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Welcome to my Historical Fiction Blog

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Lennie at Palenque site, Chiapas, Mexico

As a lover of historical fiction, I started writing my own stories about 15 years ago.  Presently my focus is ancient Mayan culture.  My logo is a scribe depicted in a Maya codex as a rabbit; they also had monkey scribes.  As 13-Rabbit Scribe, “Ox Lahun Ub’aah,” my books tell stories of real and fictional ancient Mayans and relate information about their advanced civilization.  I’ve lived and traveled in Maya regions of southern Mexico, Belize and Guatemala learning from indigenous teachers.  My blog will focus on ancient Maya sites (called ruins), archaeology and anthropology, current and past research, and their amazing culture.  I’ll post updates on my writings and other Maya related books/articles.  Research and writing about the ancient Maya are my main creative passions, though I have other interests including gardening, locavore eating, wine tasting, enjoying nature and of course my charming husband David and our two magnificent white cats.

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Speak the Speech

Hamlet-3

Hamlet, in Shakespeare’s play about the Prince of Denmark says:

“Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to you, trippingly on the tongue, but if you mouth it, as many of your players do, I had as lief the town-crier spoke my lines.” (Act 3, Scene 2)

Language is a powerful expression of culture.

Writing systems, words, and phonetics convey meanings that reveal beliefs and cosmologic views of the people using them. The ancient Mayan language, with roots preceding Old English, is present as both oral and visible literature written on ceramic vessels, painted on murals and wall friezes, carved on stone monuments and wooden

Mayan hieroglyph carved on monument.

Mayan hieroglyph carved on monument.

lintels, and in the few books (codices) that survived burning by Spaniards. Over 2000 years of Mayan literature tells stories with two overlapping strands—one following events on the surface of the earth, the other following events in the sky or underworld. This reveals the inter-dimensional cosmology of the ancient Mayas, where worlds of people, Gods, ancestors, and demons intersect regularly.

Shakespeare’s language is far from modern English, but few would suggest paraphrasing his great works. The cadence, style, and choice of words create a period feel and bring readers into those places and times. Mayan language can also invoke their culture and environment, but is difficult to express in English. There could hardly be a more “foreign” type of writing and language to English-speakers.

Classic Mayan hieroglyphic writing.

In use for 2000 years beginning around 300 BC, Classic Mayan was a single “prestige” language, highly formalized throughout the Maya regions. Phonetic decipherments in the

Page from Dresden Codex with figures and hieroglyphs.

Page from Dresden Codex. Wikipedia.

late 1980s and 1990s showed it related to the Cholan subgroup of Mayan languages, with Ch’orti and its ancestral language Cholti the closest relatives. Maya hieroglyphs represent word signs (logograms) or syllables (syllabograms), combined into glyph blocks. Every part of the glyph block contains meaning, some markings signaling qualities of speech such as

glottalization, aspiration, or vowel length. Single blocks often contain multiple words, with considerable artistic license in visual design and format. There were multiple ways to express words, and repeated images for emphasis. Over 100 years were necessary for Western epigraphers to decipher Mayan writing, due to its complexity. About 80% of hieroglyphs can now be read, giving us direct entry into ancient Mayan literature.

The basic word order for Mayan clauses was verb-object-subject (VSO). English follows the subject-verb-object (SVO) word order. Many Mesoamerican languages follow VSO, along with Celtic, Afroasiatic, Austronesian, and Salishan languages.

Examples of these differences:

SVO     “She loves him.”          “Tutuum Yohl K’inich plants the stone.”

VSO     “Loves she him.”         “Plants the stone Tutuum Yohl K’inich.”

Language was infused with sacred itz, life essence, to the Mayas.

They valued poetic and courtly uses of language, believing the Gods were both honored and pleased when words were well spoken. This was especially important in the high culture of Maya courts, a central institution in their hierarchical society. Mayan poems typically used the device of couplets, the repeating of key words and phrases in consecutive lines, also called parallel verse. While many consider it heresy to paraphrase a finished English poem, the Mayas used paraphrase to construct poems in the first place. For them, this was a process taking place inside a language, viewing poetry itself as translation. It gives a lilting quality to Mayan language.

“Kajuljutik, kachupchutik, pa ri q’ekum, pa ri aq’ab’.”                                                           

“It shines, it shimmers, in the blackness, in the night.” – 2000 Years of Mayan Literature

 

Mah Kinah Ahau – Underworld Sun, Waterlily Jaguar

“So then they began their songs, their dances.

So then all of Xibalba arrived,

the spectators crowded the floor.

And they danced everything:

they danced the Weasel,

they danced the Poorwill,

they danced the Armadillo.” – Popol Vuh

Speak the Speech in Mayan

Speech scroll leaving mouth of ancient Mayan figure.

Speech scroll leaving mouth.

Writing historical fiction about Classic Period Mayas, I grappled with making the language reflect their unique, lyrical speech patterns. I wanted readers to immediately experience a different, courtly culture so I avoided use of contractions and created some flowery speeches for characters. From time to time, I constructed sentences following the VSO order but this didn’t always sit well with readers. An example from the first book in the series about Yohl Ik’nal drew criticism:  “Just because characters talk like Yoda doesn’t make them wise.”

