This thought hits home as my unseen flight ends with a trip over the ledge that marks the boundary of a small incline. Ahead of me, the tourists turn and politely ignore the unhurt figure in the dust, though others are laughing.
What was it that Jerome had said? ‘Shamanic methods are ultimately kind…’ The exactness of that hits home, and with it comes a realisation that the Shamanic world – really the objective world seen by the Shaman – is brutally centred in the now, but has an implicit trust in the motives, or rather, direction, of that living wave of Creation.
Conventional ‘goodness’ has nothing to do with it, though individual kindness does. Perhaps this is one of the secrets: that the true Shaman can swim skillfully enough in that flow to create a little eddy, a safe-moment, in which to slow the drowning of another?
Reality has a hard edge; this I know from years of practical and spiritual experience, and that is why a moment with a Shaman is unnerving… they don’t have a heartbeat to waste. This shifting plane of water is full of drowning people…
Mistakes are fine – even wonderful, if you see them as signposts and don’t sulk in the face of this tidal flow.
Manuel pauses while I pull myself to dusty knees and pretend I’m okay.
“It was a game with a purpose,” says our gentle guide, waving his arms to indicate the vast open space in which our group are a tiny cluster of humanity along the south wing. He picks a quiet moment, then makes an animal-like clicking noise with his hands. A fraction of a second later, the noise bounces back from the Jaguar temple at the north end of the quadrangle to our open mouths, which collect the echo.
“The ball game could last for months, while the single winner was sifted from the best of the priests,” he says, not even letting us reflect on this miracle of arcane acoustic engineering.
On my feet once more, I think about this. Months to score a single goal! What would it feel like to rise each day at dawn (for the priests didn’t live within the complex), walk several miles to enter the city of the water magicians, to begin again the task of directing a heavy leather ball, cleanly, through a perfect circle of stone, placed eight metres off the ground on your side of an acoustically-perfect court much larger than a football pitch?
Difficult? Yes. But add to that the complexity of only being able to use your elbows, hips and thighs – no hands, head or feet, and difficult is dimensionally wrong.
Why? Just to create a winner, as Manuel is suggesting, with a smile that is too subtle?
With an authority whose origin may be the onset of heatstroke, I whisper the word “Trance.” Only it doesn’t come out a whisper; it slithers through parched lips and becomes an overly-loud hiss.
Tourists who have witnessed the dusty Englishman’s fall from grace politely ignore this theatrical outburst, but the claws on my shoulders are rolling back time, and I’ve ceased to care what anyone thinks.
The shadow of a large, single feather casts itself over my head, reminiscent of the ancient carvings all around, and plays on the ground before me. I feel childishly proud of the thought I’ve just had, as though separation from others’ expectations is somewhat central to this game of balls.
The spiritual blood of Chichen Itza surges within, and I know there’s no going back. The shadows of other feathers – six in all – etch into the dust along the line of my sight.
I turn around in the flashing heat – for not to do so is more uncomfortable than to stand motionless. The force behind the claws acknowledges the rightness of this movement, and the centuries unwind with my spinning.
In a world that is eternally the same, though to me seems youthful, the newfound has become a player, out there in that vast arena, a player who is now the ‘captain’ and allowed to run along the raised edge that takes him an all-important measure nearer to the stone hole through which the ball must pass.
Pass… the ball is skilfully extracted from the melee by one of the veterans of my team of priests. Taking advantage of a deflection from the thigh of another, he whips his torso clockwise, using the elbow to cast the leather projectile a short distance ahead of my sprinting form.
Mirroring my companion’s move, I dive for the opportunity, grazing my right elbow on the stone as my whole body spins, then falls to the narrow ledge below. Bleeding and now upside down to the direction of the ball’s flight, I watch as it arcs upwards…
And, in this secret place, only I and the Feathered Serpent see the sun reach through the hole and pluck the sodden, wrapped and ragged ball of leather from the fevered and ancient air, raising, in a single act of grace, the organic to the solar…
There is silence…. though all are watching the appearance of the shadow of the seventh feather.
To be continued…
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