Popocatepetl represents to Mexican people the heart of our own country; the “mount who smokes”, “Don Goyo”, “the divine face”, this ancient volcano has been venerated for centuries, and no matter the “danger” its represents nowadays, there are many people claiming to possess the ability of speaking directly into the soul of the mountain assuring nothing will happen to any living creature near “him”.

They are even going very close to the crater, delivering food and drinks, while dancing, singing and talking to Popocatepetl asking for his protection and “wealthy”.

Mexico City is surrounded by a mountain range called Neo Volcanic Axis. Under the foothills of these huge hills, live a lineage of men whose ancestral power, is due to a powerful force that links the climate, specifically the cold, rain, wind, electricity and earth of course.

Magicians with conjuring, divinatory, and healing gifts, which have literally been chosen by heaven to manifest those arcane, and to some extent philanthropic powers. These people call themselves the graniceros or ritualists of the thunder.

The granicero has been defined in numerous ways, but many agree in describing them as a man or a woman who resides in “two parallel worlds”, being able to move from one to another in order to contact spirits and guardians of nature, where he/she intercedes for other people of their community.

Going back to the first documented testimonies, Fray Bernardino de Sahagún affirms they were called nahualli or tlaciuhqui, and after the Spanish conquest would be known as graniceros. According to their knowledge and functions, they were having various names that meant certain ability with the paranormal world: teciuhtlazqui, or the one who throws hail; teciupeuhqui, as the one who overcomes hail; and ehecatlazqui, as the one that throws the winds and clouds.

In the prehispanic era, the weatherman or granicero was seen as astrologer, hail conjurer, “connoisseur” of the underworld and the supra world, shaman and counselor of both royalty and the people. Currently, the granicero is perceived as a powerful being who makes large-scale predictions that transcend the local sphere broadly.

Their presence can be considered a global phenomenon, since it is linked to sorcerers capable of mastering the celestial entities and storms. It is known by different names, depending on its origin; but something in common is that most of the graniceros are initiated through a thunder that hits or falls in their vicinity.

In the region of the volcanoes of central Mexico is known as agorero, a term that could be derived from a diviner, referring to the magician with powers over the sky, or an oath implying that he augurs time. Although sometimes he is named as a spiritualist or ‘nagual’, the granicero says their powers come from above, from superior forces that control time and heavens.

Around the volcanoes they are called claclasqui, designating, specifically, the individual in charge of going to the hills and ask for water in the storm. When you see them working in groups, they are known as water carriers, water peddlers or ‘temporeros’. In fact, the word temporero evokes the concept of working with time.

Currently, the graniceros are named in this way because they affirm that the lords of time have chosen them to heal. They are contacted through dreams in which the gifts are given to manipulate the climate. They affirm that if they ignore the instructions given in the dream, a thunder will reach them and will produce a period of unconsciousness in which they will receive the gift to heal and manage the crops.

In their unconscious state they are instructed by the lords of time. If the person dies at the moment of the electric discharge, then he/she becomes master of time. Although the above definitions allude to the concept of granicero as a masculine term, women also participate in this magical complex. It is said that women touched by lightning are destined to work as midwives and have, like the graniceros, their own temple in some cave of the mountain, their domestic altars and their crosses.

The granicero, as a wise being performs several functions in the community. It is perceived as a social actor who can establish contact with otherworldly entities. In addition, it controls the phenomena of nature and the supernatural beings that are part of the peasant worldview. Apart from removing the hail from a ‘milpa’, he predicts a famine or the perspective of a whole rainy season, so it is an excellent specialist of the sky.

