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Ajq’ij meaning ‘natural talent’

Isabela distinguished herself from the other interviewees by making a distinction between sacerdote maya and guia espiritual on the one side and ajq’ij on the other. She defined herself as both of the two first, but not as the latter.

I am a Maya priest. [...] We are working as Maya spiritual guides. [...] There is a difference [between these terms and ajq’ij]. For example, an ajq’ij just “has it in his head” he has no teacher.

The spiritual guides have teachers?

They have teachers, and those give them their mesa.[1] [2] [.]

So you are not an ajq’ij, then?

No, I’m not, I’m a ... what’s the name ... a spiritual guide, because I had my teacher, and he gave me my vara.11 - Isabela

According to Isabela, an ajq’ij is a “natural talent” who just knows what he or she is doing. This is interesting, because some of the interviewees would say that no one could do the job without training.[3]

None of the others made this distinction between ajq’ij and the Spanish translations, and by Isabela’s definition, none of the interviewees would be ajq’ijab, as they all had had teachers. Isabela also told me that most people called her ajq’ij anyway, and that she had no problem with them doing so - she just does not use the term to describe herself. It is possible that this is a regional difference, as Isabela originally was from another part of the K’iche’ area than the rest and only recently had moved closer to Quetzaltenango.

  • [1] ‘Table,’ referring to their altar, or like here, to the role of ajq’ij itself.
  • [2] ‘Staff’ (of office), often used to refer to tzite (‘divining beans’ described in Chapter 5below), or like here, to the work itself. See also Hart, Ancient Spirituality: 108.
  • [3] See chapters 7 and 8 below.
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