The great smoking mirror

Greg Schwartz

It’s always fun to drink green beer on St. Patrick’s Day, but it’s really only the second biggest holiday of the week. No offense to the Irish, but the main event is Sunday’s spring equinox. The equinox marks the mid-point between winter and summer when the hours of daylight and darkness are exactly equal. While downplayed in mainstream culture, it is considered one of the most sacred holidays of the year by indigenous peoples around the world.

Many mark this as a time for “spring cleaning,” to remove negative energy from the home that may have accumulated over the dark winter months. What most people don’t realize is that equinoxes and solstices are extremely auspicious days for spiritual cleaning and renewal. Earth’s metaphysical forces are strong at these times, making them ideal for prayer and meditation to renew and focus one’s dreams and aspirations.

In Mexico’s Yucatan state, the spring equinox rites at the ancient Mayan site of Chichen Itza annually draw upwards of 50,000 visitors from around the world. The Great Pyramid of Kukulcan is the Mayan calendar built in stone. It’s constructed in such a precise way that when the sun shines upon it in the late afternoon of the equinoxes, seven triangles of light form along the edge of the stairway, connecting the head of the feathered serpent god Kukulcan — also known as Quetzalcoatl — at the bottom with its tail at the top. (For a demonstration, see

For the Mayans, astronomy and spirituality are intimately connected. Mayan mythology suggests that the alignment of the winter solstice with the center of our galaxy in 2012 indicates a rare time of rebirth for our entire planet — something worth thinking about.

Fortune brought me to Chichen Itza for the 2001 spring equinox, and it was spectacular. The vibe among the crowd is like a cross between a festival concert and a church revival, and the metaphysical forces at work in that transcendent late-afternoon moment are awe-inspiring.

While I highly recommend the trip, you needn’t travel to such an epic locale to tap into the equinox energies — any quiet nature spot will present a metaphysical doorway. If it’s too cold for you, break out some candles and incense and even your living room can do. But the nobler your aspirations and the deeper your belief in the reality of these forces, the stronger your spiritual work will be.

It was also in 2001 that I came across the ancient Mayan teaching of The Great Smoking Mirror. Shaman Jamie Sams describes it:

“The Mayans say, ‘I am another yourself.’ In this manner the Mayans stress that every life-form reflects every other life-form and that all originate from the same Original Source. The Smoking Mirror’s concept of unity can eliminate all types of grandiose/elitist ideas that evolved in the Fourth World of Separation. If every Two-legged would see all other humans as unique expressions of oneself, we would have no basis for quarreling or war.

“The Great Smoking Mirror speaks of the reflections of Self that are seen in others. Great Smoking Mirror allows the smoke screen of personal illusions to be pierced when the mirror, which is just beyond the smoke, is caught by a shaft of illuminating light or realization. In that moment, those who are willing to look at themselves see the illusion of their personal myth. The part of Self that insists upon being the only one is shattered by the realization that every life-form holds an equal part to the solution of wholeness … Every part of Creation is interconnected and depends on all other life-forms within the whole. When any part of our world is thoughtlessly destroyed, many other interdependent parts suffer. The Great Smoking Mirror teaches each person to look for similarity rather than difference when viewing others.”

This teaching is crucial to overcoming the conflict that has plagued humanity throughout the ages, and the spring equinox is an ideal time to focus on it. As Sams writes, “on all levels, the Smoking Mirror asks us to accept light and shadow as equal. The reflections we dislike can be worthy opponents who teach us to grow into our potential.” Even George W. Bush serves a higher spiritual purpose under this view!

Shameless self-promo: If you’ve been digging my columns this semester, come check out my band — The Smoking Mirrors — at the March 29 installment of Kent State’s Battle of the Bands in the Rathskeller.

Greg Schwartz is a graduate student in journalism and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].