And the volcano speaks:
There have been some fearless beings desiring to penetrate my essence, as audacious warriors entering my bowels seeking for the riches that I hide from them.
They do not know the mysterious veil surrounding my entrances, disconcerting the most daring, losing him forever.
Illusions that play with innocent eyes: I manifest as a child, as a “chaneque”, as an elf, as air, as laughter that loses the anxious traveler, leading him to fenced realms, where time vanishes and only the rain dances in a ceaseless crackling; where you can hear the growth of the grass and the fall of the ripe fruit.
Where exotic aromas flood the environment to show between abysses: my goddess; my beloved, imprisoned in my center. Or perhaps, the weary traveler, terrified by the labyrinth, by his face reflected in each spring, in each drop, remains in a fateful hell, too tired to see beyond himself…
… And fulfilling the dream I dressed as a charro, and went down to the village to listen requests; I visited the broken cornfield, saddened; and went to the plain that in vain wore fresh grass; I walked through streams whose flows had been interrupted, and I visited towns with grim faces and churches with empty sanctuaries. I cried for the debased, for the desecration, for the oblivion. But I dreamed and men also dreamed and remembered. And they observed the sky and the stars, the movement of the sun and the seasons; they remembered the instants; the oscillations, and recovering the movement that lay dead inside them, they listened again. And dreaming I saw that some looked at me and offered; then the universe fulfilled its natural cycle, so there was sowing, cornfield, green grass, happy faces and shrines full of blessings…
The four elements of nature in the language of magicians are the gravitational field of the substance and, at the same time, the reservoir from which we extract the material to build our bodies, and it is, according to their particular language, “ether” in different vibratory frequencies, under the tune of their worldview. But, speaking of the elements of nature we must consider everyone, whether earth, water, fire or air, are not simply chemical formulas, but entities: the entity of water, the earth entity, the entity of air and fire, which fulfill everything.

rWe realize, how the number four is basic in the study of the elements, and the strength that a magician acquires by its control; in addition, we are introduced into the world of the occult, through creatures belonging to its essence, they are called in some places: the gnomes of the earth or spirits of the earth, undines of water, salamanders of fire and sylphs from air; because all these forces are working to provide the substantial layer, which requires the ‘omnipotence force’ to manifest in the lower planes; they are, so to speak, just like the physical atom, the base where the whole universe is structured, from the perspective of the magician.

In a more subtle way, the person who manages to control the four elements, that is able to understand perfectly these elemental forces, becomes a god, because not only dominates its four bodies: the physical, the etheric, astral and mental, but also dominates the four kingdoms of nature: the material or mineral, plant, animal and human.

Anahuac’ (from the Anahuac valley, the ancient name of Mexico city) men had different theological designs, before the arrival of the Spaniards to climb the mountains. Praying for the rain was not the only reason why they ascended, but at least it was the most important.

We understand that for more than 2000 years a group, through the public profession of the priesthood, legitimized and imposed the cult of water in the mountains, tacitly defining the limits of the thinkable and the unthinkable, thus contributing to the maintenance of the social order from which they drew their power.

Graniceros

Graniceros | Photo from Wall Street International.

And the volcano calls:
Even after so many inhalations and exhalations, so many epic poems, disasters and beatitudes, some creatures still come to me. When they pray in the field, when they look towards the snowy top of myself, when their “milpa” is full of rain that re-greens the dry, when they await the response of heavens, because their life depends on it. When they continue year after year to venerate each mountain, each stream, each tree. When they recognize that life is everywhere, blooming under the stone, listening in the shade of the big trees, projecting itself in the ice that covers my back like a layer; then I recognize the living spirit in them, and I praise them. And I respect them…
… In my hills there was an altar with several crosses arranged in different directions. White and pink flowers decorated the crosses; a spring of clean water was offered in the shade of an old tree that served as shelter. Arranged at the foot of the crosses abundant food appeared, which smell flooded the nearby environment. A feast of colors awaited the meditative spectator who, with a pious and urgent voice, invoked saints and spirits with songs and praises.

Women with serious faces watched the sky, focused on the movements of the clouds and the flight of the bird. Silent and quiet children watched the adults, learning the movements and invocations, as if there were interwoven acrobatics, dedicated only to a few chosen. While I was standing at the foot of the cave, I appreciated them solemnly, glimpsing the clear eyes of a little girl who, astonished, smiled at me…

Rain and other atmospheric phenomena were then perceived as a global mode of associations and specific circumstances, so climatic changes were presented at random, coincidence or fatality, the result of hidden causes far from any human certainty, in such a way natural events were the effect of uncertain reasons, but at the same time, visible origins, and since they lacked experimental criteria to even eliminate the strangest and unpredictable relationships, the mind could not reach the intuition of probability, which we currently possess.

