I just returned from visiting Doña Anselma, healer and sister of the Mayan Melipona bee. When you pass through the adobe walls that enclose her property you know you are on sacred ground. And here she comes, arms open to greet you with a hug and beautiful warm smiling eyes and sparkling face. I offer her gifts I brought from home, a green bowl with a bee in the bottom and several bee's wax molds of angels and hearts on strings scented with vanilla. She lovingly accepts them. To my surprise, not for herself.
She takes me to her garden and places them all on her altar. It is an altar made of various stone relics from Mayan pyramids. Her husband works for a construction company. Whenever they go to dig he brings her home what is being "tossed". On her alter, the sweet smell of incense fills the air. I ask her what it is. She gives me a Mayan name and I am lost.
Doña Anselma then invites me to walk around her lush and extensive gardens. On one side, she tends medicinal plants and on the other flowers for her Melipona bees. Although the day is warming, her garden with palms and tall bushes remains cool and damp.
We approach her apiary and stop. She says a prayer to the Meliponas before we enter. She lifts the lid to one and points out the wax globes of pollen (bee bread), honey and the nursery. Meliponas are stingless bees, although they bite like nates. I apparently didn't offend them since they chose not to bite me.
We are joined by one of Doña Anselma's coop sisters, Honorida. Where Doña Anselma is as open as a sunny day, Honorida is sizing up the gringa and what she says. Over the years local and foreign people have come to take pictures, videos and buy up products promising the coop great benefits from which they received nothing. Honorida was there to see that this didn't happen, yet again.
We are now sitting in chairs beside the hives. Doña Anselma speaks to the Sun, the Moon, the Mother Earth. She speaks to the Whole and how to understand the Melipona one must understand the Whole. She reminds us of the 'blue' comet, eclipse and full moon last Friday 10 (February 2017) and their effects on the bees and plants. Often, she breaks into Mayan to concur with Honorida. Honorida has the gift of speaking to plants and when she does the plant begins to sway.
As we exchange bee stories and healings, I notice Honorida's eyes soften toward me and she smiles. My bear lifts the veil between us. I mention that the bears like to eat our bees. They can’t conceive of a bear in the wild. Well, I just happen to have two photos on my cell phone with a large bear under our tree. That does it. Honorida lets me in.
At first, I do not get permission to record the bees, now I can. I will return tomorrow, Monday to spend the day with them. They will give me a healing, a clearing and allow me to video her garden and Honorida's garden, too. I will meet other members of the coop. We will spend the day together. They will prepare a Mayan meal for us.
I am blissed out. This is beyond thought. Funny because it came together via Whatsapp and friends. But Uber did and didn't play a part in it. This morning, I had spent about an hour trying to connect with Uber Mérida and after I did, the driver never showed up. I waited outside the hotel to look for a taxi, an Uber was parked out front. I asked him, they talk, if he was waiting for me and he said, "No." (Same in English as in Spanish.)
So, I introduced myself, told Julio my need to get out to Mérida Hacienda Xcunyá. He agreed, off the 'clock' to take me. Xcunyá is about 30 minutes from Mérida in a remote location: no bus or taxis. He offered to wait for me there and did for three hours.
Well, Julio and I are now friends and he's in charge of getting me around while I'm here and then back to the airport, if I so choose (right, Erina?). Now for a heaping carne asada, salsa and an ice-cold beer.
Reflections on Monday:
This morning Julio (my Uber driver) couldn't pick me up so he sent his friend Rosalba. Well, we get to chatting so much that when she drops me off we hug and I jump out of the car and say goodbye.
Doña Anselma is not home so I walk around her garden and pray at her altar. Then it strikes me, I hadn't paid Rosalba for the ride. I know I can get the money to her but I am hit by both the thought and the friendship that so quickly grew between us for her not even to ask.
Doña Anselma appears at whatever the right time is and we hug and kiss our greetings. Last night, I did my research on the vanilla orchid, a vine, and show her my results on my computer. The vanilla bean is the second most expensive spice in the world because each one is hand pollinated. This is because the only insect in the world that pollinates the bean is the melipona bee. And Doña Anselma has 25 or more hives in her garden, two green thumbs and one big heart. She is very excited about growing the vanilla orchid. So is her coop sister Honorida.
