Posts Tagged With: Hopi

Those Who Carry Planetary Consciousness

In 2008 Kenosis Spirit Keepers sponsored Hopi Harold Joseph on my spiritual travel program to Peru. The intent being an opportunity for two relations—Q’ero and Hopi—to share a journey from Cusco to Lake Titicaca along their common migration path. Two videographers also came along to document the nature of this work of the heart. Jacob Devaney, of Culture Collective and now blogger for Huffington Post, was one of them.

Last week Jacob contacted me via email related to writing about his experience and said, “My time in Peru was so profound it took me 7 years to even start writing about it… Thanks, Carla! The magic continues to unfold.”

Hopi and Q'ero

Hopi Harold Joseph with Q’ero Wisdom Keepers. Photo: Darlene Dunning.

I can tell you those were quite the momentous times. We fellow travelers were privileged to be there and participate in the circle with these Wisdom Keepers still so committed to their core traditional values. Those who carry consciousness for planetary wellbeing are becoming an endangered strain of humanity.

Thankfully, the track that called me back in 1994 has continued, deepening in so many ways I couldn’t have predicted. In this year’s program Hopi Marvin Lalo from First Mesa will be meeting his Q’ero relations for the first time. Our journey begins at Tiwanaku, the legendary Creation Place in Bolivia, and travels along an initiation path all the way to the Manu rainforest in Peru. Marvin is so excited.

Jacob’s article is titled Wisdom of an Andean Mystic:

This is not your usual story of going to the jungle to try Ayahuasca…

Few people realize that the Hopi Tribe of Northern Arizona have clans that are descendants of tribes from the northernmost to southernmost tips of the Americas (and quite possibly beyond that). The Q’ero are believed to be descendants of the Inca, who fled high into the Andes where they successfully hid from outsiders until recent decades. Kenosis Spirit Keepers had created the cultural exchange program, and Don Americo Yabar was playing a central role in translating between cultural leaders. I was brought along by Carla Woody to help document and assist my Hopi friend, Harold Joseph…

Read the entire article on Uplift.

Categories: cultural interests, Indigenous Wisdom, Spiritual Travel | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Spiritual Integrity and Preservation

In 2009 an important tradition began, first started by Hopi elder Harold Joseph who accepted an invitation to accompany me on my spiritual travel program Entering the Maya Mysteries. As his religious leader’s emissary, the purpose was to reconnect with relations, those from Hopi migration paths. When I make these invitations on behalf of Kenosis Spirit Keepers, it’s without expectation of outcome. I’ve come to know that as long as we within the circle hold the container sacred…what fills it is rich, often with significance I never could have predicted.

The effect Harold had on Don Antonio Martinez, the last Lacandón Maya elder maintaining his timeless traditions, during a very vulnerable time is well documented in my article The Last Spirit Keeper available for download here. Equally significant are the indications Harold saw during our travels through Mayalands that validated his people’s oral history and common thread with these relations of the south. At certain sites he made offerings and prayers. Over these years several other Hopi Spirit Keepers have replicated what Harold started.

Don Antonio Martinez and Harold Joseph

Don Antonio Martinez and Harold Joseph at the Lacandón Maya village of Najá in 2009. Photo credit: Darlene Dunning

This coming January, Merle Namoki, Sun Forehead Clan, from Shungopavi, Second Mesa will continue the tradition, strengthening the bridge of relationship and respect, laying down prayers. A few years ago, Merle said to me, “…We all need to pray to keep our Mother Earth and Father Sky in balance…”

Mike Weddle is a member of the Kenosis Spirit Keepers’ board who, for more than twenty years, has immersed himself in the sacred ways of the Maya of Guatemala. In his essay Are the Maya and the Hopi Two Branches of the Same Ancestral Tree, he compiled examples of common practices linking the two. He also talked about the protectiveness that Hopi people have over their sacred traditions—in order to preserve them.

The intent I hold for spiritual travel has remained the same from the start. It is not to co-opt Indigenous traditions. It is to offer respect through our presence and to hold space that these sacred ways continue. Merle stated the need so well. If in the process we visitors are deeply touched—and we are—we bring this difference home. Who we are in the world is influenced…and felt by our families, friends and communities. Core spiritual elements are strengthened.

The anniversary of an important date is coming up for me. In late Spring 2008 I held my breath as I opened an envelope from the IRS…and exhaled with great relief to see that Kenosis Spirit Keepers was given status as a charitable organization, our nonprofit extension. It was signed and dated October 15, 2007.

Kenosis Spirit Keepers logo

In this post about the continuity of traditions, I also want to express much appreciation to those who have made donations over the years, and certainly to those who have traveled with me…holding reverence, making the circles and sponsorships possible. Through your spiritual integrity, this work continues. Last but certainly not least, the folks who have served on the board since the inception of Kenosis Spirit Keepers, worked hard and assisted with direction and decisions…I have gratitude.

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If you are drawn to support connections between the Hopi and Maya peoples, join us January 18-28, 2015 in Chiapas, Mexico for Entering the Maya Mysteries. A portion of tuition is tax-deductible to support the travel of Hopi Merle Namoki and the humanitarian healing work of Don Sergio Castro in impoverished Maya communities.

