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Balancing the World

Contemporary Maya "ajq’ijab</I> in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala

Daniel Croles Fitjar

In Balancing the World, the author illuminates what an ajq’ij, or «daykeeper», is by presenting material he collected in a series of interviews with practitioners of Maya spirituality. Frequently labeled as Maya priests, shamans, spiritual guides, or even witches, the men and women called ajq’ijab do a variety of work to help their visitors, their ancestors, the spirits and the world itself. Nine interviewees from the Quetzaltenango area in the Guatemalan highlands tell about how they cure and avert illness, perform divinations, communicate with the ancestors and do their part in balancing the world. Most of them agree that they have been chosen for this responsibility and they see it as both a gift and a burden.
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Foreword by Håkan Rydving

Extract

When Daniel Croles Fitjar travelled to Guatemala in August 2012 to collect material for his master’s thesis, he did not know that the project would change direction and become something very different from what he had initially planned. His original intention was to write about the life history of a North European man who had become an ajq’ij, a Mayan ritual specialist. Accordingly, Mr Fitjar had prepared by reading a lot about how to collect material and how to analyse ‘life histories’. He had also had the privilege of discussing problems of method and different theoretical perspectives with one of the main experts in this type of analysis, my colleague Professor Lisbeth Mikaelsson. In addition, she had given him suggestions about relevant texts to read in preparation for the period of data collection. Needless to say, although he later changed his plans, this preparation was still invaluable for the thesis he would eventually write.

Once installed in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, Mr Fitjar understood that in order to be able to write the life history of an individual ajq’ij, he had to know more about the different functions of this type of ritual specialist in Mayan society. He therefore started asking other people what an ajq’ij is and what an ajq’ij does – questions that changed everything. He was fortunate that several ajq’ijab (the plural of ajq’ij) and other Mayas were generous with both their time and their knowledge. Helped by many, among whom I would especially like to mention his...

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