Yucatec Maya: elder
Meet Pastor Caamal Witzil. His mother is a Maya elder, undertaking public duties, and he and his three brothers join in. Pastor is one of 74 Maya elders in the state of Quintana Roo. Elders are the major conservators of ancient Mayan traditions. Pastor lives in Tulum but he works as a Maya elder in the entire vicinity. I met him as a guide at the Muyil lagoons, where you take a tour at the ruins of Muyil and afterwards a boat trip and a float through the ancient Maya canals between Chunyaxché lagoon and the sea. He now has his own tour company, Maya Ecotours. As an elder, he works in Muyil, Tulum and also in the villages around Felipe Carrillo Puerto.
He works as a spiritual leader in his community and he is there to give advice to anybody from the community. This is a different role from a shaman who is essentially a healer. He is also present at a village fiesta, when the village celebrates its patrons. For example, Pastor does rituals for the celebrations of the Speaking Cross (annual festival in May) in the village of Chumpón. And how do you become an elder? In Pastor's case he had a dream that he would become an elder and one day he addressed other elders in his community. They have admitted him into their circles, and he received some training to widen his scope of knowledge. Some of the elders conduct conferences and pilgrimages to teach their esoteric knowledge to the public. If you meet a Maya elder, you will immediately understand that they live in harmony with cycles of nature and the cosmos.