Tz’utujil Maya Ritual Practitioners, Embodied Objects and the Night

Author(s): Linda Brown

Year: 2017


For contemporary Tz’utujil Maya ritual practitioners living in the highlands of Guatemala, the night is a particularly potent time and one to which they are inherently linked. Individuals often learn of their destiny to become ritual practitioners when they are first contacted by ancestral beings, known collectively as nawales, at night during dreams. Thereafter ancestral nawales and ritual practitioners enter into mutually beneficial social relationships that are mediated through sacred objects associated with the night. These objects – Pre-Columbian figurine fragments, obsidian cores, greenstone celts, etc. – may look ordinary but they are far from it. Instead, they hold a unique ontological status as animate objects embodied by beings from a previous era, a dark world that existed prior to the creation of our present sun. Ritual practitioners understand that although sacred materials appear to be mundane inanimate objects by day, during this time they are resting. Reflecting their pre-dawn origins, they become active at night when they go forth to wander the earth and conduct their sacred work. In this talk, I examine the night through the lens of contemporary Tz’utujil ritual practitioners who enter into reciprocal relationships with these embodied nawal-objects.

Cite this Record

Tz’utujil Maya Ritual Practitioners, Embodied Objects and the Night. Linda Brown. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 431046)


Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

min long: -107.271; min lat: 12.383 ; max long: -86.353; max lat: 23.08 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 14807