So it took us a couple of days to get where we came from a few weeks ago. All we knew was the name of this Gathering, Raices de la Tierra and the approximate location but we aimed to get there a day ahead, also to see if we can give them a hand to set up things. We actually found the place with no problem.
The Gathering was located on a small farm outside of a town in a quiet and peaceful environment. We arrived the afternoon before it officially started but people were arriving already. There was a small area for parking cars -everyone had tents, but it was fine for us to park up in the parking lot. The people were arriving to the event were from all over Mexico and seemed to know their way around and each other. Only a couple of guys we met spoke English so I had to sharpen my Spanish (all the 5 words). There was no sign of Paul and Ana. That afternoon nothing much happened and by that evening John and I felt a little “lost” partly because of the nature of the event, and partly because of the language. We took an early night and see what happens tomorrow…
The following morning was the Opening Day which started at 5.30 AM with drums to gather people to the tamascal (sweat lodges). We’re not really morning people so we gave that a miss. By the time we got up eventually, we noticed that our friends, Paul and Ana arrived sometime in the night. It was great to see them. In the next couple of days we met a Canadian, free-spirit guy, Dan in the crowd and with him we completed the 5 members non-Mexican club. They spoke better Spanish so John and I started understanding a little more about the ceremonies and the event. It was roasting hot and they said it hasn’t been raining in this area for months -which causing a lot of problems for the farmers. And we felt this dry heat, day and night.
There were about 7-8 tribes represented by their elders. They held their ceremonies and gave speech every morning and evening and some in-between. The tribes were from all around Mexico but there were Elders from North America and Colombia. John and I were most fascinated by the Elders of a tribe called the Huichol or (as they are actually called) Wixáritari . Their ceremony, music and songs were wonderfully weird and mesmerising. They “represented” the rain. As this Gathering was about healing Mother Earth and Humanity each Elders’ ceremony had its place and function (wind, sun, animals etc)
Each year, since this Gathering was happening, the Wixáritaris did their most powerful ceremony which involved animal sacrifice. This caused some controversy within the crowd so in the past couple of years they didn’t do it but this year they found a way around it. As the Elders felt it was very important to do their main ceremony in the traditional way they decided to do it away from the Gathering, in the mountains and it was optional for anyone who wanted to witness their ritual to come along.
Of course we did want to go along. Dan was happy to drive all five of us (Ana, Paul John and me) to the mountains where the ceremony was held. When everyone was there and took their places they begun their strange violin music and songs in their language. Other elders joined in too. Then a calf was lead into the middle of the circle. When I saw the calf first, I felt my heart stopped. Then it was out of my sight. The atmosphere was very strong. The elders did their job in such skilful way that we didn’t noticed when the sacrifice actually happened. By the music started again it was over and the animal was taken out of the circle almost un-noticeably. At the end of the ceremony everyone was welcome to approach the rock and put down their offerings (mostly chocolate and water). Just as the whole ceremony was approaching to the end, out of the blue a black, small cloud gathered right above us and it poured a thick rainfall on us for about 10 minutes. (for the first time in months) This could be one of those coincidences but being there, feeling the atmosphere it seemed something else to me…
The following day involved the spectacular Feather Dance and in the evening the Bear Dance, this was held by the members of the Bear tribe. Both were absolutely fantastic experiences.
The last day morning had the Closing ceremony. It was a particularly sizzling hot day with no air moving and very dry. Again, each Elders did their jobs which left me and John quite stunned.
It started with the Elder and his family who represented the Wind, singing and dancing around. Then a Sun Angel appeared around the sun on the perfectly clear blue sky. It was a sharp and beautiful rainbow, I’ve never seen before.
Then it was the Bear tribe’s turn. They had a magnificent hawk with them. During their ceremony 16 hawks appeared and circled above our heads then disappeared when they finished their dance.
The last ceremony was the Wixáritari‘s dance and music. As always, John and I were mesmerised. They were singing and dancing endlessly. In the distance we saw huge dark, thunder clouds gathering that reached us within half an hour and created an astonishing thunder. It was quite unbelievable.
The Closing ceremony lasted for hours and hours that we didn’t noticed. Most of the people have left by then and those few left were packing up. So the place had this ” ending” atmosphere. It was about 4PM and we started packing too. We needed to get back to San Miguel (around 500 km). We needed to start the work on Burt tomorrow morning. Although it was late and I felt it would be silly to leave now but John was keen to leave. So we were hesitating. Ana, Paul and Dan decided to stay for one more night. As we were trying to make our minds up I saw one of the Elders of the Wixáritari waving at me and John. They were packing as well.
I grabbed John’s hand and walked up to him. With my polished-up Spanish I begun to thank him for the ceremony, blah-blah…. “It’s OK” he said, ” I speak English” (!!!) We were stunned. We had a nice conversation and at the end we were invited to his house. Balam (the Elder -who is 28 years old!) offered us to park up at his house and stay for the night. “you can have a shower, dinner and we talk more” He said. It was an amazing offer. How many times One get invited to a Medicine man’s house…? At that point Ana, Paul and Dan gathered around us so they were welcome too.
Everyone packed up and within an hour we were all sitting in Balam’s living room. He has 4 children and a wife who’s expecting their 5th. The house was a mayhem with all the children running and shouting, wanting our attention meantime Balam was telling us stories. We learnt that Balam isn’t Wixáritari, he’s Spanish Mexican, yet he is the apprentice of Alfonso who is the Medicine man of the Wixáritari‘. Alfonso was there too. He speaks Wixárika and Spanish so I needed Ana to interpret between us. Alfonso was smiley and quiet and told us how much he admires Balam and that he is a great hunter and he will be a great Medicine man. He stayed at Balam’s house for the night before returning to his remote ranch in the mountains the following day. He invited all of us to his ranch and said we could stay there as long as we wanted. Another wonderful offer.
That night we ordered a couple of family size pizzas and listened to Balam who was telling us his story of becoming one of the Wixáritaris, about his family and the tribe’s history. It was around 2AM when we split up and everyone went to bed.
The following morning Johnny and I were hanging out for a few hours visiting the town, do some shopping then discussing what to do. Alfonso’s offer was, again, a rare opportunity for us to be somewhere special and remote (which we love) but we also felt the pressure of being in San Miguel where we made an appointment for Burt’s fixing with Mats. We postponed the work once already and we were supposed to be there this morning. We felt we need to fulfil our commitment so decided to leave at midday.
We said our goodbyes to Balam and his family and Alfonso. Ana and Paul decided to stay in the nearby mountains and Dan choose to come to San Miguel but check out Zacatecas city first. So we’ll be meeting him later. We are hoping to see Ana and Paul again somewhere sometime. They have been great fun and such wonderful guides for us at the Gathering.
So off we went. Next back to San Miguel de Allende…