Saturday, June 26, 2010

Connecting the Inca Maya & Pueblo Peoples

While traveling in Peru in February the stories of the Incas, their predecessors, and the exploration of the architectural ruins felt very familiar. Allowing the experiences in South America to simmer for a few months, a strong interest in the Southwestern U.S. began to emerge from unexpected sources which showed a possible connection between the cultures. So, for about six weeks, my partner and I researched the southwest. We learned about the migration of Asian tribes across the Bering landmass, about the cliff dwellers, the petroglyphs, the geology, and the geography of the area.

Plans for a trip to New Mexico to see the connection first-hand were sealed when, waking from a dream one morning, I clearly heard a voice say, "Go to the Anasazi." With little more than trust in the next unfolding journey, we went to see the Anasazi of the dream. We had a strong sense that the stories, legends and oral histories of the indigenous people of Peru or the Maya might unfold and connect with those who lived in the American southwest. And so, in early June we visited the dwellings, ceremonial sites and the Pueblos of the ancient people who lived in New Mexico and southern Colorado.

The Geography

Arriving in Albuquerque to begin the trek north by car, the similarities in terrain and culture was immediate. The brown, dusty, landscape of the high, arid, desert mountains sitting alongside small plots of green plants was identical to that of Peru. The facial rock-formations that were prolific in the mountains of Peru were equally noticeable in the American southwest. The "spirit faces" in both lands are formed naturally by wind and the occasional water that floods the mountains in spring. The people of Peru call the faces in the mountains, Apus or spirits. They're looked upon as "guardians" of the ruins or sacred areas. The American southwest has its own myriad of faces appearing around every turn of the road. They too "guard" many of the ruins or oversee the mountains and canyons.

The Symbols

Oral history indicates the cultures worshipped nature, mother earth, the sun and the sky beings. There were symbols prominent in both cultures related to the sun. One symbol, similar in appearance, was sacred in both the Peruvian and Pueblo cultures,as it appeared in many sacred sites. The Inca chakana is a 3-stepped symbol in the shape of a cross representing the upper, middle and lower worlds. Like the Incas who revered Inti, the sun, in the Pueblo culture, the sun was revered as the giver of life. Their symbol for the sun is the Zia, a design remarkably similar to the chakana showing stepped rays of light emerging from a red circle. The symbol is found along with spirals throughout the walls of the ruins. The symbol of the Zia is still used in many settings. The state of New Mexico features it in the center of today's modern auto tags and its at the center of the state flag.

Effects of the Spanish Invasion

The Maya, Inca and Pueblo countries bear the scars of the invasion of the Spanish conquistadors about 500 years ago. Spanish continues to be the prevailing language though the indigenous tribes still use their original language. In Peru the tribal people speak Quechua or Ayamara while in the southwest the language of the original people is Tewa or a derivative of it. In the Pueblos Tewa is still taught in the native schools. The Catholic religion's dominance over the indigenous people was evident in the many churches left behind by the Jesuits. Cathedrals abound in both the Maya and Peruvian lands. However, in the American southwest, there were many more small missions or shrines to the Lady of Guadalupe, Mother Mary, or Saint Michael. Readers of past Spirit of Maat articles might remember that it was a powerful experience with Archangel Michael that guided us to Peru on the initial trip.

The Structures

Aside from the language, the colors of the land and the high mountain desert conditions, the dwellings and ruins of the ancient people proved to be the most intriguing. There was a similarity and a familiarity in how the buildings were constructed, especially the adobe structures. While the ancient stones creations of pre-Inca Peru were immense in size, those of the southwestern Pueblo people were intricate architectural structures built on a large, complex scale. Given the altitude and sheer rock faces of the mountains that they were built on, the stone-masons had mastered the art of geometry and construction.

The Inca, Maya and the Pueblo people lived and worked with respect for mother earth, the cycles of nature, and especially with spirit at the center of their lives. In Peru, the high round towers of Silustani had their compliment in the large round Kivas of the southwest. Peruvian guides told us that the Silustani towers were "burial places" while shamans claimed they were "observatories to the space brothers." While in a state of meditation, experienced on the high plateaus of Peru away from the ever-present 'tour group" I was told that these tall towers were actually "sound chambers." The towers, which were arranged in a semi-circle, had an energetic frequency alignment between each one, forming an invisible grid-pattern across the flat mesa. (photo left NM - photo above right: Peru)

While in that meditation, we were guided to conduct a sound experiment. We found that when the massive stones at the base of the circular towers were struck with another stone a deep tone could be heard. The sound reverberated from inside the small entrance hole at the base of each structure, and a low vibration could be felt. Each large stone had a different sound. So if these were in fact observatories to the space brothers, sound and vibration were probably used as a form of communication. But it wasn't until we arrived in New Mexico that we learned of a "sound connection" with the Pueblo people.

