EVS GLOBAL CHANGE

21/09/2010

THE FOUR WINDS: OWNERS OF THE MAYAN LANDS

Filed under: Mexico, Yucatan volunteers — evs global change @ 19:02

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Last Wednesday, our friend Oscar invited us to a Mayan farming ceremony that took place in the countryside near the small village of Xohuayan about 45 miles away from Muna. Oscar studies agroecology in the “Universidad Autonoma de Yucatan”. We were given the opportunity to attend such an event thanks to Oscar’s teacher who has been collaborating with the cooperative of Xohuayan for a long time. The aim of this particular day was to teach students agricultural traditions and give them a better knowledge of the local farming. A group of 15 students came to learn the meaning of a traditional farming ceremony (called “Wuajikol”) for the mayan people.

 Let’s start giving some explanations about the “Wuajikol”:

“Wua” means “tortilla de mais” in maya which are very thin pancakes made of the local maize’s dough. These “tortillas” are the basis of Yucatan people’s nutrition. They use it like bread with all their dishes; “Kol” is a soup made of maize’s dough. The whole name “Wuajikol” means that community’s farmers are about to honor goddesses and nature’s grandeurs for the wealth of their future crops. The “Wuajikol” is a long farming ceremony that starts at 6:00 am and ends up at 05:00 pm. The community arrives in the countryside area where the event is about to take place. As soon as they arrive, tasks are clearly defined between men and women: Men are taking care of lighting the traditional oven and women are in charge of cooking. Everyone knows exactly what he/she is supposed to do and no one is ready to waste time…

 

 1)      Men are getting the traditional oven ready (called “Pib”)

 

It is a buried cooking system. They dig a hole of one meter deep and five meters long in the ground. They first cover it with dry leaves. Then they cover the leaves with wood and stones. The leaves will help the wood to burn out so it can heat the stones. They will need at least 2 hours before heating up.

 

2)      The community offers their traditional welcoming drink (called “Saka”)

 

The community is thankful to the students and the volunteers for coming and sharing this friendly and spiritual moment. People are handing their visitors a holy drink of maize with honey. It tastes very sweet.

 

3)      Women prepare the holy food (“Pim”) that will be served after being blessed by the mayan priest (“Mem”)

 

Women divide into two groups. The first group cooks a chicken soup in big pots. The second one takes care of the “Pim”. As we said before, everything is used in the maize tree. The holy meal of this special farming ceremony is: hand-made tortillas de maiz (pancakes of maize dough) put together the one above each other until getting a total of twelve tortillas1. Each tortilla de maiz is covered by a paste of pumpkin’s seeds. On the upper tortilla they dig four little holes each one corresponding to the four cardinal points and they stuffed it with the holy drink (“Balxe”2) and with some maize’s dough. The “Pims” are wrapped into Banana’s leaves to protect them from the dirt and to give them a special flavor.

After finishing the “Pims”, Mayan women mix the rest of maize’s dough with water and then split the two of them. The liquid part is kept apart and added to the chicken soup. The solid part (the maize’s dough”) will be used to feed the cows and chickens.

1 – The number 12 is interesting yet it refers to the number of apostles of Jesus. It is a true speaking example of syncretism.

2 – Balxe is a local Yucatan tree used as medicine plants as well. We used its crust with some honey to prepare a Mayan drink called the same name.

 

4)      The holy food is buried in the traditional oven

 

By the time stones are hot enough they get rid of woods and throw the “Pim” in the oven. Moves need to be quick to keep the heat and the smoke inside as long as possible. Everyone takes part in the labor to try to help. People organize themselves as a human chain to hand the “Pims” to each other. When they are all in the oven, stronger men cover them with more leaves and eventually with the dirt.

 

5)      The holy food is taken out of the oven and served

 

In the meantime the Mayan priest says his blessings in his language and worships to the Four Winds (“Quatro vientos”3) to ask them the right to cultivate. The Four Winds are grand spiritual forces who own the land. Therefore they have the power to decide the quality of the future crops. The “Mem” had previously prepared the altar with candles, a bottle of Balxe and four bowls filled with “Kol” (representing the Four Winds) and a dead chicken.

After taking the “Pims” out of the oven, men unwrap them and mashed them into small pieces before adding it to “Kol” and the chicken soup.

By the time everything is ready for the community and the visitors to share the holy food, it is about 05:00 pm. Most part of the farming ceremony takes place in the preparation of the food following a very particular and traditional technique.

I was amazed to see how friendly and happy families of the community were all along the process. They had been very kind and willing to show us their Mayan traditions. Unfortunately cultural expressions such as these farming rituals are disappearing and few communities keep on practicing them. Centuries after the conquest of Spaniards and the mayor conversion to Christianity of million of indigenous people, Maya communities still have their own strong beliefs and wish to preserve it through future generations.

Chloé.

 

3 – The four winds are the owner of the lands. They watch over the farmers while working on their maize crops. A Yucatan Mayan belief says that if a farmer stands right in the particular spot that separates his crops from the one of another farmer at 12:00 pm exactly, he will suffer from a strong pain and high fever the day after and will have to go back to his crop with a “mem” (a Mayan priest) in order to apologize to the four winds and ask permission to cu

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