When a place on Earth has great energy, I can feel it. My spouse has always thought this was odd, but he himself felt “great energy” at Iximche – Mayan ruins 1.5 miles from Tecpan, Guatemala. He called it a soothing, calming, peaceful energy.
Since he normally doesn’t tell me he feels ‘great energy’ at places of reputed spiritual vortexes I’ve dragged him to over the years, I love that picture above. It’s taken on a plaza at Iximche – Mayan ruins from the post-classical period. It was a main city of the Kakchiquel Maya from the late 16th century to the early 17th century.
A museum on site has artifacts, human remains, maps and information. Outside, there are four plazas, partially excavated. The first plaza, Plaza A, has more excavation than the other areas. The whole site features open fields where you can see former building blocks stuck in earth, as nature took back what was once an important Mayan city.
The archeological history of the site is important to Guatemala’s history. I found this website by the University of Pennsylvania’s Expedition Magazine fascinating, for anyone who wants to read about the history of Iximche.
Yet – as interesting as the history is, we saw something better. History that came alive – a sight so authentic and special it took us by surprise: Mayas in ceremonial prayer. It happened on Iximche’s last plaza, at the back of the site before the gorge – its natural defense structure.
These ceremonies are sacred. People pray to spirits and gods and ancestors. They ask for the guidance on all matters in life and death.
We didn’t want to disturb their prayers so we circled around and didn’t get in their way. I also took care not to take pictures of anyone’s face (many Maya don’t like their pictures taken). We watched two men on their knees for a few minutes. A few other people also were engaged in prayers nearby.
People bring sugar, cacao, chocolate, cinnamon and other spices, water, flowers, and more as offerings to gods and spirits. During a prayer ceremony, people start small fires in small circles filled with the offerings. Mayas leave candles burning at sites when ceremonial prayers are over and the fire has been doused.
We have been to many Maya ruins – from Coba to Calakmul, Tikal to Yaxha, and practically all the sites in between. We have never seen anything like this.
After we watched the ceremony and explored the ruins, we sat on benches and relaxed. That’s when we saw more Maya people cross a field headed to the last plaza and the ceremonial site. They carried bags filled with offerings.
I know many sites let indigenous people practice their faith outside of tourist hours. For example, Chichen Itza in Mexico is sometimes closed to tourists so Mayas can practice their religion. Perhaps there are no time constraints at Iximche because it’s off the beaten path – there were few-to-no tourists around when we went on a Monday morning.
During Guatemala’s civil war, Mayas didn’t openly practice their faith. More than 200,000 people were killed – and more than 83 percent of those killed were Maya, according to the United Nations. I did not know that fact when we witnessed the prayers, but it sure does make the memory of the experience even more special. I love freedom, and I love when people can celebrate life however they chose if it hurts no one.
There are no huge structures at Iximche, like there are at Tikal in the northeastern part of the country. But Iximche is just as powerful based on the energy I felt, and the beautiful prayer ceremony we were lucky enough to witness. I don’t know if you’ll get as lucky as we were if you visit Iximche, but if you’re connected to Earth and the universe in, you will feel the ‘great energy’ I’m betting is always there.
Admission at Iximche cost 50 quetzales (about $7 USD) for us foreigners. There is a colectivo (shared taxi van) that runs every ten minutes from Tecpan to the ruins. The colectivos line up on 1 Calle, just south of the Tecpan town square and municipal center. The ride costs about five quetzales, or about 75 cents. If you’re up for the walk, the hills are not bad and the road is paved to the site.