Dark Goddess Tarot: Coatlicue
(This interview with Anita Garr was published in my newsletter before 2012. It is still valid today as we navigate the fifth world.)
An Interview with Anita Garr, assistant to Don Rigoberto Itzep Chanchavac
How did you come to work with Don Rigoberto?
Before I met him for the first time, I had heard of him through Aluna Joy Yaxkin and also through a friend who was the founder and director of a non-profit organization that had humanitarian projects in Guatemala. I was on the board of that organization and made several trips to a group of Mayan villages to work on our projects. Aluna Joy had written two articles on her experience with Don Rigoberto in Momostenango, Guatemala. What she wrote had moved and inspired me to such a degree that I felt it was very important for me to meet him. I contacted her and obtained directions to his house in Momostenango; she told me something of his work and family. He and his wife were very gracious, friendly and welcoming to me. My visit also happened to coincide with a four-day intimate and small international gathering that Don Rigoberto had created to celebrate the fall equinox in Momostenango in the year 2000. This offered me the opportunity to experience Mayan sacred ceremony first-hand at hilltop altars and shrines as well as participate in a “Tuj”, a traditional K’iche Mayan sweatbath which is an essential component of K’iche Mayan ancestral healing and medicine. I remained in Momostenango a few weeks and had frequent contact with Don Rigoberto and his wife Dona Maria. This was the beginning of a long-standing friendship and an on-going working relationship.
What was your first experience of Mayan divination with sacred seeds?
My first experience was in several small K’iche Mayan villages near Nebaj Quiche, Guatemala. I was spending six weeks in those villages working on projects for my humanitarian organization and got to know a number of respected traditional elders who were esteemed community spiritual leaders. I had seen them perform these readings from a distance and had faith in the process as well as in their abilities, knowledge and wisdom. The accuracy and relevancy of the answers obtained through this process was impressive. The elders often consulted the tzite seeds for wisdom and guidance when planning community events and celebrations, when making decisions on behalf of their villages. They had great confidence in the tzite, i.e. this ancient system of calendar divination, as well as its ability to call forth wisdom, information, guidance and direction from spiritual realms.
What happens during a divination ritual?
The K’iche Maya daykeeper or priest [ajq’ij or [chuchkahaw] begins by removing the bright-red tzite seeds from his sacred bundle of seeds and crystals and places them in a large pile on a hand-woven cloth. He or she usually has a special table set aside for this purpose close to his or her home altar. It is here that the client consults the Maya priest [or spiritual guide as they prefer to be called] for spiritual counseling and divination readings as well as requests for sacred ceremonies. The Maya daykeeper or priest moves the sacred tzite seeds in a circular motion with his or her hand, blows on them and prays over them asking Ahaw [the Creator] and the Nawales [spirits of the daysigns] to guide him and empower or facilitate the reading. He divides the pile of 260 seeds into four smaller piles and then begins to create rows of seed groups to answer the first of four related questions on a particular topic or issue. He creates groups of four seeds until he runs out of seeds. It is auspicious if the last little group of seeds has 2 or 4 seeds. Each little group of seeds represents a specific calendar date in the 260 day ritual calendar. He might begin counting dates on the date Wajshakib’ B’atz, the K’iche ritual calendar New Year, or the client’s birthsign date or the ritual calendar date on which the reading is taking place. This varies from daykeeper to daykeeper, but the method remains the same. The daykeeper or Maya priest says the calendar date out loud as he or she counts days and goes through the rows of seed groups twice. The last date he reaches each time he counts is significant as well as any date that activates his or her “blood lightening”, i.e. causes movements of energy, tingling and pulsations of energy in the priest’s body that are moving through his or her bloodstream. The calendar dates that emerge during the divination reading and the location of the priest’s “blood lightening” shed light on the client’s problem or issue and assist in answering the question posed in the reading, clarifying the situation, suggesting a solution to the problem. There are commonly understood meanings or sets of meanings for each daysign that emerges during the reading or for the “blood lightening” movements within the priest’s body. The meaning would depend on the question, problem, issue or situation that is being addressed by the divination reading. The meanings change according to the theme, purpose and context of the reading. A particular daysign has one meaning within the context of a reading on a proposed marriage and another in relation to an illness, for example.
When is divination performed?
The K’iche Maya do divinations to determine the cause of an illness and how to work on the spiritual levels to heal it, before making important decisions or changes in their lives, to determine the suitability and compatibility of a potential partner before a formal engagement or marriage, to resolve a conflict or dispute, determine the source of a family or marital problem, to ascertain the potential success or failure of a proposed business deal or trip, to uncover the underlying causes of failed or failing crops, etc. Private consultations/divination with tzite readings/private spiritual counseling sessions are performed for many different reasons but are frequently executed for the purpose of obtaining greater clarity and insight on the problem, situation or issue the client presents to the Maya spiritual guide.
