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Editor's Desk // Column
Don Chapman

What The Mayans Really Meant

Grandfather Martin, 2007. Don Chapman photo

(Note: I do not anticipate this being my final MidWeek column. Then again, just in case … thanks, it’s been great.)

I am no expert in the Mayan calendar that is causing rampant rumors about the world ending Friday. But I have discussed this topic with a medicine man of the Hopi people, who are descended from Mayans and share linguistic and religious similarities.

It was May 2007, on the day after my daughter Dawn graduated from Northern Arizona U. in Flagstaff. My Honolulu acupuncturist Dr. Peggy Oshiro and several of her meditation students happened to be in Arizona at the time, so Dawn and I met up with them for a trip to the Hopi reservation.

(That was the day I found myself, literally, “standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona.” But I digress.)

After a drive through the Painted Desert and past fantastic rock formations and remnants of the ancient inland sea where fossilized sea creatures are found at 5,000-feet elevation, we met the Hopi tribe’s spiritual leader in a restaurant at Second Mesa – the same man who five years before 9/11 predicted a foreign attack by airplanes on two New York high-rises, killing thousands, causing a war about money and oil.

His name is Martin Gashweseoma – pronounced just the way it looks – but people simply call him Grandfather Martin. He was 85 then, and remains in good health today, I’m told. When he speaks he looks you directly, unwaveringly in the eye. He was trained in the ways of the spirit world and the ancient practices of the Hopi people by his uncle Yeukioma, who spent 17 years imprisoned on Alcatraz for hiding his children and refusing to send them away to the white man’s schools, in 1906. Like the Dalai Lama, whom he has met twice, Grandfather Martin has been invited to speak at the United Nations.

The peaceful Hopi originated with the Mayans of Central America, he says, but at some point some of them migrated north. Up at Third Mesa where he lives is the village of Oraibi, believed to be the longest continuously inhabited piece of real estate in North America – for at least 1,100 years.

After lunch, I drove Grandfather Martin up to his house at Third Mesa with Dawn and his friend Sakina Blue-Star. Streets were sandy, and on the roof of his traditional home he was raising three juvenile golden eagles, a spiritual symbol for the Hopi. Grandfather Martin invited us in to talk some more, and he was no more enthusiastic about the world than he was when he predicted 9/11.

Producing a copy of the “Mayan Codex,” a series of highly complex hieroglyphics, he explained the meaning. The first three figures representing the Mayan/Hopi people survive attacks from Spaniards and other outside forces because they remain rooted in Mother Earth. Only when they forsake those essential roots do his people – and all people, he says – lose their way. (He gave me a copy of the drawing, which I put away for safe keeping – and so well that now I can’t find it, though I did locate my notebook from that day.)

Following Mayan-Hopi belief, Grandfather Martin said we are nearing the end of the “fourth world,” which will end with a complete “cleansing.” He drew a finger across his throat, and the Mayan drawing indeed showed the head of the fourth, rootless figure being severed. He urged wealthy people to spend their money while they can (Romney 2012 campaign?), and Hopi people to remain living in their villages high on the mesas to be safe.

After the cleansing, he believes a fifth world is coming, one populated by “one-hearted people who all speak the same language.”

I asked if there is anything we can do as individuals for this world.

“It is set. You first have to heal yourself,” he said.

So is the world going to end on Friday?

No, he does not believe so.

But a new world, or at least a new era, might very well begin.

Hope to see you there. * Quick change of subject: Labor unions are all over the news these days, from the Hawaii public teachers union brouhaha to a new “right to work” law in Michigan. Seems to me (as a former union member now in management) some balance between unions and employers is in order – there’s not enough winwin for everyone concerned.

They’ve clearly gone too far in France, where last week the cosmetic company Sephora went to court to challenge union opposition to working nights and Sundays. Sephora won. Now the two sides can, well, make up.

* Finally: Regarding Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M beating out Laie’s Manti Te’o for the Heisman Trophy: Hey, they gave Barack Obama the Nobel Peace Prize, didn’t they?

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