“Concerned I am about your daughter,” the priestess said.

Actually, the ancient Mayas spoke this way centuries before Yoda came onto the Star Wars scene. To make Yoda wise and exotic, Lucas borrowed Mesoamerican sentence structure. But I relented and switched to SVO—“I am concerned about your daughter”—because it was the first sentence of dialogue in the book. Whenever it worked, however, I continued to have characters “Speak the speech” in their native pattern. The VSO speech pattern has persisted into contemporary times, at least among traditional Mayas. Hunbatz Men, Itzá Maya elder and daykeeper was my main teacher while I lived in Yucatan, Mexico. When he wanted to make a point and get our attention, he often used this passive voice phrase:

VSO:    “Now comes something important.”

SVO:    “Something important now comes.”

Mayan scribe writing in codex with reed brush. He has a conch shell in left hand, cut in half to hold paints.

Mayan scribe writing in codex with reed brush. He has a conch shell in left hand, cut in half to hold paints.

Ancient Mayas often used passive tense, which adds to the poetic quality of their narratives. The Popol Vuh, a 16th century book based on ancient sources, was written in alphabetic script using phonetic interpretation of K’iche’ Mayan. The beginning relates how the Gods first created the world:

“It takes a long performance and account

to complete the lighting of all the sky-earth

the fourfold siding, fourfold cornering,   

measuring, fourfold staking,   

halving the cord, stretching the cord,    

in the sky, on the earth,   

the four sides, the four corners, as it is said  

by the Maker, Modeler,     

Mother, Father  

of life, of humankind.”                                                      – Popol Vuh,  Sam Colop version

 

Animals speaking on roll-out vase.

Animals speaking on roll-out vase.

Read culturally authentic Mayan stories in my novels about ancient Mayan queens.

BUY NOW

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Mists of Palenque Series Four Great Mayan Queens

Resources

Dennis Tedlock.  2000 Years of Mayan Literature.  University of California Press, Berkeley, 2010.

Sam Colop & Luis Enrique. Popol Wuj: Versión poética k’iche’. Cholsamaj, Guatemala City, 1999.

John Curl.  Inca, Maya & Aztec Poetry: Translations and Biographies of the Poets.  Bilingual Press, Arizona State University.

Wikipedia.  “Classic Maya language and Verb-subject-object.” Accessed 3/31/18.

Danny Law & David Stuart.  “Classic Mayan: An overview of language in ancient hieroglyphic script.”  In Judith Aissen, Nora England & Roberto Zavola Maldonado (eds). The Mayan Languages. Routledge Language Family Series. New York, 2017.

 

What’s In A Name?

Romeo and Juliet

Romeo and Juliet

In Shakespeare’s play about the eternal love story Romeo and Juliet she asks:

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.” Juliet was referring to their last names, for she was a Capulet and Romeo was a Montague, two feuding families of medieval Verona. As we know, things did not end well for the star-crossed lovers. It appears there is more to a name than Juliet imagined.

Names are important when writing historical fiction. They conjure personalities, attitudes, strengths and weaknesses, traits and inclinations. Can you imagine King Melvin of the Round Table instead of King Arthur? Mildred instead of Joan of Arc? Consider how much mystery would be lost if we mourned over the travails of Sam and Sally rather than Heloise and Abelard.

In historical fiction, names convey a sense of time and place. Names are part of creating the “imagined world” in which the story takes place. When the characters’ names are discordant with the period and culture, it creates a jarring dissonance for readers. How characters are named adds to mood and theme, as well as signaling qualities that shape their personalities.

That said, what if you’re writing about a culture and time that is far removed from the experience of most Western-educated people? How do names then figure into the construction of world and characters? Herein lies a difficulty for writers of ancient worlds fiction, set in cultures that are vastly different than those of historic Europe. Consider the complexity of names from ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Asia, Polynesia, and my area:  the ancient Mayas of Mesoamerica.

Picture of hanging gardens of Babylon

Babylon in Mesopotamia

 

 

Picture of Palenque in Chiapas, Mexico

Palenque in Mesoamerica
National Geographic

Names in ancient languages vs names translated into English.

My approach to naming characters has been to use actual ancient Mayan names as phonetically spelled by researchers and epigraphers. Since conventions for these spellings have changed over the years, I had to choose which to use and selected those that seemed friendliest to English-speakers. Not all writers of ancient Mayan historical fiction do this; several use English translations of Mayan names, or a combination of translated and phonetically spelled names. I feel it’s important to use historic characters’ actual names phonetically spelled in Arabic letters. This preserves the cadence and qualities of ancient Mayan speech and helps create the feeling tone of their “imagined world.” To me, saying their names creates a vibration that resonates with their personality and attitudes. If I used English translations of their names, an essential quality would be lost, a sense of different place and culture that puts the reader into the aura of ancient Mayan civilization.

