquor as offerings to the ancestors and Gods. The priest gave thanks to each of the days of the week, which have special names to convey the power of the days of the week.

The energy that the ceremony gave off was incredible. I could feel the stress and tension that was in my life melt away as the ceremony went on. When it came time to give offerings of chocolate and liquor to God and our ancestors, I started to cry a little. The energy that was flowing through the circle was the most amazing feeling I’ve ever felt.

After the ceremony, we went into Xelajujnoj to have lunch and go to a class at a university that was offered by the Mayan priest that did the ceremony. The class focused on cultures within Guatemala. The students gave presentations on different cultures and myths that and performed different dances. The theme of “doing as your heart desires” was again evident in the dances, which were composed of random movements that came out as the dancer so desired.

After we returned home, we had dinner then attended a lecture on traditional Mayan healing. Like the health system in America, the Mayans believe in the healing of the mind, body, and spirit. However, Mayans believe in herbal as well as spiritual remedies. While the Mayan health care system may seem like it has no merit, there are results to back up the system, and it is to be admired that the healers do their service without pay.

By Steven Hale

Students at the Rutgers School of Nursing-Camden are spending their spring break on a service learning trip in Guatemala. Throughout the week, they will be blogging about their experiences.

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