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The Last Ceremony

The altar is prepared.
The altar is prepared.Michael Sherer

This was the final blessing day to celebrate the naming of Frank’s farm. There had been three previous Mayan ceremonies involving a chicken, tobacco and incense, to which I did not see. Mayan ceremonies are a sacred rite in Guatemala, with some open to the public and some extremely private. To be invited to a private invocation is a special mark of favor.

tools of the trade
tools of the tradeMichael Sherer

Frank, the man in question, is a lanky long-haired long time resident of Antigua on perhaps middle age. He owns the best Mayan art and crafts store, Nim P’ot and the best art gallery, La Galeria de Arte. He acquired this farm a few years ago and it is sited high about Antigua, with panoramic views of the valley below and the far off volcanoes that embrace the edges of the valley. After acquiring the land, which had a few structures, he began to follow a long-desired dream and create an organic farm. Four years and 2 acres later, it can also be said that he has another superlative.

There were only four gringos invited: the previous owner, a photographer/shamaness, her friend and I. Marimbas, beer, incense and food was trucked in and then carried to the top of the hill, where his land ends and a cemetery adjoins. There were a dozen or more Mayans in colorful dress, some with special sashes and scarves. There were two or three young boys in costume and a few babies. Benches and plastic chairs provided a view of the round brick altar and the newly blessed shrine to Maximon behind, set with candles and a few bottles of liquor.

The marimba band started playing and the chief shaman began the prayers. The smoke and flames from the ground level alter rose in the air, fueled by incense, wood and multi-colored small candles. Large cigars and more handfuls of candles were distributed to the group. A case of beer was near.

There was a circle dance and a laying on of hands by the chief shaman and his assistants. Everyone smoked a large cigar, with the remnants having a divinatory meaning, according to shape of the ash. Beer was spilled on the altar and on the shrine to the side. More vari-colored candles were given out, to be thrown in the flames, with each color having a special meaning to Mayan beliefs.

The naming ceremony came to a slow conclusion. Some of the previous Mayan guests came with names from their dreams. Frank came with a circular ceramic plaque with a miss-spelled name that he had commissioned. It was too late to change it or re-do it. Who knows? Maybe that was the new name, along with the dream names given by the Mayan participants on this very special day. Frank’s Farm, only in Guatemala.