To read more about the unusual occurrence that inspired the founding of Kenosis Spirit Keepers see The Ninth Evolution of the Spirit Keepers Journey (with video).

To learn more about the Maya worldview, listen to an excerpt of my interview with Tat Apab’yan Tew, K’iche Maya Daykeeper, who is part of the Maya spiritual travel program.

 

Categories: Gratitude, Hopi, Indigenous Wisdom, Lacandón Maya, Maya, Sacred Reciprocity, Spiritual Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Unexpected Developments

Have you ever had a sense that something is bubbling beneath the surface? That you don’t know what it is…but something is getting ready to give birth…to step forward…to unfold? If you focus on it, you recognize there’s an energy building. It’s palpable. And then when it does present itself, you’re taken with the depth of feeling, realizing it’s come through you? If you’re reading my words here, then you’re likely one of those who has experienced this process consciously, perhaps in a variety of forms, and recognized the gift. If you look back in time, you could identify what kickstarted the process.

I’ve defined spiritual travel as any time you step outside the usual parameters you set for yourself to experience something that’s out of your norm—whether you choose it with intent or unseen forces push you. Either way it’s about growth. In Spiritual Travel: Destination or Process? I wrote about it this way:

 …Invisible to the naked eye…are myriad ways to be drawn into the deeper journey that define these potentially uncharted waters…enter aspects that: may have no words or audible sound, cannot be held in your hands, your eye can’t get a bead on, can seem ordinary but aren’t. Yet it produces something akin to a lightning strike that splits the rough outer covering and creates an opening, a probable pathway—and a tangible result. There appears a fork in the road inviting decision…

Breakthrough

Breakthrough
©2001 Carla Woody

On March 10, I returned from Hopi and my first spiritual travel program there, only made possible recently—with much gratitude to Hopi Spirit Keeper friends. From opening to closing circle, there was something greater than any there carrying us all. It felt as though another door had opened, some kind of emphasis marking out the great importance of honoring sacred Indigenous ways—now. If I ever had a doubt about the lifework I’ve chosen it was blown out of the water. Such a thing is bigger than any small-minded worry I’ve ever had. Intent gave evidence throughout our time there and unfolds yet in its effect.

An unanticipated gift stood out particularly: permission from Hopi religious leader Lee Wayne Lomayestewa for entry to Prophecy Rock. Such a privilege is not usually granted to outsiders. We all felt the honor, and I’d invited people to sit in meditation and open to whatever was there for them.

One of the travelers had been on a spiritual journey, involving extensive physical travel as well, since major life transitions in 2012. She indicated to me that, while what follows is deeply personal, it’s universal and gave permission to share. Relationship had become foremost in her awareness and the unexpected time at Prophecy Rock became her personal connections in prophecy. Climbing high, up beyond her comfort zone, to find her meditation spot, three figurative “drawings” forged by nature, on weathered rock, spoke to her: “…of prophecy, unity and stages of living and dying…” She said she could form few words to describe the experience, but “…words and song came forth. The experience is etched in my being.” I heard her song floating on the breeze. I tend to think it entered us all.

Since returning home, the group has communicated what continues to unfold for them. There has been talk about clarity and shifts in perception. Deborah Downs of Sedona, Arizona had to get her fingers in the dirt, along with a creative project that came unbidden. Liz Anderson from Prescott said, “…I have been to the Hopi reservation many times, but I have never had the privilege of seeing the petroglyphs or meeting so many fascinating Hopi people…There is a certain quality of the energy on the mesas that gives one the experience of being on truly sacred ground. I had forgotten how powerful this experience can be until this trip…”

Janet Harvey of Asheville, North Carolina said poetry began to pour through her and shared several. Piki Bread, the expressive poem below strikes me as a message about the beauty of simple actions that sustain us over time. They create meaning in life. She mentioned that the physical shape of the lines as they’re shown seemed significant. I told her it reminded me of the backboards worn in some ceremonies by Hopi dancers.

Piki Bread

For my part, I’ve noticed another level of ease appearing in my writing. It comes out as though waiting for me to take the initiative. With my artwork, an uncontrived process began shortly before our time on Hopi and has amplified since.

Testimony

Testimony
Mixed media on gold leafed canvas
©2014 Carla Woody

In the morning I began to sit in meditation near my easel, a different part of my home than habit for my daily ritual. And placement of images, color and symbolism, have been relayed to me during this time in a way I can’t describe except by sharing what I’ve recently produced. These pieces have taken on depth of meaning introduced from somewhere other than me. I don’t claim ownership.

But perhaps the greatest gift came inadvertently from the Hopi Spirit Keepers themselves and expressed directly to me by the group in our closing circle. My Hopi friends opened their hearts, gave us their trust and spoke unequivocally of the real dangers acting against continuity of their sacred traditions. It was poignant.

This is a time to listen and integrate from those who, on a daily basis through their prayers and actions, hold the sacred threads that weave our deeper values. There are many voices to be heard, not just one. Hearing them lends respect and supports continuance. We who hold sacred witness become better for it. It affects us, too. Certainly it eschews any hint of commercialism but is rather something of deeper service. Somehow I have been graced with holding such a precious container. The group reinforced what I already knew but drove the point home succinctly in a way I couldn’t set their message aside.* The work continues.

