I went to a Mayan ceremony today. At the beginning, one of the leaders asked people to not take pictures, so that all present were focused on the ceremony. He also pointed out that, in the past, participants would have had a long walk to the site to mentally prepare themselves for worship. He contrasted this to arriving in a minibus in a quarter the time it would have taken to walk.
Lest one assume he was nostalgic for the past, he then announced the further ceremonies in this 40-ceremony cycle will be posted on a webpage and e-mailed to participants.
The ceremony itself included a fire between four large rocks and shredded flower petals. A harp was played before the ceremony started, and a guitar added music as well. Copal incense was burning in a metal pot nearby. The fire was built of coloured candles and bread rolls, with additional offerings of aguardiente, sugar, rice and some other foods, and more candles. (I had purchased my own candles in a tiny shop off the buy market in the nearby town, where the proprietor offered by any of nine colours for 5 euro cent each. I had purchased four, but this was very parsimonious. Locals were praying over and then consigning to the fire bunches of five, seven ten tapers at a time.)
The ceremony was conducted by several men and women around the fire, part of a circle with the believers and the curious. Most of the locals – as is common here in daily life- were wearing traditional garb, although one leader had a fast food uniform shirt under his woven red head scarf. The leaders prayed and chanted individually and simultaneously. They were speaking their own languages, and sometimes Spanish as well. They blessed individuals, prayed from their knees, kissed the ground, stood, and tossed offerings into the fire.
The foreign tourists mostly wandered away after about 80 minutes of the chanting and the fire. But the ceremony went on. Finally, the fire was allowed to dim and die out in the grass under the pine trees on the hilltop overlooking Lake Atitlan.