Updated: Sep 7, 2022
Eli told us stories; stories of how the Maya really built the pyramids, stories of what happened during the great caste wars, stories of magical beings in the forest, stories of what happens to people who don't respect the wild places. It was years ago when I first met him in a teeny-tiny pueblo in an area called the Zona Maya. Zona Maya is a stronghold for the Maya, a place that was never truly conquered by the Spanish, a place where they hold their own beliefs, their own government, and even their own time zone! We had gone looking for a Maya priest to give us a blessing before we went on an adventure and we found Eli. He was the understudy for the priest. He led us to the man who blessed us, but he himself was much more of a blessing! We spent two days listening to his fascinating tales! (read some of his stories here... The Secret of the Talking Tree , Moving Stones: An Modern Mystic and an Ancient Mystery, The Secret of the Maya Revealed )
Years passed and I really wanted to see if we could find Eli again. I wanted to hear more stories and go over the old ones so I could better recall the details. He was a wealth of information about the mysteries and wisdom of the modern Maya people! His village is small and I thought I remembered which house was his, so we headed south, past Tulum, past Muyil, out of the Riviera Maya, and into the wild lands of the Zona Maya!
We turned down a road with no cars and no buildings and drove through a jungly wilderness until we reached the outskirts of a tiny hamlet. I remember his house being green. A house that resembled his but was freshly painted bright yellow came into view. We stopped, knocked, called out (a traditional way of announcing your presence) but no-one was home. I wasn't sure it was the right house, so we hopped back in the car and continued on. The homes were spread far apart with jungle in between. Soon we saw another house, green in the back with some new construction in the front. We stopped, walked up the the open door, calling out, "Hola!" as they do in these parts to announce our arrival. A couple well fed dogs were sleeping on the porch. One had duct tape as a collar, but he looked happy and fat. I could see a younger girl in the kitchen and soon an older woman came out to greet us.
Yes! This was the home of Eli, the story teller, and this was his wife. He wasn't home, but she could take us to find him. She climbed in the car with us and we headed a bit more down the road until we came to the edge of a tiny town. The very first person we saw was Eli. He was hanging out, right next to the road, with a buddy. It was Sunday afternoon and they were enjoying the sun and a cold beer while waiting for the tamales to be ready for Sunday family dinner. Both he and his friend agreed to go back to the house. His friend rode a bike and Eli stopped at a house across the street and asked for a ride since our car was full.
A few minutes later we were chatting under a huge tree in the front year. Eli was telling me the tree was called Lluvia de Oro (gold rain!) because after it blossoms, the flowers fall like rain and cover the ground. He launched into stories of medicinal plants and how to use them, picking up things that lay at his feet and explaining what they were good for, how to prepare them, and how to administer their medicine.
His enthusiasm was tangible. "El monte esta vivo!" He said it two or three times. The wild places are alive! Imagine jungle fields where corn grows in small bunches and wild tamarind trees and small palms dot the landscape. Think of white flowers blooming on vines creeping over the grasses and swaths of golden blooms painting the greenery. Yes, of course I knew that the wild places were alive. Well, I thought I did.
"El monte esta vivo!" He exclaimed again and this time he explained that, like the air can be an elemental creature called an alux, (read about aluxes here: Surprising New Details About Aluxes) and can have consciousness and can act, so can the fields and stands of palms and pools of flowers! And then he told me something fantastical, mysterious, and surprising. The monte does not like people to explore it at night. A person should not venture into the wild place between the hours of 7pm and 7am. The monte would not like them there and would defend itself! Eli told me that if you go into the wild places at three o'clock in the morning, the monte will shoot arrows at you! It has power. It has thoughts and desires, and it can act!
I am not sure why the wild places don't want us to venture into them in the dark, but I have tremendous respect for the ways of the jungle and the traditions of the Maya people, and so I will not be venturing into the wilds at night. I do not want to be hit by an arrow shot by the monte itself!
I am sure you would agree!