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*Any of us experience doubt, particularly when we’re called to something. It’s only because we’re called that something steps forward to test intent. When internal conflict is resolved, you step through a threshold.

Note: By participating in our spiritual travel programs you support the ongoing existence of Indigenous wisdom traditions in danger of decimation.

Spiritual Travel to Peru, Oct 24-Nov 2, 2014: I have been invited to the Q’ero village of Ccochamocco, a real honor and rare opportunity. Tuitions help support: sponsorship of Hopi Elder Harold Joseph on this journey seeking prayers for his people from Q’ero relations; the new Q’ero Ancestral Culture Center and natural medicine clinic; and Grandmother Flordemayo’s seed saving program.

Spiritual Travel to Mexico, Jan 19-29, 2015: Tuitions help support sponsorship of David Mowa, Hopi medicine man, to share traditions with Maya relations; and the humanitarian healing work of Don Sergio Castro in Chiapas, Mexico. This program in final planning and will be uploaded here shortly.

If you’re interested in my artwork entitled Testimony or others, go here. Twenty percent of profits go to support Native traditions through Kenosis Spirit Keepers, the nonprofit arm of Kenosis.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Gratitude, Healing, Hopi, Indigenous Wisdom, Spiritual Evolution, Spiritual Travel, Travel Experiences | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Holy Intent, Invisible Threads

This season is a holy time for many peoples in the world. While multitudes participate fully in—what has become—frenzied materialism, others take a pause or at least strike a balance.

Hopi Ceremonial Calendar by Filmer Kewanyama

Hopi Ceremonial Calendar
by Filmer Kewanyama

Hopi artist friend Filmer Kewanyama says this about December: “The earth’s crust is very fragile. For us, we are supposed to be quiet and reflect on who we are. It is a time for us to be quiet and listen.” This is when storytelling takes place, passing on oral history to the next generation, and the Soyal Ceremony occurs in the kiva, looking to the coming year with great spiritual focus. It’s when the men fashion prayers feathers. Traditionally when Hopi Spirit Keepers have accompanied my groups to Mayalands, they’ve given prayer feathers to those of us holding the center of the journey. The paho, or prayer feather, we each receive is from the roadrunner and meant to protect us as we travel and enter the new year. I wear mine throughout the journey and, upon return home, place each one in a special vessel I keep on my altar.*

This season has become a quiet time for me in the sense that I step back from external activity, a way to remember my own roots, an instilled period of reflection and solitude. And explicitly because there is such space and time for exposure, it’s become heightened with insights, dreams and creative surges for me. Messages come through from the Infinite and that still point inside is given voice.

In that spirit, I’m sharing a dream here that I had early Christmas morning.  I was sponsoring an event, and the person who was to present didn’t show. I knew I needed to step in with an impromptu talk. The audience was getting restless. I thought to speak about the work I believe in: preserving the sanctity of Native traditions to inform the next generations, to bring us back to those core elements that hold the world together. But the words wouldn’t come. How do you express something whose meaning runs so deeply that it can only be felt, that words wouldn’t do justice?

I floundered. Anxiety was showing its face. Just as some of the audience started to collect their coats and leave, Native and non-Native people began to materialize out of the ether to stand on either side of me. Some I knew; others I didn’t. In turn they related the effect, tangible and intangible, that our projects and journeys had on them personally, the importance of continuity toward spiritual grounding, hope, or a wound tended that would otherwise have gone unhealed.

Acknowledge My Relations

Acknowledge My Relations
by Filmer Kewanyama

I came fully awake, feeling resolve to continue holding the vision, even when it seems like few others do, roadblocks appear, or I don’t personally see the ultimate outcome of the intent. For me, these are aspects of true faith realized in this sacred season.

Typically, I don’t remember my dreams. When I do, I know it’s from that invisible realm that retains more wisdom than I do on a daily basis. I would be lying if I said I don’t falter, feel like giving up many times and throwing in the towel. It’s a human condition, especially so when any of us hold a vision that runs counter to the mainstream world, and progress is defying gravity uphill. This is what I sense happens in the kiva: restoring of faith, strengthening of purpose.

True advancements come not from the mainstream but from a collective retaining the holy vision, with understanding how invisible threads may be woven.

That was the prayer feather of my dream Christmas morning that protected me from loss of faith. With renewed intent, I share it here as my own offering—for the circle of life—to guide the next year.

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Kenosis Spirit Keepers is the nonprofit arm of Kenosis. To learn more about our work, please go here. Your end-of-year donation is tax-deductible and strengthens our mission to preserve Indigenous wisdom for a better world.

The words and artwork of Filmer Kewanyama are used with his full permission. To view a collection of his expressive artwork, go here.

*Most years Entering the Maya Mysteries spiritual travel journeys occur in January.

Categories: cultural interests, Healing, Hopi, Sacred Reciprocity | Tags: , , , , | 5 Comments

When Hopi Spirits Come to Life: Home Dance at Moenkopi

In July 2009 I was invited by Harold and Char Joseph to Home Dance, the first one in the Hopi village of Moenkopi in 50 years—a very historic event. It’s during this July dance ritual that the Katsina spirits are ushered back to the San Francisco Peaks, the mountain range north of Flagstaff, Arizona, where they live until their return to Hopi in February of each year.*

A friend and I arrived at Moenkopi village outside Tuba City just before dawn. Harold was already leaving home. Moenkopi being Char’s home village, Harold acted as a helper. Normally Harold would have been at Second Mesa’s Shungopavi, already a long time in the kiva, a subterranean chamber reserved for religious rituals, engaged in ceremony in his home village. But this time being quite special he was lending a hand the way relatives do.

