The Ancient Art of Maya House Blessing
Wednesday, August 3rd, 2005
For centuries, people from all around the world have held religious ceremonies to ask the Divine to bring happiness, abundance and protection to their home. House blessing is a protective and preventative rite used to promote peace, harmony, good luck and well-being for its inhabitants. The ceremony also prevents general misfortune, hardship, destruction from the elements such as fire or wind, illness, visitations from harmful spirits who could be dangerous, inauspicious or polluting to persons, objects, events or relationships.
When we buy a house or a piece of land, we may feel great satisfaction that the land is now ours. We pay our money, sign the deeds and mark our boundaries. However, there are a great many beings already living on the land who did not participate in our real estate transaction. These include both non-physical beings and also the substantial beings such as insects, birds and animals that dwell in the trees or burrows in the ground. They also ‘own’ the land and fight to preserve their own space and maintain their boundaries. Yet we come into their worlds and recklessly dig up their homes, cut down the trees that hold their nests, uproot the plants they feed on, and destroy their eggs and young.
During my apprenticeship in Maya Medicine in Chiapas I was inspired to see how the Maya relate to the earth and their homes. The natural world is regarded as a sacred place, bursting with life and full of spirits and elemental beings. Before a house is built, a ceremony is conducted to ask permission from the Earth Lord, and offerings are made to befriend the many beings already inhabiting the space. If we befriend these beings and the spirits in the area, they are much more likely to support us, and we them.
The Maya do not consider themselves to be ‘owners’ of their homes or of the land, but visitors, simply passing through, and borrowing space and time from the Earth Lord and living under his rules and blessing. Failing to acknowledge this is seen as a recipe for disaster. If the elemental spirits residing in our house are not looked after and respected, they may well turn against us by inflicting diseases, causing obstacles and draining our life force.
Let’s take a look at the energetic structure of your home. First of all, there is a magnetic energy field that springs from earth beneath us. Every geographic location has its own distinctive quality and attributes. In San Miguel, for instance, this is heavily influenced by the quartz beds and volcanic spring water flowing under the ground. The earth is seen to have a magnetic ‘charge’ or dimension which gives rise not only the properties and fertility of the soil but also to a specific ‘feeling’ or characteristic nature of the land. One can intuitively pick this up from walking around and seeing how one resonates with a certain place, how it makes you feel inside.
Then there is the history of the land itself, and what events took place on the spot where your home now stands. Were there any major conflicts, wars or other events that occurred here? Was blood spilt, does your house stand on what was once an ancient burial ground, a ceremonial site or a Chichimeca Capital? Were religious practices conducted or human sacrifices made in your back garden? All these energetic traces contribute to the resonance of the ground on which your house is built. This energy is changeable, and its magnetic charge may be converted from negative to positive through ritual purification practices.
Then there are elemental or environmental factors such as the fertility of the soil, purity of the water and freshness of the air. Take a look around you. Is there enough space around your house for the earth to breathe? Are there any mobile phone antennas transmitting radio waves, electricity pylons, or factories in the vicinity? If so, they will disturb the flow energy in your home.
Then you come along and decide to buy this piece of land and build your home. The way that you do this, how you relate to the earth, the intention with which you build your house and the love you put into it all play an important role in defining your home’s vibration. The layout of your home, its alignment with the four cardinal directions and how you try to blend it into the natural surroundings also have some bearing. Finally you move in, with the visible and non-visible beings already there, and start a life with them, your family, and your neighbours.
If you move into a house that has already been lived in you have the previous occupant’s karmic traces to contend with. These are residual energies left behind by the former occupants and impregnated in the walls, floors and spaces of the house. The more people, the denser the energy, and so with each new family or set of occupants that live there, another layer is added. Sometimes, when we walk into a house we can feel sadness or loneliness, joy or peace, all depending on the history and emotional state of the previous occupants.
The energy in our house is like a barometer and reflects who we are and what kind of states of mind we are in. A tiny movement can set the whole place out of balance. Any negativity, anger or violence may well disturb the spirits, upset the Earth Lord and create a storm in the spirit of the house, or of the whole neighborhood.
In the Maya tradition of the Highlands of Chiapas, sometimes people are believed to fall ill due to bad energy at home or a rupture in one or more of the relationships in the house. Although they may respond to treatment outside the home, mysteriously, every time they go home, they fall ill again. The cause of the problem is understood to come from something malign within the house, not in the body. Generally, the family shaman is summoned and is asked to perform a House Blessing.
First of all the shaman must analyze the energy and diagnose the problem. Most cases are problems that have arisen the lifetime of the house or its occupants. Sometimes the causes are supernatural; the spirit of a deceased person(s) or animal(s) may be residing there and disturbing the spirit of the house. The house may have been cursed by a brujo and objects may have been buried with evil intent to create a negative energy field. In this case the house may feel ‘cold,’ even on a warm day. In extreme cases, the house may even be deemed ‘possessed,’ taken over by angry spirits, hungry ghosts, trapped on this plane by negative actions, causing trouble wherever they go.
Whatever the situation, the Curandero is responsible for making peace with all of the various beings in the house, starting with the Earth Lord up. Traditionally, Maya houses are built with earthen floors, so a hole is dug in the centre to open up communication with the Earth Lord. An altar is built on the floor, usually where the negativity is most concentrated, behind a protective row of pine branches, and all manner of offerings, such as candles, corn, copal, flowers, food and drink are laid out and offered up in an attempt to appease the injured party. The idea is that if the hungry ghosts are well fed and watered, they will leave the occupants alone, and move on. Copal and herbs are smudged and blessed water sprinkled around the house to soak up any residual negative energy left behind and to reinstate the positive magnetic charge. Finally the family may prepare a meal to celebrate the blessing of the house, which, after all, is seen as a very auspicious and happy occasion.
Whatever tradition we come from, whatever our belief system, I think it is important to honour the space we inhabit and connect to it as best we can. If we can establish a sacred connection with the earth and nature, this will benefit and enrich our lives, and the lives of others around us. If we can strive to be at peace in our homes and with our families and guardian spirits, the spirit of our house will be happy, and love will pervade. If we can show gratitude to the earth for giving us a space to live and learn, and let go of trying to make divisions and protect our territories then perhaps the earth will open to us, sharing its secrets with us and showing us a way to transcend the discontent of our time.