For example, these are the actual Mayan names of the four queens in my “Mists of Palenque” series, with the English translations. The Mayan names are pronounced using romance language vowel sounds: a = ah, e = eh, i = ee, o = oh, u = ooh.

Mayan name                           English translation

Yohl Ik’nal                               Her Heart/Center of North Wind

Sak K’uk                                   White Resplendent Quetzal

Tz’aakb’u Ahau                       Accumulator/Producer of Lords

K’inuuw Mat                           Sun-Possessed Cormorant

To me, a great deal is lost when these Mayan names are not used. I’ve read other books where the Maya characters have names such as Jeweled Skirt, Red Flint, Snake Jaguar, Tree Orchid, Iguana Wind, and Big Deer. These are easier for English-speakers to remember and pronounce, but lack cultural ambiance that sets mood and tone.

What’s In a Name is a Great Deal.

To disagree with Juliet, I believe names matter a lot in stories. My choice to use Mayan names for characters and places has led to bad reviews by some readers, who give low ratings with complaints that they couldn’t get past the difficult names. I wonder if they feel the same way about fiction set in ancient Egypt or Biblical times, with long and complex names but more familiar to

Picture of Toltec king on throne

Toltec City in Mesoamerica
Iztaccaltzin on Throne

European-based cultures. Moving beyond one’s comfort zone is essential to appreciate cultures that are very different from your own. Indigenous Mesoamerican cultures have some of the most complex names I’ve found, yet are rich in history and accomplishments. Recently I read a book about the pre-Aztec cultures around Lake Meztliapan, the Toltecs and Chichimecs. Many actual names were used—Ihuitimal, Eloxochitl, Topiltzin, Citlallotoc, Tlazolteotl—and I preferred these to translated names that were also used, such as Black Otter, Spear Fish, and Jade Flower.

 

One Concession to Difficult Names.

Of the four queens in my series, the third has the most difficult name:  Tz’aakb’u Ahau. This name does not roll easily off the tongue. To make reading (and writing) go more smoothly, I gave this queen the childhood name Lalak. There was no information about what her actual childhood name might have been, for she only appears in hieroglyphs after being granted her royal name. Since the love story between her and the ruler of Palenque is a dominant theme in the book, I found nice parallelism in the pairing of their names:  Lalak and Pakal—eternal Mayan lovers but with a happier ending than Romeo and Juliet.

 

Newly released print version–March 1, 2018!

The Mayan Red Queen: Tz’aakb’u Ahau of Palenque

The Mayan Red Queen

 

Join me for book release events:

March 8, 7-8 pm         Another Read Through in Portland, OR

March 23, 7-8 pm       The Book Bin in Salem, OR

April 7, 4-6 pm           Silverton Grange in Silverton, OR

Photo of Leonide Martin at El Mirador, Guatemala

Leonide Martin at El Mirador, Guatemala

An Author’s Appreciation

Leonide MartinIn the writing process, an author comes to realize that readers are an invaluable part. We may write due to internal compulsions, and our books are fulfillment of the creative process, but without people to read those books, something very critical is missing. As we move into 2018, I’m reminded of how blessed I am to have your support and friendship as readers.

 

 

 

In appreciation, I’m giving you a gift. This is a nonfiction booklet I wrote bringing together material about Mayan Queens and women rulers in several cities in Mexico and Guatemala.

Magnificent Mayan Queens:

Native women of Power and Vision, Maya Preclassic to Late Classic Periods.

Magnificent Mayan Queens_V2Booklet on Mayan Queens

 

Why do we read?

Storytelling has been part of  human society as long as anyone can remember. Before writing, primitive people gathered around a campfire to listen in rapt attention to the local storyteller weave tales of adventure or mystery. Now we sit down with a good book, e-reader, tablet, smart phone, even the TV or DVD for the same experience. Why is reading or listening to stories so compelling for humans? Psychologists who study the “Theory of Mind” say we’re always trying to guess what other people are thinking and feeling, even though we do this unconsciously. Why is this

Group of young people reading.

something people universally do? Because this helps us learn which people we can trust and which we cannot. It also provides basic foundations for social interaction; without this we would be in a quandary about how to respond to others.

Not much has changed in this quintessentially human trait in thousands of years, except the way we engage with stories. Researchers at the University of Liverpool found that social topics make up two thirds of people’s conversation through public media, regardless of age or gender. We continue to be fascinated by other people’s stories, one reason why gossip columns and celebrity cults stay popular.  There’s no doubt a voyeur element here, but researchers believe the key value underlying this is empathy. A University of North Carolina psychologist reported that people with high empathy characteristics more easily engage in stories. However, this characteristic varies greatly among people. Some are easily touched emotionally while others seem unaffected by even the saddest or most miraculous stories.

 

Empathy is “the ability to identify oneself mentally with a person or thing and so understand the other’s feelings or meaning.”  Native Americans described this ability as being able to walk in another person’s moccasins; the proverbial “walk a mile in my shoes.”An interesting research finding is that people who read more have an 83% chance of forming excellent relationships, while those who seldom read have only a 14% chance.  It seems that when you can see the world through another’s eyes, you have more ability to form good relationships. Research suggests that this drive to seek understanding about the experiences and perspectives of other people is deeply ingrained, perhaps even instinctive.

