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Maye Musk Participates in Traditional Mayan Healing Ceremony

The cover model experiences the ancient culture firsthand in Belize.

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You’ll forgive us if you’ve heard this before: Maye Musk is an unstoppable force. Just when you think the 74-year-old model has done everything—from earning two master’s degrees to working five jobs and writing a bestselling memoir while raising three extraordinarily successful kids—she surprises us again by becoming an SI Swimsuit cover model. Before her groundbreaking photo shoot, Musk spent the day immersed in the Mayan culture.

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With the ancient ruins as a backdrop, Musk introduces us to the site where she’ll spend the day participating in a traditional Mayan healing ceremony. “I’m in Belize at Nim Li Punit, and these are the ruins that I’ve been seeing,” she says. “I just feel so fortunate and privileged. It’s just wonderful.” Tour guide Nathaniel Mas explains, “Nim Li Put in English is Big Hut. We do have 26 of these Mayan sites. On the foothills of the Maya Mountains we do have some beautiful pyramids.”

A fire burns in the background as smoke carries the sweet aroma of incense. “Mayan people believed in burning incense,” Mas says as he introduces Musk to the Chief Ernesto Saqui. “Everything here we consider the staple of sacrifice,” Saqui says. “We’re going to conduct a healing ceremony.” An array of sacrifices are scattered on the ground. “First of all, the sugar—we have to make ourselves sweet. We have to make our whole being appreciated and sweet from Mother Earth. These are plants that help us to heal.” He continues by introducing different colored candles, all holding different meanings. “We’re going to take the red candle, representing the rising of the sun,” Saqui says. “I put it in the East. The purple candle, the end of the day, it’s time to rest where the sun sets in the West.” Then comes the incense. “The sacred incense is the actual one that makes the connection from Mother Earth to the sky above.” Saqui puts the incense in the very center of the offering, saying, “And in the end, what we will do is we will be able to complete the circle of life by dancing a ceremonial dance around.” But first, Saqui says a prayer and kisses the sacred ruins. “We’re here in reverence to take care of ourselves with your health.”

After dancing around the sacrificial offerings, everyone spreads the sacred candles aroma around them before lighting the fire. “This moment is so special. All these elements are able to free me from my old self. Thank you very much,” Saqui says. He then lights the fire. With the incense burning, it’s time to pray. “I want you to think of all the things that you wish for in life. Remember, it’s a cleansing ceremony. So from head to toe, you rub your candle again on yourself. Don’t be afraid. Do it like you mean it because this is your moment within the fire.” Saqui then takes special water into his hands, washing them and throwing the water back into the fire. He explains, “Usually my hand is given to me to do the right thing, but sometimes we use our hands to do hurtful things. Symbolically, I am washing it to make sure that what I am doing is the right thing. I also cleanse myself. So wash your hands and then throw the water in the fire.” Lastly, before putting out the ceremonial fire, a sacred plant is brought out and brushed against each participant and then thrown into the fire. “Finally, we want to conclude by doing one more song and then we do a ceremonial dance.”

Dancing around the fire, Musk beams. “Thank you very much; that was fascinating,” she says. “Of course, we don’t really know much about the Mayan culture and you’ve taught us so much. I hope people always get rid of negative thoughts and then they will feel better and cleansed.”.

You can view the 2022 photo shoot for Maye Musk here.