by Teena Clipston
(featured photo, above: Chanel Clipston at the ancient Maya city of Uxmal, Yucatan, Mexico.)
I have always felt an emptiness inside me, like part of me was missing. Perhaps best described as the feeling of being ‘orphaned’ and yearning to know who I am, and where I came from. Not to be confused with… I know my name is Teena Clipston, in this flesh… and I know I was born in Montreal, and I know who my parents are… but to find out who I AM, really. Who am I in consciousness, in spirit, and why am I here walking this Earth? I am certain that I am not here to perpetuate some corporate agenda, I am certain I am not here to run in a rat wheel, I am certain I am not here to suffer in hate, or in poverty or lack of, or loss of any kind. I am certain I am not here to indulge the pleasures of gluttony, perverse sexual activity, addictions, or any such hyper stimulations… And so in my life, with the odd distraction here and there, I have set out on a quest to find who I AM.
At first, because I was still young in my mind, I set out to find myself outside of me, and I looked at the world and all the things in it, and I compared myself to all of these worldly things. I determined what I liked, and what I disliked, I judged, and I put things into categories. I put myself into a category, and thought this was ‘me’ and all that I was. That now brings me sadness.
My questions about who I AM began when I was very young. But it was not a topic of discussion in my family, so I looked elsewhere for answers. A time came when I was in elementary school, and there was a class about ancient history, in particular, Ancient Egypt. I became excited and looked forward to the class discussion, especially about the Great Pyramid of Giza. This was like a dream to me, this magnificent wonder I had seen in movies and photos, that was so overwhelming beautiful and brilliant. I was going to learn all about it. I was thrilled at the idea of getting a glimpse of where man may have come from… and to acquire the wisdom of the ancients.
You could imagine my disappointment when the teacher told me that the pyramids were built by slaves that dragged huge stones over logs for miles and miles – 2.3 million stone blocks to be exact – weighing an average of 2.5 to 15 tons each, laid upon each other in perfect geometry to the height of 418 feet, all built to precision including its interior chambers. All of this for the sole purpose of constructing a tomb for Pharaoh Khufu, who must have had one hell of a huge ego and some amazingly dedicated slaves. They built it from start to finish within a time period of 10 to 20 years in 2560 BC, without tools. Just a bunch of slaves, dragging huge blocks weighing tons over logs from a quarry far, far away.
At that moment, my heart sank. What kind of nonsense was this? This was an inconceivable explanation that made absolutely no sense to me. It went against all of my grey brain matter. It was impossible, I thought, for slaves to have moved these large blocks in this manner. It had to have been done in a more sophisticated fashion, and yet my classmates and the teacher all believed slaves could push a 15-ton block using some logs, and then somehow place it into the construction, perfectly. And when I questioned the validity of the concept, I was ostracized. And in that moment, I had no longer had faith in the educational system, my teachers, our leaders, or anyone else that would tell me such lies.
Time passed. My quest for who I AM grew as did my passion for ancient history, pyramids, and archaeology. I combined that love with my love of writing, and decided to write a novel, a fiction novel, that takes place in the Riviera Maya—Gypsy Saint James and the Treasure of Ix Chel. The novel would take me on a journey of discovery as I researched information about the Mayan history. I have many tales to tell, but one that stands out as a brilliant example of being in the right place at the right time will be the one I tell in this article.
Firstly, let me bring you up to date on the mainstream version of what the world has been taught about the Mayan people and their history.
The Maya empire centered in what we now call Guatemala, and reached throughout Central America and Mexico. By 600 AD the Maya had a capital city called Tikal in Guatemala. A pyramid stands there 154 feet high, along with schools, libraries, and all things that any grand city would have. The Maya were experts in agriculture, pottery, hieroglyph writing, calendar-making, astrology, and mathematics. Tikal is only one of many grand cities throughout the empire, with each city containing one or more pyramids. There are more pyramids in the Americas than anywhere else on the planet. The Mayans were noted for building pyramid structures, as were other civilizations that lived in the same area including the Omecs, the Aztecs, and the Inca. There were indeed millions of people living in these cities; however, in 1000 AD, almost all of the cities in the Maya empire were suddenly abandoned. Mainstream history suggests where the Maya came from and how they disappeared remains a mystery.
One of the most famous Maya cities is Chichen Itza, which contains the pyramid Castillo or Temple of Kukulcan (the feathered serpent). It is named one of the Seven Wonders of the World at 79 feet high with four stairways, each with 91 steps which, combined with a single step at the entrance to the temple, add up to 365 steps, representing 365 days. The pyramid was built with perfect astrological alignment and is known for a phenomenon that occurs twice a year and is viewable for a week before and after each Equinox, where light and shadow line up perfectly to create the appearance of a snake that gradually moves down the stairway of the pyramid during sunset, joining huge snakehead sculptures at the base of the stairway.