Woman reading from tablet.

Man reading book.

 

 

 

 

So keep on reading! 

Reading fiction is good for you. It opens a world onto other people and places, where you learn and have vicarious experiences. It goes beyond providing entertainment and diversion, and helps you develop social skills that enhance your relationships. Of course, I’ve got a few good books I can recommend:

Mists of Palenque Series
Four Great Mayan Queens

The Visionary Mayan Queen: Yohl Ik’nal of Palenque

The Controversial Mayan Queen: Sak K’uk of Palenque

The Mayan Red Queen: Tz’aakb’u Ahau of Palenque

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Writing Process: Inspiration for The Mayan Red Queen Story

Writing Process

Leonide Martin engrossed in The Writing Process

Exploring The Writing Process With Leonide Martin.

In this new series of posts, I’ll be taking a look at The Writing Process. Whenever I’ve done an author interview, one question always asked is how I navigate the process of writing. Every author follows a personal writing process, so no single formula fits for all. There are common steps we all go through in conceptualizing, developing, planning, researching, writing routine, revising, editing, and publishing. This series will explore each step in the writing process, using my own experiences as examples.

The book I most recently completed is The Mayan Red Queen: Tz’aakb’u Ahau of Palenque. This is the third book in the Mists of Palenque series Book Cover for The Mayan Red Queenabout four remarkable ancient Mayan women. Released in 2017 as an ebook, it’s now in the process of getting into print with publication date March 1, 2018. The Mayan Red Queen is the example through which I’ll dissect my journey through The Writing Process.

 

 

Inspiration for The Mayan Red Queen Story

My husband and I bought a house in Mérida, Yucatan, Mexico in 2005 and lived there for five years. Our main purpose was for me to become immersed in Mayan culture and history to better write historical fiction about this great civilization. Yucatan was a perfect location, peppered with Maya ruins and infused with a vibrant modern Mayan culture. I had already written my first historical fiction about the Mayas before we moved to Mérida, and now had a new book in mind. The first book, Dreaming the Maya Fifth Sun: A Novel of Maya Wisdom and the 2012 Shift in Consciousness, is a story of two women separated by centuries yet connected by

Writing Processa web of history, whose destinies intertwine as the end of the Maya Calendar on December 21, 2012 approaches. Of course, the Mayas never predicted the calendar—much less the world—would end in 2012. For them, one great cycle rolled over into the next. This perspective is dramatized in the story.

While visiting Mexico during the years before we moved there, I’d been captivated by the ancient city Palenque located in southern Chiapas. I’d already done considerable research to write the first book, but was spurred to delve more deeply into the archeology and history of Palenque. Several famous archeological things happened there:  John L. Stephens and Frederick Catherwood wrote their Incidents of Travel books that became international best-sellers in the mid-1800s and put Palenque on the map.  Alberto Ruz Lhuillier excavated the tomb of famous ruler K’inich Janaab Pakal in 1952; it compares in riches to King Tut’s of Egypt. The series of Mesa Redondas conducted by Linda Schele and Merle Green Robertson during the 1970s brought together Mayanists from several disciplines; their combined skills deciphered the “king list” of Palenque rulers. Excavations by Arnoldo Gonzalez Cruz and Fanny Lopez Jimenez uncovered the tomb of a royal woman in 1994, her skeleton permeated with red cinnabar; it was the first queen’s burial ever found among the ancient Mayas.

Enter The Red Queen

Here is where the inspiration for my next book about the Mayas began. As I stood in the narrow passageway and peered into the chamber holding her empty sarcophagus, I wondered who this woman was. Her bones had been removed to Mexico City in a museum for preservation and study. Her burial adornments were in the Palenque museum; a jadeite mask, jade diadem, jade and stone jewelry, ceramics, tools, symbols of status. The partially restored pyramid housing her tomb (Temple XIII) adjoined the huge burial monument for Pakal (Temple of the Inscriptions); this made researchers think there was a relationship. By pure luck, I was browsing through Dante Books in Mérida and came upon a book about her:  La Reina Roja by Adriana Malvido.  I’d never have found this book unless I was in Mexico; I’d never been able to read it unless I had continued studying Spanish while there.

Red Queen sarcophagus Temple XIII

Sarcophagus of The Red Queen, Temple XIII

Jadeite Burial Mast of the Red Queen

Jadeite Burial Mask of The Mayan Red Queen

 

 

 

Temples of Inscriptions, XIII, XII at Palenque

Temple of the Inscriptions, Temple XIII, Temple XII at Palenque

 

La Reina Roja: El secreto de los mayas en Palenque was written in 2006 by a journalist from Mexico City, working in consultation with INAH, Mexico’s institute for preserving national culture and history. It read like a novel yet contained extensive factual information about the archeological excavation and historical background. I learned that the woman whose red bones were interred might be Pakal’s grandmother, mother, wife, or daughter-in-law. At that time, good techniques for analysis of teeth and bones were not available. It took over ten years for scientists to determine that the Red Queen’s skeleton and Pakal’s skeleton did not share DNA, and their teeth had different strontium isotope signatures. This eliminated his grandmother and mother; making his wife

Bust of K'inich Janaab Pakal, Palenque ruler

K’inich Janaab Pakal
Ruler of Palenque 615-683 CE
Portrait carved in limestone

most likely to receive such an honored and richly adorned burial.

