Mayan Sacred Journey
It is a ritual performed by the Mayans paddling in canoes from Polé (today Xcaret) to Cuzamil (today Cozumel) in order to worship the goddess Ixchebelyax (Ixchel).
The Renewal of the Cosmos is underway and the rhythm of life must continue, just as the Mythic Canoe sails the sky towards the stars to close the cycles and times of adversity. The time has come for the purification and healing ceremonies held in the ancient commercial port of Polé and Cuzamil.
Pilgrims faced the adversities of the sea to seek the advice and wisdom of Ixchel, the Mayan goddess of fertility, the moon and gestation, as well as to ask for favors, health and fertility for their lands.
At that time, Maya priests and rulers communicated with the gods and organized rituals in which the community could participate.
The group of travelers leaving for “Cuzamil” also takes the opportunity to exchange products and trade with the natives of the paradisiacal island.
Once they receive their message, they travel back to the place we now know as Xcaret, and then take these words back to their respective communities.
Rebirth of the sacred Mayan journey
This ritual ceased to be celebrated with the arrival of the European conquerors for religious and commercial purposes.
However, the Mayan successors knew that sooner or later this famous ritual would be reborn. And so, the directors of Grupo Xcaret, together with the Government of the State of Quintana Roo, got together to rescue the Mayan customs and promote them.
Representatives from Xcaret, Xel-ha and Chankanaab parks were also part of this event.
The sacred journey begins in the evening at Xcaret Eco-archaeological Park.
The first encounter with the Mayan communities is to enter a lively market, where you can see how the natives exchanged skins, food, seeds, clothing, feathers and a myriad of merchandise.
The people in their pre-Hispanic clothing, the smell of food and copal, the cleanings of the shaman, as well as the Mayan music and language, are all part of the atmosphere of this tianguis straight out of a history book.
Afterwards, on a stage on the beach, the chants, prayers, dances and offerings that are part of the ritual to ask for the good fortune of the canoeists who will embark the following day take place.
The following morning, with the first rays of the sun, the 30 canoes begin their journey. Crewed by the enthusiastic volunteers who go into the sea.
It is a continuous rowing exercise and consists of a 28 kilometer journey through the 420 meter deep Cozumel channel.
Dressed in the Mayan style. That is to say, painted on the skin, with their calzon or blanket dress, the canoeros and canoeras carry an oar. They sail for approximately 6 hours under the sun’s rays, the movement of the capricious waves and the currents of approximately 4 knots.
Each canoe carries 4 to 6 crew members. All of them have a specific job within the boat. The one in front, called “Proel”, is the one who sets the pace and cuts the dangerous waves.
The following canoeists have the function of paddling and they paddle from right to left in an intercalated way. The last crew member, called the “Helmsman”, controls the balance of the canoe.
The sacred Mayan journey is represented mostly by young volunteers. They have been preparing physically and mentally for this challenge since January.
The key to success is training in rowing, swimming, flotation, physical conditioning and first aid.
It is important to say that for the ancient Mayans, crossing the sea was recreating the passage through the aquatic underworld. Symbolically, a spiritual death occurred.
Upon reaching dry land and after having coexisted with the forces of nature, the ancient Maya also experienced a spiritual rebirth.
The other side of the Sacred Journey
The turning point of the sacred journey is the arrival of the canoeists in Cozumel. It is exciting to see how the community receives them with joy, gifts and food. Everyone looks happy, it is an achievement for each one of them, for the Mayan community and for all the assistants.
Each volunteer who arrives on the mainland has a story to tell. Many of them have done it out of love for the culture, for their country, for the customs, for the rescue of traditions or simply for personal challenge or self liberation.
But all together, locals, nationals and foreigners retire for the culmination of the event and the months of effort.
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