As part of the trip, we spent time with a Mayan woman (actually a Tz’utujil Mayan) named Dolores Ratzun. You can read about her life here. If you go to Atitlan, hire her for a tour – she is a superb guide.
She took us to two Mayan shrines and to Mass at the Catholic Church in Atitlan (built with the steps of the old Mayan shrine) and then to her parents’ home. As her mother showed us her two looms for weaving ritual cloth, Dolores asked me about cloth in Jewish life.
I told her about the Tallit, tzitzit, and techelet and she shared the symbolism of the cloth that her mother had woven. Dolores – who is a healer and shaman -wanted to learn more about the tallit so I am sending her some youtube clips.
Meeting her reminded me of one of the most powerful experiences that I had as a child in Jewish Day School. We made our own tallesim, choosing the cloth and then learning to tie the tzitzit. My tallis, made of a light denim fabric with a rainbow trim, is now one of the objects I consider most sacred in my life.
It took traveling to Guatemala for me to realize how important it is to retain the connection to sacred fabric and to the quiet power of interwoven strings. I’ll think of her mother’s loom as I make the “al tzitzit” blessing.