This being South Florida, ya takes yer mystical experiences where ya finds 'em. So it was in a nondescript Boynton Beach medical building last Friday night that two dozen local souls gathered to get the lowdown on the much-talked-about Mayan calendar and its supposedly apocalyptic implications.
In the past year or so, screaming headlines on supermarket tabloids and quickie paperbacks have touted the calendar's end date of December 21, 2012, as the end of the world as we know it. Bad news is boffo box office.
But it ain't necessarily so, according to Miguel Angel Chiquin, an elder of the Guatemala Maya. Instead of stocking up on canned goods and firearms, the shaman says we should be laying down an extra case of champagne (or breaking out the crystals and patchouli, whatever).
A gnome-like figure with a bulbous face and squat, almost pumpkin-shaped body, his ponytailed dark hair flecked with gray, the shaman comes dressed in jeans tied with a cloth belt. He wears sandals and a simple oxford shirt. He seems preoccupied as he enters the room but brightens when he recognizes faces in the crowd and exchanges greetings with them in Spanish. (With one or two exceptions, the group is Hispanic and primarily Spanish-speaking, and the shaman's presentation is entirely in Spanish.)
On the wall behind him are 20 woven textile squares in deeply hued colors, bearing Mesoamerican hieroglyphs. They look like crudely cartoonish, alien TV sets. As the shaman tells it, they represent the 20 Nahuales
, the basic energies of the Mayan spiritual cosmos -- and they are allocated to each person in sets of four according to their birthday -- Mayan astrology!
A description of the energies takes up half the evening; the other half concerns the dreaded calendar. Some 20 years ago, it seems, a council of Mayan elders met and decided it was time to take their ancient teachings public. The shaman was authorized to speak out. We've got "bad information," he says. "This is not the end of the world. We don't know anything about that."
There are forces seeking to control humanity, he says, through "mental sabotage." (He's been following the Romney campaign, obviously.) But "don't be afraid" -- December 21 marks the end of a 5,000-year cycle of "dark times," with 5,000 years of "light and clarity" to come. Sounding every bit like an anti-globalization protester, he says, "A better world is possible."
It's largely due to that last set of horrors that South Florida is home to a large population of Mayan ex-pats, chiefly in Lake Worth and Greenacres. It's a strange reversal and an act of great courtesy that they return the mixed favor of refuge by sharing their culture.
[Mayan elder Chiquin will preside in a fire ceremony in the Lake Worth area on November 16, exact time and place TBD. For more information, contact Patricia Hoyle at 561-704-4162, or visit email@example.com.]
Fire Ant, an invasive species, tinged dark red, with an annoying, sometimes fatal bite, covers Palm Beach County. Got feedback or tip? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.