Updated: Sep 8, 2022
“Only the men who are teachers can go in the water down there. If women go, the water will get lost.”
Now, I bet you just focused on the part about only men being able to go in the water in wherever this place is. And maybe your feathers got a bit ruffled. But, if your brain is dancing over there, I bet you missed the interesting part of this comment.
“The water will get lost.”
We were standing at the top of a large hole in the earth. A huge sour orange tree stood there with us, spreading its massive roots down into the cave below. A young girl, who was our guide, stood beside us and several of our party were down inside the cave. They had climbed down a dangerous, half built and rotting ladder with the help and stability of the massive tree roots and were exploring another forty foot drop deeper inside the cavern that fell into the crystal clear water below.
Getting to this newly discovered cenote had not been easy. It entailed first diving three hours from the Caribbean coast in a Mexican jungle and then driving for 45 minutes down a rutted path with lime stones jutting out everywhere (in my sedan which was NOT easy). Then walking for another hour down a jungle path and finally through a field of grass that was head-high grass and filled with stinging plants that continually slapped at our legs. To tell you the truth, it was not the most impressive cenote I had seen, and I was not sure seeing it was worth the work we did to get there.
However, I m always keeping my eyes and ears open for the unexpected. And today it was a passing comment made by our 15-year-old guide.
“The water will get lost.”
In order for something to “get lost”, it has to have an awareness of where it is. There is a big difference between saying, “I lost my keys,” and “My keys got lost.” And how does water that fills a cave and has been there for thousands of years all of a sudden get lost? And where does it get lost? Somewhere deeper in the labyrinth of tunnels that run for hundreds of miles across the Yucatan Peninsula?
Now granted, our guide, who was a fifteen-year-old girl, spoke a version of Spanish that was influenced by Yucatec Mayan and maybe the phrasing she used reflected a mix of syntax between two opposing languages (Spanish and Mayan are very different). But more likely, it reflected the idea that everything has consciousness. The Maya often speak using language that implies that the trees, the stones, the water, the sky, even the days of the week have thoughts and feelings of their own.
We tend to evaluate everything based on our own understanding of reality. And so, we would be inclined to assume that, since we KNOW that water cannot lose itself, there must be another explanation for her comment. She must have mis-spoke. Or she must be very uneducated and believe the silly notion that the water actually knows where it is.
And in all honesty, the fact that she prefaced it with the idea that the water gets lost if women go down to it would certainly make our judgment jaded in this modern world that we live in. We would likely come to the conclusion that she is a simple girl living in a backwards village with no understanding of modern culture or science.
But, what if she’s right?
What if the water really CAN get lost? What does that imply?
The men who are teachers in her community are shamans. So, really, she is saying that only shamans can go down to the water or the water will get lost. And so far, this is the ONLY cenote where I have been told that the water is off limits to anyone but shamans.
However, I HAVE heard the Maya speak of nature itself as having thoughts and feelings before. I have heard them tell stories of elemental beings that could be described as nature manifesting itself as things that can play tricks on people, can be happy or irritated, and can be both protective and dangerous at the same time. An alux/duende is air manifested as a shape-shifting being. A gnome is stone manifested in much the same manner. I have heard mention of a water elemental being too. One story was of two tourists seeing a water being in the form of a human walking through the ruins at Coba at dusk. Perhaps there was one hiding in a pool beneath the earth beneath our feet.
Our shaman, who accompanied us, had gone down with part of our little rag-tag adventure crew to see the water. But not to touch it. That was not possible. Was that because it was difficult to access? Or was it because, if WE were to touch it, the water would get lost?
Trying to keep my mind open and excited to ask more questions,