Pre-Hispanic ritual and New Wave fads at Mexican pyramid

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The Independent US

More than a million Mexicans jostled with shamans and charlatans to mount the ancient Pyramid of the Sun, 30 miles from Mexico City, at dawn on Thursday.

More than a million Mexicans jostled with shamans and charlatans to mount the ancient Pyramid of the Sun, 30 miles from Mexico City, at dawn on Thursday.

The huge step-pyramid at Teotihuacan, twinned with the Pyramid of the Moon, annually draws throngs of sun-worshippers and geomancers dressed in white, with red sashes knotted over the solar plexus or binding their temples.

Since the millennium, turn-out has soared. There are bricklayers and backpackers, chambermaids and chartered accountants, but the majority seem to be working-class Mexican mystics.

During vernal equinox rites every 21 March, most pyramid climbers face the sun, eyes shut, intent on charging themselves up with energy. Through an ad hoc blend of pre-Hispanic rituals and New Age fads, they seek a mystical epiphany.

Visitors peak at daybreak, noon or sunset. They mass along the 3km Avenue of the Dead, skirting a sacred lava tube considered to be the womb of the gods before they climb.

The Perez family arrived shortly after dawn, toting a conch shell which they blew in all four cardinal directions from atop the pyramid. There was noisy competition. A San Francisco couple had hauled up a didgeridoo, a quartz crystal the size of a hummingbird and some fragrant sage for a witchdoctor to set alight. Following a new directive meant to protect the pyramids from damage, uniformed police quickly confiscated the herbs.

Some 3,000 security police lined the pyramid's steps like gargoyles with mirrored sunglasses, stationed to prevent thefts and falls. Last year, a boy was crushed on the rocks 230ft below when he lost his footing and his parents had to retrieve his body from a bed of obsidian chips.

Sophisticates may sneer at New Age tomfoolery; others worry about keeping the site sacred, for these immense ruins, constructed 1,900 years ago, were already venerable when the Aztecs stumbled on to the deserted city they called "Place of the Gods".

Arturo Zárate, the director of the archaeological site, was determined to limit access and keep vandals off the pyramids, but he could not stop the momentum of this event.

Pre-Hispanic revivalism, known as Mexicanidad, does not seem to faze populist Roman Catholics, however. Nuns joined in these equinox celebrations with gusto.

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