Mayan Tonal Acupressure Course
Healing in the Thought of the Maya
Maya Medicine and Maya Healing
Sastun (pronounced sas-toon)
The Mayan sas means light, pure, unblemished, and
mirror, while tun is stone or age.
Together the words can mean Light of the Ages, Stone of the Ages,
and Stone of Light,
all of which are names for a
cherished tool of divination and spiritual power used
by Maya H`mens since ancient times.
Sastunan also be spelled zaztun or sastoon
Rosita Arvigo, author of Sastun
Sastun is a beautiful story about the apprenticeship of Rosita Arvigo with a Maya healer in Belize named Don Elijio Panti (photo - right) which shows how modern science can learn from traditional knowledge. His knowledge of the healing properties of just about every plant in the jungle is being preserved through a project that contains the location of the plant, the Mayan name for it and how Don Elijio Panti used it in his healing practice. The Belize Ethnobotany Project enabled his work to be preserved at the Belize College of Agriculture, the Forestry Department, The New York Botanical Garden and the Smithsonian Institution. I have not met Don or Rosita, but their work to preserve the Maya healer knowledge and the herbs of the jungle continues at the six-thousand acre Terra Nova Medicinal Plant Reserve in Belize. The original path has been preserved, and it has become one of the major attractions for tourists who visit the Cayo District. Visitors to the Ix Chel Tropical Research Center can walk along the trail, which has signs in front of each medicinal tree and plant describing its history and uses. Near the end of the walk, visitors can view a recreation of Don Panti's home. A fee of $5 US is charged for a self guided walk. A guided walk and presentation costs $30, or $50 if given by Dr. Rosita herself.
Also available at Ix Chel (as well as in many gift shops in Belize and most bookstores in the U.S.) is Dr. Rosita's recently published book: "Sastun--My Apprenticeship with a Mayan Healer;" published by Harper, San Francisco (ISBN 0-06-250255-7); and a paperback edition of "Rainforest Remedies--One Hundred Healing Herbs of Belize," by Rosita Arvigo and Michael Balick (ISBN 0-914955-13-6).
Ix Chel Farms and the Panti Trail are right next door to Chaa Creek. Many tourists get there and back by canoing along the river. Most Cayo resorts and hotels can arrange a canoe rental and will arrange to pick you up when you dock. Visit the Belize website to find accommodations that suit your needs.
Working the the Ancestors
Even though Don Elijio Panti has transitioned from this lifetime he was able to train others to carry on this important wisdom. He now works with the realm of the Ancient Ancestors to protect the lands of the Maya from modern commercializaton. I was recently shown a plan to build a modern Wellness Center in the 'Jaguar Jungle' on the coastline of Belize. As I was reviewing the Business plan and visiting the website describing the project, I went into immediate pain which crippled my left hip. I shut down the website and went into meditation until morning. The pain was so intense that I needed help from Shannon Ogg, my Executive Director to communicate with the Ancestors and clear the pain. It was Don Elijio Panti, asking for help to keep the 'Jaguar Jungle' and the ancient sacred lands out of the hands of the developers. I listened and warned the developer who contacted me to read his Business Plan. If they continue to develop sacred lands without permission of the Ancestors, the jungle will take back the land and the projects will not succeed. We all must honor the sacred sites of indigenous cultures and keep our projects based on capitalization and profit in our own lands. Any project designed for profit that denigrates the sacredness of a culture will not succeed.
Visiting a Mayan Healer
Visiting a Mayan healer who sees all the energy is always a sacred experience. All of the indigenous cultures that I have had the honor to learn from have this ability to use their inner vision for symbolism versus words. They understand the interconnection of the totality of being and call forth the spiritual Masters that connect your human form to the Master Blueprint for the healing session.
Working only above the crown chakra at the center of your head the Mayan healer uses a combination of herbs that is held in one hand and then proceed to open the crown much like a Reiki healer uses the symbols to open a session on their client.
They proceed to work with the spiral above the crown bringing in the healing energy and praying in Mayan as the energy moves through the body clearing the issues connected to the illness for the healing.
The honor was bestowed while on a visit to a small Mayan village to meet my friends' mentor. Berto had made the appointment for his healing session which he explained, was for activation of energies he would need on his journey to France. When the healer finished working on him, he asked Berto for permission to work on me also. I was quite surprised as I had only gone along as an observer.
