Home Sociology Balancing the World: Contemporary Maya ajq’ijab in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala
Several of the interviewees describe the sacred or their work as an ajq’ij as their spiritual spouse. Often, this spiritual spouse is represented physically by their private altar. When they became ajq’ijab, it was like a spiritual marriage, and now - like in a marriage - they have responsibilities and need to take care of their spiritual spouses in daily life.
[Carlos points to his altar] This helps us, it’s sacred. It’s not just a common thing, it’s sacred; apart from other things, like for example a normal table. It’s different, because this is alive. Yes, alive! It’s not dead, no. God gave it, so it’s alive. It is my spiritual wife, and that one over there is my wife’s spiritual husband [ Carlos points to his wife’s altar]. [...] It has more value and power than a saint.
Many ajq’ijab have become ajq’ijab after a period of illness, as this is a normal sign that one is chosen for the role. Accepting the responsibility - and receiving a spiritual spouse - will help in curing the illness.
Illness is imbalance between spirit and body. For example, during your interviews, I’m sure you have heard people say “I have my table, I have my gift, because earlier I was suffering from an illness. I went to the best doctors of Western medicine, and none could cure me.” Those people had an influence, they had a commitment; because the women have a spiritual husband; that is their gift. And we, the men, have our spiritual wives; that is our gift. And if I’m unfaithful to my spiritual wife, I’ll have no normal life. I’ll need to return and make good with my spiritual wife, and so I’ll live in peace and quiet, I’ll have no problems, like headaches.
When I first met Odilia, she was performing a string of ceremonies to make amends to her spiritual husband. She told me that she had done just what Manuel warns about in the previous quote, she had become “unfaithful” to her spiritual husband. Different Christians had convinced her to stop maintaining her altar at home. Because she had left her responsibilities and stopped doing ceremonies for a while, she had had bad luck for a long time, and she had felt depressed and out of place.
So, it’s like a marriage?
Yes, it’s a commitment. My grandfather said “look, my dear, if you get married someday, you’ll not appreciate your material husband much. Sure, you’ll appreciate him, because he’s a man who will give you all you need, but the most important one is the spiritual husband. That’s the most important one, because he’s the one that will give you all the energy, all the life, all the health, all our food, our sacred . what we receive from Mother Earth. [The spiritual husband] is who you need to care for the most. He’s who you need to serve the most. You need to serve the spirituality the most.”
That’s what our grandparents, our ancestors, have explained to us. Because if you, someday, leave [the spiritual husband] and stop serving him, then it’s better if you just forget about him, because he will feel sad. It’s like a [material] husband that isn’t being appreciated - he’ll go off with some other girl or seek another path. That’s how our na- huales are. They’re valuable and they have a lot of energy, because they are with us. We need to be very thankful for what we have in Mother Earth, the Heart of Heaven, the Heart of the Earth, the four cardinal points and the energies.
Odilia told me she had to do several ceremonies to convince her nahuales and her spiritual husband to come back to her. But it had worked, and now she was happier and healthier than she had been in a long time.
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