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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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Chapter 7 – The right person for the job

Extract

Now, to become an ajq’ij you need to fulfil certain requirements, influences, based on the destiny of conception and the destiny of birth. Those are two influences, but in addition comes [influence] from [one] generation [to the next].

There are some who – based on emotion, based on interest – want to become ajq’ijab. No … It’s a process, like becoming a Catholic priest. They need to go to the seminary, they need to gain knowledge and training, and they need to believe. So it is with the ajq’ij, the k’amal be,1 the man of light, the leader of light, which is what the ajq’ij is.

[To be an ajq’ij, you] need to fulfil certain requirements, you need to have charisma and you need to have commitment. You need to [learn and understand] a lot of theory and doctrine; you need to have practise and you need to be accepted by the cosmological and religious conglomerate. And so, not everyone can become [an ajq’ij].

- Manuel

Over the previous chapters, the interviewees have presented the work of the ajq’ijab and their reasons for performing this work. In this chapter and the next, their views on how they became ajq’ijab in the first place, and how other people can become ajq’ijab, will be presented. Nearly all of the interviewees2 agreed that only select people can become ajq’ijab, and the work is regularly referred to as a don, ‘gift.’

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