The session only took about 15 minutes, but when it was complete, I could not move from the chair for at least 30 minutes. The energy that he called forth was so powerful that I could feel it flow through my entire body and moved into a state of no-time. This created a light-headed and disassociated sensation afterwards and my frequencies needed time to adjust to the activation and integration.
Even though I did not speak much of the Mayan language words were not necessary as I understood from every level of my being the prayers and power of this tiny man. When I became fully present Berto stated that his mentor would be honored with a gift that was a token of my energy. I removed my turquiose-beaded bracelet with the feather amulet and put it in his hand. The smile of gratitude was enormous and the exchange of energy was complete.
As in all the indigenous cultures that I have been honored to study, the gift of exchange is usually not monetary. Something with your energy patterns that is gifted from the soul and is flowed to the healer has much more meaning. The energy of the token gift will last forever as it is generally passed on to the next generation by the healer at his passing.
We said our good-byes and as we were walking away from this small Mayan oval hut that had only one room, a concrete floor, thatched roof and no electricity or running water, my friend Berto asked me, "What age do you think my mentor is?" I pondered it a moment and decided that he was around 52-57. He started laughing and said "No, my dear Judith, this man is well over 100 years old."
Astounding as it seemed, he was on his third generation of children with his third wife. Mayan healers apparently know the secret to longevity and youth. They become elders at 52 which equals 18,900 K'in (days) of the Tzolk'in rounds called a Tunben K'ak , at which time your natal glyphs repeat. Their total understanding of the spiritual energies and the ability to portal them through their physical bodies every day seem to keep them from aging.
Modern day cultures are always looking for new technology or miracle pill to keep the body from aging. When you understand the totality of the Universal energy you end the separation, therefore ending the need to age your physicality.
There are many similarities between the Maya healing practices and Chinese medicine. Herbal teas and poultices are used for many ailments prescribed by the Maya h'men. Steam baths with the leaves of the herbs are also a popular healing method along with massage of the legs, arms and torso to create energy flow through the body.
The acupuncture meridians are understood by Maya healers and circular massage on the individual points along with directed pressure are applied to move and release stuck energy that creates disease, along with stiffness, pain and paralysis. Approximately 50 main points are regularly opened during a healing session, including the charkas for flow of healing energies.
The ancient Maya also built small stone buildings for sweat lodges, much like the Native American practiced in North America. They had a sipi (hole in top) for the smoke to rise out and to call in the ancestors spirits. One can be viewed at the Chicchan Itza complex of pyramids along with the observatory and ball game arena.
In 1996 I was honored to help organize the first sweat lodge between the Maya and Native American cultures which had 50 attendees from around the world. Bridging the indigenous cultures through healing and communication was the intent of this event. Many of the attendees were staying at the Villa Archaeologica near Chicchan Itza and were invited to participate in the sweat lodge ceremony with the Itza elders and h'men to reunite the wisdom-keepers of both cultures.
Most h'men and sh'men
healers also work with crystal and jade stones of light for amplifying the energies during a session. Water is equal to blood in the thought of the Maya and reflection pools of water were built in many of the ancient houses for meditation with the sun. Some homes of the elite Maya and the Priest had reflection pools in every room for healing and meditation. Since the Yucatan does not have any surface water people visit the ceynotes
(underground grottos with natural springs)
for cleansing and healing.
(photo) Dzib Ceynote during the Zenith of the Sun (May 21-23) with the rays coming though the portal in the cavern from above.
Maya Culture and Wisdom Keepers
In the Maya civilizations, the Day Keepers were chosen as small children and trained by the elders to learn the count of sacred days for their respective communities. They were also trained as shaman and learned to carry the energy in their physical bodies for all aspects of healing and divinity. A shaman in the Maya villages was considered to be the spiritual lawyer in all matters that needed resolution between the ancestors, Hunab KU and humanity. There was no separation between spirit and the daily life experiences of the Maya, as everything was considered sacred and therefore, honored as received from God (Hunab KU) the giver of life in the form of movement and measure. The energies are transferred from the shaman to the people and are considered to be the “divine order of the universe in daily life.”
