In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

S E V E N Blood,Semen,and Ritual Let us imagine a preconquest scenario related to phallic blood: AS THE YOUNG NOBLEMAN walked through the community, he knew that the people wanted something from him. They would not be satisfied until they had blood from his penis. This was, after all, his sacred obligation. It would allow the gods and the people to see that he was willing to commit to his responsibilities . It would mark him as a potentially successful warrior, and perhaps a future king. He could maintain the community only by giving his blood. Yet the noble youth felt some anxious anticipation as he knew somehow that the stingray spine must hurt. He hadn’t pierced his penis before, but he had seen it done many times, every time wondering what it would be like. Part of him certainly was intrigued, but he also was scared. He looked down at his penis in order to avoid the glares of all the people around him. He knew that the blood from his penis was his most prized possession, something that he would only provide for the gods on such a special occasion. And he knew that through births and marriages and deaths, through feasts and famines, he would be required to cut into this penis many more times. Blood, Semen, and Ritual 1 5 1 Walking into the temple, he saw the stingray spine in front of him. He was resolved; this would be his time to cut into his penis. He would do so for his father and his gods and his people.1 • • • This phallic scene presents a scenario that may place far too much weight on the psychology of the severed penis. Certainly the preconquest Maya placed different emphasis on the phallus than do modern Western peoples. But the ritualized taking of blood from the penis was an important event which served to solidify community support for a leader. His shedding of blood, like his participation in warfare and human sacrifice, signified the commitment of the nobleman to the maintenance of the life of society.2 And no doubt, the ritual shedding of his blood, combined with the knowledge that at some point in the future his entire life might have to be sacrificed for the gods, must have had a profound psychological effect on the noble youth. Blood signified much to the Maya, both before and after the conquest. Blood was part of the Maya world of ritual, fantasy, and fear. The next two chapters analyze the ways in which Maya fantasies and desires played a part in the rituals related to curing and the shedding of blood. These rituals placed Maya fantasy in an appropriate context, allowing people to see themselves as communing with the gods by engaging in a variety of sexual acts. The rituals presented what was shown in preconquest Maya art: that there were only “vague boundaries that separate[d] themes of fertility/sexuality and sacrifice in Maya thought” and that “the act of blood sacrifice from the penis . . . [had] inherent sexual overtones related to fertility.”3 The fantasies were such that many Maya men and women were able to believe that these acts would promote the continuation of society through ritualized ceremonies. BLOOD OF THE VAGINA While the ritual shedding of male blood through the penis was recorded more strongly than that of female blood in the documents, there existed several aspects of these rituals that showed that the prioritization of the phallus partly was an artifact of the extant documentation. First, Maya women ritually shed blood through their tongues and ears. Second, menstruation was given great ritual and physiological importance. Third, women’s blood was associated closely with creation and birth. Finally, the rituals showed that goddesses and objects deemed “feminine” controlled much of the penis-piercing events. These four elements showed that the prioritization of penis piercing in the 1 5 2 From Moon Goddesses to Virgins F I G U R E 7 . 1 The Vision Serpent, signifying the connections between the gods and the people which were opened by the piercing ceremony. 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. documents did not necessarily signify a strong emphasis on the phallus as the most important physiological organ in the Maya fantasy world. Preconquest...


Additional Information

Related ISBN
MARC Record
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.