The previous night we’d ventured down to the plaza with other family members, carrying chairs, staking out a place in one of several rows already formed. The dirt plaza was long and narrow, enclosed by the original stone homes dating back to the 1870s. I felt like I’d stepped back to another era.

Going Home Shungopavi

Going Home Shungopavi
Oil on canvas
depicting Home Dance.
©2011 Carla Woody

That early morning we sat at the edge of the village with others who had gathered, high on the bluff overlooking the lush cornfields below, a sharp contrast to the red rock cliffs surrounding them. I only discovered later that we actually perched on a kiva. An elder came and asked everyone to move. He slid the wood covering over to reveal its secret and climbed down.

We waited, slightly chilled by the light wind. Glancing around me, some of the people were in special dress, the women in beautiful shawls, and a few young girls wore the traditional hairstyle with fluted buns over each ear. There was a low buzz of conversation and greetings. Everyone waited patiently for the sunlight to hit the cornfields below. A number of pick-up trucks were parked to the side of the fields. In my mind, I converted them to horses because a sound was on the breeze that led me into another time and dimension.

At first it was faint but then it grew, rising up as though from the bowels of the earth. A chant that rose and fell, coming from an area of trees near the field. Those around me went quiet in anticipation, eyes glued, fingers pointing. And finally when the light hit the field just so, Katsinam emerged from the copse forming a single line as they began the slow walk up to the village, carrying cornstalks. It seemed like the line had no end. Finally, all Katsinam came into full view from the woods. They numbered 130, give or take.

As we shifted to our seats at the far end of the plaza, Katsinam poured in one-by-one, forming an ellipsis, continuing the chant, making the small repetitive movements that created the dance, virtually right in front of us. The sound of bells and rattles, strapped to each knee, accompanied each step and joined the drone of their voices. Even though sun now heated the air, I got chicken skin.

They gave cornstalks, a symbol of prosperity, to those watching and gifts of fruit and piki, a paper-thin rolled tortilla made from blue corn. The dancing continued. Then it was time for the first round to end. And the Kachinam left the plaza to be sequestered again. They performed at great sacrifice, foregoing food and water in the blistering sun until much later in the day.

But it was now time for the rest of the village to eat. We returned to the Joseph home and feasted on hominy stew and drank strong coffee. When the phone rang, I’d hear them tell the person on the other end, “Come eat!” One of the family members told me, “This is the Hopi way!” Indeed it was. As people poured through the door, they were directed to grab a plate and ladle a good helping.

The Katsinam were to dance eight times that day. Between dances families and friends gathered at homes, many from out of town it being such a special time. Each time food was shared. We were encouraged to nap in the heat of the day—which I did, in a room full of people that felt like family to me even though it was my first time meeting some of them.

How was it that this was the first Home Dance in Moenkopi in 50 years? Many Hopi people have fallen away from the traditions, and the necessary initiations aren’t occurring to support the ceremonies. Shungopavi is the only village that keeps the complete cycle of religious ceremonies unbroken, the elders staunch.

A strong older woman instigated the 2009 Home Dance. Her son was marrying. She wanted to show off the wedding robes of her son’s bride as part of the ritual. Other brides would be able to do the same. Through her commitment the village re-engaged, others coming from elsewhere to support the ceremony, accounting for the large number of Katsinam, a profound example of what determination can do—and for good cause. Traditions take us back to where we began. For my part, an appreciative outsider greatly stirred by the experience, I hope the Home Dance continues in Moenkopi. At this writing, it’s recurred once. That was in 2011.

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*A Katsina is a spirit being of the Pueblo Tribes, an invisible natural force that can be called upon to bestow protection and wellbeing for the village. Katsinam is the plural form. In the Hopi tradition there are approximately 400 different Katsinam, each one different and having a separate purpose. For days prior to religious dances, initiated males enter the kiva and undertake long rituals. When they emerge from the kiva to dance, they are no longer who they were when they entered. Instead, they are the embodiment of these powerful spirit beings, dancing in human form, on the earth.
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I will sponsor Spiritual Travel to Hopi: Sacred Guardians of the World during March 6-9, 2014. This is a rare chance to experience Hopi Spirit Keepers in their homes, hear the ancient stories, visit sacred sites, learn about medicine ways and attend the Night Dances, all that weaves the very identity of the Hopi people as guardians of the world. Only recently is it now possible to be invited to such an experience. It’s only through relationships I’ve developed over a number of years that this program has been born. Join us for this adventure of the spirit! Early registration discount ends November 6. A portion of tuition is tax-deductible to support Kenosis Spirit Keepers’ projects preserving Native traditions.
Categories: cultural interests, Hopi, Indigenous Wisdom, Sacred Reciprocity, Spiritual Travel, Travel Experiences | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lifepath Dialogues Gathering: The Question of Spiritual Responsibility (Audio Archive)

Lifepath Dialogue Gathering

The Lifepath Dialogues Gathering was a local monthly gathering held in Prescott, Arizona. The intent was to build like-hearted community and dialogue about what truly matters. I chose monthly topics from my blog and hosted the evening with special invited guest(s) whose philosophies and work are relevant to the topic. The format involved my presentation of material to create a framework and interview of the special guests. This portion was recorded to share with the world community. Then we turn off the recorder and turn to intimate sharing.

