archaeology, life, Mayan Culture, mythology, philosophy, research, spirituality, story, writing

Travels in the Mayan Yucatan

This is the fifth in a series of articles that explores the philosophic and spiritual concepts of the Classic Maya. What did these intelligent people believe about themselves, life and the gods, and how did those ideas influence the way they lived? This article will explore my favorite place, Isla Mujeras, The Island of Women, and some of my favorite stories.

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 The Island is dedicated to the Great Goddess Ixchel, co-creator of life.

Half an hour from Cancun, I caught the ferry to the island. Perched precariously on the prow of the rickety weather beaten ferry, I leaned over the edge captivated by the unbelievably blue color of the water. The landing at Puerto Juarez disappeared behind as the long strip of Isla Mujeras slowly moved toward us. The chugging of the engine drowned out all but the high cry of an occasional bird overhead.

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The town’s buildings; painted bright red, orange, purple and yellow, rose up like gifts the sea offered to the sky.  So perfectly did the sky and sea reflect one another that the thin line between them was the only differentiating factor; that, and the occasional puff of white cloud passing by.

For two thousand years Mayan women have made the pilgrimage to Isla Mujeras (Island of Women). They’ve come with offerings –clay statues, cocoa beans, turquoise, hand woven objects, and the now rare feather of the Quetzal bird, a most prized object — to give to the great mother goddess Ixchel in thanks for what She’d given them and prayers for what they lacked.
Rowing across the turquoise water from the mainland would have taken two hours or more. Slowly Ixchel’s temple would become visible at the south end of the island; three buildings of limestone blocks fit snugly together, hunkered down close to the earth for protection from the hurricane winds that regularly flatten anything with height. Soft trade winds would now ruffle the warm air that welcomed the women to this gentle land.

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When I’d heard about the island on a previous trip to study the Maya ruins of the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico, my imagination was captivated. I wondered what was in the women’s hearts when they made such a journey and why this particular island had been chosen for a sacred site.  I’d learned from Mayanologists that temple areas were built where the diviners of their religion perceived sources of particular power.
When the Spanish first came to the island, they discovered hundreds of female statues among the buildings of the temple. When they came to the town they found only women and children. The men were out fishing. For that reason they named the island, “Isla Mujeras.”

Set at the base of the village, the landing — where several other boats of varying sizes and shapes were tied up — jutted out to meet us. Beside the beach in either direction, a myriad of small boats bobbed in the turquoise water beside palapa style buildings planted in the white sand.
A flock of taxi drivers descended on me as I made my way through the crowd on the pier to the street. The scent of fish, hot tortillas, beer, and suntan lotion mixed deliciously with the salt-sea breeze as I was whisked away the five blocks to the hotel.

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Mayan woman selling her wares

Hotel Nabalam –meaning the jaguar’s house — was at the north end with nothing but a wide, white sand beach and shallow, lake-still water for as far as you can see. Attractive low buildings were covered in bougainvillea surrounded by tropical gardens dotted with palapas and bright colored hammocks that swung leisurely in the breeze.

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Nabalam Hotel

Late in the day  when it was cool enough to venture out,  I called a taxi to go to the south end, to the site of Ixchel’s temple. The taxi driver dodged the village traffic deftly and soon we were in new territory on a road that ran the length of the island on the west side. Where the pavement ended a dirt-rock road meandered drunkenly through low brush to the lighthouse where I got out of the taxi to walk. A trail led over rocky terrain above jagged high cliffs to a small structure built in the place of the temple to mark the spot.

 

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Road to temple

Ixchel  was the most important of the many females worshipped by the Maya. Her role was fertility, ease in childbirth, family harmony, and weaving of all kinds — very like the great goddesses of other cultures.

The spot was beautiful, and indeed, it did feel powerful even though the temple structure was flattened. This southern tip of the island received strong winds and water currents even on a mild day. As the waves hit the rocks below the water splashed high into the air that then carried drops up to dampen our faces as we peered out from the high vantage.

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Ixchel’s temple

 

As it grew dark, my imagination was captivated by this place that had drawn women, not unlike myself, to sit and contemplate the night sky.  It was a brilliant clear night, and as the sliver of a new moon rose out of the east, above my head the Milky Way glistened.

