June 09, 2008

Worshiping the crystal skulls

Mexico's crystal skulls, from reel to real life

The latest Indiana Jones sequel is inspired by an ancient Maya legend, one that still inspires worship today.Few of today's crystal skulls can be documented any further back than the 1860s, when Europe was swept by a rage for pre-Hispanic "relics." Frenchman Eugene Boban, a colorful antiques dealer with a checkered past and murky political ties, set up a store here to supply the trade after the French invaded Mexico.

Eventually he carted skulls between New York, Paris and Mexico City, selling them to private collectors.

Buyers were often told that the skulls were made by the Mayas, whose civilization peaked between 300 and 900 A.D. But no crystal skull has ever been excavated from a documented archaeological site. Some believe the skulls can emit and focus light, project visions and even influence terrestrial forces.

Today, these beliefs persist in the jungles of southern Mexico among the Lacandon, one of the few isolated Maya peoples, some of whom still worship the skulls.

In the shadow of the Palenque ruins, Lacandon priest K'in Garcia fans incense and holds a heavy crystal skull above his head during ceremonies for Hacha'kyum, the Mayan god of creation.

Garcia, son of the Lancandon's most respected elder, Chan Kin, believes the skull has special powers, including the ability to stave off sickness and deforestation in the rain forest where the last Lacandon live.
More New Age nuttiness:It's possible that the near-human sized fakes may have been inspired by two real crystal skulls now on display at Mexico City's respected National Anthropology Museum. Much smaller and less perfectly carved than the ones held at the museums in Europe, these jewelry-sized trinkets, about an inch in height, are in the Aztec and Oaxaca collections, where the museum classifies them as either late pre-Hispanic or early colonial.

The skulls' legend has spawned a new breed of followers. New-agers have associated the skulls with the belief that the Mayan "Long Count" calendar runs out on Dec. 21, 2012, when it reaches the end of a 5,126-year cycle. According to this theory, all 13 skulls must be reunited and lined up together to prevent the world from falling off its axis.

"I personally feel that [the skulls] are coming out now because humanity needs the information, their energy and they have probably their own purpose why they're coming out: to help us to create world peace," said Joshua " Illinois" Shapiro, 53, a self-described Crystal Skull Explorer who makes a living touring and lecturing.

Shapiro has traveled the world seeking out skulls, and believes they link us to knowledge of past worlds like the Mayas, the lost civilization of Atlantis, or even extraterrestrials.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Indiana Jones and the Stereotypes of Doom.

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