Another amazing monument can be found in Uxmal, known as the Pyramid of the Magician. It stands at 131 feet, and it is named after a magician god named Itzamna, who legend says single-handedly erected the pyramid in one night using his magic and might. The story I will tell is about my journey to this place. The adventure would serve as research for my novel and for the love of mystery.
My daughter and I packed our backpacks and jumped on a bus from Playa del Carmen, where we live, to Merida where we would make our way to two wonderous locations—the mysterious Loltun caves and the ancient city of Uxmal.
It is certainly by no accident that we meet the people we do. Upon arriving at my hotel in Merida, I inquired about the tour to Loltun caves. Loltun was, I thought, the most important of the two places that I wanted to visit, as the characters in my novel were just about to descend underground into a system of caves that would lead to a chamber of quartz crystal, a chamber where secrets can be read in the Codex of Ix Chel. And so I would choose Loltun first, just in case we ran out of time and/or money. The hotel desk clerk was quick to inform me that there was no tour. The season was low, and there were not enough people wanting to make the 1 hour and 45 minute trip into the Puuc Hills. I asked about the Uxmal ruins and if they could combine the tour, and the answer was no. Of course, I would not give up just on her word. And so my daughter and I took a walk through the city streets, on a quest to find a tour guide.
We came upon a small square with a church, park, hotel, and a few restaurants. A waiter approached us to invite us into a restaurant that was just a few feet away, asking if we would like to eat. I said maybe later, and that we were looking for a tour to Loltun. He said maybe the hotel attached to the restaurant could help us and he took us inside.
The concierge was happy to help. He made a call to an agency he knew well. The answer was the same as the one from the other hotel. No tours. He called two other tour companies. All the same: No tours. But he did not give up. He decided to call one more, one perhaps not as well-known as the others. That company said they would need four people to make it worth the long drive. We were just two, but at least we found someone willing to make the drive. And so I offered to pay them extra money to make the trip for just us two, and they accepted. The tour would take us down the Puuc Route to the Loltun caves, with stops afterward on our return home at a few noteworthy archaeology sites.
The next morning, we left to meet our guide for the tour. I said to my daughter, “if we like this tour guide we will ask him to take us to Uxmal tomorrow…” I was worried we were running out of money to pay for a second trip since we already paid more than my budget would allow for the Puuc Route tour. But I didn’t want to tell her that.
We waited for our tour guide in the same hotel lobby that booked the tour for us—an old Spanish hotel filled with antiques that had seen better times.
Our guide walked in and, to our surprise, was an antique himself. “He looks maybe to be 80,” my daughter declared. I think perhaps he may be 100 years. He walked towards us ever so slowly with a cane, and wearing dark sunglasses for protecting the eyes. This tour might take a long time, I thought.
His name is Pedro, and he is Mayan. His English is very good, although he has trouble with some words. I had to listen very carefully since his accent is thick.
After introductions, we slowly followed him out the door of the hotel. He announced, “The car is on the street… over there. The red car. We have a driver.” I was relieved that Pedro was not going to be the one at the wheel.
We all piled into the little car. We made some quick conversation with the driver about what we were intending to see, and then we made our way down a windy road between fruit farms and trees. Our guide quickly fell asleep with his chin on his chest. Our driver spoke no English and made no attempt to make conversation with me and my poor Spanish.
When we arrived at Loltun, our guide was unable to take us into the caves himself, certainly a tricky feat for an old man with a cane. There would be no way for him to climb about the slick stones into the darkness, so he set us up with another guide that worked at the caves.
While we were waiting to go into the caves I asked Pedro about Uxmal. “I want to go to Uxmal,” I said. His face lit up and he seemed to become excited. “We must go then!” he said. “Forget the other places on our tour. They are small, not as significant. Uxmal is better. I will be your guide. You must understand, you do not realize how lucky you are. I know all there is to know about Uxmal. When you are done with the caves, we shall go straight there,” he said excitedly.
I left the bench where we sat and followed the other tour guide deep underground into Loltun. Loltun in Mayan means flower stone. It is one of the most extensive caves in all of Mexico, with discoveries of artifacts being made at more than two kilometers under the Earth, and with an occupation that goes back more than 10,000 years. Several expeditions into the lower levels have resulted in people never being seen again, and because of this, tours are only given in the upper levels.
Mayan legend says deep within this cave is a land of artificial light, fresh water, fish, and plant life. This is similar to legends told in Western society of a hollow Earth. Perhaps these missing people found their way there.
