Bleeding at TeoTihuacan - Pyramid of the sun
When I Came to Mexico city for the first time in Feb 2006, I had such a great time in this grandiose city, I knew I had to come back as soon as I could. Not only was the APP conference such a wonderful experience , but being able to learn some of the rich history and culture of this place were definitely a highlight of my trip.
Seeing the archeological museum and seeing the ruins of Teotihuacan firsthand, but not seeing/visiting the temple of Quetzequatal, were enough to wet my appetite for a longer visit as soon as I could!!!
During that trip, I was fortunate enough to do some scar work with a local scar-tist, Abel @ the studio he worked at, Evolution. We worked on a piercer from Monterrey’s face. The day after we cut his face, some of us went to see the ruins of Teotihuacan, which for those who don’t know about it, is an archeological park containing some of the largest pyramidal structures built in the pre-Columbian Americas. Apart from the pyramidal structures, Teotihuacan is also known for its large residential complexes, the Avenue of the Dead, and numerous colorful, well-preserved murals . I should also mention that we (like most people that go to the pyramids) all had ulterior motives for our visit. We wanted to go and give a little something back, leave a little bit of ourselves there in some way shape or form. My friend Phil was going to have Samuel's wife, Sanya (then from vera cruz, now they have a shop in Palenque), tattoo his hand hand poke style. Alicia who had just gotten her besote (large bottom lip piecing ) scalpeled to almost 12mm (1/2") and was off was doing a little more bloodletting. My friend Luis and I figured we’d do something but didn’t quite know what just yet. We all found a nice secluded spot for everyone to begin undertaking their specific goals.
Luis and myself walked around and found lots of old obsidian blades artifacts scattered throughout the site. This got our minds going about how life must have been there in old days, and we saw their obsidian blades that must have been such an everyday part of traditional life! We could see that in the areas behind the avenue of the dead where there were a lot of personal habitations there . This is where people dwelled it and where we found the largest amount of pottery and obsidian shards at this site.
After collecting some nice shards, We climbed up to the top of the temple of the sun and then the temple of the moon. While on the temple of the moon, Nacho (piercer from Monterrey) took off his bandages and gave up his blood and bandages as an offering to the gods by lighting the paper on fire and chanting as the smoke from burning blood soaked papers floated upwards towards the gods. We happened to have a local 'manejador de energias' (energy worker) with us for any energy work we might need. He purified the obsidian blades we found there, and those of us not already bleeding, started to cut ourselves with those obsidian pieces, while Nacho continued with his own ritual burning the bloody papers from his fresh face scarification.
The other people atop the pyramid around us were amazed at what we were doing, but seemed to be very understanding and not afraid. They even felt non threatened enough with the situation and by us to ask us what we were doing during the procedure. We always just replied “ just relaxing, and yourself?”
When we finally cut ourselves deeply enough with the dull obsidian pieces to get some blood, we climbed down to temple of the moon and began to hike to the much larger pyramid, the temple of the sun. Here our plan was top do more of the same, but try and find longer obsidian blade shards that we could break and have a sharper edge to work with. Luckily we found many pieces on our hike.
We climbed to the top of the temple of the sun, the center has a rod sticking out to let you know where the exact center of the pyramid is for the maximum focus of energy. We all touched the center and ‘charged’ ourselves up for the second set of our cuts. We all opened our skin much easier with the new obsidian pieces and thought about next time, we just need to bring scalpels.. We all bled a bit. After we all climbed down and found a location directly in front of the temple of the sun, and the temple of the moon, On the avenue of the dead, and buried all 3 blood coated obsidian blades together.
We weren’t met with much opposition at all throughout the day, neither us atop the pyramids, nor did anyone say anything to Alicia and Phil during their day of tattooing and blood rituals, so we thought nothing of returning another time to continue the ritual with not only scalpels, but an enthusiasm and vigor not seen by many.
Of course certain variables ensured our trouble free first visit, mainly by taking place behind the avenue, not drawing that much attention, although we did cut on the pyramids, the cuts weren’t that deep or bloody but very symbolic to us. Since everything was soo easy and went soo smoothly that time, I spoke with some friends and we made plans to visit the pyramids again , but this time with some added equipment!
This second time at Teotihuacan, I was accompanied by couple of friends who after hearing about the first visit thought the blood letting was such a great idea, we decided to visit the location together, All of us with the same objective. To leave some of ourselves as a sign of respect to something much greater than ourselves that came way before us… put simply.. our objective was to do some more bloodletting and give back something that was truly ours.. our blood! And this time we again wanted to do it atop the temple of the Sun, but this time with a bit more blood.
While In Mexico city trying to find our way out the pyramids , we hired a couple drivers. Driving out there, we spoke about the craziest thing the drivers had seen , or heard of people doing there. All the while I'm marking Johns face in the back of the moving taxi. Im sure the driver had have realized something was up. After beating around the bush , we finally explained about our own rituals we were going to be doing there. Needless to say he wasn’t enthused.
