The Great Ballcourt Initiation – Spring Fast
Please note: The Ballcourt ceremony is considered an “advanced program” in the Practice of Living & Dying (PLD) curriculum and is the only one in the series that has a prerequisite. Read below about this prerequisite before inquiring about enrollment.
Death is the ultimate agent of transformation—be it a physical death or “the little deaths” encountered throughout life. Indigenous cultures developed rituals to aid and guide people through these stages of change and renewal, utilizing the power of death to enhance and intensify these experiences. For the Mayan people this ceremony was played out on the Great Ballcourt. The court, and the ritual game played upon it, were an enactment of the great transformations: from life to death, from the middleworld to the underworld, from humanity to divinity.
Ballplayers would risk their lives so that spirit, light and hope might be renewed—for themselves, yet most of all for their people and community. The Mayans had faith that, through discipline and sacrifice, spirit was renewed, just as winter births new spring. What we can know is that each day of our lives we play on the Great Ballcourt. Each day we die some, each day we are reborn.
And you? Are you willing to risk everything (which ultimately we all must do) that your rebirth might bring you a life purpose strong enough to carry you all the way to your final dance with Death?
We invite you to step onto “the Great Ballcourt,” poised for a time between Death and Life, journeying into the ceremonial Underworld where you will leave behind what you have known, to perform your own dance of purpose, passion and renewal. Dying to your old name, your rules, your belief system, your truths and lies, you will dance alone “between the worlds”, calling in a new life more authentically your own.
Program Overview: We will come together for 12 days: beginning with a final Severance from the old world, stepping across the Threshold into 4 days and nights of fasting and solitude, then returning for our stories of Incorporation. The metaphors we will explore include Decision Road, Death Lodge, Purpose Circle, and the Ballcourt. Our explorations together will be informed both by Mayan teachings that spread to native tribes in the plains of North America and by the lessons of modern-day hospice, learned directly at the bedside of the sick and the dying.
Course prerequisite: The living-and-dying metaphor evoked by the Ballcourt allegory is strong, so it’s important that the theme be right for you. In the early years of offering this ceremony, we saw that some people were overwhelmed by the combined physical challenge of a four-day fast and the emotional/spiritual challenge of the thematic material. Therefore, we ask that people have already completed a full-length PLD course, or that they have done a 3-day or 4-day solo wilderness fast. If you don’t meet this prerequisite exactly, but feel that you have had similar experiences that would have you well prepared, please write to us.
Program Questions Contact: Scott Eberle at [email protected]
Additional course details & Materials
We will rendezvous at Furnace Creek in Death Valley at 8:30 am on March 7th, with our last meeting finishing by mid-day on March 18th.
You will be responsible for bringing your own food and equipment, though we can provide some gear if needed. We ask everyone to come prepared to live self-sufficiently. You will need to bring shelter and clothing suitable for a full range of inclement weather.
To address safety concerns during the pandemic, please contact us regarding our current Coronavirus protocols as well as any current travel restrictions. These protocols may affect how you are able to travel to the program. Please note: As of May 2023 there are no longer any vaccination requirements for international travellers seeking entry to the USA.
Tüpippüh (also known as Death Valley) is home of the Timbisha people and is the name of their ancestral and contemporary homeland. Miners came to this area in 1849 and the Timbisha’s land was stolen to create Death Valley National Monument in 1933. The Timbisha were allotted a 40 acre reservation in the park and also forced onto other reservations and into towns in the area.
To learn more about our commitment to regenerative relationships please visit Cultural Relations.