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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 9 – Comparative contexts


The main purpose of this text is to introduce new material on the ajq’ijab in Guatemala, which I have done over the previous chapters. In Part II, I presented the wide variety of data I collected during my fieldwork in Guatemala in the autumn of 2012. I sorted the information thematically and presented it in the words of the interviewees. The material has hopefully helped to give an overview of possible answers to the question What is an ajq’ij? from an emic perspective.1

Possible answers to the question from an etic perspective are context-dependent: one will utilise different analytical tools and concepts for comparison depending on the context in which the research question is posed. In this final Part I will pick out five possible angles and topics for analysis. The question of what an ajq’ij is or can be is a broad one, and in this way I will exemplify how one may narrow it down to make it more manageable for analysis.

Below, I have suggested five possible ways of narrowing down the question within what I have called comparative contexts. I am asking the question What is an ajq’ij, or what can an ajq’ij be said to be, within [context x]? Depending on the comparative context, one may find analytical angles dealing with the ajq’ijab’s position in society, the relation between the ajq’ijab and one or several religious systems, the way the ajq’ijab do their work, the motivation of working as ajq’ijab and...

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