Author: Sacred Earth Journeys

The Mayan Mysteries of Palenque

Read Sacred Earth Journeys’ participant and travel writer Lori Erickson’s second instalment about her journey to Mexico & Guatemala in this week’s feature guest blog.

mayan ruler pakal
The Mayan ruler Pakal was buried with richly ornamented and highly symbolic finery (Bob Sessions photo)

Striking, isn’t it?

And maybe a bit unsettling?

I came upon this figure at the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City. Bob and I and our friend Brian spent several days in Mexico City before starting our Maya Temples of Transformation tour with Sacred Earth Journeys. Our time at this museum—one of the world’s greatest—gave us an invaluable background for what we would later see on our Maya trip.

Of all the marvels we saw at the museum, the figure pictured above most intrigued me. The jade mask and jewelry were found on the body of a Mayan leader named Pakal, who ruled the city-state of Palenque for almost 70 years in the seventh century. Every part of his elaborate burial finery had symbolic significance, from the number of strands in his necklace to those peculiar ear pieces that jut out from his head. Note, too, that the mask has crossed eyes, which were considered beautiful in Mayan culture.

I stood transfixed by this mask for quite some time, though I wasn’t sure why. Maybe it was the sheer weirdness of it, as well as the beauty of its craftsmanship. There was a haunting quality about it as well, something that seemed to speak in words I couldn’t understand about a culture very different from my own.

A few days later, I stood in front of Palenque’s Temple of Inscriptions, the place where this mask was found.

temple of inscriptions at palenque
The Temple of the Inscriptions at Palenque is one of the masterpieces of Mayan architecture (Bob Sessions photo)

Located in the Mexican state of Chiapas, Palenque was founded around the year 100 BCE. It reached its height between 600-800 CE, and then declined in the early 10th century, for unknown reasons. Today it’s one of the most studied of all the Mayan sites. Though smaller in size than Chichen Itza or Tikal, it has exquisite architecture and carvings. Only a small fraction of Palenque has been excavated, but what’s there is marvelous indeed.

As at all Mayan sites, the temples here were likely built to align with astronomical phenomena. Working without telescopes, the Mayan nevertheless had an amazingly sophisticated knowledge of astronomy and mapped the movements of the stars and planets with great accuracy. They also kept multiple calendars geared to various celestial cycles and developed complex writing and mathematical notation systems.

As soon as I entered Palenque, the Temple of the Inscriptions immediately drew my gaze. It’s the largest of the many buildings at the site, with steps arranged in nine levels. Built during Pakal’s reign, it’s named after the hundreds of glyphs located on the temple walls at its top. Originally it was painted red, with its carvings detailed in bright colors. But even with its present appearance of weathered, gray limestone, it’s a exquisite building, perfectly proportioned, beautifully designed.

In 1952, Alberto Ruz Lhuillier made a remarkable discovery atop this temple: he uncovered the beginnings of a stairway that led down through the center of the structure. After four years of excavation, he at last came to Pakal’s tomb, one of the greatest treasures of pre-Columbian archeology. This is the New World equivalent of the discovery of King Tut’s tomb in Egypt.

And while the jade mask in the museum was stunning, I was even more amazed when I learned what covered Pakal’s sarcophagus (see below).

pakal sarcophagus
The sarcophagus of the ruler Pakal is a roadmap to the complexities of Mayan spirituality (Wikimedia Commons image)

This massive lid of limestone, 12 x 7 feet in size, is covered with an intricate, carved design that people have been trying to interpret ever since it was discovered. The image shows a man either descending or ascending a World Tree, a symbol that has roots in the underworld, a trunk in this world, and its branches in paradise. The man is wearing garments similar to those of the Mayan Maize God, and surrounding him are sacred symbols of many kinds.

If this all looks vaguely familiar, it’s because you might have seen it on a late-night TV program on ancient aliens. The craze started with a 1968 book by Erich von Daniken called Chariots of the Gods. When he looked at this image, he saw a space man being propelled by a rocket ship, a theory that’s been giving anthropologists headaches ever since. “No! No! Don’t believe him!” they collectively say, pointing out that Mayan culture was perfectly capable of creating its many wonders all on its own without the help of overlords from the stars.

