Before leaving Chichi, we took a short hike up to Pascual Ab’aj, which is a Maya sacred site that survived the arrival of the Spanish. There used to be a carved idol at the site, but some Catholic Action members defaced it in the 1950s. It’s still an active site, though. You can see real Mayans conducting rituals there every day.
Lost and Found
We got a little lost on our way there and wound up walking up through some farmland and through some houses. One of the homeowners came out and asked us what we were doing in her backyard. We told her we were trying to visit Pascual Ab’aj and she told us we were very close; it was just on the other side of her yard. She offered to take us there (so we wouldn’t break anything in her yard).
At the top of the hill we came across a cinderblock building and a bunch of round discs on the ground, about 3 feet across. There were also a bunch of crosses and other items all around. She explained to us that the cross is an ancient Maya symbol that represents the four directions. The crosses we saw were not influenced by the Spanish the Catholics, or anything Christian. She told us about the rituals they perform there, some for weddings, others for funerals, some for blessings of any kind. It was very interesting.
The round discs on the ground were charred black. Our accidental tour guide told us about some of the rituals they perform there. Most of the rituals involve sacrificing eggs, oil, and a chicken or two. For example, she told us they cut off the heads of two chickens as part of the wedding ritual. If the two chickens dance without their heads, it’s a sign that the marriage will be a good one. If only one chicken dances, then there will be problems. There were a lot of chicken footprints on the ground.
We were lucky enough to have stumbled into an ongoing ritual. We saw a Maya woman performing a ritual. She was chanting and stirring a fire on one of the flat discs on the ground. It was a hot day with full sun and we were told she had been chanting and performing the ritual for several hours straight. She didn’t seem to want her picture taken, and I don’t blame her. I can’t think of any religion that encourages photography of their ceremonies.
Exit through the gift shop
After observing for a few minutes we headed back down the mountain to Chichicastenango, this time using the normal path. It was covered in long pine needles which made it a little slippery in places, but it was shady and beautiful. At the bottom of the hill the path exits through another house, which I found interesting. They had what they call the Museum of Maya Masks. They also sold snacks and sodas. I didn’t buy any masks. I had an ice-cold coke. It really hit the spot.