The tour yielded some important information. In these caverns, the remains of mammoth bones, fossils, and frescos were found and were carbon-dated to between 8000 and 10,000 BC. This would prove important to remember when we reached Uxmal, although at the time I did not know this.
After an amazing 45-minute tour underground in cathedral size caverns filled with stalagmites, stalactites, and ancient pictographs, we climbed back into the little red car and headed down a long stretch of jungle road to Uxmal. We would travel another hour. Pedro quickly fell back to sleep.
Arriving, we parked the car, paid our fee, and entered the vast grounds of the ancient city. Immediately just a few steps from the entrance, we came face-to-face with the back side of a very large pyramid. It was named the Pyramid of the Magician. Pedro pointed up to a small opening high up the pyramid and said, “I was in there, 40 years ago, before the tourists came. There were alters inside and many things… and there were animals that roamed here back then: deer, monkeys, parrots, and jaguars… but they are all gone, destroyed by man.”
He continued on; however, I was a bit confused by what he was saying. He mixed up some English with Spanish and tried with difficulty to explain something to me. He was going on about how the 52 years was over, and how the Mayans were happy that no destruction of the Earth had come. I am not sure if he meant the Mayans of today or those who had built the pyramid.
“52 solar years?” I questioned.
“No, are you not listening?” he said. “Come sit with me.”
I followed him into the shade and sat beside him as he dug around in his pocket for a pen and paper. “The sacred calendar has 260 days,” he said, as he started doodling on the paper a circle and wrote the numbers 260 inside. “This is the sacred calendar. The Tzolkin.”
I remember studying this before, I thought. The Tzolkin calendar combines a cycle of 20 uniquely named days (think of it like comparing the days of our week – Monday, Tuesday – that make up one month) with another cycle of 13 numbers (like our months, January, February…) to produce 260 unique days. Scholars still do not know what this calendar is based on, but they have several theories.
He drew another circle, bigger than the first. It slightly touched the smaller one on the left. He wrote the numbers 365 in the middle of the bigger one. “This one is 365 days,” he says. He linked the two circles with a small bar. “The name of this bar is pop… meaning new life. So every 52 years the two circles meet at the beginning. And we have new life.”
He is talking about the Calendar Round. I know this, but can’t remember in the moment what it is called. A 52-year pattern, referred to as a bundle, composed of two cycles that fit together like cogwheels. The Tzolkin cycle of 260 days and the Haab cycle of 365 days.
This cycle is completed every 52 years. Renewed life….
“Or maybe you believe…” he started to draw the sun, and he continued to draw the planets. He started to name off the planets, so they are aligned with the sun. He was drawing the galactic alignment, which happens approximately every 26,000 years.
The ancient Maya had many calendars that measured time in cycles, and these cycles were embedded in other cycles. To measure dates over the 52-year cycle the Maya used the Maya Long Count calendar. The Maya Long Count calendar, for instance, measures 13 Baktuns or 5,126 years. The Mayan Grand Cycle is made up of five long counts (each representing a different age) for a great cycle of 25,630 years. This Grand Cycle and that last Baktun cycle ended on the Winter Solstice of 2012, December 21.
“My people are happy that no destruction of the Earth has come.” He smiled.
He continued with another lesson in time. “Now you can listen to the old writer, or the new writer. I can say that now the date of the Maya is not correct,” he said. He struggled with his English when explanations got complicated.
“Three thousand years before Christ,” he said, “to 2000 after Christ, ok? This is the classic, but we found a Mayan skeleton in one of the cenotes here in the Yucatan, 13,000 years!” he said. He means the skeleton is 13,000 years old, but history tells us the Mayans were here only here 5000 years ago.
“But we are using it because it is in the books. The books are not changing with the new investigation. In this case, maybe Mayans are much older, but they will not come clean with this mistake, with this date. Maybe one day they will come with a new book.”
He told me how intelligent the Maya were, how they knew of astronomy, the cosmos, mathematics, and sounds and vibrations. “The Mayan knew the vibration. When we speak, when this sound goes so many meters per second. They knew this when they built the Olympic stadium (ball court) of Chichen Itza where we have a good acoustic. You can sit and just whisper and one can hear you on the other side… But Chichen Itza is different from here.”
He went on about the feathered snake Kulkukan of Chichen Itza and told me not to confuse it with the snake tzabcan from Uxmal. Tzabcan means rattlesnake in Mayan.
“Tzabcan is the representation of fertility,” he said, “and also I can classify the religion of the Mayas with that of the Catholic. It’s very easy.”
He said, “Godfather,” and pointed up with his hand. “Virgin Maria,” he said, pointing to the right. “Her son Christ.” He pointed to the left. In Maya, it is “Hunab-ku, the god of the creation, and the virgin he sent to this Earth is Ix Chel.”
