Home Sociology Balancing the World: Contemporary Maya ajq’ijab in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala
Some problems may return after a while, especially in cases of illness. In some areas, commonly Mam, a person can do ceremonies to receive a cross. This cross will then keep the problem at bay. A person’s cross will normally be left on the ajq’ij’s altar, and then the ajq’ij will maintain it for them.
It could be the case that it’s your nahual, that it’s your spirit, that’s bothering you. And having a cross means recognising your nahual, recognising its existence and its presence in your life, and doing that recognition through ceremonies to have a cross. And then that cross would be - whether in one’s home or in the home of the ajq’ij - that cross would receive its candle and occasionally would have a ceremony done for it.
So it’s a commitment on behalf of the person as well. They can’t just have their cross and then that’s it. No, they have to remember their cross, which means a ceremony
- maybe every six months or every year, occasionally every two years, they would certainly ask for a ceremony for it. But it’s a commitment that they make, to recognise and to respect their nahual.
Do people come and visit their objects here [in your house, at your altar]?
Yeah. Not in any particular moment, but certainly, they wouldn’t let too many months go by without coming to ask for a small ceremony for the cross. For instance, it may be their nahual, when their nahual comes ‘round every nine months - or simply when they haven’t been for some time.
Some problems return even after the person has received a cross. It is then normal to receive a second cross. In some Mam-areas, a person who receives three or four crosses - depending on who you ask - becomes an ajq’ij. Carlos has an altar with several crosses, and he and Teresa told me of their significance.
People have their destiny, and so they have their cross since birth. And so, they come to [the ajq’ij] to see if he or she can do a work for them. And so, they make their cross, and it will be the [ajq’ij’s] habit to pray for the person’s life, the person’s business, the person’s food, everything. So it’s for that, so when they put [a cross for the person on the altar, the person] will be cured. So, the cross is a symbol for a person.
So each of the crosses represents a different person ?
No, there’s a cross for each [case of] illness. For example, if I got sick now, I’d get a cross, and it would relieve me of my illness. And if I got sick again, I’d get another cross, and then there are two. I feel fine myself, but say I got sick another time, I get another cross, and there would be three. But if I then got sick again because I was chosen to be an ajq’ij, then there would be four: the big one and three small. They are the first, the second, the third and the fourth spiritual spouse. [...]
The persons come here when they are sick and are given their cross, and [Carlos] will have them. And every year the persons come to give thanks, to ask forgiveness and to pray for their lives for another year.
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