The Lifepath Dialogues discussion will now continue in a virtual format. Periodically, I will interview folks world-wide who are involved in life-affirming practices and lifeways. The recording will be posted here. I invite your comments and questions always.

From the March Lifepath Dialogues Gathering

with special guest

Filmer Kewanyama:
The Question of Spiritual Responsibility
The complete unedited audio is about 40 minutes long. Click below to listen. I hope you enjoy.

This discussion was based on the post:
Spiritual Responsibility? Duty? Cargo?
By Carla Woody
Author of Calling Our Spirits Home and Standing Stark
Founder, Kenosis and Kenosis Spirit Keepers

Filmer Kewanyama Photo

Filmer Kewanyama is an award-winning Hopi artist from Shungopavi, Second Mesa, Arizona, whose work depicts the sacred Hopi way of life. He learned the ceremonies that his ancestors passed on to him. Such knowledge comes with its own set of responsibilities, complicated by modern life.

Categories: cultural interests, Hopi, Sacred Reciprocity, Spiritual Evolution | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

March 27 Lifepath Dialogues Gathering: The Question of Spiritual Responsibilty

Lifepath Dialogue Gathering

Exploring the many threads that weave together an expressive, celebrated life.

MARK YOUR CALENDAR AND JOIN US FOR DIALOGUE THAT MATTERS

You are invited! Please pass to friends and family.

MARCH 27, 6:30-8 PM

FREE Gathering

Creekside Center, 337 N. Rush Street, Prescott, Arizona

March topic:

“The Question of Spiritual Responsibility”

Based on the post: “Spiritual Responsibilty? Duty? Cargo?
By CARLA WOODY
Author of Calling Our Spirits Home and Standing Stark
Founder, Kenosis and Kenosis Spirit Keepers

SPECIAL MARCH GUEST:

Filmer Kewanyama Photo
FILMER KEWANYAMA

Filmer Kewanyama is an award-winning Hopi artist from Shungopavi, Second Mesa, Arizona, whose work depicts the sacred Hopi way of life. He learned the ceremonies that his ancestors passed on to him. Such knowledge comes with its own set of responsibilities, complicated by modern life.

Email: info@kenosis.net or call 928.778.1058

Categories: cultural interests, Hopi, Maya, Sacred Reciprocity, Spiritual Evolution | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Hopi Spirit Keeper’s Travels in Mayalands

Note from Carla Woody: In December 2012, I offered a special Winter Solstice “Entering the Maya Mysteries” program. Kenosis Spirit Keepers sponsored Charlene Joseph, a Hopi Spirit Keeper from Moencopi, on this journey as a part of ongoing efforts to bring together Indigenous Wisdom Holders for mutual spiritual support. Char’s presence, and the heartfelt connections she made with her Maya relations, brought even greater depth to our shared experiences. Truly, it was a gift to have her with us. Below she has generously shared her journey and what it meant to her.

My Mexico/Guatemala  Spiritual Adventure

By Charlene Joseph

What an adventure!  I traveled to Peru in 2009 and had a very rich cultural and spiritual experience.  Knowing the Hopi ancient history and growing up in the traditional Hopi way, I was able to connect to the indigenous people and their way of life.  My travel to Mexico and Guatemala in December 2012 was just as spiritual and the connection to the people culturally and traditionally was immense, just as it was when I went to Peru.

Charlene Joseph and Carla Woody departing for Chiapas, Mexico.

Charlene Joseph and Carla Woody
departing for Chiapas, Mexico.

I spent one week in Tucson with my daughter’s and son’s families the week before my trip. The day before we were to fly out of Phoenix, I left Tucson for Phoenix to meet up with Carla Woody, the organizer of the trip, and spend the night.  Not only did I have trouble finding my way to the hotel, but the next morning as I was reorganizing my luggage, I discovered that I didn’t have my passport! I had left it in Tucson.

It was still early enough to drive back to Tucson and be back before our plane left at 3:00 p.m. so I called my daughter.  Even while studying for her final exams at University of Arizona, it was very thoughtful of her to bring my passport halfway to meet me at Casa Grande. So now, I’m set with my passport and ready to board the plane to Mexico, wondering what laid ahead for me.

San Cristóbal de las Casas


As we were driving to San Cristóbal from Tuxtla after spending the night, I thought about my family back home, the upcoming Hopi New Year and prayers that I will miss for the first time in years, my father who taught me about the Hopi migration from the South. At the same time, I was enjoying the beautiful scenery.

Arriving in the colonial town of San Cristóbal and checking into our hotel felt to me like we were in seclusion.  It was chilly in the hotel lobby and I was wondering why the heater was not on. Once we got checked in and made our way to the room, I found it was just as cold there.  Soon found out that there are no heaters.  We had to dress warm at night or even wear our jackets to bed.  During the day the weather got very warm so we soaked in as much sun and warmth to our liking.