One of my favorite of the Mayan creation stories came to mind.

“One day Ixchel, who was the most beautiful girl who ever lived, and who was the moon, was weaving in the afternoon in the yard of her father’s house.  As was her custom when she worked, she dreamed dreams of her lover, Kinich Ahau, the sun.  Suddenly, as if in answer to her prayers, he appeared and grabbed her in his arms and flew up into the sky to make his escape with his beloved moon.  Just then her father came out from inside the house, and, upon seeing the two escaping, took out his blowgun and shot the sun. The sun sank and the moon, his daughter, fell into the sea and shattered into a thousand pieces.  When the fish saw this, they tried to patch her together with their scales.  When that failed, they linked themselves together, mouth to tail to mouth to tail and so on, until they formed a net in which they could lift her shattered body to her lover the sun.  This also failed, and they could only leave her in the sky where she passes all her time chasing the sun across. The fish that tried to help her turned into the Milky Way.”

Modern physics describes the creation of the cosmos as beginning with a Big Bang that led to the formation of stars which gathered together into galaxies, with suns and moons and planets. They tell us exactly how that occurred according to physical facts; of atoms and force fields like gravity and the speed of light, quarks and particles so infinitesimally small hundreds of thousands of them live in a mote of dust. They describe exactly how it happened according to physical facts discovered by instruments so sophisticated that they must build underground tunnels miles long and force the particles to move faster and faster through those tunnels to collide with other particles. By this method they assure us they know exactly what the truth is about the stars and the formation of cosmic life. It is an awesome endeavor and full of wonder and beauty.

However, as a simple human being watching the night sky and wondering how it came to be, and further, wondering what does it have to do with me; a small being living in a dwelling with other beings that I love and hunting for my dinner in the jungle and growing corn in my garden to feed myself and my children and meeting birds and animals as I move through my day? As that person, I want to know what’s expected of me and who made me and why. Ixchel’s story satisfies my need when I imagine her as the moon and feel the sadness of her separation from the sun; something I can understand because I too suffer losses and separations from people I love. I know what it means to suffer, and so I have a relationship with the gods and am connected; no longer a drifting bit of nothing in a giant void, but a being who can relate to the most profound experiences.

These questions have intrigued humans since the dawn of time and the answers change with the time but are never diminished in importance. Today we are more oriented to science; to physical proofs to answer our questions, but need that diminish the value and correctness of the view of people of other times, who, lacking modern instruments, were more poetic in answering those fundamental questions?

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childhood, fairytales, journey, magic, story, writing

The World of Appearance & Dis-appearance

Part One

Once there was a tiny snake. The reason to make this point from the outset is that its size plays such a very important part in the story I am about to tell you. So, once there was a tiny snake whose name was Tyrone, and he was yellow and blue. That is, in the main he was yellow with a thin stripe of blue going round and round in a spiral over his entire length and ending in a diamond of blue at the top of his head. His eyes were also blue. Tyrone spent his days in lazy abandon sliding from one comfortable spot to another depending on the temperature and place of the sun. He loved lying in the sun, at least he did until it became too warm, and then he would grudgingly move into the shade where he would return to a semi-somnambulant state. It was not so much that he would sleep, but that he would drift between the worlds of appearance and dis-appearance. Tyrone lived to drift and would surely have continued on in this vain for eternity if the following circumstance had not forced him onto a journey he did not ask for.

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The sun had fallen low in the sky casting long shadows from the giant oaks over the grassy slope where he lay curled. His drift had taken him to the essence of the oak whose shadow he lay beneath. Knowing her for who she really was, he was in a state of awe, when he was abruptly jerked back into the world of appearances by a string of angry words whose meaning he was unfamiliar with. Opening his bright blue eyes he raised his head and looked around for the source of the anguish. Above him in the boughs of the oak sat a human boy with his legs draped over a branch and his pajamas tangled in the smaller branches from which he was pulling with all his might to free himself.

