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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 10 – Balancing the world

← 131 | 132 →← 132 | 133 →Chapter 10 – Balancing the world


Through the stories of the interviewees, we have seen that the ajq’ijab perform a wide variety of tasks that are thought to help visitors, society, their families and themselves. In a country which has suffered centuries of colonialism, oppression and civil war, the past is not easily forgotten. Simultaneously the future holds several new opportunities and challenges for the Maya population. The Guatemalan society is experiencing changes such as the emergence of Maya groups, which has led to new social arenas where culture, tradition, customs and spirituality can be discussed. One of these groups, Manuel’s group, opened its doors to me and my assistant, translator and friend, Victor García. Members of this group, along with a few others, could tell me about their thoughts on what it means to be ajq’ijab in contemporary Guatemala.

The interviewees had many reasons for why they thought the ajq’ijab do their work. To some of them, their work, and Maya spirituality as a whole, is centred on giving thanks and offerings to the world and the universe itself. Everything is sacred and has life, and so they give thanks for the life they have been given. Some do their work to give thanks and offerings to the ancestors, the generations that came before and that still are with them to guide them in their daily lives. Some give their thanks to God, to Ajaw, to Jesus or another personified, divine being. For most, the work of an ajq’ij is concerned with...

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