In the dwelling places of the Southwestern Pueblos large kivas were centrally built by the ancient cliff people. These kivas were large, intricately designed, round, ceremonial chambers with strategically placed openings. There were two rectangular openings into the "under world" built at the bottom of each kiva. One of the ceremonial practices performed by the Pueblo priests was the pounding of large drums which were set over the openings to the underworld on the floor of the kiva. The sound of the drums was amplified within the round chamber, and was said to be heard throughout the village echoing across the canyons. (photo above: Kiva NM)

In fact, before learning that the kivas were used as sound chambers, we climbed Bandelier's 140' high cliff dwellings with two other women, one from Switzerland and one from New Zealand. After reaching the summit, high above the trees, we then climbed ten feet down into the kiva. We positioned ourselves at directional points forming a square within the circular enclosure. Together, we began to chant the OM sound and to tone. We were later told by those outside the Kiva that the echoing sound could be heard reverberating around the walls and a vibration felt across the rock cliffs. (photo left: Bandelier Kiva)

Astronomy & Archaeology

The Maya and Inca aligned many of their temples and structures astronomically with the stars or the cycles of the sun and moon. In the southwest, we discovered that the entire tribe gathered for rituals or celebrations in the large kiva. The smaller kivas built near family quarters were used for more personal family ceremonies. But outside the main dwelling areas of the tribe, kivas were also built and these were aligned along a north-south or east-west line. Scientific researchers showed these kivas were solar and lunar observation towers marking the seasons, the years, and the cycles of nature in this agrarian society. The alignments also indicated that the structures were built along energetic Ley lines, much the same as they were in Peru where a series of temples between Lake Titicaca and the sacred valley were positioned along a "Grand Ley Line." It became obvious that the Mayans, Incas and their predecessors were not the only cultures observing or recording the stars, the sun, and the moon's cycles. (photo right: White Sands half moon)

There is also a relationship between the structures and cultures of Central, South America and the American southwest. Some of the ruins in New Mexico had "facial" protrusions out of the rock walls much like the protruding faces at the ancient site of Tiwanaku in Bolivia. While not as detailed in New Mexico, they were similar in nature and structure. Also, the openings of windows or doorways, in the shape of a large square opening over a narrower rectangular one, were identical in design to the portals in the ruins of Peru, specifically that of Aramu Muru and those of Tiwanaku. But more evidence of a direct relationship between the Pueblo, the Maya and the Peruvian Amazon was forthcoming as we continued our trek northward through the mis-named "Aztec" ruins, Chaco Canyon, the active and continually inhabited Taos Pueblo, and Mesa Verde. (Photo Left Window Door Shapes NM - Photo Right - Tiwanaku)

Chaco Canyon & Machu Picchu

Chaco Canyon was the most important hub of all the ancient Pueblo people, lying at the center of a 25,000 square mile area. It was here at this crossroads that all the people of the north, central and south Americas would gather for seasonal ceremonies and to annually trade with one another. This site, like Machu Picchu in Peru, was an archaeological and astronomical wonder as well as the center of trade, commerce, and culture for the entire region. While much of it is in ruins, the site, like Machu Picchu, was immense in size and in its significance to the people of the area. It was a monumental semi-circular center revealing the masonry scope and skills of the builders. It was at the center of more than 400 miles of extensive prehistoric roadways connecting Chaco to the outlying communities and tribes across the area. Sitting for hours and watching the sun move across the face of the canyon walls, the ancient petroglyphs in Chaco Canyon resembled street signs, welcoming visitors, identifying homes, or pointing in the direction of good elk or deer hunting. (Photo Chaco Canyon)

Oral Traditions & Astro-Archaeology

While visiting three different locations in northern New Mexico, the oral stories of three different people tied the circumstantial evidence together in a very synchronistic way. The Taos Pueblo is an active site where Taos descendants continue to live in adobe houses much the same as their ancestors did. These adobe structures are similar in design to the Peruvian adobe huts in villages all across the high plateau. Neither the Taos Pueblo nor the Peruvian adobe huts had running water or electricity; instead they drew water from a creek, river or lake.

