Yaag Galbain - Tree of life




Weaver: Jacinto Gutierrez

Materials: criollo wool dyed with anilines. 


Weaver: Daa Siind (Jacinto Gutierrez)
This rug is inspired in the ancient understanding of the tree of life common to many cultures around the world. The ancient believe system of the Mexica people teaches that the universe was split in two parts to create the current world, the goddess Cipactli was pulled by the brothers Quetzalcoatl and Tezcatlipoca to make the earth and the sky and in order to keep them from collapsing again they planted four trees in each corner of the world with a central tree in the middle.
For the Mayans, this tree is called Ya'ax'che which is a ceiba tree that has nine levels in the branches of the sky, four levels in the existential plane of the earth (as in the four directions) and nine levels in the underworld.
In Benizaa culture we have also have a Ceiba species of tree from which our spirit is tethered to in the sky before we are born and under which we are buried to start our journey back to the sky after our mortal dream. My grandfather used to say that on the earth we should walk the path of the warrior, always doing our best to uplift our spirit and transform the earthly matter into beautiful art. The only true time to rest is when we are resting under the shade of the Yaag Chei.
Our friend Jacinto (81) and his wife Zenaida (76) have been one of these warriors of the earth. When they married, Jacinto made all the adobe for his house with the earth from the Sacred Mountain Guiea Beats (brother rock) where he lives. He also went to the USA in his early days to work in the farm fields and save money to buy a truck and to pay local builders to build other brick rooms where he raised his sons and daughters. Jacinto noted that many of his peers got cancer from working in the farms and only a few of them got any kind of pension to get them through their older days, very bitter now that farm workers are considered essential workers during the current pandemic. Zenaida makes very tasty Tlayudas (big well-cooked tortillas) to sell in the local market in Teotitlan; she buys our corn or we just barter for her excellent tortillas. This is how we live in community, someone’s work benefits another member of the community and as a whole we work together to weave rugs.
Jacinto just spent 5 months visiting her daughters that live and work in Orange county, he just got his visa and was able to travel back to the USA. We were speaking about how much the USA has changed ever since he went. He was just in shock of how much the area has been developed. Wherever he used to work in the fields is just built up and overtaken by the city. My dad and him were pointing out to all that has changed in our village too. We used to gather much more wild foods to eat, such as guajes, prickle pear cactus, quelites, wild flowers and beans, bitter roots and sweet tubers.
Yesterday was earth day, and none of the local natives here are very aware of this 50-year-old celebration because earth day is every day. If you live in an earth house, grow your own food and restore the ecosystems tending the land and planting wild foods in the ecosystem then the impact of living on earth becomes positive. Most of our modern ways of life are ecocidal in principle and must change now. This great slowdown of the industrial production and consumption systems due to the COVID-19 pandemic has shown just how much the earth need restoring and all it takes is for us to do nothing, to stop the hectic way of life that we have chosen.
The tree of life was represented in Ancient times with a cosmic bird sitting on top of it and a snake or crocodile in its roots at the base of the trunk. This duality represents the original two aspects of creation, the sky energy and the earthly one. In his book the Cosmic Tree, Frank Desmedt describes the 'Astronical' explanation of this duality. The Mayans made precise observations of how the galaxy appeared in the Sky, to the south it points to the Serpent constellation and to the north to the Canis Major which in our cultures has the shape of a Macaw bird.
Our grandparents always observed the night sky. I remember, my grandmother always making predictions about the rain pattern by looking at the position of the stars and the tilt of the milky way. In fact, the word for Milky way in Benizaa language is the same word for corn plant, this is because the growth of our corn plants is intimately joined with the subtle astronomical phenomena in the sky.
So in this light, we cannot ever just talk about the earth alone, we must remember that the tree of life has its branches in the heavens and roots in the underworld. When you see the Serpent descending on the steps of the Chichen Itza sacred site, it is announcing the beginning of the rainy season, just like the snake like lightning storms that prelude the big rains. The rains permeate the earth and sprout the seeds of life and this water will travel to the depth of underground rivers and water tables only to evaporate again and complete the water cycle. Every aspect of the ancient world was cyclical and had a reason to be; from the heavens, the surface world and the underworld. With respects to the current world situation, we have come at a time in history where we need to radically transform our way of life to respect and restore the life support systems of the earth. What aspects of our live need to be buried underground and be transformed into a new way of life? May we transition from an ecocidal modernity to a restorative society that seeks the elevation of the human spirit and needs to focus more on the immaterial aspects of life that make our lives more worth living. During this great slowdown of the industrial and economic machinery we are turning back to slow, small and sustainable living. We are seeing a great rebalancing of nature's energy flows. This virus doing some work for the underworld, like the great crocodile monster that takes our dead bodies to the lord and lady of the underworld. Like the composting of nutrients that will allow other seeds to be reborn and live the mortal dream once again. May the earth heal and may the cosmic awareness of our higher purpose in life illuminate our governors and society for the great rebalancing of the forces of life.