Ruins, Caves, Gods, and Incense Burners

Northern Lacandon Maya Myths and Rituals

Didier Boremanse

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Subjects: Archaeology

9781607817321 (hardback)
9781607817338 (ebook)

The Lacandon Maya are a small-scale forest society currently on the brink of extinction. Small groups of Northern Lacandon escaped evangelization by dispersing into the jungle, moving from the Guatemalan Petén to Chiapas in southern Mexico during the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. Several groups maintained their traditional religion until the late twentieth century.
Their cult of incense burners, based on the veneration of Maya ruins and funerary caves and the deities these effigy censers represented, remained free of any Christian influence. Some ceremonies were vestiges of more complex rituals believed to date back to pre-Columbian times. In this volume, Didier Boremanse explores Lacandon beliefs and traditions he observed during the many months of fieldwork he did, spanning four decades.
Throughout the book Boremanse makes Lacandon values and worldviews accessible to readers from western cultures. Rituals are described and explained with extracts of the celebrants’ prayers that were tape-recorded, transcribed, and translated. Other elements of religious oral tradition are included, including incantations, chants, and the myths and beliefs that sustain the rites. Boremanse also discusses how larger social change influences religious change, both through economic means and outside influences. Most of the myths retold in this book have never been published in English. Photographs show rites that are no longer performed and shrines that no longer exist.