Thankfully, you don’t have to buy the ancient aliens thesis to appreciate this remarkable work of art (which we saw only in pictures, since you can’t get inside the tomb without special permission). But there is indeed something otherworldly about this image, which shows a spiritual transformation of some sort, a movement between realms.

Today Pakal’s body rests underneath the Temple of Inscriptions, while most of the items found in his tomb are safely ensconced in the Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City. I felt fortunate to have seen those treasures, because it made me fully experience what I experienced at Palenque.

palenque palace reliefs
Reliefs in the Palace courtyard at Palenque bring us face to face with the Mayan world (Bob Sessions photo)

On our tour of Palenque, I also greatly appreciated the fact that we were given time simply to be. Too often tours try to cover so much information and territory that you’re left exhausted. But if you’re going to truly experience a sacred site, you need some time to settle in. I was grateful to spend much of the afternoon wandering on my own amid the temples, climbing up steep steps to perch on platforms overlooking the green lushness of the surrounding jungle, drinking in the vistas.

Here’s a curious thing, one that I’m a little embarrassed to admit. Our group had arranged to meet back at the entrance gate late in the afternoon, and I stretched out my time at Palenque as long as I could. Nearing the departure time, I realized I needed to hurry.

A shortcut led through a dimly lit tunnel that we’d walked through before as a group, a passageway that wound through the ruins of the palace. I started to enter it, and then stopped.

The light had shifted from earlier in the day, and it seemed darker than I remembered. There were no people around, not even voices in the distance. And I realized that I was scared to go into the passageway. I didn’t fear other humans, but instead I wasn’t entirely sure that spirits weren’t hovering around. Something about the way the walls loomed high around me, perhaps. Or maybe it was just an over-active imagination. But I took the long way back to the entrance, even though it entailed much more walking.

I smile when I think back to that moment now, because it sums up to me the essence of Palenque. This is a place that exudes the Mysteries of the Maya. Palenque is both dead and alive. No one lives there, and yet perhaps they do.

Next post: Yachxilan, where I learn about Mayan ceremonies.

~ Lori Erickson


This blog was first published on


Return to Vaidyagrama, Ayurveda Healing Village

The Ayurveda Health & Healing Retreat in India hosted by Ayurvedic Consultant Jaisri M. Lambert has just wrapped up. In this guest blog article Jaisri shares a diary of her time at Vaidyagrama, gifting us with an insightful glimpse into an authentic panchakarma cleansing program.

It was a thankfully uneventful journey from Delhi where I awoke on Dec. 14, the day long planned for me to arrive at Vaidyagrama for the second time of my life. Touching down at Coimbatore airport just before sunset felt indeed like a type of coming home, though I’ve only been here once before – last year when I accompanied a small group of patients from the US & Canada for an experimental experience of ‘authentic panchakarma’.

For years, I had searched for a suitable place to give westerners confidence in traveling all the way to India, effectiveness of treatments and a learning experience for all levels of commitment to Ayurveda. The investment is perhaps a third that in north America, so the 41-day classical program was out of reach for me and others who wanted/needed a longer rejuvenation program. Here, however, it’s feasible and moreover compelling, I feel.

Jaisri (second from right) with our 2016 group at Vaidyagrama, Coimbatore, India

Right away on stepping off the aircraft, the air was warm and tropically humid, certainly compared to the cold of Delhi and more so to the cold of Surrey, presently under snow! My taxi driver remembered me and my family details, the doctor was present to greet me at the splendid entrance to the hospital campus and the walk to my same room was like returning to my childhood bedroom. This time, though, pink hibiscus flowers were laid out for my welcome – oh, the sweetness!

Last year it was all new to me – how does the shower function? (then I’d learned the water heating system is entirely solar powered here, as a model of green, sustainable development). What are the toileting practices? (last year I learned about the superior sanitation of spray hoses). Do I have the right converter/adapter? (three different ones and none seemed to work consistently). So many new and wonderful discoveries, and this year I feel more habituated, seasoned even!