Reading Malvido’s book, I learned about the other candidates for the burial and became fascinated by this lineage of royal women. Pakal’s grandmother Yohl Ik’nal was the first Mayan women to rule independently, causing a shift in dynastic succession. His mother assumed the throne after her brother was killed in Palenque’s worst defeat. She weathered opposition and chaos to keep the throne until her son Pakal came of age. His wife was from another city, lived many years in Palenque and bore him four sons. His daughter-in-law kept the dynasty going although she married his youngest son; the older sons had no surviving heirs.

 

The Nucleus of a Story Emerges

It was simply evident that I had to tell the stories of these four great Mayan queens. At first I conceptualized a single book in four parts, did lots more research and made an outline. While in Mérida I began writing about Yohl Ik’nal, but the writing process was difficult. Anyone who has lived the ex-pat life knows how many distractions abound. Eating out at fine restaurants was inexpensive;  there was abundant good wine; too many parties and musical performances; endless excursions to interesting sites around Yucatan; discussion groups and teas and local fiestas and carnivals. Serious writing had to wait until we returned to the States and then I discovered there was too much material for one book. The result: The Mists of Palenque series of four books, each dedicated to a queen.

Writing Process

Leonide Martin doing research in The Writing Process

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gift to you:

Sign up for my blog and receive PDF of my white paper “Why the World Didn’t End in 2012.”Pyramid at Chichen Itza 2012

Already signed up? Email me and request the white paper at lenniem07@yahoo.com

 

 

 

Resources

Precolumbian Art Research Institute. PARI Online Publication. Palenque Round Tables 1-8. (Mesas Redondas). 1973-1993.  http://www.mesoweb.com/pari/round_table.html

Precolumbian Art Research Institute. PARI Online Publication. The First Mesa Redonda of Palenque. 1973. http://www.mesoweb.com/pari/publications/RT01/RT01_00.html

Adriana Malvido.  La Reina Roja: El secreto de los mayas en Palenque. Conaculta/INAH, Mexico City, Mexico, 2006.

John L. Stephens. Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatan. Volume I.  With illustrations by Frederick Catherwood. Dover Pub., Inc., New York, 1969. Originally published in 1841 by Harper & Brothers, New York.

David Stuart & George Stuart.  Palenque: Eternal City of the Maya. Thames & Hudson Ltd, London, 2008.

Arnoldo Gonzalez Cruz.  The Red Queen. Mesoweb Online Publications, 1994 excavations of Temple XIII, Palenque.  http://www.mesoweb.com/palenque/features/red_queen/text.html

Arnoldo Gonzalez Cruz.  La Reina Roja, una tumba real en Palenque, 2011. (Wikipedia)

 

 

 

 

 

Guest Blogpost by J. Mitchel Baker

Guest blogpost by J. Mitchel Baker

It’s my pleasure to host a guest blogpost by J. Mitchel Baker as part of his blog tour. He is featuring his book Journey Within, a lyrical mix of memoir, adventure, and philosophy as he follows his soul’s call to search for the higher design in his life. He embarks on a personal journey into the wilderness, encountering raw nature with its survival challenges and potential for spiritual revelation. This is the true story of a man whose career involves nature and animals, yet whose inner voice called him into the wilderness. After years of postponement, he embarked on his personal quest into the unknown. In raw nature, he encounters unexpected challenges and finds courage through his animals to forge onward. The book highlights “the duality between both the physical and the spiritual. It carries a message of courage and inspiration to connect with life and the inner self, taking the road less traveled, and living authentically.”

Below are Baker’s reflections on the mystical powers inherent in nature. My review of his book follows. — Leonide Martin 

 

J. Mitchel Baker

J. Mitchel Baker

The mystique of the wild

I rage over the discourtesies shown by other drivers on an overfilled urban stretch of road. I stress over the relentless looming of debt. I obsess with the needs of my children. My hypertension rises with the vagaries of office politics and oppressive timelines. This is an ordinary day, played over yet again and again. But is this the life we were truly meant to live? Oh how I wish I were back in the wilds. The wild is often in my dreams; memories acute with wisdom learned.

Find a place in nature: the ocean, the forest, a river, or a mountain top. Sit and simply listen.

It begins with absolute silence. An ear accustomed to too much input will resist the auditory vacuum. A body learned in the ways of constant motion and a full agenda will fight for purpose. But be utterly still. Do not speak. Breathe deeply. Allow the ego to quiet itself. And be mindful of all things internal and external. There you can find your true self. There you can hear your true inner voice. There, in that setting devoid of space and time, is where you find awareness.

