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S I X Gender,Lineage,and the Blood of the Rulers Maya ritual discourse made it clear that lineage was a central concern of many of the nobles, and probably of the commoners as well. The kinship lines of the leader of society were vital markers which determined whether he would be a successful ruler. Before and after the conquest, a leader ruled by developing alliances through kin groups.1 I metaphorically center the concerns related to lineage on the body of the ruler. In essence the Maya were asking about the relationship of their rulers’ bodies to other bodies in the Maya universe. The body and blood of the ruler symbolized the prosperity or lack thereof of the people. The preconquest notion of political power related to the protections the rulers and nobles provided for the people, symbolized by the shedding of noble blood and the corresponding obligations that the commoners felt toward the rulers. This was the same in colonial times, but the protections that the Maya rulers could provide were altered radically and in many cases circumscribed . Rulership was determined in preconquest times by struggles for political power among those who could determine nobility through patrilineage and matrilineage. Lineage was determined differently in colonial times, with matrilineal descent taking on significantly less importance. So the desire for the rulers changed during colonial times, as this desire, marked by the bodies of the nobles, would have to alter according to the appropriate context. BODIES OF KINGS A Maya king’s body was marked by accoutrements which established hierarchy . The king was always an impressive figure because of some combination of his physical stature, his clothing and jewelry, or the people and objects that surrounded him. His body was marked in various ways so that his followers understood his high status. The human body was used as an element of memory, an element which maintained hierarchy. The bodies of the Maya nobles were purported to represent the body of the community. The leaders placed their bodies in central positions designed to make them the recipients of desire. The people desired a connection with, even a dependence on, the body of the leader.2 The human body was important as it signified blood and lineage. Nobles could rule; commoners could not. This was related to an understanding of blood as that which the gods wanted and that which would make the community survive. Under normal conditions, a noble was the preferred person to be sacrificed because his blood was not tainted and therefore that blood was able to maintain the community. Implicit in this idea was a critique of the sexual desires of the commoners: they did not know what to do in order to reproduce effectively. Sacrificing them did not symbolically enhance the community ’s chance for survival as much as sacrificing a noble. The blood and body of the noble were important in order to trace lineage and prevent any commoners from gaining access to the religious and political spheres. The body of one type of ruler was signified directly as the halach uinic, “the true man/body.” This body signified truth because of its lineage, ensured that the person in power was the appropriate person, and made it so that the Maya community did not court disaster. The political system centered around truth, signified in the body of the halach uinic, and proven through his blood. The Meaning of Sacrifice: A Late Colonial Example Human sacrifice was an accepted practice among Mayan peoples since at least the late Preclassic times.3 The iconography of warfare made it clear that many captives were sacrificed. Additionally, children, slaves, and losing members of the team in a Maya ball game also could be killed in this way.4 The rationale behind these sacrifices was not always clear. Household heads sometimes attempted to please the gods and ensure a strong harvest by sacrificing a slave.5 A noble’s illegitimate child was vulnerable, likely because of the perceived 1 3 0 From Moon Goddesses to Virgins need to sacrifice nobles and the questionable position of the illegitimate child in noble society.6 The losing warrior was sacrificed by the community of the winning side in order to thank the gods for the victory and in order to appease those gods.7 When an important leader died, his or her burial was accompanied by sacrifices of...

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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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