India has its own traffic patterns – please don’t expect drivers to remain in their lane or to stop at red lights or to go one-way on a one-way street. Just close your eyes and you’ll very probably arrive safely, if a little later than hoped. Line-ups are a way of life with such large urban populations. Please don’t expect people to respect a queue or to throw their trash into a designated container.

Do, however, (except in line-ups) expect respect and honesty from pretty much everyone. Refreshing change from Broadway in Vancouver, where you can be dissed or worse just for walking down the street.

Tomorrow I’m looking forward to seeing the tree I planted last year and its interim growth, meeting my doctor from last year – the amazing Dr. HariKrishnan – and to greet the first two of my group arrivals. The others arrive on Friday and our program begins on Monday. I’m looking forward to seeing the huge botanical garden again – it covers almost the entire campus of 4 1/2 acres, except the buildings and walkways.

ayurveda garden
Part of Vaidyagrama’s huge outdoor healing garden

From last year, I discovered the importance of allowing time-zone adjustments to unfold on their own schedule. Having been in Delhi for two weeks prior meant I had already adjusted, which took perhaps 5 days or so for bodily routines to adapt. Ayurveda always considers the basic bio-rhythms of sleep, appetite and elimination, whether travelling or at home. These are the cardinal indicators of the balance of Vata (elimination), Pitta (appetite) and Kapha (sleep).

While in Delhi, I had the golden opportunity to meet with the AYUSH ministry officials to make connections between Canada and India with a view to bridge Ayurveda education into B.C. Now we have a clear path to our Ayurveda conference for 2017-18 and opening our college in 2018-19, thanks to the kind receptivity, enthusiasm and support of our officer! Lots of volunteer time will be needed to realize this intention together.

If reading this, you’d like to be a part of creating new pathways in Ayurveda education in Canada, dear reader, please contact me with your skill base and availability, OK?

ayurveda food india
Preparing delicious Ayurvedic meals at Vaidyagrama

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Awakening early morning after a fine long sleep following yesterday’s wearying day of travel, I found meditation to come easily and naturally in this atmosphere of timelessness. By sunrise, the familiar morning prayers from the temple resounded, echoing such a long history of Tamil Nadu state customs of worship and devotion. South India is known for some of the oldest temples still existing, some dating back over 3,000 years. Amazing.

Today’s satsang touched in part on how the ideal sustainable model for living is best in a village population of about 500. Overcrowding of cities and even towns has led to stress, conflict, disease and environmental degradation. Dr. Ramkumar Kutty, one of Vaidyagrama’s founders, presented statistics that if each family of 4 has 1/4 acre to live on, there will still be sufficient land on this planet for forests, rivers, lakes, mountains and other natural features. It’s a mathematical image, but gives pause for thought, eh? See the work of John Jeavons.

This day has been a delight of birdsongs, flowers and an atmosphere of Ayurveda living. At home, I’d been increasingly simplifying my life, though from today it’s becoming so much simpler yet, and I love it. This evening two of my group arrive from the west. How marvellous to anticipate watching them become introduced to this place of healing, and all that lies in store for them through their personal healing and learning.

Friday is the day for the weekly ‘gho puja’ or the ceremony for honouring cows, special not only due to the reverence for the integration of all living beings for food and material support for all, but also to acknowledge our human intelligence and capacity to choose sustainable living in harmony together with all living beings, large and small. Each has a God-given life-cycle, unique characteristics and gifts to bring to the whole.

Saturday is now international community night at Vaidyagrama, when people share their talent and culture from all over the world. A violinist has been heard practicing her contribution, evidently an original piece composed to express her love for this place and its transformations.

Last year, our group had created a participatory round to sing together with all the patients, and once I did a duet with a young woman from Quebec – we both felt so comforted to hear French again! Another couple from the England theatre world created a skit spoofing the changes we westerners go through during PK – very funny! It’s a special night.

ayurveda in india
Jaisri and the group enjoying some real relaxation time at Vaidyagrama

‘Tapasya’ from Sanskrit means in part, austerity or restraint, to observe inner sacrifice. Panchakarma is already revealing to me how giving up what is not in my long term best spiritual interest can lend positive support to this purification of body, mind and consciousness, and the program has not even officially begun. However, my intention for purification is already presenting ample opportunity for reforming my thinking and habits.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

‘My’ pretty little tree planted last year has grown three-fold! Such an example of faith, simplicity, being true to oneself, surrender to nature’s wisdom and growing upward! Yesterday, we completed three of our five medical intakes and already people feel more seen than ever by a medical practitioner. Now the benchmark has been set in our lives for medical care. Today will be our last two intakes and treatments will begin Sunday.

