Updated: Sep 8, 2022
There is an unassuming hotel near the great ruins of Chichen Itza. I stay there often. Its pink bungalows offer simple but clean sleeping arrangements. Its old pasta style tile floor in the common area reminds me of the days of Spanish glory and the food served in its open air restaurant is Maya with its smoky pibil-style pork, boiled egg topped tacos, and banana leaf wrapped tamales.
There are many stories to tell about this hotel for it holds many secrets. But this story is about a slow evening when the hotel manager and one of the waiters reclined by the pool with us and told us stories of rituals in the nearby jungles.
There is a stone statue of a horse called Tzimin. This is not to be confused with the Maya pueblo of Tzimin. The stone is huge and heavy, but not so big that it cannot be moved for it is moved from place to place, hidden places, places deep in the jungle, for ritual purposes even to this day.
The hotel manager, who had been telling us of aluxob (plural for alux) became quiet as the waiter took over the conversation and wove a story that began with a group of Maya men gathering in a secret location deep among the strangler figs, giant ceibas, and palm trees, to offer sacrifices to Chaac, the rain god.
There had been a great drought and previous prayers and rituals involving corn, tequila, flowers, and candles, had not been successful. So, a ritual hunt was necessary. Men gathered around the Tzimin (stone horse) early in the evening as the sun was slipping behind the horizon. Ritual prayers were offered by a Maya priest/shaman and stones were cast on the ground to determine how many animals were to be taken in the subsequent hunt. The priest that attended the ceremony was one of the most powerful shamans to have lived in a long while. He had received the stones he cast under supernatural circumstances early in his shamanic career. Not long after he became a shaman, he was walking through the jungle when he looked down and saw five smooth, green stones at his feet. At that moment “the man who walks” also appeared and taught him how to use the stones because they held the power of divination. When “the man who walks,” a man thought to be hundreds of years old, finished his teaching, he disappeared. (More about the mysterious stones here)
So, the priest/shaman cast the divining stones and saw that five deer, and a number of birds and smaller game (the waiter did not mention how many) were to be killed in the hunt. He blessed the hunters who took their arrows and left.
Hours later they returned with the correct number of birds and small game, but only four deer. One of the hunters hung his head and explained that he missed his shot and his deer escaped. The waiter explained that only one shot was allowed for each deer and that the first shot must kill the deer cleanly. The deer were holy and magical animals and to wound a deer without killing it was a horrible injustice. The gods had chosen which five deer were to be sacrificed when the stones were thrown and only those five deer must be taken. The hunter who missed his shot was devastated because he could not just go shoot a different deer. The deer, hearing the gods’ desires, offered themselves as sacrifice and one of them had been missed. Therefore, the entire ritual had been put in jeopardy and the sacrifice to Chaac, the rain god, could not go forward.
But the shaman/priest was not worried. He threw the stones again and announced that the deer the hunter shot at was NOT the sacrificial deer and that another deer would offer itself. Just at that moment a deer bound right through the gathering of men. The hunter’s arrow flew and did not miss, making the total number of deer killed the correct five.
The ritual blood sacrifice was made in front of the alter of the Tzimin. Five deer and a number of small game and birds. The following morning, the drought broke and the rains came.
The waiter did tell us that the flesh of the animals was not wasted after the sacrifice, but that the meat was divided up between families and eaten.
He also said that the shaman died about two years ago and his elderly wife outlived him, but that he did not know the whereabouts of the magic stones.
I was a bit thunderstruck by the idea that blood sacrifice was still practiced in the dark jungles of the Yucatan and I asked if a similar ritual would be done today were there to be a reason for it. Our hosts both nodded somberly, clearly confirming that, under extreme circumstances, blood sacrifices are still a part of the rituals of the modern Maya who live in Yucatan today.
Eating broccoli and potatoes for dinner,