In that primitive construction, that structured thought with reference to the physical world, nature was tied to concrete images, properties and associations defined by moral values and affective qualities. The truth was verified in the myths and proven in the rites. It was confined in the world of nature’s will, its representations and desires. This created an opacity, because the phenomena of rain were not treated as purely natural phenomena, but as part of the sacred.

The ‘ancient people of Mexico’, for the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries are then aware of the Catholic faith, however, for the societies of the mountains are still containers of water, wealth and corn; in them it is appropriate to continue making rites for rains.

On the other hand, within the esoteric cult of the climate, in appearance there is an indivisible relationship between the cave and the mountain: they are one and the same thing. They are a very important factor in the Mesoamerican worldview. The same temple where rituals were professed, was considered as a sacred hill that covered the existing subterranean waters, through the springs and bodies of water inside the caves.

The relationship that articulates the god Tlaloc with the caves and the hills is personified by ‘Tepeyollotl’, the heart of the hill, a deity personified as a jaguar that summarizes the aspects of cave, earth and tropical jungle. He was a mysterious deity, it is said that he was the lord of the animals related to Tezcatlipoca, but in reality it seems that he was ‘Tezcatlipoca’ himself, that is his nagual, his double.

This scheme is complete with the idea about the Earth, which was called ‘Cemanahuac’ (place surrounded by water), and was conceived as a disk floating on water. The paradise of the ‘Tlalocan’ was, in a certain way, a concept of the space under the Earth full of water, which communicated the hills and the caves with the sea. It was thought there was an underground connection between the great caves – the entrance of the Tlalocan – and the sea.

Lightning

Lightning | Image from Wall Street International.

Although it seems evident the relationship of the power of these wizards with the ascent and veneration of the mountains, their relationship with the other sacred scenario is not clearly viewed. Why in caves?

And the girl appears:
Since I was a baby I dreamed. I remember that it was hard for me to differentiate “reality” and the dream-world. More than once, I was told the necessity to distinguish the separation of things, that were clear boundaries between lucidity and sleep, between day and night; between work and rest, between good and evil; nevertheless, for me it was as if everything formed a continuous spiral, where one thing was a continuation of another, merging until both were embraced, and not being able to distinguish a beginning or an end…
That is how I understood the language of existences: of plants, of animals; of the wind and the water. I listened to the soft intonations of the river when he murmured complacently, and the anger of the storm that destroyed the crops. I understood the avidity of the corn that emerged sinuous from the dampness of the earth. I regretted the quarrels of the birds, when they fought for some grains and the joy they exhibited when the sun peeked every morning.
That is how I began to speak their own language, and to understand their silences in the early hours of the day, when I watched our star moving lazy; flooding the sky with light.
Because the earth is a vessel that tells thousands of stories in its hollows and caves. When I look at the vast sky, I discover the archaic messages my ancestors printed on heavens; and when I observe the rivers and lakes, I learn the ancestral secret that nurtured thousands of beings. In the flames of the bonfire, I read the daily tasks my grandmother passed from generation to generation, and in the planted fields I learn from the cyclical sense of time, which my father bequeathed to me, while, patient, he waited for long journeys, until it was time to harvest the sustenance forever wanted…

The cave as a scenario allows moments of union and psychological polarization, which makes each individual feel full of a collective force they don’t not usually perceive, but which they find in the darkest, most recondite, inaccessible and distant places. An allegory of Plato in reverse. This is how the cave activates emotions and directs them to union with the supernatural.

But it is also the privileged ground for the sublime trance, because here lies the strength of irrationality and the subconscious, this is the place where the energy of nature consumes the shaman, or the priest. For the protagonists of the ritual, the mountain caves could have had a function of natural oracles, especially those in which reflected mirrors or ponds were promoted, since we understand that a mirror was associated with prophecy.