“How in this world did you get yourself into such a predicament?” Tyrone asked incredulous. And that is saying something about the nature of this particular adventure, for Tyrone had never had the experience of incredulity. He certainly was familiar with awe, wonder, horror, joy, abandon, misery, love, beauty, fear; those aspects of the essential world and of the material one, but none of his previous experience prepared him for such surprise; for what did not make sense.

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A moving shadow passed over the boy– a red-tailed hawk hunting. Tyrone slid below a fern at the base of the tree.
The boy swore loudly.
“Hissssss– shhhh,” warned Tyrone. When the hawk had passed, the snake popped his head out and directed his intense gaze once again at the distraught child. “So, what is your answer?”
Cursing.
“Oh, do stop that at once. You’ll only get both of us into some kind of trouble if you insist on drawing attention to yourself. That hawk, for instance, after he had me for dinner might take you on. Though it is not usual, neither, I have to say, are you.”
The boy’s hair –which was bright red–stuck out in several directions. “I just woke up. Why am I not in my bed?” He opened his mouth to let out another string of obscure words.
“Hssss–Shhhh. Now, tell me everything you can remember and don’t leave anything out. I can’t help you sort this out until I know everything.
“How can you help me. You’re too small.”
Tyrone laughed.
The boy’s eyes grew large with wonder at the sound; a snake laughing is not something one hears everyday. “I remember going to bed and then drifting to sleep, something about flying. Yes. I had wings and a different sort of body. It was light, not like being awake with this heavy clunky body that is hard to move in. And now I’m awake and stuck up here. Stupid body — stupid snake.”
“Now, now, no need to call names is there. Won’t help a bit. It’s not a stupid body, just you don’t know how to work it yet, and I am by no means a ‘stupid’ snake. By the way, name’s Tyrone. Yours?”
The boy’s face was a mix between a pout and dis-belief. “Andrew, Andrew Benedict Aniston. They call me Andy — and, that-a-boy and Gopher. Sometimes mom calls me rascal and trouble but mostly Andy.”
Tyrone rolled his eyes causing the blue of his eyes to circle like the blue stripes around what could be called his neck.
The boy smiled. “Do that again.”
Tyrone complied, pleased to have diverted Andy’s attention from his distressed condition and giving himself time to consider the clues as they were presented.

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Humans had seldom crossed his path so he was unfamiliar with their particular reality, but he knew from his observation of all life forms, that each has an esssential life that creates and nourishes the one in physical reality — the world of what Tyrone called, appearances. It seemed that the child had drifted between the worlds and was in a bit of a muddle-which is something like, but not really — the middle, for there can be no middle ground between above and below, at least not so far as Tyrone knew. But maybe, he thought, incredulous for the second time in one day, humans were capable of being in the middle.
How that would be sorted out is the adventure.
“What else do you remember before going to your nap?”
Andy sighed heavily. ”Could you get me down first?”
“Not really. I don’t know where you are yet. Come on, try to remember.”
“I’m right here. Can’t you see me?”
“I see something, but it isn’t really you.”
Andy started to curse, but stopped up short. “My brother is sick. Everyone was busy taking care of him when I was put to bed. Mom was crying.”
Tyrone nodded. “Good. Tell me about your brother.”
Andy smiled. “The most important thing about him is that he’s my twin. Of course, he’s brave and strong and loads of fun. Since he’s been sick, Mom won’t let me see him. He’s in a dark room alone. Why do they do that to him?”
“They are trying to help him get well. They think that’s how to do it.” Tyrone shook his head. “Maybe they’re right, but it isn’t always best. There are many reasons for sickness in the physical world and knowing what lies beneath is not what most beings are capable of. Of course, a real doctor would know. Let’s hope your brother has one. What’s your brother’s name?”
“Billy — that’s for William.”
“And how old is Billy?”
“He’ll be nine, as I am.”
“Tell me more about your time flying.”
“It was great fun– at least it was for awhile, but then it got very dark, and there was a big wind and a terrible sound. I remember now. I was looking for someone. That’s why I was flying; to get up high and look around to find them. But then the dark and wind came, and the next thing was that I was here in this silly tree–sorry tree–you’re not silly. Nice tree. Would you let me down now?”
Tom would have laughed at this last bit if not for the terrible information that came before. This was not good–not good at all. “Andrew, go back and remember when you were flying. Can you do that?”
“I’ll try.” Andy squinched up his eyes tight. “Now what?”
“Who are you looking for? “
“Billy, he’s lost.”
“Very good Andrew. Can you see him?”
Andy shook his head hard nearly freeing his pajamas from the grasp of the oak’s hold on him, but she held her grip.