The listless flapping of leaves and the slow sway of the trees in the breeze naturally aligns our rhythms to the earth. The colorful grandeur of a mountain range as the sun settles demands we feel small and insignificant, yet happy to be alive. The vastness and brilliance of the stars on a cloudless night remind us we are part of something greater than ourselves. Sacred moments such as these give us pause to reflect on what is truly important in our lives.

The mysticism of these singular moments is the self-realization that the separation between each of us and nature is an illusion. Everything in nature is connected. Her millions of component parts contribute to create a perfect whole. We are part of that whole. She guides us toward something larger than ourselves, forces us to exist in the moment. Not yesterday. Not tomorrow. Now.

“There came to me a delicate, but at the same time a deep, strong and sensuous enjoyment of the beautiful green earth, the beautiful sky and sun; I felt them, they gave me inexpressible delight, as if they embraced and poured out their love upon me.  It was I who loved them, for my heart was broader than the earth; it is broader now than even then, more thirsty and desirous. After the sensuous enjoyment always come the thought, the desire: That I might be like this; that I might have the inner meaning of the sun, the light, the earth, the trees and grass, translated into some growth of excellence in myself, both of the body and of mind; greater perfection of physique, greater perfection of mind and soul; that I might be higher in myself.”

–   Richard Jefferies, The Story of My Heart 

The mystique of nature is neither measurable nor empirical but rather a deep experience that heals and inspires; an understanding all indigenous people across the globe have acknowledged for thousands of years; each embracing the earth as their mother. The emotional connection is there if you sit and simply listen. But perhaps we have travelled too far into our urban sprawls.

 

A Journey WithinA Journey Within by J. Mitchel Baker

Review by Leonide Martin

This first person account of the author’s quest for his destiny and personal truth is both lyrical and intensely vivid.  Driven by an inner vision to seek the fullness of who he is, Baker plans an adventure on horseback into the wild country of New Mexico. With his dog and three companions, he braves uncharted mountain terrain along the Continental Divide, taking few supplies and depending on nature to provide most needs. The congenial group of men, horses and dog faces unforeseen obstacles and must use wits and instinct to surmount flooded rivers, steep craggy paths, and disappearing trails.

Weaving through scary accounts of close calls with disaster are Baker’s inner reflections, revealing a profound philosophy and dedication to following his spiritual path. These deeply felt considerations are infused with an appreciation and honoring of nature that borders on the mystical. His love for animals and the natural world shines through. He is a man capable of enduring heart rending loss and yet remaining open to the richness of life’s experiences. Quotes at the beginning of each chapter frame the issues he grapples with, or provide inspirations drawn from a surprising range of teachers, from Jung and Freud to Mark Twain and Thoreau, Leo Tolstoy, Yogi Bera and modern mystic Caroline Myss.

Baker must make choices toward the journey’s end about following his own goals or keeping solidarity with his companions and ensuring safety. His selfless decision truncates the quest and he ponders what more might have been forthcoming had he continued. Feeling that the journey is incomplete and spiritual revelations remain, Baker ends the story setting off on another nature encounter with his horse, dog and one friend. The journey continues as he seeks to discover a greater design for his life.

Preconceptions commonly held about “cowboys” and outdoorsmen in the southwest are dismantled by this sensitive, eloquent memoir.

Continental Divide

Continental Divide

 

Changes for Leonide Martin Blog

Leonide MartinBroadening Perspectives: Historical Fiction, the Process of Writing, and the Author Community

“People say, ‘What advice do you have for people who want to be writers?’ I say, they don’t really need advice, they know they want to be writers, and they’re gonna do it. Those people who know that they really want to do this and are cut out for it, they know it.”
—R.L. Stine, Interview with Writers’ Digest 2011)

Leonide Martin Blog has focused on ancient Maya civilization since I started it over 5 years ago. The astonishing Mayan culture is still the focus of my writing, as I press forward to finish the final book in the Mists of Palenque series about four great Mayan queens. The first three books are published as ebooks, and the first two as print books. Book 3 is set for print publication in

Mists of Palenque: Four Great Mayan Queens

Mists of Palenque Series
Four Great Mayan Queens

March, 2018 and if I can keep on schedule Book 4 will come out in both print and ebook formats in November, 2018. After that, who knows? There is yet another Mayan queen in the ruling family of Pakal in Palenque, though little is known about her. Many fascinating stories remain to be told about the Mayas whose civilization lasted over two millennia and extended over a huge territory stretching from southern Mexico to Honduras. Yet, other historical subjects are starting to whisper their alluring promise. I might be tempted to write fiction drawing from my own family history:  French Catholics of south Louisiana, with branches coming from central France to New Orleans, and others migrating to Nova Scotia and New Brunswick to become Acadians. The Acadian story is dramatic, heroic, and tragic; a long tale of persecution and diaspora, until many arrived in south Louisiana bayou country to become today’s Cajuns.