Complementing this small analysis, the visit to the mountain supposes a considerable displacement in the geographical space, these routes manage to project themselves deeply as mechanisms of social integration. The achievement of the procession is a journey to the state of enlightenment, a transition from the profane to the sacred, an entry into the ‘divine’ space.

So, functions of the graniceros are divided in three: some act as fortune-tellers in their communities, others have the ability to heal, and all of them invoke the rain or disappear the hail. The graniceros, in their role as fortune-tellers, through certain rituals can learn about the climate activities of their community, as well as the upcoming events for their societies. They were known among the nahuas of prehispanic Mexico as “messengers”, since they used hallucinogens to enter magical trance, diagnose and provoke healing or locate lost things.

Some of them could even predict the future or reconstruct the events of the past, by ingesting fungi. In this way, they claimed to be possessed by divine beings who told them what would happen. It is clear the role of fortune-tellers of the current graniceros goes back to rituals of the prehispanic era.

Popocatepetl-eruption

Popocatepetl eruption | Image from Wall Street International.

Nowadays the graniceros eventually consume plants, because they affirm that gods are lodged within them, and it is believed that whoever ingests them is possessed by the gods and acquires what is necessary to visit the supra world. Other divinatory techniques that graniceros use today were implemented by the ancient tribes, such as the interpretation of diseases through an egg; or divination by throwing grains of corn into a container of water.

And the girl reveals:
But when I was born, my mother told me that it was raining very hard. My mother gave birth when a thunder broke the oak tree we had in the yard. Between rain and tears I came to the world. My mother cried for me, I cried for the world, and the tree wept for both of us; because it knew my destiny and its instant death meant my life, bearer as it was of an indestructible omen. Of an irrevocable symbol of my destiny on the Earth…
… The first time I saw him, my skin crawled. I was sitting outside my house watching people make their way to the market. Suddenly an old man approached me. He walked slowly and stooped, as if he carried the whole world with him. He sold stamps, which he took out of his big basket. It seemed not to have sold many that day, since the basket was overflowing. It saddened me and it was pity to see him so old and stooped, so full of rejected stamps. When he approached me, I took the 50 cents that my father had given to me and I extended the money to him.

The old man looked at me fleetingly with restless eyes, surprisingly lucid and alive. He gave me a small stamp of St. Michael Archangel with his sword and cloak. Surprised, because he did not let me choose, I replied instantly, but the old man had gone as fast as if he was the lightning itself. Then the wind blew…

Although some graniceros are skillful in magic and act as visionaries for their community, many of them are specifically destined to cure, alleviating the ills afflicting people. They are recognized for healing all those conditions related to nature, such as those of the storm, hail, wind, stream and lightning air. These graniceros also take care of people who have been hit by lightning or who have contracted a ‘badair’; in these cases it is necessary to make “a clean” or purification.

When the graniceros heal those who have contracted diseases from very malignant airs, they clean with chia grass, incense, copal and storaque. On the other hand, when they cure those who are “stuck” by lightning, they practice ‘four cleanings’.

In fact, among the graniceros the conception of four is associated with several ritual aspects such as the cross or the cardinal points. In other cleanings, the graniceros use eggs, water and flowers, or the blessed palm and the broom, which are their characteristic ritual elements. They use these utensils when they raise the body of someone who died from lightning and also to scare the clouds, and the use of aromatic herbs is meant to attract the supra world.

As weather masters they control the storm through the request of rains; they penetrate into the dream world where they talk to the volcano, which will help them generate rain; or through rituals in front of his altar, where they invoke God, the Virgin, and deities of the rain, as well as diverse saints to fulfill their mission.

As it happens with any human group, the graniceros also organize themselves to work better. In fact, the graniceros of the state of Morelos in Mexico (as an example) form a select group, a corporation of chosen ones. “To be one of them it is required to have been called from above, being required to render services on earth, to the supernatural powers that govern time.

