potent rituals of san juan chamula

Published: February 5th 2010
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Gasping for air as I enter the sacred church whose intense energy steals my breath.
Chills run down my spine, goosebumps cover my skin, and tears fill my ducts.
Pine needles cover the ground, signifying the eternity of evergreens and softening the kneeling knees of those around me.
The aroma of burning incense intertwine with pine as I grasp onto this reality through the fogged perception of smoke.
Smells of burning wax drip onto the floor, occasionally passing through the slight breeze of fresh air.
Olfactory glands full of pine, copal, and wax.
Glowing candles light the path...path of life.
Religious hymns play softly in the background of indigenous dialects.
Dim lighting, strong odors, and indescribable power.
Conscious rituals cleanse individuals from illness and sin, intensifying positive intentions.

Medicine woman and patient bow in front of rows of candles, mumbling chants while lighting one row after the next.
Pulse taken with one hand on the heart, and one hand on the wrist.
Burning a single pine needle followed by a delicate bow...forehead to flame.
Holy water blessed by the flame and then sequentially being poured onto the rows of candles.
A chicken sits close by in a plastic bag, cluelessly taking its last breaths.
The chicken is first blessed by the flame and then rubbed over the individuals body, absorbing all negativity.
The feet are tied together as it hopelessly hangs upside down.
Feathers bunched together, restricting all movement.
The shaman then uses her strength to prevent the chicken from moving, eventually squeezing its neck to a peaceful death.
A minimal fight towards the afterlife.
Body, mind, and spirit are cleansed from negativity and refilled with positive intentions through the sacrifice of other living beings.


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