by Sharon Brown, Sacred Fire Olympia WA
On August 3, 2001 I married the Weather Beings. I became a quiatlzques (granicera) a “weather worker” in the tradition of the Nahua peoples of Mexico’s Central Highlands.
Like a new bride, I felt elated, eager–and not completely sure of what I was getting into. I’d had a strong spiritual relationship with the unseen since I was a child, but my eclectic Nature Spirit/psychic/Tao/Sufi practice was no practice at all. Now, I was taking life-long vows in a copal-smoke-filled concrete room in Nepopualco, Morelos, Mexico.
Two days before, I’d met Don Lucio Campos de Elizade, a Nahua Caporal Mayor (Major Weather Worker) in this same place–his altar room and healing consultorio. He told our small group an amazing story–as a young man he’d been hit by lightning that put him in a coma for three years. He spent that time in the heavens, where he developed deep relationships with Santa Barbarita (patron saint of Nahua weather workers and “captain” of the Weather Beings), the Cloud People, the Seed People and the guiding deities of many other weather forces. He described his time there as full of love, generosity and abundance.
He spoke slowly and in Spanish. I was spellbound by the translation but even more moved by his presence. He was old and weathered and grounded like an ancient mountain. The room was alternately quiet and full of laughter, and when he spoke his worn, warm voice seemed to open a connection to something timeless. Outside of these walls, his world appeared completely unfamiliar to me, dirt poor and wildly unhygienic. But something about his presence felt familiar, comforting, solid.
He told me that I should be crowned (initiated) as a weather worker, that I had been “called” to the work by the Weather Beings as part of my partnership with my husband, who’d met Don Lucio a few months earlier while in Mexico on a pilgrimage. I considered this offer. I’d felt strong connections to weather forces all my life and often spoke with them privately. I suddenly realized how ready I was to make a true commitment to a path, to relate to and serve and express my felt love and respect for the “other than human” beings of this realm. I said, “yes.”
But on the day of the ceremony, as I stood before his altar to accept the crown of initiation, I could not shake the feeling that I was stepping into something vast and unknown. I was taking on developing a personal relationship with the Weather Beings; to offer Them the tremendous gratitude They deserve for the gifts of rain; to protect my community by interceding with Them during damaging storms; to petition for beneficial weather during times of drought; and to communicate Their living presence to a secular, mechanized culture in great need of spiritual awakening and environmental balance. I felt so small. The sky above me, populated by families of Cloud People, swirling with storms, circling the globe, seemed impossibly huge.
Was I really ready for this?
Unlike other spiritual traditions, where one studies and apprentices over years as preparation for initiation, one is first initiated into the Nahua Granicero tradition and then deepens one’s learning while “on the job.” This can be confronting and disorienting for new initiates, whose cultural upbringing may have little context for relating to clouds as ‘people’ and whose inexperience can create doubt and wariness: Am I doing this right? What am I really doing?
Now, more than a dozen years later, I can see how the pieces of the slow cooking meld together. I know from experience that if initiates approach their work with attention, intention and devotion, they will receive exactly what they need to grow into their full capacity. It’s beautiful that being a granicero starts with initiation, because the “marriage” to the Weather Beings also encourages the Weather Beings to enliven Their relationship with the initiate. Despite Their vast, incomprehensible power and size, They’ll show up in ways that communicate our connection.
This was a teaching moment for me a few years after my initiation: I was planning a trip down the California coast to for an overnight. Summer is “dry” season in California, with literally no rain for months. But for some reason, I felt compelled to put on one of my “weather” T-shirts and the special “rain” bracelets I reserve for ceremonies. Don’t ask me why, it just felt like I needed to.
There was the clearest blue sky above for the first few hours. But two-thirds of the way down, I was startled to see a tiny puff of cloud in the far distance. I was so surprised, I spoke out loud, “Hello! What are you doing there??”
By the time I made it to my destination, the tiny cloud had been joined by others. That night the wind gusted, and it began to rain. I hadn’t understood why I had also carried offerings with me when I left home, but now I knew. I ceremonially thanked the rain in the traditional Nahua way. In the morning newspaper, the almanac showed a quarter inch of rain for the town, the only wet spot for hundreds of miles around.
