Jerome, my newly-found Mayan Shaman friend, was born in Belize, and had travelled before settling, for the present, in Yucatan, Mexico.
I had been surprised at how vividly alive the Mayan culture was in this part of Central America. It was not just a done-for-tourists thing, it was deeply real; an identity with a gentle, spiritual and creative race, even down to the carefully-preserved ancient Mayan language that an increasing number of the region’s people speak.
Initially, I had presumed that what was Mayan had been contained in what is now Mexico; but its peaceful ’empire’ had stretched far along the narrow strip of land that links the Americas.
“Everyone was poor in Belize,” he said. There was no regret in his words, it was simply how things were.
“How things are…” His eyes flashed the deeper meaning up at me as we sat, otherwise alone, in the quiet of his afternoon break at the resort, within what we have come to know as the ‘peace-hut’, due to its dearth of alcohol and noisy wedding parties.
I had noticed at our first meeting that, on his right hand, he wore a silver ring with a black design on its face; but every time I tried to study it, his hand turned side-on, as though the sigil was an ingredient not yet ready for the moment’s pot.
I’m not a fanciful person. Sue and Stuart will tell you, possibly ruefully, that I resist the spiritually ‘fluffy’ at every turn. But I swear that ring was laughing at me…
“I’ll tell you a little about me, so you can see my journey, and how our two journeys have come together,” he said, openly enthusiastic.
I was not ready for the horror of what came, like a silent knife, into the next moment.
“When I was a child, four men came and strung my mother up in the village square. They were wearing black masks and they had a whip. They whipped her from the four corners of a square they had drawn around her in the dirt, and offered me the whip to also whip my mother, but I would not do it.”
He looked into my uncomprehending eyes. “She was loving but weak. She drank and took other things and lay with many men, selling herself. The masked men were trying to drive the devil from her flesh. They thought that having her son do it would break the curse of her addictions.”
I was overwhelmed at the sadness of the image. My eyes were felt wet, inside. But not outwardly, as though unnecessary emotion had been warded away.
“I was three…” he said.
In the way that Shamans do, he shifted…