Doña Anselma is a healer, curandera but more a wise woman. This gift has been passed down from generations of women in her family. She has paid for it with many profound afflictions and yet beams like a child of six. Funny when you think old souls must have deep knowing eyes, Doña Anselma's eyes are clear and dancing. It's not so much the look of love but gratitude. She uses the word gratitude in the way we say I 'like' this or that.
After the vanilla orchid excitement, I introduce her to my hives and the orbs and vortex. She says it is not a vortex but an angel bowing and blessing. She says the blessing is beyond words of what is being blessed. I understand that. She says the orbs are angels. They are not like the one who chose to come to 'be' in the bee garden.
We talk for a long time. Early on Honorida and her young daughter have joined us. Later Jaime and Rosalia, Doña Anselma's children joins us. Rosalia and Doña Anselma's older daughter are her sisters in the Koolel Kabb coop. Jaime is a European beekeeper. His hives are five kilometers from the house where Doña Anselma's bees are.
This talking goes on as a continued preparation for what is to come. Doña Anselma and Honorida are gathering me into the sisterhood. Then Honorida breaks the conversation and tells Doña Anselma that she must go and get her red headdress to start the ceremony. It is a long piece of red cotton that she ties her hair back with.
Red band in place, we discuss how we are going to proceed with the ceremony. I want to be sure all along the way what is ok or not ok for me to video. It seems that since yesterday, it is now all ok to video.
Doña Anselma goes and lights the incense in her bowl in front of her altar of Mayan stones from the nearby pyramid. We are all in a circle around her. She then blows on her concha shell and everyone prays to each direction. We follow her steps, facing each direction. We pray to the altar.
Then we walk in a procession to her bee garden. The hives are located under a palapa: a palm frond roof supported by poles set shading a cement slab. The hives are of one box set on tables. Looking back:
This morning Julio (my uber driver) couldn't pick me up so he sent his friend Rosalba. Well we got chatting so much that when she dropped me off we hugged and I jumped out of the car and said goodbye.
Doña Anselma was not home so I walked around her garden and prayed at her altar. Then it struck me, I hadn't paid Rosalba for the ride. I knew I could get the money to her but I was hit by both the thought and the friendship that so quickly grew between us for her not even to ask.
Doña Anselma appears at whatever the right time is and we hug and kiss our greetings. I did my research on the vanilla orchid, a vine, and show her my results on my computer. The vanilla bean is the second most expensive spice in the world because each one is hand pollinated. This is because the only insect in the world that pollinates the bean is the melipona bee. And Doña Anselma has 25 or more hives in her garden and two green thumbs and one big heart. She is very excited about growing the vanilla orchid. So is her coop sister Honorida. When Honorida talks to plants they move in response to her words.
Doña Anselma is a healer, curandera but so much more a wise woman. According to Mayan religion, Ix Chel is the patron of weaving. But, Ix Chel is a complex goddess with multiple facets, concerned with healing, midwifery, sexuality, herbalism, weaving, and nature. The essence of Ix Chel better describes the gifts of Doña Anselma. These gifts have been passed down from generations of women and men in her family. She has paid for it with many profound afflictions and yet beams like a young girl. Funny when you think old souls must have deep knowing eyes, Doña Anselma's eyes are clear and dancing. Hers not so much the look of love but of gratitude. She uses the word gratitude in the way we say I 'like' this or that.
After the vanilla orchid excitement, I introduce her to my hives and the orbs and vortex pictures on my computer. She says it is not a vortex but an angel bowing and blessing me and my bees. She says the blessing is beyond words of what is being blessed. I understand that. She says the orbs are angels. They are not like the one who chose to come to stay in my bee garden.
Early on Honorida and her young daughter have joined us. We talk for a long time. Later Jaime and Rosalía, two of Doña Anselma's four children joins us. Rosalía and Doña Anselma's older daughter are, also, her sisters in the Ko’olel Kabb coop. Jaime is a European beekeeper. His hives are five kilometers away from \Doña Anselma's bees. I mention that I wish I had brought a memory stick (USB) to transfer my bees’ songs and pictures to her computer. Rosalía jumps up and disappears. She reappears with a bag and pulls out a new USB and the transfer is made.