Processional during Festival of Our Lady of Guadalupe.©2012 Carla Woody.

Processional during Festival of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
©2012 Carla Woody.

It was lively day and night in downtown San Cristóbal with fireworks, parades honoring the Lady of Guadalupe, locals selling their art and craft work, food, and even fresh boiled corn, which was my favorite! Also many tourists walked the streets looking, eating, buying from locals, and just enjoying their time.

Family kitchen.©2012 Carla Woody.

Family kitchen.
©2012 Carla Woody.

One evening we drove about twenty minutes up to the indigenous village of Chamula to participate in ceremony with Don Xun Calixto.  As we were driving through the village, I saw ladies and young girls washing clothes at the water spring, just like we used to when I was growing up.  That scene took me way back to my childhood days. I felt at home seeing the people working in their gardens, fields, drying their harvest, carrying water from the water spring to their homes, and firewood for the evening loaded on the person’s back and everyone working in harmony, it seemed.

We stopped at the bottom of a hill and walked up the steps to Don Xun’s family home, a traditional brick home with an outside shed-like kitchen where they also kept their harvest of corn, beans, squash, variety of melon, and cauliflower stored. On the open fire-pit was a pot of boiling stew being prepared for our meal with the family.  In the yard chickens were being fed, and the group gathered talking and admiring the craft work the family had for sale.

Don Xun Calixto, Spiritual leader of San Juan Chamula, and Charlene Joseph.©2012 Carla Woody.

Don Xun Calixto, Spiritual leader of San Juan Chamula, and Charlene Joseph.
©2012 Carla Woody.

Don Xun  started the ceremony in the main house in front of the altar as we sat around him on wooden benches or chairs.  We sat quietly and watched while one group member did the interpretation.  After ceremony was over, I gave a talk and encouraged Don Xun to continue his and his people’s way of life,  that it is good to find that they are still growing their own food and eating off of the land.  I shared with him that my people, the Hopi, live that way also but that we are slowly forgetting.  I told Don Xun that what I shared are my father’s words that he had wanted me to tell our people from the South and that we are connected.  We are brothers and sisters.  Don Xun was happy to hear this.

I presented him with a katsina rain spirit doll (Corn Boy) and asked him to remember my people on Hopi when he is doing his prayers because we need rain for our corn to grow. I asked him to send the rain clouds to Hopi with his prayers because we have been getting little moisture and we need it for our corn to grow.  Don Xun chuckled and said that they did not get enough rain this year either.

Southern Guatemala

Charlene Joseph and Don Nicholas, who attends San Maximón, in Santiago Atitlán.©2012 Carla Woody.

Charlene Joseph and Don Nicholas, who attends San Maximón, in Santiago Atitlán.
©2012 Carla Woody.

A few days later, we left for Guatemala and were on the road all day.  On the way down to Lake Atitlán, Guatemala, there were cornfields everywhere, all the way from San Cristóbal, Mexico to Guatemala.  I was happy because this made the connection for Hopi, and me personally, even more significant.  Corn is very important to Hopi just as it is to the Maya people in the South.

Lake Atitlán is very beautiful, especially at sunset and sunrise.  The weather was much warmer at night which made it very comfy to sleep.  In the morning, after a night’s rest, we got on the boat to take a 40-minute ride across the lake to Santiago Atitlán, below a volcanic mountain.  There we participated in ceremony with Don Nicholas honoring San Maximón.   After ceremony, we headed back to our hotel to board our private bus for Antigua.  It was a 3-hour ride and we got there around 8 p.m.

Ajq'ij Felipe Mejia (Maya Daykeeper) at Iximche.©2012 Carla Woody

Ajq’ij Felipe Mejia (Maya Daykeeper) at Iximche.
©2012 Carla Woody

Ajq'ij Apab'yan Tew (Maya Daykeeper) at Iximche.©2012 Carla Woody

Ajq’ij Apab’yan Tew (Maya Daykeeper) at Iximche.
©2012 Carla Woody

This time we checked into our hotel for three nights.  On December 15, we drove to Iximche for a fire ceremony with Maya Daykeepers Felipe Mejia and Apab’yan Tew at a sacred place where there are pyramids.  It felt very welcoming to see school children playing games and having a cookout.  It was very lively!  The ceremony was interesting and was very colorful.  Again, I felt a strong connection to the Mayas when offerings were made to the fire with food.  I shared with them that Hopi does the same thing.  We also feed the fire and make food offering to the sun.  There were other similarities that I observed that reaffirmed the history of the Hopi to the Mayas of the South.

Palenque

Temple of the Sun at Palenque, Winter Solstice 2012.©2012 Carla Woody.

Temple of the Sun at Palenque,
Winter Solstice 2012.
©2012 Carla Woody.

Nearing the end of our travels and looking forward to Palenque in the jungle.  We left Antigua, went through border checkpoint, and got back into Mexico on December 17th.  Took the whole day to get back to San Cristóbal where we spent two more nights before heading to Palenque where the great pyramids are in the jungle.

It was amazing!  I can’t even begin to express how I felt when we went to the pyramids in Palenque.  Magazines, movies, and pictures are never the same as experiencing the real thing.  Driving to Palenque through the mountains was awesome, too.  All of a sudden a person or people will come out of the forest, people walking along the road with hoes, wood, carrying traditional pottery filled with water.  Wow!

