November 13, 2009

Maya still practice religion

Interesting to hear how vital the Maya culture remains:

Reading between the lines of the Maya calendar

Indigenous spiritual guides see a lesson for humanity in the din over 2012.

By Mary Jo McConahay
Maya today number about 7 million in Central America and Mexico. One million Maya live in the United States. Their Long Count calendar, which began Aug. 11, 3114 BC, ends on Dec. 21, 2012.

During Guatemala's 36-year civil war, which ended in 1996, the Maya were suspected of supporting insurgents, and they were "disappeared" by the thousands. Their religion, which had survived the Spanish conquest with influences from Catholicism, was practiced discreetly, far from non-Maya eyes. Gabriel, 52, fled into exile in California after death squads murdered three brothers in the 1980s, returning as the war ended to her "gift" as a shaman through study with elders.

Now some Maya priests have moved their rituals from caves and remote mountain locations to public areas, including temple ruins frequented by tourists. Calendar keepers perform ceremonies using fire, pine incense, colored candles, chocolate and other elements, petitioning for a community good, such as rain, or protection. The religion matches certain days with certain spirits, and interpreting time and the calendar in daily life is the main responsibility of a Maya priest.

More than a thousand years ago, astronomer priests determined Long Count dates of kingly reigns, inscribed on Maya monuments along with dates of royal births and deaths. Kings and queens had priestly duties by virtue of their position, and might sacrifice their own blood to communicate with the gods. Today, believers ask the shaman/priests to determine the propitious day to marry or travel, or to bless efforts. The signing of the 1996 peace accords was preceded by a Maya ceremony at the ancient site of Kaminaljuyu in Guatemala City and public prayers at the National Palace.
Reiterating the point of others, 2012 doesn't signify the end of the world:Some Maya spiritual guides say they have been consulting among themselves on the significance of 2012, traveling informally by foot and bus, including to Mexico. (There is no pope or central doctrinal authority to whom ajq'ijab look for counsel, although some elders command particular respect.)

Some experts on the Maya believe Dec. 21, 2012, merits no great attention, pointing out that only one inconclusive mention of the date appears among thousands of deciphered Maya texts. It's simply the end of an era--of about 5,000 years--with another one beginning the next day.
The connection to the 2012 movie:Another ajq'ij, Gregorio Chayax, 70, wears a baseball cap, T-shirt and pants rolled above rubber sandals. He serves as a spiritual guide among the towering temples of Tikal, the most visited Maya site in the Guatemalan Petén rain forest. (Tikal has a cameo in "2012.")Comment:  The reviews are saying 2012 is a typical action movie: great special effects, lame plot and characters. They've barely mentioned the Maya connection, so it must play a minor part.

For more on the subject, see Obama Fated to Lose in 2012? and 2012 Trailer.

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