This brings Doña Anselma and Honorida to their knees. “Everyone comes to take from the bees and from us but no one offers us something of their own,” Doña Anselma tells me with her arms crossing her chest to hold her heart steady. Honorida smiles and nods her head.
This talking goes on as we make preparations for the ceremony. Doña Anselma and Honorida are gathering me into the sisterhood. Then Honorida breaks the conversation and tells Doña Anselma that she must go and get her red headdress to start the ceremony. It is a long piece of red cotton that she ties around her hair. The women are wearing the traditional Mayan huipil, as they always do for ceremony. They tell me they made the dresses especially for their bees. On the yoke of each dress are their children’s drawings of the Melipona Bees.
Red band in place, we discuss how we are going to proceed with the ceremony. I want to be clear about what is ok or not ok for me to video. It seems that since yesterday, it is now all ok to video.
Doña Anselma goes to her garden and lights the incense in her bowl in front of her altar of Mayan stones. We make a circle around the alter. She picks up a large concha shell and blows it to the East. When she puts it down, they all say a prayer in Mayan. We follow her steps, facing each direction as she blows her shell and prays. At the end, they pray facing the altar.
Doña Anselma leads us to in procession to her bee garden, blowing the concha all the way. The garden is a palapa: a palm frond roof supported by poles set on a cement slab. The one-box hives are stacked two deep on wooden tables. Doña Anselma has two traditional jobónes or hollow trunk hives that she tends to for a friend who has never returned for them. The jobónes are more difficult to harvest.
At the garden entrance, Doña Anselma stops and asks, in Mayan, if she may enter. She blows on her shell. She tells the bees that I would like to record in side their hive. She wants their permission and blessing for my intention. Once received, Doña Anselma approaches her first and oldest Melipona hive. They are her grandmothers (probably great, great grandmothers). She knows they will sing for me. She talks to them and removes the hive lid. I dangle the microphone inside and secure it. She closes the lid. I turn on the recorder and Doña Anselma sings her prayer to the Meliponas.
This song is always spontaneous and new. She says the words come to her and she sings. She sings to them about our intention and about the day. She always speaks to her bees in Mayan. Mayan is her first language and her children speak it, too. [Rosalía wrote her college thesis in Mayan.]
When Doña Anselma finishes her song we quietly leave the hives and go back to the garden palapa to talk. My throat muscles are about to expire with exhaustion. Speaking Spanish for so long is an exercise they have not engaged in for some time.
Today is Monday. Every Monday in Mérida is sopa de puerco con frijoles; pork soup in black beans. That is the custom. So, Jaime started in the morning boiling the beans in a clay pot over an outdoor fire. Frijoles de olla. The aroma of the boiling beans and pork is purely sensual. At some point, Doña Anselma and I go to attend to the recorder. She speaks to the bees, steps into the hive sanctuary and opens the box. I remove the mic and say my own prayer; more like begging that I captured the recording.
The meal is served, soup, fresh paper-thin corn tortillas and spicy tomato salsa. Seems we are all very hungry because the conversation comes to a complete stop, except to compliment the cook.
Meal consumed. We can't move. No one offers dessert. We are anxious like five-year olds at Christmas to listen to the recording. I'm apprehensive; ok, just scared, even hesitant to turn it on, afraid I might push the wrong button and erase the sound. I push the buttons and the Meliponas SING!!!
Amazed. Water, the sound is of a pool of water, dripping water in a deep cavern, immediately recognized as a cenote. They start to reminisce about a time when they went into an underground cave and swam in a cenote. A cenote is a deep underground pool of clear filtered water sacred to the Mayans for many reasons, one being that there is no surface running water on the Yucatan peninsula. Cenotes are sacred ceremonial sites. [Hotel cat is checking me out here at the poolside; to jump or not to jump? I psychically suggest that we postpone the encounter.] In one ceremony, in honor of the Rain God Chaac, live sacrifices and sacred objects are offered to the cenote. [I'm not one of them because I tend the sacred bees. Someone must work while they dance and sing.]
We are so excited. Each one of us listens to the song with Bose earphones and then with ear plugs. Everyone is talking. We agree that the sound has a peaceful effect on us. I feel the energy from my head to my feet. But it is not the vibrant energy I feel with my European honeybees. It is calm. My feet buzz. Doña Anselma says they are blessing us in song. She says they are aware of us. She says the song balances us. I'm deeply grateful, that is the ancient bond I hoped to capture in the recording. Ten thousand years of sacred relationship.