He just said Ix Chel. I feel goose bumps come across my skin. Is this another coincidence? My book is about Ix Chel.
And her son is Itzamna. The builder of the pyramid where we stand.
“I thought it was her husband? Itzamna is not Ix Chel’s husband?” I confusingly asked since the legend I am familiar with says Itzamna was her husband.
“No, it is the son of the virgin Ix Chel.”
He said, “Those are new legends. This is the old legend.”
I get back home and look it up… I try to move past all of the new legends, and dig deeper. And I find it in the book, Goddess of the Ancient Maya by Douglas T. Peck.
Ix Chel gave birth without copulation. That is why there were extensive pilgrimages of the Mayan people to the island of Cozumel to worship Ix Chel. This information was erased from history by the Spaniards as they were converting the people to Catholicism with their intention to replace Ix Chel with the Holy Mother Mary.
All of a sudden my novel just took a turn. Ix Chel is not just the goddess of fertility in some Mayan legend; she gave birth to the son of god. And suddenly I thought, what if Ix Chel was not just some unseen God they worshipped; what if she was a real person? Was she the equivalent to the Virgin Mary as Pedro suggested?
However, as exciting as that may have seemed, I was not entirely sold on Pedro’s claim that Ix Chel was the mother of Itzamna and not the wife. I decided to do some further digging. The reason this interests me so much is that Maya strongly believed that Ix Chel had the power of fertility and since ancient times Mayan have undertaken long grueling pilgrimages to the island of Cozumel, off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, to ensure fertility. There had to be something very powerful about Ix Chel for people to undertake such a journey.
I keep searching, back to Douglas T. Peck, a different book, Ix Chel Maya Queen of Heaven in the New World: Evolution of the Maya Goddess. And then almost giving up in all frustration, I read these lines while scanning pages: It is quite understandable how the Maya image of Ix Chel cradling the god Itzamna in her arms could easily be related to the image of the Holy Mother Mary cradling the god Jesus in her arms.
I turn some pages back and there she is, Ix Chel holding the baby Itzamna. The text explains Ix Chel was not always known as Ix Chel but as Lady Beastie, the first mother. The first father, Itzmna, was the child of Lady Beastie. This is shown in a full-size sculpture in a prominent temple in Palenque, a large ancient Maya city in the state of Chiapas in southern Mexico. The sculpture was in perfect condition when discovered in 1928 by Frans Blom at the Tulane University Archaeological Investigation centered in the Yucatan. Thirty years later, the sculpture was unfortunately damaged by weather and vandalism. Douglas T. Peck states, “Current archaeologists have drawn sweeping conclusions that are far from historical reality in picturing the figures as late mortal kings of Palenque rather than the primal goddess (Lady Beastie / Ix Chel) and her child, the god (Itzamna) of Maya religion.”
Pedro was right.
And there is more…
We walked along past the pyramid to another large building, and come to a relic lying on the ground. A large stone had fallen from a carving in its corner. It is carved like a hook. “When you look at this what do you see?” he asked me.
“It looks like the nose of Chaac,” I said. (Chaac is the rain god)
“Yes, but look closer. What does it look like to you?” he asked and then continued, “It is the trunk of the mammoth. In these times, if you choose to believe, there were mammoths here.”
Wow… I was just at Loltun caves. The other guide told me they found mammoth bones in the cave. Those bones are now in the museum of anthropology in Merida. That means the time line of the Maya is wrong. The mammoth bones were said to be from 10,000 – 12,000 years ago.
He continued on with different stories as we moved through the ruins and all of the buildings, but at the end of the tour he added: “Many people ask us the origin of the Maya and where they came from. In the books you will read they come from Siberia, but it is not true. If you believe the Mayan come from the remains of Atlantis, from Lemuria, that is good. But if you believe they came from space that is even better.”
What did this adventure teach me? Was I any closer to discovering who I AM and where I came from? Perhaps, or perhaps I was listening to the ramblings of an old mad man. But there is one thing I can agree on: the history being taught to us is wrong and at least some of the cities and pyramids built in Mexico and Central America are much older than the history books lead us to believe. Perhaps over 12,000 years old, and perhaps some time in the past there was a great Earthly destruction that indeed left some cities abandoned.
But even that mystery does not compare to the one of Ix Chel. If we are to believe that Ix Chel was indeed a person, and not just a deity, who gave birth as a virgin to the god Itzamna… then we have another story in our history comparable to the one of the Virgin Mary… and that to me is very strange, and leaves many questions brewing in my mind.
I continue on with my journey of discovery in finding out more about who I AM; however, now I look for answers inside myself. I look forward to speaking on this in the future.
Teena Clipston, author and editor-in-chief of All One Era magazine. Feel free to send your comments or inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org. Blessings.