To hear more of Jaisri’s wonderful experience at Vaidyagrama including the next stages of her cleansing program and how the group bonded over shared cultural experiences, read her full article here.

Want to join Jaisri at Vaidyagrama starting December 1st, 2017 for a life-changing Ayurveda cleansing and healing program? Full program details are now on our website – secure your space now! 

Exploring Sacred Mayan Sites in Mexico and Guatemala

Sacred Earth Journeys’ participant and travel writer Lori Erickson shares her recent experience of travelling to Mexico & Guatemala in this week’s feature guest blog.

palenque mexico
Tour Leader Freddy Silva exploring sacred Mayan sites with the Sacred Earth Journeys group

For years I’ve been getting press releases from Sacred Earth Journeys, a company that specializes in trips to spiritual sites around the world. So much about the company appealed to me—its focus on spirituality, its expert guides, and the locations of its trips. But the timing was never right and there was always a good reason I couldn’t go.

mexico guatemala tour
Bob and I spent a week on a Sacred Earth Journeys tour of Mayan sites in Mexico and Guatemala

But last month, I finally got the chance to travel with Sacred Earth Journeys—and the experience more than lived up to my expectations. A tour called Maya Temples of Transformation immersed me in the culture and spirituality of pre-Columbian Mexico and Guatemala. During the week we visited three major Mayan sites: Palenque, Yachxilan, and Tikal. Along the way we trekked through jungles, took part in ceremonies with ancient roots, and listened to howler monkeys in the treetops above. It was a marvellous trip! And over the next posts I’ll be telling you about what I experienced.

I was accompanied on the tour by my intrepid husband, Bob, and our equally intrepid friend Brian. But during the week I also got to know our fellow travelers, who hailed from Australia, England, and Canada as well as the U.S. Some had been part of Sacred Earth Journeys before; others were newbies. All of us shared an interest in the spiritual side of travel, and all of us wanted to truly experience the places we were seeing, not just skip across the surface.

misol ha mexico
Misol Ha Waterfall in Mexico (image by Cronoser, Wikimedia Commons)

My week with these people made me realize that in all my years of spiritual journeying, I’ve missed one of the classic elements of pilgrimage: being put together in a group with complete strangers, fellow pilgrims who during the course of the journey become friends. Though we hailed from far-flung corners of the globe, we quickly formed bonds. During conversations over breakfasts and dinners, on bus rides, and walking down forest paths, I heard their personal stories and learned from their insights and wisdom. It was a little like Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, a moveable feast of spirituality and camaraderie.

Bringing like-minded pilgrims together is one of the missions of Sacred Earth Journeys, according to its founder and owner, Helen Tomei, who also was part of our group. “Traveling solo can be wonderful,” she told me. “But there are things that happen in groups that you can’t get when you travel on your own. When you travel to sacred places together, you benefit from hearing about other people’s experiences, and they can help you process your own experiences. You learn from each other.”

Helen sees many transformations among the groups she coordinates. “Most of us live in a world of endless distractions, especially because of the overwhelming presence of technology,” she told me. “On trips like this, we’re given the chance to disconnect, slow down, and look inward. I think that’s one of the reasons why interest in spiritual travel is growing. My hope is that people will come home from a journey with us changed in some way, and that their lives will be better once they return to their ordinary routines.”

tour leader freddy silva
Freddy Silva (Photo: Lori Erickson)

During our week together, we were fortunate to have two leaders with great experience in guiding people through spiritual transformations. Freddy Silva is one of the world’s leading researchers of sacred sites, ancient systems of knowledge, and the interaction between temples and consciousness. His books include First Templar Nation and The Divine Blueprint. And Miguel Angel Vergara is a native of Mexico who studied for 17 years with Mayan elder and wisdom keeper Don Vincente Martin. Today Miguel teaches seminars in Mexico and abroad on Mayan shamanism, traditions, and culture and is also the author of The Sacred Knowledge of the Maya.