Standing in 102 degree heat on a dusty dirt street of the Taos Pueblo, we sought relief from the elements by entering an adobe hut with its door ajar. Instead of a traditional shop selling souvenirs to visitors, this one was sparse. Hanging on one wall were ten feathered fans, and on the opposing wall, three enormous ceremonial drums, the largest about five feet in diameter, and all in various states of creation. A man's voice behind us identified the feathered healing fans on the wall that we were staring at. His name was Vernon, the tribe's Medicine Man. He told us he'd been trained since boyhood by his grandfather, the previous Medicine Man, to make the feathered fans that were to be used for healings or in ceremonies. The feathers had to be respectfully gathered from birds, and had to be smoked with white sage, blessed and healing intentions placed into the fans. Each fan took about three to four years to be completed. (Photo Taos Pueblo)

We spent a serendipitous afternoon with Vernon, learning about his upbringing, his culture and his healing craft. He showed us the healing fan made for him at his birth by his grandfather who "knew he was going to be born." Then he showed us an elegant ceremonial fan of white feathers with a brilliant orange Macaw feather that he'd made for his daughter's wedding.

It was then we learned the story of the Macaws of Central and South America and how they'd made their way into the Pueblo cultures. Vernon shared the stories of his grand-father's great-grandfather. He said in the ancient days the Mayan people often came to the region to trade with the northern people, bringing with them their customs, sacred objects, traditions, and ways of building. They also brought Macaws which were prized for their brilliant feathers. As it turned out, this was the first of several times the stories of the Mayans and the Macaws would be shared on this trip. He told us that the Pueblo War Chief and Council had agreed to send four warriors from the Taos Pueblo back to the Mayan lands with the Mayan traders, insuring safe passage and continued trade between the people of the south and the north. He said the people of the north walked all the way through Central America into South America and the people of those regions were also visitors to the north. (Photo Macaw Petroglyph)

Another synchronous meeting occurred at the "Aztec Ruins" that confirmed not only Vernon's story, but shed light on the Mayan astronomical observances. We met a park ranger whose life passion was astro-archaeology, the study of the relationship between megalithic sites and the sun, moon and stars. Marti showed us old photos of the archaeological dig at the ruins that unearthed not only Macaw feathers but the mummified remains of intact Macaw birds. She told us Macaws had been found in many of the archaeological digs giving evidence that the people of central and South America had traveled and traded widely in the area.

Solstices & Equinoxes

We spent an undisturbed afternoon with Marti who took us on a tour of the ruins. She told us how doctoral students had discovered that the windows of the great kiva had been set into the stones and aligned with the sun's passages of the equinoxes and solstices. More importantly, the researchers found that the placement of the windows in the kiva was aligned with the less well-known 18-year lunar cycle - a cycle showing the highest northern arc and lowest southern arc of the full moon every 18.6 years.

Marti said all of the Great Kivas were designed as solar and lunar observatories, perhaps learned from the Mayans. She indicated which windows corresponded to the two equinoxes and solstices during the solar year. Unbeknownst to us, earlier in the day we had been sitting in meditation inside the kiva at the exact spot that the sun would illuminate a beam of light across the chamber on the summer solstice of June 21st. (Photo Aztec Ruins Solstice Alignment - notice the Orbs)

A Navajo Future

Our last meeting was with a Navajo woman named Arna Billie Yazi, the daughter of a tribal elder who had come to Chaco canyon on that day for inspiration. She knew a little of the ancient people but felt she should learn more about the past so she could teach the young people of her tribe about hope in the future. She said there was much despair among the young Navajo with twelve suicides since the first of the year. Arna wanted to see how pride in the old cultures and ways might stimulate the young people to a better understanding of the future. We talked of Peru and Machu Picchu and how that country had created jobs, hope and opportunities for their people as they uncovered the glories of the ancient stories. We talked for over an hour. After a long pause in the conversation, Arna said, "If they can do that in Peru, why not here?" Indeed, Arna! (Photo Machu Picchu)

The Union of All People

We traveled the Pueblo lands for most of the month of June. We climbed hot, dry mountains to experience the massive stone buildings. We saw the strong similarities between ancient cultures, spiritual beliefs, the people, their homes and the land. We meditated, prayed and reflected in the ruins. We chanted with two like-minded souls from far away countries in a kiva high above the towering tree-tops. We met descendants of the ancient people who warmly shared their knowledge of the past and sang of their hopes for the future. We witnessed that all people are related, if not by DNA then surely by circumstance. We affirmed that in this connection, we are not alone nor have we ever been. We may be separated by geography or by oceans, but in the place where we open our homes and our hearts to strangers or to travelers, we are united. We truly are threads in the fabric of life, weaving an unfolding story of the unity of all people, as one single family. From the ancient peoples of Peru, the Mayan lands and the Pueblo to the people of the new earth, Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti!

Jo - July 2010