Home Sociology Balancing the World: Contemporary Maya ajq’ijab in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala
- The intermediary
Why some people work as ajq’ijab
[The ajq’ij] is an intermediary, it is a person who cures through the spiritual, a counsellor, and if we’re talking about modern times, it is a psychologist as well. [...] An intermediary, a guide, a counsellor, among others. That’s what an ajq’ij is, it’s a very special person.
Making offerings is part of what an ajq’ij has to do. It’s about reciprocity, it’s about balancing the world, balancing the universe.
In Maya communities, the ajq’ij is a person whom people can approach to solve all kinds of problems. The ajq’ijab possess the ability to communicate with beings and things normally not reached easily by others, and this gives them the possibility to find a spiritual solution to personal and social problems; to cure sickness; to give thanks or pray for harvests and many other tasks. This is what Byron refers to when he speaks about the intermediary, and what Martin refers to when he mentions reciprocity.
There will be several ajq’ijab in a given Maya community, both men and women, young and old. The interviewees largely agreed that the persons needed a don, ‘a gift,’ to be able to work as an ajq’ij, but other than that it could be anybody. It is not something one can choose to become, rather, one is being chosen.1 Some do their work as ajq’ijab full-time, but most have it as an extra responsibility that has to fit in between work and family in their daily lives. The latter was the case for all of my interviewees.
In this chapter, I will look at what motivates the interviewees to do their work and look at some of the concepts of Maya spirituality that they relate to. As an intermediary, the ajq’ij communicates - but with what or whom? 
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