Those who are touched by lightning receive the call, although some are also initiated through their dreams, receiving instructions to perform their function in the dream world”. Every year many people are struck by lightning around the world; most of them die instantly. The survivors come back to life with a celestial purpose.

And the girl scrutinizes:
I could not tell if an old volcano wants to love again, even though its quiet years had silenced his internal clamor. I’m not sure if he would like to talk, as he used to, when his essence and men had deep dialogues about day and night. I wonder if in spite of so much time elapsed, he did not want to know again the secrets hidden in the heart of a man, or if only his own fire is enough to entertain himself, in the nocturnal solitudes. I could not tell what an old volcano thinks about a girl, who watches him with thousand questions locked in the palm of her hands, ready to meet him…

And the volcano claims:
Although I have been accused of not having a soul, and being only earth and fire, I have never doubted to possess a valiant heart, because… what would be the destiny of a volcano without a heart? How could he direct his spasms and movements, if he does not contain a noble heart, the motor of his wonderful daydreams? They can blame me of everything: I can cause fear in men and jealousy to the mountains, I can devour an entire village with a single yawn, and invade a meadow with a slight sigh, but I could never be able to understand a little girl, if there wasn’t a latent heart throbbing full of love, in the deepest grounds of my center…

And the girl confesses:
They say that, except of the deep love I have for my parents, I have never really loved anybody. They say the thunder took my heart and left me empty. But I… I have never hesitated to possess a heart, because without it, I could not love the wind, nor the rain, nor could I praise the fire. They say, when I was born, a tree was split by lightning. I believe the thunder penetrated myself entirely, igniting my body. When the night is dark, and even the stars can’t illuminate the overwhelming darkness, I only have to look inside to understand that my heart is burning with great power…waiting for love…

And the volcano declares:
When it comes to love, a volcano does not count time. To me that sequence of events, men think are placed linearly, seem only small oscillations repeating themselves cyclically. Because when a volcano loves, the successive daydreams that have kept him engrossed become timeless visions; paradoxes of simultaneous worlds constructed and destroyed at the same time. Therefore, when a volcano loves, the ordinary people fear, because they will never be able to understand such dimension of love…

About the initiation, a famous granicero from Morelos relates briefly that one day, while taking care of his cows in the field, he saw a multicolored sphere coming towards him and he lost consciousness: he had been struck by lightning; eight days later he began to see small beings in the field calling him, he stopped eating and entered into a state of serious illness in which he could not move; no one could cure him, and that’s how he stayed for three years. While his body was artificially fed, his spirit was ‘alive’ receiving the teachings of the “time workers”.

In the first year, he traveled throughout the land, learning from the “flocks” of time workers, to control the natural forces; during the second, he learned to use the herbs and the art of healing, and in the third he reached the “sumo pastor” of the “flocks”, who indicated a path that led to three mountains; beyond them he arrived at a place where he received the last initiation: to learn how to unequivocally distinguish good from evil and the knowledge of human behavior.

Then the “sumo pastor” ordered him to return into his body and work as a granicero. In this initiatory process it is suggested how the granicero has access to the control of time and the knowledge referring to the land and its conservation, as well as to the processes of healing taught by “the shepherd and his flocks”. Like other shamans, the granicero has affirmed that the path to become a healer is not easy, and makes life not be like the one we had before.

In the same way of several sorcerers, shamans and wizards from all over the world, the graniceros believe that hidden learning can only be achieved with the spirit separated from the body; among them, separation occurs in many cases through an “initiating disease”.

And the girl claims:
… I have never liked fairy tales, because the hero is always a man and the woman is his motive. When I read some stories at school, my concern was always the same. Why there were no heroines fighting monsters and giants, while the tottering prince was waiting for them sighing? Why, when it came to fights, was the hero who drew his sword, swinging it in the wind? Why did the hero go through the labyrinth and the woman wait for him with a kiss at the end of the journey? Maybe it was because the heroines have always arrived before the heroes to evaluate the way, and then tell them, it was safe to walk through it…

