Cave ceremony with Apab’yan. Photo courtesy: Apab’yan Tew.
Apab’yan Tew is an Ajq’ij, a Day Keeper, traditional dancer, musician and spiritual guide of the sacred K’iche Maya tradition from the village of Nawalja’ in Sololá of the Guatemalan highlands. His ceremonial work most often takes place in caves, engaging with resident energies of the natural site and timing of the Tzolkin—Cholq’ij in K’iche’—calendar in conjunction with needs of communities or individuals. His gifts evolved from childhood until he ultimately answered the call through a series of difficult shamanic challenges.
Apab’yan in ceremonial dance. Photo courtesy: Apab’yan Tew.
In the last few years, Apab’yan has become an important, integral part of our Maya spiritual travel program. Being a spiritual guide himself, he’s able to connect with the other Maya leaders and healers in such a way that provides even deeper openings for all of us.
To extend a brief introduction on the Maya worldview…here’s an excerpt of an article I wrote in which he’s quoted, drawing material from an interview we had, speaking eloquently about natural laws.
…We cannot be who we must be without the land. Another principle is that the body we have is not really ours. It is lent from the Mother Earth herself. So if you create any kind of danger to your body, you are also hurting the Mother Earth. What the Earth produces and what we produce is part of the same cycle, the same system. We are not separated from the Earth—and the Earth is not to be thought of as just another provider of goods. The term that is used in the West is ‘natural resources’ as something to be taken, something to be transformed. For us, we don’t use this term. We use the term ‘elements of life.’ It is our life! It is not a resource…
…It is our purpose not to take more than we can give back. But it is also our purpose not to change. We must not touch what is not ours. It is not ours from the beginning. It is ours to have a dialogue…
For this additional article I’d asked Apab’yan to offer a summary on the Maya fire ceremony of his homeland, a very special engagement—a portal really—probably unlike what most of us would have experienced as a fire ceremony.
Fire altar before lighting. Photo: Carla Woody
Everything is alive. Everything has a form of communication. Everything has meaning and belongs to a natural system.
The Maya ceremony consists of preparing a ceremonial pyre. It is called a gift but also a payment in the sense of reciprocity. The K’iche’ ceremonial pyre is not a bonfire; it does not burn a long time. It does not need to last. The importance has to do with what happens while the fire is active: There must be a dialogue.
When the fire starts to burn, the sky and the earth begin to speak. The clouds are speaking. The wind speaks. The birds talk and sing. Everyone…everything…participates in that moment.
It’s only the human being—especially the adult—that needs to be pushed to believe this is possible. I must repeat again and again that it is possible to understand everything… anything…to just hear, feel and communicate in that unique moment.
Nothing—apart from humans—offers so much resistance.
For millennia selected specialists dedicated to maintaining culture and spirituality have continued the work of consultation, healing and reading messages of the form of intelligence that is not human. It is translated through what is seen in the moving flames, not in a human scale. What is hidden in the past, present and future can be accessed by the cadence of the voice and poetry of the ceremonial language.
Ajq’ij is the name given to the specialist, woman or man, devoted to the study of time measurement and time as a substance.
The fire is alive, speaks and does so with discernment. That is, it allows negotiation because it is listening, too. The sacred fire opens up possibilities. One can review decisions, consult your own heart, enter into an affinity with nature, interact with the ancestors, experience communion with the universe.
I am inviting you to be participants in our ceremonies and travels.
For any reader skeptical about the potency of the fire and Apab’yan’s ability to call forth and read its messages: During a fire ceremony in our January 2015 spiritual travel program in Chiapas, Mexico he said to the group, “The fire is speaking.” Indeed, to my eyes it appeared to suddenly be dancing. After a few moments he continued, “Carla, this is for you. The fire says in a few months you will be going on a very long journey, not a normal one.” He went on to tell me what the fire had to say about that journey.
I had not told Apab’yan that at the end of April I was leaving my home to walk the Camino Francés, the ancient 500-mile pilgrimage that begins in Saint Jean Pied-de-Port on the French side of the Pyrenees and culminates in Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain. Certainly not one of my normal journeys… and the fire’s advisement related to it turned out to be true.
I join Apab’yan in inviting you to join us for Entering the Maya Mysteries in January 2017, an immersion experience in Maya cosmology, arts, medicine and sacred ways of the Living Maya. A very special journey with authentic spiritual leaders who serve their communities and the opportunity to participate in religious festivals and ceremonies in Maya rainforest and highland villages. I’m so pleased that once again Apab’yan will be accompanying us sharing ceremonies and teachings throughout. A portion of tuition is tax-deductible to support a Hopi Spirit Keeper traveling with us and Don Sergio Castro’s humanitarian healing work in impoverished Maya villages.
For more on Maya worldview, and that of other Indigenous traditions, read my complete article Seed Intelligence: Indigenous Perspectives and Our Collective Birthright originally published in Anishinaabe (Ojibwe) Farming Curriculum developed by Honor the Earth for Tribal Community Colleges, 2013.
To listen to my complete interview with Apab’yan go to You Tube.