Where There's Fire, There's Smoke: Contemporary Lacandon Maya Incense Burners and Ritual Transformation
Author(s): Joel Palka
Lacandon Maya fabricate incense burners ("the gods’ ceramic vessels") found by archaeologists in Maya ruins, caves, and abandoned "god houses". Ethnographies and my field notes describe the incense burners and how they are made and used. The function and symbolism of the burners provide clues to the importance of fire and smoke in past Maya rituals, including cremation. The incense burners are formed from clay with human heads, arms, and legs. The anthropomorphic bowls become bodies of gods following firing and painting, like when humans were formed by gods, and after pebbles or seed "organs" are placed in their bowls. Gods inhabit the vessels to partake in burnt incense nodules shaped like people. The fire and smoke transmit these offerings as food or assistants to the gods. The burners die and their souls return to the gods after being exposed to fire to remove their paint and organs. Since Lacandon bodies are similarly viewed as vessels for souls, perhaps cremation by their ancestors released the souls of the dead to the gods. Death, rebirth, and ritual transformations through fire and smoke may ultimately be linked to the Maya slash-and-burn maize agriculture cycle.
SAA 2015 abstracts made available in tDAR courtesy of the Society for American Archaeology and Center for Digital Antiquity Collaborative Program to improve digital data in archaeology. If you are the author of this presentation you may upload your paper, poster, presentation, or associated data (up to 3 files/30MB) for free. Please visit http://www.tdar.org/SAA2015 for instructions and more information.
Cite this Record
Where There's Fire, There's Smoke: Contemporary Lacandon Maya Incense Burners and Ritual Transformation. Joel Palka. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 395566)
This Resource is Part of the Following Collections
min long: -107.271; min lat: 12.383 ; max long: -86.353; max lat: 23.08 ;