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O N E Searching for the Moon Goddess As students of the Maya begin their course of study, they notice in the Dresden Codex, a Yucatec Maya manuscript written before the Spanish conquest, at least one figure that appears to many of them a bit out of place. There she is, a female figure engaged in what we are told were sexual acts with several others. We also are told that this female figure was a representation of the Moon Goddess, and indeed she was pictured in enough other places that we know this to be accurate (see Fig. 1.1). The Moon Goddess had sex with other gods, and we are told that in doing so she was able to reproduce and thus to create the Maya people. Who was this Moon Goddess, and what did she mean to the various people we call the Maya? How did her meaning change during the colonial years? As I began my journey into Maya studies, these questions loomed large. I have found that the Moon Goddess was a central signifier of Maya self-identity, gender, and sexual desire. This book is a study of desire and power. Why did the Maya desire the Moon Goddess, and how, during the years of Spanish colonial rule, did they come to desire the Virgin Mary? The Moon Goddess and the Virgin Mary both were encoded figures that signified many things related to religion, gender , and sexuality, to name but three. This book reconfigures these codes and 2 From Moon Goddesses to Virgins then focuses not on the Moon Goddess and the Virgin Mary themselves, but rather on what they, as encoded figures, had to say about sexual desires.1 F The present work is about the Maya of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in late colonial Yucatán. These centuries represented a time of signi ficant change for the Maya people. Recovering from the demographic collapse (due to disease) of the sixteenth century, the Maya were attempting to rebuild a society that had never entirely been destroyed.2 At the same time, with the economy of the Spanish colonizers in an upswing, more demands were placed on the people as a whole.3 They came into more daily contact with non-Maya people.4 The Maya during this time period produced a large number of documents in the Roman alphabet and the Maya language. Spaniards in Yucatán also produced a significant number of texts that related directly to Maya history.5 These texts presented a picture of a dynamic, changing , and rather tense society. The tensions were representative of the changes F I G U R E 1 . 1 The Moon Goddess inside a glyph of the moon. From Linda Schele and David Freidel, A Forest of Kings: The Untold Story of the Ancient Maya, copyright © 1990 by William Morrow and Company. Reprinted by permission of William Morrow and Company. Searching for the Moon Goddess 3 which were taking place regarding sex and gender, the Moon Goddess and the Virgin Mary. TO DESIRE THE MOON GODDESS I AM MOON, born to rule, to provide my people with the appropriate life. I do this through my statement of the Maya Word (mayathan ),6 and through my role as mother of all. As I give birth to the leaders of the world, I present the people with a chance to survive. Without me survival is impossible, for it is I who provide the appropriate lineage to the nobles, those who will allow for the communities to continue to exist. Indeed, as Moon, I will provide light to guide the way of the people as they traverse the night skies. When I am angry I will not appear, and the people will need to provide me with some elements for my sustenance.7 I am a goddess, and all will provide me with the respect to which I am obliged.8 I am goddess of all life processes, of birth, disease, marriage, and death. As a child I engaged in youthful sexual experimentation in order to learn my role in society. When I grew to an adult, my role became more clear as I ascertained what was needed to enable my people to survive. When the Sun began to court me, he gave me many precious gifts,9 and my power increased. I am married to the Sun and, despite my tumultuous relationship with him, I remain the mother of my people...


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