We visited the pyramids on December 20th.  We did a great amount of walking and climbing at the pyramids.  I managed to climb up several with the help of my group members, and especially Ed from Prescott, Arizona who pulled me up and helped me down.  It was interesting to find that the temples are named for the sun, moon, snake, corn, and others I can’t quite remember.  Hopis honor those same things.  There was a ballcourt and a shrine representing the Twin Warriors and the Grandmother which Hopi includes in the Hopi Way of Life ceremonies today.

December 21st was the day of Winter Solstice in Mayaland.   On Hopi, Winter Solstice is also happening at this same time when the men are in the kiva praying and preparing for the New Year.  A time of sacrifice without sleep, praying and working hard so life can continue. They do this for, not only the Hopi, but for all life on earth including animals, plants, sun, moon, water, Mother Earth and all humankind.

On this Winter Solstice Day, the rain was coming down hard and it had started the night before.  Hoping that the rain would subside, we left at seven in the morning for the pyramids to observe Winter Solstice. Sitting on the steps of the Temple of the Sun waiting and getting drenched, after a couple of hours, some of us decided to go back to our cabanas to dry,   We didn’t get to observe the Solstice because the rain took over until five in the afternoon.  As I always say, things happen for a reason!

This journey to Mexico and Guatemala reaffirmed the Hopi migration and some history from the South for me and the Hopis.  My father talked about Palatqwapi , the Snake Serpent, the Twin Warriors and their Grandmother, and more that they brought with them when migrating from the South.  These are all still very much alive today in the Hopi Way of Life.

My father always emphasized that we need to keep faith and continue the Hopi Way to keep the world evolving. I feel very humbled to have participated in this journey and to be able to honor my father and his knowledge and wisdom in this way.

Categories: cultural interests, Hopi, Indigenous Wisdom, Maya, Spiritual Travel | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Spiritual Responsibility? Duty? Cargo?

I’ve been toying with terms to express what I mean and the process I’ve been evolving through in the last year. Responsibility or duty: both have a heavy connotation, not something done freely but something expected.

Within Maya communities there is the “cargo system” still in effect from colonial times. It has to do with civic and religious hierarchical positions, each held for one year. In the Andes, a similar system exists. “Cargo” may be translated as “burden.” Those “carrying cargo” incur expense, the higher the role in the hierarchy, the more monetary investment. In colonial times, the Spanish used the system as a means of control and exploitation. Today, it’s supposed to be a means of mediating wealth and sharing. But in reality, it creates separation. Those who have the most to expend are the ones who rise in community stature. Hence, they have more prestige. This aspect of the construct is quite distasteful to me, not much different than what often exists in western churches.

Going Home ShungopaviOil on canvas depicting Home Dance.©2011 Carla Woody

Going Home Shungopavi
Oil on canvas
depicting Home Dance.
©2011 Carla Woody

Over these last years, I’ve developed friendships with Hopi people who keep the old ways, and learned much about their traditions. Their clan system is complex, each clan and its members carrying separate spiritual responsibilities. Their religious and cultural ceremonies happen monthly according to the cycles of the Hopi calendar. Each ceremony takes up a good portion of each month due to preparation in the kivas and kitchens, aside from the actual dance and closure afterwards. I’ve witnessed the amount of work that goes into them, as well as listened to friends sharing what they can with an outsider. Truly, I marvel how they are able to get anything else done! For those who have chosen to maintain their traditions…it’s a huge investment of time and energy. Many have found it to be too much and put the sacred ways aside to a great degree. Tradition is going to the wayside.

That brings me to my own process. I founded Kenosis Spirit Keepers, as the volunteer-run nonprofit extension of Kenosis, back in 2007. I took that step because I fully believed that the Indigenous wisdom traditions must be valued and supported in a time when powerful influences across the globe sought to devalue and deplete what was life-affirming. Little did I know that my decision would take me on an unexpected, personal odyssey.

Initially, there was abundant support, both financial and sweat equity. We were able to contribute significantly and support community projects in the Peruvian Andes, sponsor intimate meetings between Native spiritual leaders, and eventually began to offer educational outreach in the local community. It was hard work but we could see the positive outcomes that resulted. Those were exciting times. It was exhilarating.

Then the recession hit. Funds dried up and people pulled back and holed up. I found that I was working harder and harder with few outside resources. My commitment to the mission never waivered. But such things eventually take a personal toll on the spirit and physical body.

Finally, a loud internal voice intervened when I was most tired and discouraged, “Why bother? No one out there cares. You’re wasting your time. It’s hopeless.” I’d set the questions aside but they’d return…until the voice became my nearly constant companion. First, you have to understand that it’s normally quite rare for me to have such messages play in my mind. I finally recognized that my internal struggle was a spiritual test.