This was a learning process, but not the kind of learning one gets from books. It was a heart connection experience of listening in an intuitive way and feeling the expressions that live in the field of potential.
Newly initiated graniceros may not feel much of a foundation initially. But fortunately their learning is also supported by an annual return to Mexico for Spring Ceremonies, when we renew our sacred altar items and our commitment to our Weather Being patrons at the altar of our Caporal Major.
I returned to Don Lucio’s family compound every year for Spring Ceremonies until after he crossed over at the age of 99. Don Lucio had had a vision of the Nahua tradition growing beyond the boundaries of the Nahua homelands; he saw people from other countries as having the calling to work for the benefit of their communities. He knew that working with weather in a traditional way could help reawaken the “old ways” that have been lost in the industrialized lands. By the time he died, there were some 60 graniceros from five countries in his “Groupo Precioso. ” And before he died he handed responsibility for his altar to his protégé, Don David Wiley, who became Caporal Major for the group in 2008.
Today, Spring Ceremonies occur at Casa Xiuhtecuhtli (Nahuatl for “House of Fire”), nestled in the sacred valley of Tepoztlan, Morelos. A new Majoria (a templo sagrado, or sacred temple) has been built on these very special grounds to house this altar and to provide space for Nahua ceremonies.
The Spring Ceremonies are a potent time of reconnection and rejuvenation. The graniceros family comes together in an intricate dance of love and logistics. Months of planning play out over nearly two weeks of preparations and ceremonies. The sheer challenge and expense of travelling and pulling it all together is evidence of our devotion: our sacrifice is an active part of what we offer the gods.
During these May ceremonies, weather workers focus on being present with and attuned to the gods, the tradition’s protectors and ancestors, and the sacred beings from the four directions. A highlight of the ceremonies comes when our most sacred object is decorated with fresh new lace and flowers: our altar’s cross.
More than a symbolic remnant of the conquistadors’ forced conversion to Catholicism, a cross or “Mamacita Linda” (Beautiful Mother) holds a magical doorway for communication with the myriad Weather Beings: Coyolxauhqui, the Goddess of all skies who was Catholicized as Santa Barbarita; Ciuhcoatl, the fiercely fecund and nurturing Mother Earth; Quetzalcoatl, the Wind god, whose serpentine body rushes high above in a river of air; Nubes, the multitudinous Cloud children born of Tau the Sun and Great Grandmother Ocean; Tlaloc, the Rain god, whose sensitivity to emotion, intention and balance guides him as he shares his gift: the potential for rain.
In his teachings, Don Lucio always told us: treat your cross with care and respect, because she is alive.
And so she is. I’m uncertain of the date, but I’ll never forget the feeling. One night in my evening prayers, something just shifted. I felt her respond. I felt her open. She was aware and guiding me to listen in an entirely new, richer way. It took years of practice, years of prayers–and then, just like that, I could feel her essential presence.
The following Spring, as I prepared to put her in my carry-on luggage for the trip to Casa Xiuhtecuhtli for ceremonies, she felt as alive as a breathing baby. After the ceremony, I was approached by the weather worker who had “dressed” my cross with the new lace and flowers. I had been honored that she worked on my cross, as she’s a well-respected senior weather worker and healer. “I wanted to tell you something,” she said. “I was sort of surprised, but when I started to work on your cross, she started to talk to me.”
Another lesson, another gift. No, this wasn’t just in my head. “Yeah,” I replied smiling. “She’s starting to do that lately.”
I’m fifteen years a weather worker, and in many ways I’m still beginning. The path is as never-ending and infinite as life itself. This walk has opened my eyes and fed my soul and spread the healing vibration of the old ways to all beings in my Salish Sea homelands. The work continues.
By making a commitment–and by taking that commitment seriously, even in times of frustration, I’ve “forced” myself to be patient. It’s this patience that is required to slow down my busy human life to a pace that is in sync with the large, timeless, elemental Weather Beings, to serve Their needs and to receive Their blessings. And it’s this patience that transformed my initial “faith” in the path into an unshakable “knowing” that’s founded on the accumulated experience of living in reciprocity and relationship with Them.