The two were a powerful combination. Miguel led us in ceremonies and provided a deep background in the spirituality of the places we were seeing. And Freddy was our trickster teacher, making us laugh, inviting us to consider new possibilities, and sharing his knowledge of similarities between sacred sites around the world.

As the week went on, I especially appreciated Miguel’s deep kindness and his unassuming way of teaching profound truths. One day as we entered the jungle on our way to the Guatemalan site of Tikal, for example, he made an off-hand comment that is one of the most profound pieces of spiritual wisdom I’ve ever heard. “You know, the most important part of a ceremony is the love in your heart,” he said. “If you don’t have that, it doesn’t make any difference what rituals you do. And if you have that love, all the rituals will work, no matter how you do them.”

During our trip, Miguel did a masterful job of leading us in rituals designed to open our hearts to the spirit of the sacred places we toured. On our first day, for example, we visited Misol Ha Waterfall, a gorgeous cataract in the forest near the Mayan site of Palenque. On the bus ride there, he told us that many sacred sites have a cave of some sort associated with them. They provide a direct connection to the divine spirit of the earth, the mother who sustains us all.

“Surrender your ego and be humble,” he told us, echoing the message that spiritual teachers of many traditions give. “Ask yourself: what do I need to give up? What do I need to heal?” At the site, we got out of the bus and walked down a slippery path leading to the waterfall, then passed behind its torrent on our way to the cave itself. In darkness lit only by a few flashlights, we made our way into an inner chamber, where another, smaller waterfall cascaded into a pool.

“Water is a connection to the Spirit,” Miguel told us. “Enter the water if you’d like. Ask for healing for yourself and for others.”

I watched as most members of our group slid into the water. Fighting a cold, I felt it would be unwise to join them, because as much as I believe in the power of the Spirit, I’m also a believer in the power of a virus to make a trip miserable. So I sat there with my feet in the pool, savouring the sounds of the waterfall, watching as my fellow pilgrims immersed themselves in holy waters that have drawn seekers for millennia.

Palenque in Mexico
Miguel Angel Vergara is a master teacher of Mayan spirituality.

It was one of my favourite moments of the trip. And if I’d had some paint supplies with me, I’d have drawn animals on the walls, just like in those French caves covered with prehistoric paintings. It was that kind of moment, a time-out-of-time when I felt I could have channelled something wild and mysterious.

In my next post I’ll take you to Palenque, one of the greatest of the ancient Mayan sites. But let me leave you with another comment made by Miguel, one that summarizes much of his perspective on the world. He told us that the traditional greeting exchanged by the Maya translates as, “How is your sacred path today?”

That’s a question we all can ask, whether we’re in a sacred cave in the middle of a jungle, or sitting at a desk in Iowa.

~ Lori Erickson

This blog was first published at

Discover Peru’s Recipe for Natural Healing

What makes a journey to Peru so satisfying? How does a vacation help heal and transform us? Here we look at some of the vital ingredients that make Peru such an important place for sacred travel, healing, and transformation.

Sacred Medicine – San Pedro (Wachuma)

San Pedro (also known as Wachuma) is a sacred cactus native to the Andean mountains of Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador. Along with Tobacco, Ayahuasca, and Coca, it is one of Peru’s most sacred plants, and has been used for over 4,000 years to heal and expand consciousness. The medicine is typically prepared as a tea; pieces of the stem are boiled for a few hours, and once the liquid is cooled it is taken orally. It is known as a gentle but powerful Masculine teacher plant, and can be used as a tool for meditation and self-awareness. It is very important to work with this medicine as part of a sacred ceremony led by an experienced Healer or Medicine Man/Woman, and with the protection of the ancestral spirits.

Read San Pedro: Mother Earth’s Most Powerful Medicine.