When we arrive to the park, the drivers take us on a local tour tour of the how the locals make Pulque, an alcoholic drink made from the agave plant. They can also use the plant as paper ,needle and thread from this amazing plant. We realized our time was short , we had things to do and places to be. We said our good byes and promised to return after we went to do our things, With plans made to meet with our drivers at park entrance at closing time. Then we embarked on our journey.
Like last time we made our offerings as we entered the park, This time was no different, except this time the offering was an old Mayan god delicacy, chocolate! We walked in, layed our offerings and said a few words asking for the blessings of the gods, and immediately started walking towards our goal, the top of the pyramid of the sun.
We got to the top and saw other people all waiting for their turn at the center of the pyramid, or performing their own rituals there. One guy’s was cutting his waist long hair with an obsidian blade and letting it fly into the wind. There were assorted crystal rubbers and vendors selling and energizing their crystals. We took it all in and refined and finished our facial marks which would soon to be pouring with our own offerings to the gods... our blood.
When it became our turn to use the center of the pyramid, we laid Jon’s head down in the center and Chris and I started cutting. The first cut was so powerful of an experience , I looked over and could see Chris shaking from the first cut he did. I think it was overwhelming for him as he tried to give the scalpel to Miguel and didn’t want to finish the last 2 cuts. John told Chris that he had asked him to cut him to cut him for a reason... We let Jon regain his bearings and we did the last 4 cuts.
We were to busy to notice what was going on around us on top of the pyramid. It was busy with people running around not knowing what was happening to us or what we were doing, , but they all understand they had just witnessed something that wasn’t normal to them. Although this was so normal and common place to us, something that we completely didn’t think twice about, but took almost everyone else around us out of their comfort zone . Most immediately fled off the pyramid in droves.
We truly didn’t see anything wrong in what we are doing or we would have planned an escape route, At the least we would have noticed that the pyramid has only one set of stairs going up or down.. and we might have picked a better location.
Now as we were just starting to bleed, we began to realize if other people were bothered by what we were doing and leaving, chances were they were complaining to authorities of the park. Time was limited and we would have to work fast. At best , we had 5-8 minuets for the people to walk off the pyramid and find the officer at the bottom and complain ..another 10 minutes for the cops to climb up to the top to see for themselves. We had to cut Jon’s face, cut mine, Steve’s, Miguel’s face and punch Chris's flats, all in under 15 mins. We rushed all we could while still paying attention to certain factors like cross contamination as much as possible … after all , we were outside still.
After Jon’s face, I laid down and Miguel and Jon quickly cut my face, I bled and someone snapped some photos, then we punched Chris’s flats at 8mm and let him bleed for a bit, then inserted 00 glass pieces. We cut Steve and Miguel face’s and cleaned up. I picked up my camera and I snapped a few photos of johns face, that I saw when we saw the men in white and blue walking into the frame behind him. Then I noticed they were all around me and us and didn’t look happy.
We started to clean up with haste and packed our bags while the cops tried to make sense of the situation and seeing who was bleeding and why? At first they didn’t say anything just assessed the situation, All they had heard from people were that people were on top cutting each other.. possibly for aggressive reasons, possibly fighting with each other. They didnt know what was happening or why.
Since they didn’t speak to us, We tried walking off the pyramid, which they wouldn’t allow us to. They got on their walkie talkies and called for back up after seeing all the blood that was split and not really knowing what to make of the situation, or to do with us.
As they escorted us down the pyramid at gunpoint, when we looked down , we saw the bottom where awaited for us what felt like the angry mob ready for a lynching. All the people that ran off the pyramid to the police and complained, were standing in a line there watching being walked down just glared at us with looks of horror and disgust on their faces. Of course we were the evil ones to them.
As we walked down we saw 2 big trucks with men with the big guns driving up for us. When they got in front of us, one of the gunned policemen told us to get in the back of the trucks . I looked back at the looks of satisfaction on the faces of the people had just scolded us visually not even 5 mins before.
This is when I began looking around and realized we REALLY hadn’t planned well, The pyramids were built on a flat plain, surrounded by mountains in the distance. Even if we attempted to run, here was no where to run to , nowhere to go , and even if did escape the cops.. there is nothing out there but open plains and rocks. No where to even hide or take shelter ! We were fucked!
We got taken to the back of the whole archeological park, where the administration portion of the park is. And its also Behind a HUGE 20 foot walled complex. As we drive up to the front , and 2 huge doors 10 ft x 20 ft doors open and allow us park, my stomach began to drop as the feeling of uneasiness began to take over me.