There is no set time for readings. The client either shows up at the home of the daykeeper or priest unannounced or phones and makes an appointment beforehand. [cell phone technology has made telephones much more accessible than before]
Are there different types of divination rituals with the sacred seeds?
The K’iche Maya use the same basic format for the ritual calendar divination with tzite seeds with every reading. This is a very ancient system and there are references to it in the Pop Wuj, the sacred K’iche scriptures. The grandparents of the hero Jun Junajpu are daykeepers who do this same type of calendar divination. The calendar date used to begin the reading may vary from daykeeper to daykeeper and the meanings of the ritual calendar dates that emerge during the reading vary according to the issue, situation, problem and theme of the divination reading. So again, a particular date would have one meaning within the context of a business proposal and another if the priest is attempting to uncover the underlying spiritual causes of a chronic illness.
Some anthropologists mention a special bag used for divination. Does Don Rigoberto use a diviner’s bag?
Yes . All new daykeepers receive a cloth bag with 260 tzite seeds at the time of their initiation ceremony on the date Wajshakib’ B’atz, the ritual calendar New Year. This bag is called a “Vara Sagrada” in Spanish and K’iche Mayan; it is usually translated into English as “sacred bundle”.
It symbolizes the profession of daykeeping and the initiate’s sacred mission.
What is the role of the calendar in these divinations?
These divinations are based on the ancient ritual calendar of 260 days, the K’iche Mayan version of the Tzolkin. The priest lines up small groups of seeds and assigns a calendar date to each one. The various meanings of the dates that emerge during the reading answer the client’s questions and shed light on their situations, issues and problems.
Is there a connection between dreams and different types of divination?
Yes. A similar process is taking place in both cases. The K’iche of Momostenango value their dreams and view them as a source of guidance and messages from spiritual realms. The purpose of divination is also to bring forth information, messages, answers, solutions to problems, guidance and direction from spiritual worlds and other dimensions, from our common divine Source. A Maya priest might counsel a client during a reading to pay close attention to his or her dreams and advise that person to look for answers or solutions to problems .Maya daykeepers and priests are adept at dream interpretation.
Is divination with sacred tzite seeds ever performed to guide the destiny of humanity?
Yes. Calendar divination is done in relation to a specific event , project or gathering. Maya priests do divinations on community projects, events and activities. The elders that lead the community have divinations done or they perform them themselves to guide their actions and decisions on behalf of the community. Divinations are performed before organizing an international gathering or deciding whether or not to participate in one. The president of Guatemala is an initiated daykeeper so it’s possible that he sometimes uses calendar divination with tzite seeds to guide his actions and decisions on the national or international levels.
Did Don Rigoberto ever use special crystals with the sacred seeds?
Yes It is part of K’iche tradition for priests to use crystals which they place on their home altar and also form a row of them on their divination table to empower a reading and aide them in the process of drawing down information, answers, messages and guidance from spiritual realms and higher dimensions. There are tiny crystals in the sacred bundle of 260 bright-red sacred tzite seeds . Some Maya priests work with large crystals and use them outdoors during sacred ceremonies . Some priests are adept at reading large crystals and obtaining info or messages from them. This in itself is another form of divination.
Did you ever experience the spiritual aspects of the calendar during these rituals?
Yes. The spiritual power and energy of the Nawales, the Spirits of the daysigns, come through during the reading. The daykeeper or Maya priest experiences tingling, pulsations and energy movements through his or her bloodstream as he or she passes a finger over a particular daysign; this indicates that the daysign and its meanings within the context of that specific reading is part of the answer to the client’s question and may also be a solution to his or her issue/problem. The accuracy of the info and messages coming through, the uncanny relevance of the answers are testimony to the spiritual presence and power of the Nawales. I recall that during a reading in Deland, Florida, I experienced being filled with energy of a positive and spiritual nature as I translated the words of Don Rigoberto into English for a local woman who was receiving a private consultation from him, a divination reading with the sacred seeds. She later commented in an email to us “I really felt the great love you give to all humanity.
Is there a connection between the sacred seeds and the calendar?
Yes. The 260 tzite seeds in the sacred bundle represent the 260 days of the K’iche ritual calendar.
What was the most profound thing that you gained from observing these rituals?
The realization that past, present and future co-exist in the moment and that one already has the answer to a question or solution to a problem if one can tap into the unlimited spiritual guidance available.
How has your understanding of time changed as a result of these experiences?
The divination process transcends time and reveals the interconnectedness and interdependence of past, present and future. One might for example, be ill as a result of a past family dispute or for not honoring a dead relative or ancestor. I would say that my own experience and observations in relation to calendar divination have caused me to perceive time as an integrated whole in which the past, present and future are inherent in the present.