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When Tom saw the oak reach her branches tighter to protect the boy, he smiled and nodded to her. “I see, so he is now present enough that he could be hurt. Do help him down then, won’t you?”
Andy looked back and forth quizically from the branches stuck to his sleeves and Tom. “Are you talking to the tree?”
“Who else?”
Very gently the branches moved to lower the child. Unless one were looking very closely– as we are now — it would merely have appeared that the tree was moving in the wind.
“Thank you,” Andy said with great seriousness.
The oak appeared to nod.
“Better?” Tyrone raised up to his full height to better peer at Andy which brought him to Andy’s shins.
“You really are small aren’t you? How do you propose to help me then?”
Tom didn’t take offense, as he fully understood that it is in the nature of young beings of all types, human or otherwise, to be demanding and direct as is correct. “Good question. Here is what we know; you went on a journey to find your brother, along the way you lost yourself, you are now in neither the surface world where you consider yourself to be awake, nor are you fully in the world you associate with dreams and imagination. You are in the netherworld with me. This is the place I know best, so– if we’re going to find your brother and return you both to the world where your parents will be waiting anxiously for you– we must get on with it. Can you keep a secret?”
“Oh, yes, Billy and I have lots of secrets. What’s the secret then?” Andy sat down on the ground and put his face up close to Tom’s, who reached his body as long as he could make it to put his mouth up to Andy’s ear.
“No one–under any circumstances– can know that I am your guide. Do you have a pocket in that get-up you’re wearing?”
Andy pointed to a small pouch at his left hip.
“Good. I will travel with you in that pouch, but do you understand that once anyone knows of my existence, you will have dis-sed me–sent me to the world of dis-appearance– or appearance as the case may be; for it will depend on who you tell. As we are to be companions on this journey you may call me, Ty. Unless, of course, you’re in immediate danger and then TYRONE, will bring quick help. Got it?”
“Got it, Ty.”
“So, let’s go then.”
“But where are we going?”
Ty laughed, that sound unlike any other. “It’s a surprise.”
“But how will I know where to go?”
“Once I’m in your pocket your feet will be led by my knowledge. I will be your guide remember?”
Andy nodded and very carefully picked Ty up in both his hands. ”Please don’t wiggle, or I might drop you.”

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archaeology, Mayan Culture, philosophy, research, spirituality, story, travel, writing

Travels in the Mayan Yucatan

This is the third in a series of articles that explores the philosophic and spiritual concepts of the Classic Maya.

The Puuc Region: Uxmal

At the Mayan site of Uxmal the top of a mammoth pyramid rose above the surrounding jungle like an apparition; magnificent, eerie, and captivating to the imagination.  A gentle rain in the night had sweetly scented the air, and by the time I’d dressed and eaten, the clouds had passed leaving everything wet and clean; the dust settled on the dirt paths that lead from one part of the ruins to another.
The city of Uxmal, meaning the place of plentiful harvests, was inhabited from 100–1000 AD and was rebuilt five times with a population at its height of 20,000 people.
Comprised of seven separate groupings, the surviving buildings were located on a broad plateau.  As I’d seen at the nearby sites of Sayil and Kabah, the architectural style was unique and distinguished them from other areas of the Yucatan; long and low with exquisite proportions, decorated with elaborate ornate carvings of Puuc the rain god and several other deities.

 

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“The Nunnery Quadrangle,” named by a 17th century Christian priest for its resemblance to the cloisters of Spain, is now believed to have had  various civic and religious uses by priests and dignitaries of the city.  The quantity of divine symbols in the friezes and excessive number of Chaacs – the rain god — speaks of sacramental spaces.  Faithful to the design of the other ritual buildings of this site, the quadrangle was the most outstanding with its elaborate ornamentation and long low design.

