A Mayan shaman on Lake Atitlán performing a ceremony for protection of travelers. © Laurel Kallenbach

December 21, 2012, marks the end of one Mayan calendar and the beginning of a new era. To celebrate, I wanted to share a few of my images from my 2008 trip to Guatemala, where I spent a week on Lake Atitlán, one of the spiritual centers of the Mayan world.

The Mayans call this deep lake, surrounded by mountains and the Atitlán volcano, “the umbilicus of the world.” It’s a source, a place of birth for them.

On the first morning after I arrived at Villa Sumaya,  a yoga retreat center on the shores of Lake Atitlán, a Mayan shaman came to perform a protection ceremony for all us gringos. After offering sugar, cinnamon, chocolate and taper candles to the gods, he entreated them to cleanse our spirits and keep us safe throughout our Guatemala journeys.

We could feel the love from the chocolate-sated deities every morning as we drank Mayan hot chocolate with breakfast. Rich cream, dark cacao, ginger, and a touch of chile: amazing and spirit-lifting.

These Mayan women brought their weaving to Villa Sumaya for our group to look at. I bought a gorgeous tablecloth. © Laurel Kallenbach

As I look ahead, to the new era, I’ll remember Guatemala’s colorfully clad Mayan women. These skilled seamstresses wove exotic birds, such as the quetzal, into their clothing designs. May that color and vibrancy lead us all into the next Mayan calendar.

On this Winter Solstice 2012, we all get a fresh start. My hope is that the new era will be characterized by peace, creativity, the end of materialism and global warming, and a renewed understanding of the wisdom of indigenous peoples worldwide.

Laurel Kallenbach, writer, traveler, editor

Read more about my travels in Guatemala:

Lake Atitlán, in Guatemala, is one of the spiritual centers of the Mayan world. © Laurel Kallenbach



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