Over the weekend a ritual steeped in ancient tradition was performed in Yo Creek, in the Orange Walk District. A Hetzmek, which is a baptismal ceremony, was held for a three-month baby girl. These Mayan ceremonies have been disappearing so the Cantun family is attempting to revive Mayan cultural practices. The Hetzmek included the presentation of items that symbolize the activities and responsibilities that the child will experience in life. Five’s Hipolito Novelo was present and has the following report.
Hipolito Novelo, Reporting
The resonating bellow of the conch shell under Sunday’s sun declares victory over evil. The sound of nature being amplified while the Mayan priestess honours the four corners in a Hetzmek.
It is one of the most deeply rooted traditions in the Maya culture, but today, the Mayan Baptism or Hetzmek is fading further into the past. In an effort to revive the centuries old tradition, three month old baby girl Jaycee Cantun was baptized at Pachamama and News Five witnessed the ritualistic event which hasn’t been performed in recent years.
Felicita Cantun, Mayan Priestess
“This is a ritual performed by the Mayans but unfortunately our culture is really, really going down fast. However, in my family we try to live up our culture.”
Baby Jaycee is introduced into the sacred circle by her parents being led by the priestess. Dressed in the traditional Maya attire, they are followed by the god parents and family members who complete an outer circle. Before the ritual begins, the priestess needs to ask for permission.
“At the beginning we had to ask permission because we believe that everything has to live together. So I asked permission to the four corners, I asked permission to the god of the rain, to the god of the forest, to the god of the ocean and don’t be confused because it is only one god. However same god of the sun is the same Great Spirit, the same creator. God of Mother earth is the same God.”
During the rite of separation Baby Jaycee is held by her mother, Mareli Cantun, while her husband Jesus recites a prayer. The baby is then handed over to the godmother who also recites a prayer. In what is known as the “opening of feet,” the godmother walks Baby Jaycee nine times around the circle. This is to help the baby walk properly and run swiftly. The godfather does the same. At every turn, the baby is given an item; a symbolic initiation to the activities and responsibilities that they will later perform in life.
“Nine rounds, the first set of nine rounds was clockwise whereby the first set was done by the godmother where she stopped in different stations and showed the baby the lek where she will put her tortillas, the scrubbing board. She needs to learn how to wash. The bible, she was given the bible. She was given her books, different things that they think that the baby would need to grow, to be young industrious, working women.”
Mareli Cantun, Mother of Jaycee Cantun
“We have the Bible for her spirituality to grow. We also showed her a dictionary for her vocabulary. We showed her some crayons, pencils for her to be a studious child. We have machete. We have scrubbing board and so on because we want her to be someone that has many skills in life.”
“The second set was performed by the godfather and he went anti-clockwise where again he gave the baby different things that she would use. She was given boiled egg. She was given ground pepitos. She was given honey. Each thing that she was given is a symbol. For example the egg is for her mind to open, to have great ideas, to open her heart, her friends and pair. It is very important because I want her to live in the culture because nowadays our culture is dying so I would really appreciate for her to live in the culture and bring it to others especially her age range.”