Last weekend as the sun set a rhythmic drumbeat arose from below my room adjoining the old church. I'm atop a small mound that probably once was a Maya temple. The drumming seemed to come from the grove below set aside for local shamans to make their peace with the local Maya elves, or aluxob ("-ob" is a plural suffix; one elf is an alux, pronounced ah-LOOSH). A well- played, jazzy piccolo joined the drumbeat and before long the pungent odor of copal incense wafted through the woods. When I arrived in the Aluxob grove I found maybe 50 people doing what's shown above.

A young woman I'd met before saw me and came to escort me into the circle. Seeing her, I knew what the group was up to, for several days before, when some of us had taken a mother with her sick child to a local curandero, or traditional healer, I'd met her there and she'd told me about the project she was helping to organize. A poster her group was putting up everyplace spoke of the return of the gods Quetzalcoatl and Kukulcan (Most consider the two names as applying to the same deity). Her group was traveling through Mexico's Indian territory staging events like this, if nothing else just to remind the native population that they once had their own special beliefs and traditions, which are worth remembering and honoring. The project finishes up around Christmas with a big pilgrimage to sites sacred to the ancients.

I spotted my Hacienda friend José standing stiffly just outside the growingly animated circle. Before José came to work at the Hacienda he was training to be a shaman himself, thus he knows more about Maya spirituality than anyone I know. As a greeting I jokingly asked him if he was going to join the dance.

"We don't dance," he replied. "Dancing doesn't enter into our Itzá Maya spirituality. What's going on here is recreation, not spirituality."

Looking around I saw that no one in the group seemed to come from a local Maya village. Many were non- Mexicans and a lot came from the Mexico City area. I quipped to José that I hadn't seen anything like this since the 60's and he replied, "Exactly that."

With clouds of intensely fragrant copal incense billowing among us, the group leader spoke of Mother Earth's generosity, a story was told about a white hawk, and thanks were given to a Universal Spirit. At one point they all kneeled with heads to the ground and with their arms stretched toward the circle's center.

Several tried hard to get me to join the circle, to participate, to join the dance.

But, despite the group using terms and concepts that I myself favor and believe in -- though I don't feel like dancing about it -- somehow it was clear that if I was to stand with anyone, it would be with José, and his people don't dance..