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"Religious concepts and rituals are conservative and resilient, because they belong to the realm of what Aristotle or Kant has called the ‘categories of understanding’. They lie at the foundation of a culture, constantly nourishing the framework of the collective mind. Much as the ‘mountain’ in the bewildering landscape of Mesoamerican cosmology."

(Free to Émile Durkheim and Roy Rappaport).


“What makes a myth an event of very long duration? […] The solid nuclei of myths are protected by the cushioning of its ductile parts to such a degree that its life is prolonged through centuries and even millennia.”

(Alfredo López Austin – The Myths of the Opossum 1990: 304)

Q’eqchi’ maize-sowing ritual (mayejak)

Many Classic Maya scholars believe that the Maya they are investigating are different from modern Highland Maya. In light of the above, that would be an ahistorical view. Indeed, my lifelong experience of research and teaching among the Highland Maya, plus the knowledge of the indigenous documents like the Popol Wuj, strongly challenge this view.

San Bartolo Mural

Artwork Debra Atenea Díaz Zúñiga, adapted from Heather Hurst (2015). In Valores plástico-formales del arte maya del Preclásico tardío a partir de las configuraciones visuales de San Bartolo, Petén, Guatemala, Sanja Savkic (2016).

An example. The first photo portrays a Q’eqchi’ maize-sowing ritual (mayejak). The four women carry candles in the colors of the four cardinal directions, corresponding to the four colors of corn. In local myths these women precisely are named after the four colors, apart from being called Spirits of Maize. Yellow Woman stands out in the tales; as known, the day Yellow or Q’anil is strongly connected with corn. In the San Bartolo mural below, Yellow woman must be the one sitting inside the spot marked Yellow Cave offering tamales. Behind the red colored Maize Hero are the three other women. The San Bartolo murals were painted over 2000 years earlier. (Ruud van Akkeren - Place of the Lord’s Daughter  2000: 256-257)

Ruud van Akkeren
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