Machu Picchu Peru
Our group at Machu Picchu

Power Places – Machu Picchu & more

When you visit sacred sites that have been specifically chosen for their healing energy and importance to the spiritual teachings of the journey you are on, the connection to them is extremely powerful. Machu Picchu, the 15th century Inca site, majestically perched above the Sacred Valley, is one of those energetically powerful sites, and an important part of any visit to Peru. Because it sits within three corresponding high peaks of power, which create an energy triangle, it is a perfect spot to sit and meditate, focus your intent, and expand your awareness.

There are other, lesser known, sites in Peru that will also lead you towards a profound connection with ancestral wisdom and your own true self. At Raqchi, also known as the Temple of Wiracocha, the God Creator of the Andes, you can find your centre and point of connection to the divine origins – with the help of a good teacher and guide. The powerful site of Cutimbo (Kutimpuy), an archaeological complex characterized by its “chullpas” or burial towers, located a short distance from Puno, at an altitude of 4023 metres above sea level, is similarly transformative. The name Cutimbo in Quechua means to come back to your essence of being a medicine man or medicine woman, which makes it an excellent power place to reconnect with ancestral Lemurian lineages and sacred medicine that our ancestors left for the awakening of consciousness in this new era. Traditionally, it was only the best spiritual leaders who were taken here to become eternal guardians of the lineage of light, and the buildings themselves were giant cups offering only the best medicine for the Gods.

sacred ceremony in Peru
Participating in ceremony in Peru

Energy Work with Healers

For a truly satisfying travel experience to Peru you will need a good tour guide and teacher who can guide you through the sacred sites as well as introduce you to energy work and healing opportunities. Ideally, you will want to participate in a Despacho Ceremony as well as experience traditional teachings with healers and medicine men or women. These ceremonies and energy work will help you to further connect to Peru and its transformative power, and will lead you towards liberation from heavy energy towards a place of clarity, peace, and happiness within yourself.

Authentically Experiencing Other Ways of Life

In order to move beyond feeling like a tourist in Peru, it can be helpful to immerse yourself in the local culture, meet with local people, and experience day-to-day living. This can be done in places such as the village of Chinchero, with spectacular views over the Sacred Valley and famed for its traditional weavings – especially with a guide who has personal connections to this, or other, villages. Or a homestay on the Uros Islands can provide the perfect environment for learning about the local culture and traditions, and making an authentic connection to the Uros people who, according to legend, existed before the sun when the earth was cold and dark.

uros islands lake titicaca
The Uros peoples of Lake Titicaca

Connecting with the Natural Environment

As well as the power places and sacred sites, Peru also features a wealth of wildlife and stunning natural scenery. From the tranquil waters of Lake Titicaca to the beauty of the Sacred Valley and the snow-peaked mountains and majestic valleys surrounding Apu Salkantay, Peru is, quite simply, breathtaking. Imagine watching condors, the Gods of the Andes, in their native, wilderness environment, witnessing the majestic flight of these huge Sacred Birds of the Incas as well as many other birds including eagles and hawks. Imagine being in the presence of the whitetail deer, the Andean fox, and the rabbit-like Chinchilla, the Viscachas, and picture the heart-centered tranquility of a moment where time stands still and you’re fully captivated by the natural environment around you.

Peru tour leader
Our Tour Leader and Medicine Man, Puma, at Machu Picchu

Are you looking for a journey that contains a mix of all these vital ingredients? A travel experience that will feel incredibly satisfying as you connect with the earth around you, feel the energy from the sacred sites, and learn so much from your time with the local people and your tour leaders, and from which you will return happier, healthier in mind and body, and forever changed from your experiences?

In May 2017, we invite you to join Andean Medicine Man and Wisdom Keeper, Puma Quispe Singona, as he guides you through the spiritual heart of Peru, from Machu Picchu & the Sacred Valley to Lake Titicaca.

On this journey you will hear traditional teachings, participate in ceremonies, and undertake powerful healing and energy work, including the option to work with the ancestral medicine, San Pedro (Wachuma). Puma will lead you through the Sacred Valley where you will meet his family in Chinchero before visiting Machu Picchu and other sacred sites including Ollantaytambo, Sacsayhuamán, Raqchi, and Cutimbo. You will visit the spectacular site of Chonta for a breathtaking condor sighting and will stay with a homestay family on Amantaní on the tranquil waters of Lake Titicaca.

