I met a healer, not a shaman by virtue of not having been “called”. I met him when I was in the ruins of Muyil, exploring, and was bitten by a tabano. I am terribly allergic and was worried as the site began to swell more quickly than you can imagine. Being a big believer in natural cures, I looked around for someone working on the grounds who might know of a natural cure. That was when I saw him, a humble man pushing a wheelbarrow full of branches. His name was Felipe. He was kind and helpful and immediately went and got shears and cut a big piece of aloe for me. He scarped out the gel and showed me how to apply it to the bite. I asked him if he was a shaman and he told me that to be a shaman, one must be called. He was simply a healer and only shared his gift with friends and family with the understanding that if he ever went beyond that, he would be outside of blessing and things could go badly. I remember his name and his kindness.
If you missed part 1,2 and 3, Here are the links!
Then just a few weeks ago I was back in the ruins, this time with Max and a couple of friends. We were hoping to find more information about Don Damanzo and his church. I was very curious and doubly so since it seemed to be so secretive! We walked under the zapote trees and along the stone paths among the ruins and I kept an eye out for anyone who might be able to answer my questions.
Soon enough, Felipe appeared. He was raking up palm leaves. He recognized me and was happy to chat for a few moments. I explained that I had once received a blessing from a priest in the nearby village of Chumpon and I asked if Felipe was familiar with the man. YES! Of course, he was. He knew him well and said he was the priest for the Maya Church. When I asked specifically if that was also known as the Church of the Speaking Cross, he confirmed with a cheerful smile that, yes, it was!
Oh, wow! The man who had originally blessed my journey into the Maya cosmovision had been a priest of the cult of the Speaking Cross! I wonder…what is in that little blue building? The blue building that we were not allowed to look at, the one where the girls had to RUN and get candles to burn and PRAY so nothing bad would happen. Could it be one of the original three crosses? One of the original three crosses that SPOKE!?
Felipe said he attended the church and so did most of the people in Muyil, Chumpon, and the surrounding around area. I did not feel any guile nor any scary energy nor anything dangerous from this gentle man. Only kindness. I thanked him for the information and thanked him again for helping cure my dangerous insect bite the year before.
We drove south to a beach town called Mahaual. It is almost on the border of Mexico and Belize. We drove right through Felipe Carillo Puerto, the town where the legend of the Speaking Crosses began (so I presumed). I have driven through this town on my way to Bacalar many times and never seen anything regarding the speaking crosses. This time, however, we took a different route and guess what I saw by the side of the road near the edge of town? The shrine, small and unassuming, at the original location where the cross on the tree by the cenote spoke to the Maya man!
I was thrilled. We stopped the car and I got out and approached the shrine. It was small, unassuming. Nothing about it shouted, “Here I am!” I few candles were left, unlit. Someone had been attending to the crosses, feeding them energy. In all honesty, I don’t think these are the original crosses, just the original spot. The crosses looked too fresh and new and I think the original crosses are in carefully guarded places, not a roadside shrine. I took a couple of photos and just stood there, feeling. In all honesty, it did not have the impact on me that I thought it would. The impact of the stone cross in the church at the center of the world was MUCH greater. But still, I was happy to see something I had been looking for.
I felt like I had some answers. Don Domanzo was indeed a priest of the Church of the Speaking Cross. I had finally found the original spot where the legend/religion began. But I still didn’t know what was in the little blue church (although I can imagine it is one of the original crosses).
And still, there was so much mystery surrounding other questions related to the entire journey. Why was the main cross in the church of the center of the world stone and not wood? Why were so many of the crosses painted green? Why were the crosses all dressed in what looked like traditional Maya flowered dresses?
The more I focused on the mystery of the talking crosses, the more crosses I ran into! They began to pop up everywhere. I saw three at the entrance to the eco park Kin Ha on the Route de Los Cenotes. I saw them at the home of a Maya man named Esteben who guards a beautiful water-filled cave. I saw 5 crosses at a tiny shrine/church near a haunted cenote called Cenote Fantasma. All five were painted green and wearing the little flowered dresses. My attention seemed to be calling them. Or perhaps they were calling me?
I am looking for answers. And yet, I know this quest is not one where I will suddenly find all the answers. And anyway, part of the fun is the seeking. And so, I decided to write this saga and bring you up to date so that when I discover the next clues, you can be right there along with me.
Never in my wildest imagination did I suspect that the next discovery would come WHILE I was writing the saga of the Secret of the Speaking Cross!
I do feel as if I am being directed. It is as if someone (or something) is leaving me a trail of breadcrumbs to follow. I have no idea why. I am so drawn to Maya mystery and I cannot stop thinking about it. My days are filled with adventure, research, and conjecture. I am always working to puzzle out the magic of the modern Maya people.
And today is no different.
Yesterday when I was writing this saga, I was looking for photos I had taken at the ruined “Catholic” church. I vividly remember standing before the altar there. I take tons of photos and I save everything. I put the best ones in folders on my computer and put everything else on an external hard drive. I could not find any photos of the altar in folders (which are all clearly marked) and so I retrieved the hard drive. I remember dolls in display boxes. Mary and Jesus and a few saints, all with three crosses on their heads. I remember three small green crosses standing on the altar, dresses in flowered Maya dresses and wearing mirrors around their necks. I remember offerings of green strings with beads and amulets and all manner of candles and colorful flowers. But I could not find the photos anywhere. I looked for over an hour and found nothing.
Finally, I gave up.