Little is known about the people who lived here and their unique history. The ruins themselves speak of a culture that was highly religious and ritualistic, who lived according to the ancient books of the Classic Maya, but beyond that, we don’t know.  I found myself remembering the Mayan creation stories I’d found in the Popul Vuh and the Books of the Chilan Balam. Here is an excerpt:

“In the beginning the two who came first from the one made the gods of the four directions and joined the two of heaven, and the six together created the seventh who is ‘heart of heaven’.  Thus co-creation began and all else came forth from this co-operation.  The word was spoken and action arose.  It was green.

In the first stage the earth,

plants and animals were formed and multiplied.  However the animals could not speak, but could only squawk and run about madly, could not name the gods who created them, could not honor and praise them, and so their flesh was brought low, they were eaten, they were killed — the animals on the face of the earth.

In the second stage,

The Makers experimented with the human work and built them of earth and mud, but it did not look good to them; it kept separating and changing, it could only mimic, it could not create.  No words of praise came forth from their distorted faces.  The days of the gods were not kept by them.  They were insufficient and therefore were dismantled.

In the third stage

the gods were successful in fashioning a human who could sustain its form.  They were carved of wood and were led by the grandmother, the daykeeper, and by grandfather, the master of coral seeds.  These could multiply, but there was not enough in their hearts, not enough in their minds, no memory of their mason and builder.  They did not remember the ‘Heart of Sky’, but only knew the grandmother, ‘Heart of Lake’.  Again a great destruction was made; a dismantling of the creation.
This was when there was only a trace of dawn on the face of the earth; there was no sun.  To this time and place there came the great warrior twins, the redeemers of mankind, Hanahpu and Ixbalamka who would transform the creation from the third to the fourth stage.”

The stories that describe stages of creation were consistent with the philosophic understanding that life is dependent on the creators and that the creators expect something in return.  At the height of the Mayan civilization a great deal of attention was given to the gods, and Uxmal, like other sites, was where the people came for rituals to honor them.

Together with others who had come from the far corners of the world to see this magnificent site, I realized the honoring was still taking place. Maybe it was not with the same understanding, but we did gaze in awe and wonder all the same.

Uxmal ballcourt

 

Here at Uxmal the separate groups of buildings were positioned in relationship to one another in intricate geometric patterns.  It was truly a marvel to see and one wondered at how such a marvel was accomplished in a place where there were no mines, no metal tools, no dray animals, and the wheel had not been discovered.  The wheel issue was another of the Mayan mysteries; for a people that charted the heavens without the aid of modern instruments, that came up with the concept of zero and were brilliant mathematicians, why did they have no concept of the wheel?

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As I approached The Temple of the Magician, whose top I had seen from my room at the hotel, it was  forbidding with its 118 steps leading to two platforms. The gargantuan size would have certainly impressed any visitors at any time.  Five superimposed temples, each embedded in the other and added in different periods, made up the temple.  At 114 feet, it was the second largest pyramid in the Yucatan.

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Most Mesoamerican cultures played a form of the ballgame, and I was anxious to see Uxmal’s ballcourt.  111 feet long and 32 feet wide, its sloped walls ran the length forming a platform at the top for spectators.  The equipment for the ballgame varied through time and space but generally consisted of a rubber ball and heavy padding for the players.  Two teams of 2 or 3 players each competed to pass the ball through a ring suspended high on one of the walls of the alleyway.  The players controlled the ball by hitting it with the upper arm and thigh; no hands could be used.

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More ceremony than sport, the ballgame was another of the Classic Maya’s symbolic aspects; the struggle between day and night, dark and light, consciousness and the unconscious.  A metaphor for the movements of heavenly bodies, particularly the Sun, Moon, and Venus, the ball itself may have been understood as the sun journeying in and out of the Underworld, seen as the narrow alley of the ballcourt.  The most well documented description of the importance of the ballgame to the Maya was found in the Popul Vuh when the redeemer twins, Hanahpu and Ixbalamka must play the game with the lords of the Underworld to bring about the fourth stage.

Again a time came, when there was not a trace of dawn on the face of the earth; there was no sun. The lords of Xibalba challenged Hanahpu and Ixbalamka to a ballgame in the underworld, which is not something that can be refused.