This building complex looked like something straight out of a Hollywood movie . As they walked us into the HUGE boxed- in edifice, I got chills. I realized it was a huge wall with no windows..much like an execution wall. aside from this huge doorway we had just drove thru, there was no way in, no way out of this place. Once again we were trapped..
Not understanding too much but realizing we were in trouble, I felt if something really big was about to happen .. this would be the part where we get our asses kicked and left for dead, if they don’t kill us. At the least , we thought they would take all our cash and electronics and leave us in the middle of nowhere, after kicking our asses. I have had enough friends get in trouble in Mexico to know the odds meeting our demise were greater than us being set free.
We were searched and Questioned numerous times over and over to see why and what we were doing. It was either they were looking for inconsistencies in our stories or I don’t think they could believe our reasoning for why we did it.
With all the back and forth Spanish bantering/explanations.. The only thought in my mind was "this where we get our asses kicked and we lose all the cameras, video cameras and all our money," and hopefully would be lucky to get away with our lives. As sketchy of a feeling as it was, It was also comforting to know at the same time if I was to die then .. I would have died doing something I loved.. and I was ok with that. Everyone dies.. not everyone lives!
Still, just be safe, I sneakily took out the DV tapes and memory sticks out of the cameras in case they did take our things , if there was even a slight chance that I could get away with these memories, I was going to try !!.
I started smoking a cigarette (I don’t smoke) and with bags of blood paper towels, and scalpels as evidence in our bags, let alone being covered in blood, we were split up and quietly resigned ourselves to whatever our fate might be. We explained our reasoning and the respect with which we visited the place to anyone who would listen. we got taken to the main jail in a nearby town of San Juan Teotihuacan , still on the federal park where the local jail and judges/magistrates are. We had to explain ourselves to them AGAIN AND AGAIN to other local authorities and after the people gathered and saw all the bleeding Americans in the back of the trucks, they drove us to another set of jails where we were detained yet again and had to explain our situation over and over. Finally , we were taken to see the head of the park and had to explain yet again why we were there and why we did what we did. His reaction was very unexpected. He didn’t yell or sneer . he chuckled and smirked at us.
Although the authorities that had to climb the pyramid were pissed at us, the director seemed to be laughing it off. We explained yet again why we did it , and the respect in which we did it in. How we meant to leave a bit of ourselves.. not just take like everyone else does at the site .
The head of park was cool enough to tell us we had things a bit confused about what actually happened there. In Teotihuacan..he explained, was Olmec, Toltec and then Aztec cultures. Here, those cultures didn’t do blood letting – that was the Maya. Here they practiced a lot of human sacrifices. If someone come as we did , to pay respects to the old ways, and decapitated someone as a sacrifice... well that wouldn’t really be cool either.
And while they understood why we did it.. they still were not really 'cool' with it. They were a little more understanding though.
While the head of the park was more lenient with us, again it was the cops that had to actually climb the pyramid to arrest us that were pissed and pushing for stricter punishment against us!! (its a 10 – 15 minute climb @ least!!)
When the new history was presented to us in that light.. we laughed it off , excused ourselves and hoped they let us go. After they scolded us for a while and further explained the revised history lesson on the place they eventually released us and gave us police escorts back to one of the park entrances, but not the one we entered in. We had rented the cars for all day and it was an hour before when we were supposed to meet the drivers when we arrived to the parking lot. I couldnt believe they were still there!!
On our way out of the park , we stopped back at the tourist spot where they had the pulque and agave. Now we were ready for some drinks!! When the owner of the place saw us, and found out what we did, he pulled me aside , opened his shirt and showed me rows of yellow, red and white beaded necklaces he had on and told me that we had Awoken the gods ..“ Despertaron los dioses” he said .
He finished by telling us that was the most amount of blood that had been spilt there in over 500 years. . It turns out he was an Aztec ‘spiritutista’ - spiritual healer that lived on the lands for their healing energies. I don’t think there is a way anyone can live there, work there and NOT believe in the energies that run the place there. I m not a hippy but its something that really has to be felt to be understood. He allowed us go on his land and finish our ofrendas (offerings) to the gods by burning our bloody paper towels amongst the cactus that he used for the pulque we were soon to drink.
I think the fact it was Mexico and blood is regarded as a life force still , and powerful by most . Every year , in Mexico City there is a yearly pilgrimage of devoted Catholics who crawl on their hands & knees to the Basilica where the Virgin Mary appeared leaving a trail of blood from all parts of the city leading to the basilica.
There, blood is not the bio-filled fluid that get everywhere and contaminates everything, as it is regarded in the USA or Europe. That mentality towards blood REALLY helped our situation there. Here in the US, we would most likely get charged with endangering public health or something like that. The only thing they thought of charging us with was creating a public disturbance and breaking the order.
In retrospect , we did get so lucky, but FUCK IT .. Its always better to ask for forgiveness rather than permission. It wasn’t the smartest things I’ve ever done, (but damn was it fun!)