Identifying the animal guides and protector spirit is also very important during the healing process in the Maya tradition. Shamans can travel between the worlds and take on the shape of their ch'ulel, allowing them to appear as their “nawal”, which is their special animal spirit from birth. During your lifetime, you may gain many animal spirit guides depending on your path and your purpose, but your nawal is your original animal spirit guide who comes into this reality with you at birth.
The Maya understood that the soul, ch'ulel is eternal. Humans sometimes become disconnected from their soul and illness appears. A h'men (male shaman) will be called in to help the person and find the parts of the soul that have been disconnected, welcoming them back into the body so that the person can heal. The root words for ch'ulel are ch'ul or k'ul which the ancient Maya scribes sometimes used to describe “holiness” or “divinity”. The Kings in the Classic period were called ch'ul ahau meaning “Lords of the Life Force”. The second type of soul is called a chanul which represents your animal spirit, which is the root word in Maya for animal. Since the Maya believe that everything in the Universe has a ch'ulel including animals, plants, houses, salt, and fire they honor the interactions between the innate souls of the people and material objects.
“In K'iche', nawal refers to the spiritual essence or character of a person, plant, animal or geographical place. When it is used as a metonym for shamanic power, it refers to the ability to make these essences visible or audible by means of ritual. Pus…refers literally to the cutting of flesh with a knife, and it is the primary term for sacrifice. …It means that the creation was accomplished (in part) through sacrifice.”
(D. Tedlock 1986:79; our orthnography)
In the Yukatec language, which is the base of all the Maya words included in this manuscript, k'awal means sustenance or to give alms. K'awal can be any substance from plants, sap from trees, or body fluids, such as semen or blood that can be offered as a divine gift to show gratitude for the sustenance provided by the divine. It also represents the “lightning in the blood'' of the shaman or healer and this is the context on which our manuscript is focused. The Maya believe that the “blood” is the sacred substance of the human which equates with the “water” that is the sacred blood of the earth. They are considered equal and in balance. If a person is experiencing sickness, a shaman/healer will `listen to the blood' by taking the pulse. In this manner, they believe that the ”blood speaks” to them and helps in the diagnosis of the illness. Much like the practice in China, they read the energy through the blood. Since they also believe that the “ch'ulel, inner soul or spirit” of the person resides in the blood, this practice allows them to speak directly to the soul.
The other substances that are revered in Maya are called Itz, the Cosmic sap” which refer to excretions from the human body such as sweat, tears, milk and semen. The cosmic Itz includes the morning dew, flower nectar,, sap, gum and rubber from the trees, and the melting wax of candles, which in the Yucatan is revered as the “blessed rain.” Since the candle wax, converts into smoke, it is the most important in modern day shamanic rituals.
Therefore, the burning of the incense or copal resin to invite the spirits to guide the healing of the patient is very common in the healing sessions. The rising smoke is believed to create a path for communication with the spirits, ancestors and guides. In ancient times, they created huge clouds of smoke within the ceremonial caves on which the spirits from the “otherworlds” could travel. Caves and ceynotes (underground springs) were the main ceremonial places chosen for rituals in the ancient times and you can still see the heavy black residue covering the walls inside the “grottos.” These cermonial rituals are very much aligned with the sweat lodges and kivas of Native American ancestors for healing.
Itzam, a derivative of Itz sometimes refers to the Shaman, (h'men-male) who works with Itz in the healing sessions. In the ancient drawings, you will find Itzamma, the First Shaman (sh'men-female) who drew the images of the constellation on the sky at Creation.
Everything from birth to death and the otherworld of eternity have a ritual attached. Therefore, a basic understanding of the “wholeness” of life that continues into infinity is necessary before you can practice a healing method that is also a ritual, tied to the Cosmos and the Human body with the energies flowing to stimulate harmony, resonance, peace and abundance in all life forms. In the `thought of the Maya' our purpose is to understand the complete patterns of energy and movement created by their source, Hunab K'u and to live in this world by honoring this creation in all of it's multitude of forms, from the invisible “otherworld” to the world of mass and matter.
Their form of greeting, In Lak'ech, means “I am another yourself.” Every indigenous culture has this pattern of thought, honoring all in creation that modern man has lost along the way.