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Home arrow Sociology arrow Balancing the World: Contemporary Maya ajq’ijab in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala

Why does one become an ajq’ij?

Most of the interviewees agreed that they had been predestined to become ajq’ijab, that they had been chosen. Only some people are chosen, and if someone is, he or she will receive signs. One of the most common signs is illness, and a majority of the ajq’ijab told me they had been sick before they became ajq’ijab. Rosa, like many others, tried several doctors without luck before she became an ajq’ij. Other signs were mentioned as well, for instance by Carlos, who told me that a snake had come to him and wrapped itself around his hand and foot.

Not all of the interviewees had been chosen, however. Juan inherited his mesa and vara from his mother. Still, none of the other ajq’ijab thought any different of him, showing that different or even conflicting views can be upheld simultaneously, even within small groups, without problem.

Since illness and problems are such common signs, the ajq’ijab may fall within Martin Riesebrodt’s definition of religious virtuosos. But, we have also seen that the ajq’ijab might deviate from some of Riesebrodt’s requirements: When asked why they became ajq’ijab, several of the interviewees answered that they did so to avoid suffering.

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