Maya PrayersOil on canvas depicting the church in San Juan Chamula.©2011 Carla Woody

Maya Prayers
Oil on canvas
depicting the church in San Juan Chamula.
©2011 Carla Woody

Something happened last January during my spiritual travel program in Chiapas, Mexico that shifted my perspective. During “free time” I’d gone to the Maya church in the traditional village of San Juan Chamula, taking those with me who wanted to return. Every year I spend as much time as I can in this powerful place where the very air vibrates with energy. A few days prior we’d been there for the Festival of San Sebastián, during which the statues of the saints, wearing layers of robes, are taken out of their glass cases and carried on the shoulders of cargo holders in a processional in the main square.  When we returned, the saints had not yet been returned to the glass cases that lined the walls. Maya men were removing the outer layers of vestments on the saints and carefully putting them away in special wooden trunks that would later be stored and protected in individual homes.

I stood watching a few feet from a table where Saints Lucia and Martha were resting. Maya women sat on the floor alternately talking with each other and chanting in unison. Candles were everywhere; pine boughs covered the floor; copal smoke was thick in the air. It was magical in the sense that deep reverence can be. I looked at Saint Martha’s painted eyes—and they suddenly seemed to come alive and gaze deeply into mine. I felt penetrated as though some sort of transmission had taken place.

Then one of the men motioned to another who then approached the table. Very carefully, he lifted Saint Martha in his arms and slowly walked over to her case against the wall. But before he placed her inside, he paused.

And then he danced with her, a beatific expression on his face.

My breath caught and my eyes filled with tears. Such a display cannot be from a “burden” one carries, but directly from the heart. Since then I find that each time I share what I witnessed, tears come again. I continue to be moved and the memory has rooted itself within me for purpose, I believe.

A few weekends ago we were privileged to host Hopi Spirit Keepers Harold and Charlene Joseph for our Series here in Prescott. Some aspects they shared had to do with the involved process of Hopi weddings, their ceremonial cycles and community participation. People were touched, to the point that one participant later told me she had no words. Afterwards, a friend and I took Harold and Char to dinner.

We discussed the “Why bother?” questions that had been haunting me, although less frequently in the last months. Surprisingly, those questions were common to all of us sharing that meal. Yet, we all persevere because the core element of spiritual belief and service is implanted somehow in our DNA.

So after all the months of testing—mental angst, physical exhaustion and spiritual inquiry—I’ve returned again to one central theme that I learned years ago in the Andes: ayni, or sacred reciprocity. That’s the term I was looking for; it was under my nose all along. I even wrote about it again in recent blog posts! But I’m revisiting the meaning in a different way.

This is what I’ve re-learned so far:

—    Such ways of being are the invisible strands that hold the world together;

—    It’s possible to operate within a construct that is riddled with shortcomings and still hold pure intent;

—    Intangible things that you value spiritually are worth the hard work, sometimes requiring a lot of faith;

—    Strike a balance in all things;

—    Touch just one person and it touches others;

—    Ask for help; some things take a community.

Categories: Healthy Living, Hopi, Indigenous Wisdom, Maya, Personal Growth, Sacred Reciprocity, Spiritual Evolution, Spiritual Travel, Visual Arts | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Last of the Spirit Keepers – and Gift Offering from Sacred Fire

Announcing Publication of My Article by Sacred Fire Magazine

and Gift Offering for You

For several years I have been sponsoring spiritual travel programs to Chiapas Mexico that include time in the rainforest village of Najá. I’ve been quite honored that Don Antonio Martinez, a Lacandón Maya elder, has been willing not only to meet with us, but to hold the balché ceremony while we’re there. Don Antonio is the last elder still practicing the sacred ways. When he passes it’s likely that these ancient traditions will be gone forever. Over these years I’ve watched the aggressive impact of evangelicals eating away at the Lacandón Maya culture and spiritual traditions, aside from influences from Western culture.

Don Antonio Martinez and Harold Joseph

Lacandón Maya elder Don Antonio Martinez
and Hopi elder Harold Joseph.
Photo credit: Darlene Dunning

Beginning 2009 through Kenosis Spirit Keepers, the nonprofit extension of Kenosis, we’ve been sponsoring Hopi Wisdom Keepers from Shungopavi on these same programs. I’ve written an article highlighting this progressive story of connection between the Hopi and Lacandón Maya and what can happen when relations come together in a beautiful way.

Kenosis Spirit Keepers is a friend and affiliate of Sacred Fire Magazine, published by Sacred Fire Foundation.  Sacred Fire is the only magazine I know of that shares the stories of ceremony, healing and community that bring us all together so we can thrive in these changing times.

Sacred Fire Magazine Issue #16

Fittingly, the article I wrote…

LAST OF THE SPIRIT KEEPERS:
Surrounded by the growing influence of
evangelicals, a Lacandón Maya
Elder tries to keep the godpots burning.

…will be featured in the next issue of Sacred Fire, due out  in early November.

The Magazine would like to gift my readers, colleagues and clients in the US a free copy as a way of introduction. If you would like to know more about Sacred Fire and receive the issue with my article click here.

To receive your gift copy—a $10 value—you can enter your shipping information with this link. Please note that you must submit your order by October 31 to receive your gift copy.

Sharon Brown, the publisher of Sacred Fire, has asked me to tell you that while the gift offer is for US folks at this time, they are working to make a similar offer to those of you outside the US with payment only for shipping. Stay tuned and I hope to make that announcement soon.

Until then…I hope you join me in thanking Sacred Fire for their generosity and important work in service of the planet and global community.

Categories: Healing, Indigenous Wisdom, Lacandón Maya, Sacred Reciprocity, Spiritual Travel | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

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