Walking the streets of Izamal, surrounded by its unmistakable yellow buildings, you’ll feel the wind change. Izamal feels different, quieter, and definitely marked by a spiritual footprint beyond our time. This is a land of gods, where the high priest Zamná lived when he arrived with the Chans and before, it’s said, he joined the Maya pantheon. His origin is controversial; you may know him as Itzamná, god of creation, of heaven, patron of medicine, among other special powers; that’s who this city was named after.
Centuries later, some believe that the time of the Maya is far gone. That they disappeared, leaving only traces of their knowledge in codices and temples. People may climb the Kinich Kakmó pyramid and ask “where are the Maya?” as if they had indeed disappeared. But as Heraclitus said, the one constant is change. Today, Maya spirituality can still be felt in the region; J-menes—or shamans, as Israel (Hermano Maya) calls them—are the direct descendants of Maya priests. Israel explains that it’s them who currently perform ceremonies, cleanses, and offerings to the land (and to love, he adds) through a universal knowledge that comes from his ancestors.
“There are people that, in their life, carry with them sadness and fear,” he told me. “They come for a cleanse with the brothers so they can get back on the path to peace of mind.” Offerings are also common; these can include several items, for example, corn. Israel explains that this is an important element in Maya culture, as in their worldview, humans are made of corn; it represents us. For cleanses, on the other hand, he uses two eggs, a candle, and flowers. “If the flower wilts, that means you’re not doing well,” he says when I ask him what the flowers are for. Does it work? Hermano Maya calls it a “psychological release.”
Contrary to popular belief, the Maya J-men doesn’t wear an elaborate headpiece instead of a shirt, or a loincloth instead of pants. That’s what the media would have you believe: a commercial concept. They don’t work with Ayahuasca, Yopo, or mushrooms, but chamans (notice the difference in spelling) do, Israel explains. Personally, the J-menes I’ve had been lucky enough to meet are down-to-earth people, usually dressed in white (which I suppose keeps them cool, as it’s very hot), and, as Israel points out, they are more likely to work with quartz, copal, candles, and a plant known as Sip Che’ (Bunchosia swartziana) to release bad energy.
If you visit Hermano Maya in Izamal, you can choose to experience a ceremony in the altar to Ixchel (the goddess of love), where he’ll give you an amulet of power, and then go on to a healing session to clean your aura, harmonize your energy, and read the egg. You can also get a massage session and have a ceremony to bless your love.
Reservations are recommended
Hermano Maya is an advertiser in Yucatán Today.
Editorial by Olivia Camarena Cervera
Yucatecan communicologist. Your favorite Assistant Editor. Writer, blogger, and bookstagrammer in her spare time. She also experiments with TikTok.
Photography by Hermano Maya for use in Yucatán Today.