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Bricolage, belt and braces

One of the ways I would describe the thoughts and ideas expressed by my interviewees is by using the term bricolage as used by Meredith McGuire: “the practice of eclectically choosing the elements of their religious belief and practice, loosely mortaring them together.”[1] Especially the last part, that they are loosely mortared together, fits well with my impression in the sense that most will have no problem with moving on and trying something else if what they tried first seemed not to work.

It is also quite common to try everything at once, like when Byron and Manuel mentioned Christian prayers in the middle of ceremonies.[2] Thomas Hart also describes this phenomenon:

Others use Mayan Priests and ceremonies as a part of a “belt and braces” approach to all things religious. Many times, discussing my work with urban Guatemalans, I heard the refrain “neither believe nor don’t believe.” In the same way that many Guatemalans will follow a course of prescription drugs as well as take herbal remedies, many feel there’s no harm in covering all the spiritual bases: attending church and consulting Mayan Priests as well.[3]

By using examples from my fieldwork and the ideas presented by McGuire and others,[4] one could examine the concept of bricolage and its validity in a Mesoa- merican context.

  • [1] McGuire, Lived Religion: 64.
  • [2] See Chapter 4 above.
  • [3] Hart, Ancient Spirituality: 10.
  • [4] See for instance Pharo, “Begrepet «religion».”; Shaw and Stewart, Syncretism/Anti-Syncretism.
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