Are you ready to step into this transformative travel experience? Would you add any other ingredients?

Visit our website for full journey details.

~ Sacred Earth Journeys

Solstice & Holiday Traditions from Around the World

December 21st marks the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere – the shortest day of the year and the start of winter. As we cozily ready ourselves for the Holidays we thought it would be fun to explore Christmas and Solstice traditions from some of the countries we will be visiting in 2017! However you celebrate at this time of year, we wish you joy, light, and love.

Helen & the team at Sacred Earth Journeys


Many Christmas celebrations in Mexico today are connected to the story of the birth of Jesus – from Dec 16th to Christmas Eve children often perform Las Posadas, a novenario celebration where they travel to a different house – or “inn” – each night looking for someone to let them in. Once let inside a house, the participants pray around a Nativity scene (nacimiento), sing carols, and the children can have fun opening (often star-shaped) piñatas. On January 6th, to celebrate the Epiphany, it is traditional to eat a “Rosca de Reyes” bread-like fuit cake in celebration of the arrival of the Three Kings. Large ceremonies also take place at Izamal for both the winter and summer solstices where large numbers of people gather at this important city to re-connect with the spirit of Father Itzamna.

nativity izamal mexico
A Nativity Scene in Izamal, Mexico. Photo: AlejandroLinaresGarcia


Bolivia has a large catholic population so many people attend midnight mass on Christmas Eve (the “Misa de Gallo”) after which they enjoy a celebratory meal togther of “picana”, a type of meat stew with potatoes and corn in a beer and/or wine broth. Nativity scenes are quite common in Bolivia but exchanging presents is less so!

picane in bolivia
Caption: A tradtional Picana de navidad. (


Christmas in Ireland is fairly similar to Christmas in North America, but a few particular traditions remain in parts of the country. One old tradition is to put a tall candle on a window ledge after sunset on Christmas Eve as a welcome light for Mary and Joseph. On St. Stephen’s Day (Boxing Day), families traditionally took part in a Wren Boy Procession. By some accounts, the procession celebrates a failed plot during Penal Times (1700-1829) when a group of wrens (small but vocally impressive birds in the UK and Ireland) woke Cromwell’s sleeping soldiers thus averting a planned ambush by the local Irish. The wren was subsequently known as “The Devil’s Bird”! People dress up in costumes and walk from house to house with a holly “wren” on a long pole (historically a real wren was killed and placed on the pole!), singing a rhyme asking for a penny to bury the wren. The full procession has somewhat disappeared now, but the tradition of visiting people’s houses on St. Stephen’s Day continues and is part of the Christmas celebrations today.

inti Raymi peru
Inti Raymi Festival at Sacsayhuaman, Cusco (Photo: Cynthia Motta)


Of course, in Peru, as in other countries in the Southern Hemisphere, winter solstice is celebrated in June. The main celebration for the winter solstice takes places in Cusco and is known as Inti Raymi, The Sun God Festival. This ancient Inca celebration was almost threatened with extinction by Spanish colonialism, but managed to survive and, since the 1950s, has seen a resurgence. The festival now hosts thousands of people from Peru and around the world, and is considered one of the biggest festivals in South America.

Sacred Solstice Rituals

How do you currently celebrate the solstice time or the Holidays? What are some of your favourite traditions? We’d love to hear them in the comments section below or you can share your thoughts on our Facebook page too!

If you’re inspired to visit any of the countries above, we have several journeys planned for next year that will interest you! Visit our website for full Tour Descriptions and Itineraries.



  • Daniel Stone will be leading another walking tour through the Bolivian Andes to the Sacred Mountain of the Kallawaya: The Art of Breathing with Daniel Stone, Andean Vision and the Magic of Being Conscious, July 1-11, 2017



~ Sacred Earth Journeys

Some of the information about Christmas celebrations in Mexico, Bolivia & Ireland is taken from James Cooper at Some information on The Wren Boy Procession was taken from The Celtic Times and Our Irish Heritage.