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T W O Religion and Family At the time of the Spanish conquest, Maya religious thought provided society with a rigorously ordered system. The Maya family unit, the household group, was part of an extended network of kin that was an orderly unit which derived from the gods. Religion asserted moral boundaries that were reified by the perceived actions of the gods. Family/household was the place within which much psychosexual development occurred. In this chapter I seek not to give the reader an overview of colonial Maya culture, which she or he can find elsewhere,1 but rather to present the central aspects of religion and family that related to Maya notions of sexual desire. From preconquest to late colonial times, Maya religion and family were restructured in such a way that the Maya communities understood both a hybridized religious structure in which the Christian God, Jesus, the Virgin Mary, and the Catholic saints were among the many gods they worshipped, and a hybridized family which included a small discrete family unit within the extended lineage group. RELIGION Maya religious traditions at the time of the conquest were based on a system which contained many gods who were thought to have control over all aspects of life. The sacred world was seen as extremely powerful, and a series of priests had high official positions in the Maya hierarchy. The gods required the people to engage in significant amounts of warfare and a wide variety of types of sacrifice. In the early colonial period the Franciscans and other clergy who participated in instructing the Maya expressed dismay at Maya resistance to their instruction. The clergy wanted the Maya to accept a monotheistic system which prohibited idolatry and the practice of any type of blood sacri- fice. They were only partly successful in this instruction. Maya religious traditions contextualized sexual desire so much that most of this book analyzes religion and ritual. At the time of the conquest, the Maya believed that the gods engaged in sexual activity with each other in order to create the people. Some gods had many sexual partners, while others were relatively circumspect in their sexual activity. The Catholic clergy preached instead that there was just one God, and he did not engage in any sexual activity . Virginity, chastity, and monogamy were to be the main sexual values of the new religion. But the Maya altered these values to develop a mixed religious tradition. Preconquest Religious Worship From birth to death, the sacred sphere regulated life for the Maya people. Upon a child’s birth, sacred diviners told kin what the child’s life had in store for him or her. As the boy grew up, he was educated in religious lore. When he was old enough, he was trained in the community house, and he was taught the sacred aspects of warfare, farming, and hunting. The girl was trained in the household, and she was taught how to keep the domestic religious shrines. The gods regulated the harvest, so the survival of the group depended on divine intervention. Marriage was seen as a sacred religious ritual event. Death was marked by more religious ceremonies, and Maya ancestors were venerated as their spirits and bodies were thought to protect the household. After death, almost all people were thought to go to the underworld, while a few went to the heavens. The sacred world controlled life processes, and the sacred had a great amount of power over everything. Maya religion at the time of the conquest had a ritually based structure which asserted social stratification. Nobles controlled the rituals and access to many of the gods. They ran the priesthood, and they were trained more extensively in religious lore. There are four aspects of preconquest religion that are analyzed here: gods, the priesthood, ceremonies, and the gendered structure. Religion and Family 1 9 1 . G O D S . Based on preconquest codices and archaeological and epigraphic evidence, scholars have found that the Maya gods most often were devised in groups of four, which could be considered to be separate gods or one god. Among certain gods, each of the four parts was associated with its own direction and color.2 The four parts represented duality, as one part signified the opposite of the other. For example, one part of a god might signify life, where another part could signify death. The god thus could represent Maya thoughts on the relationship between...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780292798984
Related ISBN
9780292777446
MARC Record
OCLC
608351540
Pages
344
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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