 

 

 

Deportation of Acadians

Deportation of Acadians
The Canadian Encyclopedia

The Process of Writing 

I’m also planning to include more content about the process of writing, including background into the characters and story lines of the Mayan queens series. This will begin with exploring the

The Mayan Red Queen: Tz'aakb'u Ahau

Tz’aakb’u Ahau
The Red Queen

historic and fictional characters in The Mayan Red Queen: Tz’aakb’u Ahau of Palenque. Readers will get insight into these famous and not-so-famous Mayas, and how I shaped their characters from what is known and what I could imagine within context of the reasonable and the inferential. With the print book being published in six months, having background will enhance readers’ ability to put the people, places and story in context.

Author Community

Another new direction for Leonide Martin Blog is hosting guest blog posts and selected book reviews. Engaging with the author community is stimulating and informative; we learn so much from each other. I’ve done guest blog posts over the past few years, and always enjoyed the connections. I’m interested in author blog tours, a less grueling process than actual bookstore tours. So, I will be hosting an author in early November as part of his blog tour. Presently I’m reading his book and finding it heartfelt, lyrical, and gripping. Animal and nature lovers take note: this is a book about the deep spiritual connections we have with our environment and non-human companions. I will post my review here on my blog, and at online websites. In case you’re interested in reading the book here is the link:

J. Mitchel Baker, A Journey Within

“Animals hold great meaning in my soul. . . Shamans consider the swan totem to be a reminder: we are souls having a human a human experience. Their message is intended to awakenWhite swans flying our spiritual evolution, to develop and honor our intuition, to trust our instincts, to find our own inner strength.” – J. Mitchel Baker

“Until one has loved an animal a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.” – Anatole France (Ch. 11, A Journey Within)

 

 

 

I hope this expanded approach that Leonide Martin Blog is taking will create engagement with a wider range of readers and authors. You can connect with me through several platforms – I invite you to explore further and would greatly appreciate a closer relationship with you. Each platform has a “Follow” or “Friend” or “Like” button for you to click.

BookBub

Goodreads

Amazon

Facebook

Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway

“As a writer, you should not judge, you should understand.” ― Ernest Hemingway

Robert Frost

Robert Frost

 

 

“No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.”
– Robert Frost

Mayan Queens Kept Worlds in Balance

Mayan Queen

Mayan Queen Holding Effigies of Two Deities

Mayan Queens and Kings were Shaman-Rulers charged to Maintain Balance between the Three Worlds of the Maya Cosmos.

Mayan Queens were powerful leaders in ancient Maya culture. Women rulers are well-documented during the mid to late Classic Period, 300-900 CE. Called K’uhul Ixik, Holy Lady in classic Mayan language, their role included entering shamanic states to access spirit domains and drawn upon the powers of deities and ancestors. The rituals rulers performed, and the sacred architecture of pyramids and temples in which rituals took place, were symbols of creation in the cosmos.

 

Pyramid-Temples

Temple of Inscriptions – Temple XIII – Temple of Skull (c.700)

 

 

“They are all instruments for accessing spiritual power from the creative act . . . they are signposts on the Maya road to reality stretching across the landscape of history.”  ̶  Maya Cosmos

 

 

 

 

 

Mayan queens and kings did rituals of sacrifice and sympathetic magic.

Accessing powers of Otherworld Gods and Ancestors was not easily achieved. Mayan queens or kings had to make appropriate offerings and know how to call the deities’ names properly. The most common sacrifice was self-bloodletting, because blood was ultimately sacred as itz, sticky fluid that was ch’ulul, the life force energy, life-essence and creative substance. The shaman-ruler let blood from tongue, earlobes or genitals to concentrate and channel this life force from the Otherworld.

“In a sense, the shamans were like modern engineers. But instead of nuclear power plants and electrical grids they used pyramids and Vision Serpent portals. Instead of electron flows they used itz. The spilling of blood, like the throwing of a giant breaker switch, brought life giving energy pouring into the universe from the underlying force fields of the Otherworld.”  ̶  The Shaman’s Secret

Maya shamans

Mayan Shaman-Priests

 

Rituals for accessing spiritual powers propelled the shaman-ruler into altered states of consciousness, both by the act of self-bloodletting and use of mind-altering substances. The objective was to receive a tangible vision and an overwhelming experience of the deities; essentially a state of Divine Union or Communion. It is sympathetic magic through conjuring Divine beings, often intentional calling of a certain deity. Since all things mirror each other, in Mayan cosmology, when rituals re-enacted events from Creation Mythology, or conjured a warrior ancestor to guide a king through battle, these supernatural events were reactivated and manifested on earth.

 

Lady Kab’al Xoc Conjures an Ancestor Warrior

Lady Kab’al Xoc, first wife of Itzamnaaj Bahlam of Yaxchilan, was a famous Mayan queen. She is shown on carved lintels doing a bloodletting ritual, drawing a rope embedded with thorns through her tongue. As her blood fell on bark paper in a censer, it was set on fire and the rising smoke turned into the Vision Serpent. An ancestor warrior emerges from the snake’s open jaws, brandishing a shield and spear with Teotihuacan imagery (Tlaloc face mask, mosaic war helmet, double pointed spear). The ancestor brought important messages to guide the king during the upcoming battle.