And the volcano glimpses:
… I think heroes are necessary because without them, we would not be complete and I don’t want to be half-volcano. What would be our mission, without a star to rescue, without a storm to fight, without an end that justifies the adventure? They say when the earth was young and my heart too, I was a hero who fought against adversaries stronger and more fearsome than me, only for her precious love in return. I did not know if I won or lost her, since she lies silent, close to me without uttering a word, although centuries have passed. But I know that I won my heart, because since then, it has been so strong even the most powerful snowfalls have not been able to extinguish it…

As we implied, it is necessary to go through several tests, but the biggest one, without a doubt, is to be marked by the action of lightning. The thunder is recognized as the symbol that holds man together with the gods; it is the active connection between both. It is the most human aspect of the control in nature. There are two ways of being “marked” which, in addition, will indicate a difference of “prestige and power” attributed to the granicero:

a) The striped ones: the most glorious ones, which are those that were touched by a female thunder that kills them, and a second masculine thunder that resuscitates them.
b) The ‘half striped ones’: these people are marked indirectly by the force of lightning, but the electric shock is so strong that leaves the chosen one unconscious (it is said, totally in a death state and very commonly they start a journey in spiritual form to the unnatural kingdom).

Each year on May 3, on the day of the Holy Cross, a ritual ceremony is held at the Cueva de las Cruces (the Cave of the Cross), located in San Pedro Techuchulco, in the State of Mexico. In it, the graniceros dress and bless the crosses that will accompany them in their constant struggle to defend their fields.

They dress in white silks that mean purity, and green colours that remember the abundance of the crops; they are adorned also with paper flowers in bright colors, delicious foods are prepared as offerings to the gods, while they dance in a whirlpool of copal and laurel smoke, protecting them from negative energies, aided by a series of mud angels acting as guardians of the crosses and the “masters of the rains”.

The ceremony of investiture is in itself a spectacle the people offer to purify the soul of the rain lords, and continue with their work as protectors and guardians of the crops. They take this as a blessing from heaven, who have chosen them to protect their people and communities.

They consider it the most important mission of their lives. The graniceros merge in spirit with nature and especially with the atmospheric phenomena of destruction. As we explained throughout this text, the thunder confirms and decrees them as “Lords of Time”.

And the volcano cheers:
… Every hundred years, a man or a woman emerges with the strength to move the universe with the palm of one hand. The energy contained pushes them towards the abyss, from where they will return intact, proving their vocation to the community. This being keeps within itself the lightning and the thunder; the fire and the tempest as symbols of its strength, of its personal power.

But as elected beings, they must assume their mission without charge, or benefit, without ego, without appointment, only the function of transferring themselves, of guiding others, of protecting their people, of losing themselves into the darkness and finding its strong spirit in light again and again…

And the girl is proud:
… My father constantly tells me that people no longer believe in Him, that faith has evaporated as our forests and lands have also gone. I follow him silently learning from his acts, from his silences, from his rituals. Every gesture, every movement is recorded in my memory, as all those things that give meaning to our existence are recorded.

My father says he is not a sorcerer, nor a “nagual”, nor a healer, nor a wise man. But for me, my father is the only existing hero, since beyond simple fairy tales, legends and songs, my father fights tirelessly against the adversities of time, against the erosion of the earth and the constant and increasing lack of water. For me that is the only true hero in my small daily universe, because my father fights not only against the imaginary monsters of fairy tales, he fights against the impoverished faith of the people who once believed and prayed; he fights every day to bring the rain; just a bit to our lands and those of our brothers…

And the volcano sights:
… I watch her fighting with her father every day, the small one with serious eyes who no longer believes in heroes, but in Him. I wonder if she hears my call when she comes to me and asks for a little rain for her poor lands. I think she knows that I watch her at nights, when she looks out her window and observes my silhouette against a dejected moon, barely illuminating my face. It seems to me that she hears my prayers resounding in my caves and entrances, when I do not sleep so much. I have called her for centuries; for decades to my meeting.
I will keep calling her until my voice has been hoarse from saying her name so much, and it barely exhales a whitish puff of smoke, which will be lost in the dark nights transcending the story without time… of an old volcano…