Eventually, Honorida excuses herself to go home for a nap. All of us would like to do the same but here I am to be entertained. Doña Anselma says she won't be able to give me a healing because she too is tired. I'll come back for that and for an excursion con Rosalía to Dzibilchaltún, the nearby pyramids.
Jaime calls Julio to come pick me up. He arrives accompanied by his mother and three-month old baby. All is well.
Five thirty and I'm back in the hotel. Not sure what I did until eight but I didn't leave the room even for dinner. I put on the headphones to listen to the Melipona recording. Now, tucked into my bed, I hear a choir of Melipona bees, melody, harmony, prayer, marketplace-chatter, above all girls ‘beeing’ girls in the sacred sanctuary in Doña Anselma's clear brown eye; her third eye she told me about.
Today, Tuesday, I will do nothing. Did you hear that Kris Kristina? "NOTHING!" Wednesday, I'll return to Doña Anselma's sacred garden for a healing and a hike to Dzibilchaltún at 7 AM.
Tuesday evening thoughts
I flew to Mérida, Mexico to meet with Doña Anselma to record her Melipona bees. I have waited or delayed for some time to accomplish this goal for many reasons; none of which are important anymore.
My desire was to record Melipona bees that were still in spiritual relationship with their Mayan sisters. Basically, it was about me fulfilling my dream.
Oddly enough, I first contacted Doña Anselma through WhatsApp on a Friday from my home in Boulder. I asked if I could meet with her on Sunday at her convince.
“Claro que sí,” or “Absolutely!” Her unequivocal response. [Jaime told her, at that time, that I would never show up.]
I called her Sunday morning for directions and took an Uber to her home in Xcunyá. This is all that is needed for me to take you to her door. The rest is from my heart. Doña Anselma is a deep pool of clear refreshing water; a sacred Mayan cenote. [You can google cenote.] I will add that a cenote is a pool of water, often in an underground cave. The water is from rain that percolates down into the cave through layers of limestone, hence it is filtered and pure.
Doña Anselma has lived, as we all have, many disturbing experiences. Possibly the only difference between us, is that she talks to God, the Moon, the Sun, the Earth, the Bees, the Plants and the list goes on. When I talk to God, I am more like Job, questioning and even complaining. When she talks to God and all His Creations, she is grateful. Gratitude is her limestone through which she percolates her experiences. Then when she speaks to God she is pure innocence.
Doña Anselma feels like a child in her delight for everything. Events that could have scared her heart didn’t even teach her lessons. After an operation, she was bed ridden for two years. She said it opened the world to her even more. Every day, she told me, she observed out her window the life of the birds, lizards, bees, plants, sun, moon and rain.
She spoke with such fascination about each new discovery. Her eyes glittering with the newness of Nature unfolding before her. She did not ponder her illness, her situation, her losses, nor her mortality. For one it might have been a shrinking world; for Doña Anselma it was an expanding one; one of greater animation and richer connections.
Doña Anselma was born in Xcunyá, a small village 30 minutes north of Mérida, as did her parents and grandparents before her. She is in a linage of curanderas or Ix Chel. Her two daughters appear to be following her. Her grandfather kept European bees. In 2010, she enrolled in a program that taught people in her village how to keep Meliponas. From that group, her coop is the only one that continued with the Meliponas.
Doña Anselma lives with her family in a small house in the middle of an extensive garden of flowers, trees and shrubs. Instead of vegetables, she grows medicinal plants for two-leggeds and flowers for her sister bees. On the street-side of her property she has built a small store and healing room. People are now coming to her.
We are sitting by the hives talking and she stops the conversation to say, “Ah, look. It is 11:30 (morning) and they are coming home.” So, we look. The bees are flying home. “Every day at 11:30 they return from the field.”
I realize that Doña Anselma is at peace here in her world. A world that she created around her with God and Nature as her confidants. She does not feel the need to seek beyond her garden. She does not seek experience to form and inform her identity. She is secure as the creator of her universe. From her, the universe is born and all that enter its open gates are welcome and enriched.
When you hug Doña Anselma she folds into your body.