Day Zero takes place in the midst of the lavish Mayan jungle in Tulum, Mexico.

Themed around Mayan sacred ceremony and ancient rituals, this Crosstown Rebels boutique festival has now become its own annual ritual since its inception in 2012. Although our expectations for this event were exceptionally high, we never imagined that we were about to take part in a world-class immersive experience that went above and beyond the generic festival concept.

Have you ever wondered what it would feel like to go back in time and live in small groups close to our tribal state? Imagine participating in an ancient Mayan dance ceremony, which main purpose is to induce a natural altered state of consciousness. At Day Zero, everything from the music to the rituals, and the performers came together to transport the attendants back to ancient times. You can only imagine what to expect when Crosstown Rebels boss Damian Lazarus takes to the mystical Mayan jungle and has partnered with Cirque Du Soleil founder Guy Laliberté and hundreds of indigenous performers to deliver a world-class production infused with ancient Mayan rituals and symbolism. If you are the type of person that admires ancient cultures like the Mayan and are fascinated by their deep understanding of the universe, their ancient wisdom of love and communion with nature or perhaps you feel intrigued by their mysticism, then you must continue reading because you may have found the incarnation of one of your wildest dreams!

Imagine you are walking in a dirt road in the middle of the pitch-black jungle, lit by a pathway of illuminating, yet ominous torches. You can feel the humid mist of the tropical flora that surrounds you as you unconsciously notice the sounds of all living beings around you. As you walk towards the distant light you can hear the sound of tribal drums mixed with the dominating bass emanating from the far away stage. You soon realize that you are entering a foreign place, a place that feels alive and maybe even dangerous, but at the same time it’s daring and inviting.

As we walked into the jungle, Ruben our great friend and local shaman announced “you are entering into Pacha Mama’s territory; you must ask her for permission to explore, to let you in and to keep you safe.” We all stopped for a moment and looked up to admire the beautiful sky full of stars as we mentally all gave thanks for the moment.

We soon arrived to the beautiful single stage centered in a partially cleared segment of the jungle. It was adorned with beautiful geometric structures; hanging selenite bars, crystal quartz and ropes around the trees that made it seem as if it were a tree house village ready for an important celebration. The lights guided you to the paths around the stage that invited you to explore the surroundings. We ventured into the wilderness and found the “Get Lost” cave with a sign inviting you to meditate and find yourself. The cave was the entry to a sacred Cenote. Cenotes were revered by the Mayans as entry ways to the underworld, the ancient Mayan would visit cenotes to communicate with the gods and ancestors. After admiring the beautiful underground water pit, we came back out to continue our exploration around the venue. There were many local artisans offering beautiful hand crafted jewelry, art, spiritual cleansing sessions with copal and even local exotic drinks.

Felix the House Cat opened the night with a bouncy house set that set a playful mood for the first part of the night. The perfect warm up to create space and set ground for all attendants to prepare for the sacred ceremony that was about to take place. As more people arrived, duo Fur Coat came out to turn up the night with their eccentric minimal techno style, which was the perfect soundtrack for the supernatural performance.   

The ritual started with a priest saluting to the four points with a cup of smoking ceremonial incense copal. Copal was used by Pre-Columbian Mesoamerican ceremonies most notably in the ceremony of the sacred mushroom. As the sacred ritual unfolded more and more dancers came out wearing ceremonial, warrior and animal customs. They came out from everywhere, from the sides, climbed down from the trees. All of a sudden you were at the center of an ancient Mayan sacred ceremony. At the peak of Fur Coats’ surreal set a jaw dropping laser show made everyone hallucinate. The dancers pulled out white wands where lasers projected colorful ancient symbols and art.

According to Ancient Mayan philosophy, dancing creates sacred space, closes the gap between here and the otherworld, and releases the dead from the grasp of the Xibalbans (underworld devils). Dancing ceremonies were intended to allow transformations of human beings into supernatural (god-like) beings by means of visionary trance. Often times induced by potent hallucinogenic sacred plants or mushrooms the dancer entered into an altered state of consciousness transforming them into their soul companions. Some dancers wore animal masks to signify the soul in which they wished to be transformed during the ritual. The Trans state allowed the Mayan to communicate with the other world. The Mayan believed that through dance, people became gods and gods became people, even if it were only for a moment.  

The DJs knew that this was a ceremony and that their music was key to the ritual. DJ Three’s tribal sound was perfect to guide the journey in this sacred ceremony. In a big pyramid lit by torches next to the stage, dancers chanted and performed ancient sacred rituals. It was easy to get lost in the amazing performance. Fire spinners everywhere wearing traditional ceremonial Mayan customs, sinister skulls climbing down from the trees and touching you and many more performers making sure that you were fully immersed in the experience, while all the dancing, chanting and singing took place in a flawless coordination.

The music was brought down to a slower tribal beat and this is when grand guru master Damian Lazarus came out to take charge of the ceremony. In a Shamanic style wardrobe with his pointy beard and a crystal quartz talisman, Damian took the crowd in a journey of the senses, full of magic and symbolism in perfect synchronization with the sounds of the jungle. The shamans chanted and performed rituals as Damian shaped the atmosphere into a slow ritual that blended with the sounds of nature. The sun started to come out and you could hear the birds, insects and all living things out there. A very magical moment where it seemed that everything came together into one calm beat.

Acid Pauli came out to receive the daylight and re-energized the crowd with a fine set consisting of a broad selection of genres and styles ranging from deep techno to psychedelic trance. He slowly but surely got the crowd going again for the rest of the morning. The sounds system was amazing. It seemed as if the stage was floating in the middle of a lake in the jungle. As you looked around you, all attendant had the biggest smiles in their faces. No words were necessary. We all knew we were grateful to be there, to experience that moment and to be present in the here and now.

In La kesh ( I am another You).

Photography: Jack Pasco for Here & Now (fb.com/wearehereandnow)