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Journey to Matlan
Altar of the Underworld
Underworld altar is setup ouside of where the participants can not see it. Casting is twice as to cast circle and to begin ritual with the attendees. The same text is used for both the altar area (Mictlantecuhtli & Mictecacihuatl) and the candidate preparation (Xolotl). Rememnber to invite and honor your ancestors, the spirits of the land, and the Gods of the Mayan Underworld.
Mictecacihuatl and Mictlantecuhtli are never seen outside of ritual. They do their preparation separate from the group. Each should spend some personal time before the ritual investigating and researching the deities they honor.
Feast of Mitlan
The feast afterwards consists entirely of foods that are red (symbolizing the color blood - the color of life) I highly suggest peaches cooked in red wine and sugar, not only are the delicious but the halved pairs look like livers. Nice.
Gate of Blood
Red gate of streamers, drapery, etc. Placed at the end of the journey down ward and is a visual barrier to the Altar of the Dead/Temple of Life. Guarded by the Jaguar.
Makeup & Dress
Mictecacihuatl* & Mictlantecuhtli:
Suggestion: Draw a line from the corners of your mouth out to your ears with red lipstick and color it red down from there - total jawbone is red. Eyes: red strip going from edge to edge of the face. Hair: pulled back severely with red feathers in it. If you can add red and yellow feathers to a cloak. (For the inital performance of this ritual in 2005 the priestess wore a very loose red covering that moved with her body yet covered all but her face and arms.. thus giving the impression of a spirit.)
Matlan (Land of the Dead)
Outside. The deck used in the 2005 ritual was conveniently two tier; placing the candidates looking upwards to the Altar of the Dead and Mictecacihuatl* & Mictlantecuhtli when they emerge from their journey downwards. (Convenient site associations: The deck is in the west. There are 4 steps up to the altar/platform – the four elements; 9 steps up from the altar area to the door to the house- representing the nine layers of the underworld. A total of 13 steps represent the 13 main Aztec deities.)
To the North is darkness
To the South is death
The sun to the East and
the pulque to the West with Venus
Moon, which the clay swings in the foam of all the nights of my solitude
I follow the steps
You lead me to the place where you came from, and the place where I will end.
As a man disappears into the West, the direction of the dead, the seeds of his rebirth are sown.
Sacrifice written on paper
Instruct the candidates write a sacrifice. Something they care for but has greater potential and can let go so that something greater could enter. Something worthy of sacrifice - not goodwill type "it's broken already stuff". Self sacrifice leads to self growth.
Xolotl: Opens the Red Box containing the jade (glow sticks) glowing from inside; written on the inside is The day set out from the east and started walking – Mayan Poem…
[explanation of the journey and the jade]
Wherever I go, you will follow. I am the soul that god has sent to guide you to your death.
The participants walk down a dark pathway with only the jade to light their path- journey to the dark underworld. Xolotl leads the way.
When they reach the "Gate of Blood" (Gate of Life) they are challenged by the Jaguar. To pass into the realm of Mictlan they offer their jade in place of their own heart.
JAGUAR & XOLOTL
Candidates pass through a red curtain and emerge in full view of the
Altar of the Dead and Mictecacihuatl & Mictlantecuhtli. The gods are
to be active not standing still waiting for the candidates. Drumming,
crawling, telling their story; intense, intimidating, focused.
Once all the candidates are gathered at the foot of the platform…
MICTLANTECUHTLI (to Mictecacihuatl)
MICTECACIHUATL (to Mictlantecuhtli)
I see my reflections in the puddles of blood. I feel the perpetual tranquility of past times. My center, the temple of life.
Mictecacihuatl (HPS) moves forward demands a sacrifice from the candidates (the paper they have written on), as they approach she takes each one by the hand and leading them to the altar when they release their sacrifice she turns them over to XOLOTL.
After all paper sacrifices are collected Mictlantecuhtli extends his hands over the bowl.
[acceptance of sacrifice text]
Mictecacihuatl pours wax from red candles that melt in low heat is poured over Mictlantecuhtli (HP) hands and collected in a second larger bowl (representing blood from a sacrifice).
The papers are burned and thrown into the bowl with the wax.
[text – release to the world of the living, each candidate is instructed to take a red candle from the altar to carry the light of the departed to the upper world to celebrate this evening with the living. When the candle is blown out the spirit returns to the Miclan.]
You are connected to your ancestors and they to you. Do not close your ears to their whispers. Do not cloud your vision to their memory. Do not weep, for the mouth of the dead is found at your center.
Candidates return upwards – the 9 steps (or torches) back to the living world.
Inside they place the candles on their Altar to the Dead. Here they have collected pictures, foods, memories of those who have journeyed from this world to Miclan. They are to be celebrated, remembered, and invited to partake of this world for this one evening. This should be reverent and joyous. Music, dance, and food is highly encouraged!
Much of the phrasing contained in this ritual is adapted from the
CD Tree of Life by Lila Downs.