Mayan Queen Sacrifice

Lady Kab’al Xoc Performing Self-Bloodletting

 

 

Mayan Queen Vision

Lady Kab’al Xoc Invoking Warrior Ancestor

Equinox Rituals Brought the Worlds Into Balance

An important responsibility of Mayan queens and kings was to perform rituals at key times according to their calendars. The Mayas had numerous calendars and many rituals were needed. Solar calendar events were especially potent: equinoxes, solstices, zenith, and eclipses. Each mid-fall and mid-spring, the sun reaches a point in its ecliptic when day and night come into balance. The concept of balance was critical to the Mayas; rulers were charged to keep the three worlds—Underworld, Middleworld, and Upperworld—in harmonious relationship. Only when the needs of deities of each realm were satisfied, and communion with deities was performed correctly, would humans enjoy lives of peace and abundance on earth.

Mayan solar priests, K’inob, used techniques to track the sun’s movement and predict accurately when the day of perfect balance arrived.  On the equinoxes, rulers would undertake the prescribed rituals, making offerings to the Gods of the calendar periods and drawing their blessings into the world. Rulers conjured the Vision Serpent and sought prophesy for the coming calendar period.

There were dire consequences if balance was not maintained between the worlds. When balance was lost, the natural world was in danger. If this world, the Middleworld of earth , remained out of balance with the other two worlds long enough, it could bring destruction to a city, a region, or perhaps the entire Maya lands. Many experts believe that losing balance in the natural world is what led to the collapse of Maya civilization. The “Maya Collapse” is a complex phenomenon, not readily explained by any single factor, following different courses and timelines in various parts of the Maya lands. Beyond doubt environmental changes played a major role.

 

El Mirador

El Mirador in Guatemala
300 BCE – 150 CE

El Mirador Out of Balance

The collapse of El Mirador is reasonably well explained. It was a thriving Pre-Classic city of about 100,000, surrounded by satellite cities in northern Guatemala that flourished between 300 BCE and 150 CE. Perhaps the largest Maya city, its main pyramid sat on plazas covering 45 acres, on a platform 980×2000 feet, rising 230 feet tall. Toward the end of its occupation, extravagant building programs using inordinate amounts of plaster were carried out; some of the thickest plaster coatings ever found. To create lime plaster and cement, the Mayas burned massive amounts of wood, causing deforestation in surrounding areas. The swampy regions that supplied water and rich mud for agriculture were destroyed by clay runoff from damaged forest floors. With no close-by rivers, and perhaps a time of relative drought, the once great city faced declining water, food, and wood for fire. Between 100-200 CE, El Mirador and other cities of Mirador Basin were abandoned. Archeologist Richard Hanson, prime investigator of El Mirador, says the underlying reason for its decline was a loss of balance with the natural environment. The rulers and elite became immersed in “conspicuous consumption” through over-building using excessive resources, trying to sustain an image of wealth and progress. This lack of foresight and judgment—an imbalance between the worlds—led to the collapse of civilization in the region.

Mayan queens and kings were successful at keeping the worlds in balance for over a millennium. Thousands of large cities thrived in a difficult tropical jungle climate. The Mayas learned to adapt agriculture and conserve natural resources, and created the most brilliant, artistically and technologically advanced civilization in the Americas. While they upheld their expansive cosmology and properly honored the Gods and Ancestors, their culture succeeded. They lived an ongoing re-creation of their worlds by mutual Divine-human interaction; in essence, shaman-rulers became “mothers” of the Gods even as the Gods gave birth to humanity and the worlds.

Around 900-1000 CE that creative partnership dissolved. Not only environmental factors, but an internal spiritual dissonance led to abandonment of Maya cities. The Holy Lords and Ladies lost ability to fulfill their mandate, the deities were no longer satisfied, and the common people left for better livelihoods elsewhere. But this is yet another story.

 

Read about how Mayan queens kept worlds in balance in my book series about Mayan Queens in the ruling lineage of Palenque.

Click Links Below:

Mayan Queens Books

Mists of Palenque
Series About Mayan Queens

 

The Visionary Mayan Queen: Yohl Ik’nal of Palenque

The Controversial Mayan Queen: Sak K’uk of Palenque

The Mayan Red Queen: Tz’aakb’u Ahau of Palenque

 

 

 

Resources

Chip Brown. El Mirador, the Lost City of the Maya. Smithsonian Magazine, May 2011.

John Clark and Richard Hansen.  The Architecture of Early Kingship. In Royal Courts of the Ancient Maya, Vol. 2 (Eds. Takeshi Inomata and Stephen Houston. Westview Press, Boulder, CO, 2001.

David Freidel, Linda Schele, and Joy Parker.  Maya Cosmos. Three Thousand Years on the Shaman’s Path. William Morrow and Co., New York, 1995.

Douglas Gillette.  The Shaman’s Secret. Bantam Books, New York, 1997.

 

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Mists of Palenque Series

Mists of Palenque Series: Four Great Mayan Queens

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