 

Excerpt from my novel, The Jaguar’s House.

Hanahpu and Ixbalamka climbed down the craggy cliffs to the catapulting river below.  After passing all of the tests put to them, they were put to the ultimate test; the House of Death where they would be sacrificed.  Here the ballgame was played.  Hanahpu lost his head, but with the aid of the animals and all allies of the earth, the brothers did utterly defeat the lords of Xibalba; because of superior knowledge they knew that death was a stage whose next step was rebirth, so when Hanahpu died, he knew he’d be reborn, and therefore was.
This feat was a miracle to the lords of Xibalba who believed death was the final frontier.  The lords were envious of this mastery and wished to participate and gain its power.  One Death bowed to them and said, “Please, sacrifice us, so that we may know this great truth.” Here the twins defeated them utterly, for when their heads were cut off, they could not reassemble themselves. They had no belief in transformation, and so were locked in the prison of their own minds; dead forever.

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The game became the metaphor of life, death, and regeneration and the resurrection of the twins’ father, the Maize God, from the court of death. The principle ideas that form the foundation of Mayan thought were of stages, of a continual round of cycles of time, of transformation, and of the correct way to live in relation to the gods.  All of these concepts can be seen in this excerpt from my novel, The Jaguar’s House.” 

 

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inspiration, life, psychology, spirituality, story, writing

Connect With Your Creative Muse; for fun, for help with a problem, even for Directions.

There are so any times, and so many reasons, we need help from a source greater than ourselves.  As 12 step programs say, we need to understand what is in our control and what is not.  However, when it is not, that’s when I make the call.  Jungian Psychology names that force: the anima or animus; the contra sexual part of the psyche that supports the ego when it is at its wits end; when we need to know what we don’t know.

The best examples in my life have been when I’m traveling. greece3

 

I was alone in Greece doing research for my novel, Echo the Ancients, and had rented a car to drive to Delphi from Athens.  If you’ve ever driven in Greece, you’ll know what an adventure that is; the signs are all in Greek.  After a magical day and night at the site, I was faced with the daunting task of finding my way back through Athens to the car rental agency.  I was definitely at my wits end, and so, had a tearful conversation with my animus to please get us there in one piece and without getting lost.  I hate to get lost.  Maps would do no good, as the street map of Athens is a labyrinth of twisting turns, one way streets and streets that end with no warning.  I knew that there was no choice but to drive, and hope and believe that my unconscious would do its job because I’d asked for help.

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You might call it, being on auto-pilot.  Within minutes of arriving at the city limits I drove directly to the rental car agency.  I called it a miracle then, and still do.

That was not the first time or would it be the last that I found the help I needed when traveling alone. For those of you who are like me; intrepid lone explorers,I know you’ll understand; when we have companions we turn to them for help, when we’re alone, we turn inward to a power far greater than ourselves.

The fun part of relationship with the Muse is on creative projects.  My favorite example is when I was in love with a place: The Yucatan.  My first trip was with my daughter and friends to Isla Mujeres: The Island of Women off the coast of Cancun.  On our visit to the archeological Mayan site at Tulum, I went alone into a cave and envisioned a Mayan girl who’d gone there to be alone.  That was the beginning of 20 years of research about the Maya, of 12 visits to the area, of several newspaper and magazine articles about the place, and my novel, The Jaguar’s House.

Several years into my intoxication with The Yucatan, I went alone to photograph images and capture the magical spirit of the land.  I’d taught myself how to photograph in a way that part of the image was transparent; that would represent the spirit.  It was the most fun I’ve ever had.  I went to each of my favorite places; the beach at Isla, Cenote Azul off the coast, Tulum, of course, and the inland archaeological site at Coba.  Using my new technique, I played with the land and the spirits that lived there. The following images are from that time.Ruins 4 Cenote 5

Cliff Spirit 7Water Spirit 9

I was never alone, but always with my dearest love; my animus, my muse.  Whatever name I call that force, it is with me always and most evident when I’m alone.  At home in everyday life, it arises when I’m sad, or especially glad and in need of inspiration.  I believe that at root, it is inspiration; an uprising from the unconscious of something that wants to come into being.

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childhood, health, life, parenting, psychology, spirituality, story, writing

How Stories Can Facilitate Psychological Health

greece13Many years ago, when I’d been working as a therapist for several years,  I came upon an ancient Greek tradition where people suffering from an illness (whether physical or mental) went to healing caves for a cure.  At the site there were caves where the patient slept and then healers aided their patients in interpreting their dreams.  A healing dream is a story that speaks in the language of symbol to directly impact the conscious mind. The key to the cure is that it is the unconscious that heals.

The greater part of my work with clients was working with their dreams, so this ancient process had great appeal for me.  Excited to learn more, I literally went in search of the places where this had occurred and found the best example on Crete where the Minoans had once lived from 4000 to 1500 BC.

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Thus began my 20 year fascination with a culture that appeared to have been amazingly balanced between the masculine and feminine principles.  The Minoans are considered matriarchal but my research has shown me otherwise.  Most scientists who’ve come across them have automatically classed them matriarchal because most cultures in that time period were.  They hadn’t the vision to realize that everything in their art spoke to a highly developed consciousness.  It was not one-sided.

once heard that if we haven’t seen something before, we can’t see it at all.  An example given was that when the first ships arrived on the east coast of the United States from Europe, the indigenous population couldn’t see the ships; they were invisible to them.  It was the shaman who revealed these odd new forms to the people, which he could do since he traveled in the unconscious on a regular basis.

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I knew by then that simply telling someone something goes in one ear and out the other; it has no real impact on the psyche, but stories do. Many great and small teachers over the years, realizing the powerful impact for change in parables, myths, fairytales and stories of all kinds, have used these tools to create a change in the point of view of the listener.  There is no erase button in the psyche but there is an add button.

Keeping in mind that a story is a waking dream, I set out to tell the story of how a young girl was healed by her encounter with this culture that was based on feminine values; love, nurturance, connection, play, art, and beauty.  I created a situation where a young person with a ‘bad’ mother was renewed and given hope for her life through her exposure to the ‘good’ mother.  Her mother’s dark world was all she’d known, now she could see what had previously been invisible.

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As a healer my job is to show people what they haven’t seen before.  My favorite method for doing that is to tell them stories.

My novels, Echo the Ancients, and The Jaguar’s House, A Mayan Tale, were written with this in mind,.

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childhood, health, life, psychology, spirituality, story, writing

Mothers Milk is Mother’s World.

The first truths are taught to us by our mothers. 

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They are the truths that support all others; the people I see, the earth at my feet, the plants and trees around me, the sky above, are neutral until given meaning, and the original meaning comes from her.  Our mother gives us access to the world.  Her beliefs are transferred to us like the formation of our first cells in her womb. We drink the milk from her breast and ingest her emotions, how she sees the world, and how she sees us.

This process happens before we have the consciousness to know that it’s happening.  We are utterly dependent on this information to understand our world. We must have it just as we must have her milk.  And then, worse yet, we forget.  It is staggering how important this is.  No wonder, we, both men and women, are both enraptured and frightened of the feminine.  She does, in fact, have the greatest power.  As the Indian Vedas say, She is the creator and the destroyer.

In the beginning, we see the world through our mother’s eyes not ours.

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If we’re lucky enough to have a ‘good’ mother, she will also teach us to believe in ourselves; to find our own answers that may be different than hers; to constantly seek our own experience and meaning.  In other words, she will point us back to ourselves, freeing us from the limitations of her mind and into the vastness of our own; she will nurture the creation of our own selves.

If we’re not so lucky and have a ‘bad’ mother  (by bad I’m referring to a person whose limitations prevent them from nurturing our individuality) All of the above will happen, however, she will not point us back to ourselves.  Instead of nurturing our unique world view, she will destroy it, insisting that hers is the correct way to see.

Fortunately, that’s not the end of the story.  Our personal mother is not the only feminine force in the universe.  As important as she is to our early life, many people with ‘bad’ mothers naturally turn toward Mother Nature.

A story I’ve heard over and over again from clients with difficult early home lives, is that they found such solace in nature; trees, birds, insects, animals, rivers, all became their friends where they would go to feel some aspect of nurturance.  Because nature is not personal their needs for self awareness could not be satisfied, but they did feel momentarily better.

One of my earliest memories serves as an example: DSC_0142

I was five and had been following the creek down the side of the mountain, jumping from rock to rock in and out of quaking aspen that bent in close and, somewhere, sometime unbeknownst to me, led away from the cabin where I was staying with my mother, father and little brother.  It led to a morning full of meadow.

I remembered the names of Columbine and Indian Paintbrush that I found there, but they were only a few among a myriad of other, as yet, unnamed mountain flowers and grasses that smelled both sour and sweet.  It was beautiful beyond imagining.  I thought that the many drops of lingering dew captured in the plants had been left by the stars the night before.

I was entrance, but also, realized I was lost.  Suddenly I saw a fawn and its mother.  I held my breath. The grasses came above the fawn’s legs as she pranced behind her mother.  She didn’t know yet that her mother’s power was not hers.  She owned it all.  More than anything, I wanted to follow them across that wide expanse of wet wild wonder; that green and purple field of love, where snaking creek waters gurgled, murmuring soft phrases of reassurance.

As the doe ran ahead, the fawn followed, a delighted shadow yet to be solid in her own right.  When the mother stopped and turned her head to her child, I saw her eyes; brown orbs of everything.  I got up from where I’d collapsed on a piece of granite and ran toward them, but before I could catch up, the doe bounded through the barrier of trees, and her fawn, stopping a moment to feel me behind, leapt also.

At the spot where they’d disappeared, I found the creek.  I knew if I followed the creek, I’d find our cabin.  They’d showed me how to get back.  I never told my parents about the meadow; I already knew they would take it from me.

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The memory of that experience was so important to me as a child, I thought about it hundreds of times and would remember the details as clearly as I was able.   Most summers our family returned to this place in the High Sierra’s of California.  The first thing I would do when we arrived was to go in search of my lost place.  I never found it again.  As I grew older, I doubted that it had ever happened.  I had taken on my mother’s dark view of life so fully by then that I called it a silly dream and stopped looking.  However, though I didn’t actively look for it as I once had, I was always on the lookout for it.

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childhood, health, life, parenting, psychology, story, writing

What parents need to know about growing a healthy child.

There has been a monumental change in human evolution.  A new balance has emerged over the past decadeHippyPollard family 1970 which sees father’s more and more involved in the raising of their children from infancy.   With this newly found balance, children born today have a greater chance of psychological health than ever before.

As has been said before me, It takes a village.  However, most of us in the modern western world don’t have a village.  At most what we have is a mother and a father, and hopefully, a grandparent or two or four.  But the core is, a mother and a father.

In conversation with my sister recently we were remarking on how involved her son in law is with the raising of his son; a story I hear regularly about new parents. Father’s today are changing diapers, getting up at night for the feeding of the infant.  At the very least, they’re supporting their wives in the daunting task of caring for an infant.  This was not the case when we were raising our children.  Father’s at that time followed the example of their father’s before them; they went out in the world and left the raising of children to their wives. No matter how good a mother is, their child also needs a father.

CO profile2Whatever the gender of a child is, to be balanced, the feminine and the masculine principles need nurturing, and sooner works better than later since the first three years form the core of identity.

Most of my work as a therapist is reparenting; simply put, the problems an individual faces as an adult usually arise from some aspect of early development that is missing.  Though it’s true that abuses in childhood cause problems, what is more often the case, is that one or more areas of development got skipped.  When both parents are involved in raising the child, there’s a better chance that one of them will be able to compensate for the limitations of the other, raising the possibility that the child’s needs will be attended to. IG Mime9It’s has also been said that it’s never too late to have a happy childhood.  I would be out of a job if that wasn’t the case.  But it’s so much easier to do it right from the start and do away with my job.

As parents today are taking more responsibility for the health of their child; as they’re taking their jobs seriously, I’d be glad to see the end of the need for so much reparenting.  But that time has not yet arrived since there’s so much cleanup to do for the failures of the last generation.

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