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Archaeological, epigraphic, and ethnohistoric studies indicate that world renewal rituals were an important feature of prehispanic Maya society and continue to play a seminal role in indigenous communities throughout the Maya area today.

Our discussion examines two examples of the multitude of such rituals that were performed to recreate the world by replicating the actions undertaken by the primordial deities at the beginning of the present creation. Both ritual complexes involve foundation events, acts of sacrifice, petitions to the rain and earth deities, and an emphasis on sacred watery places.

We dedicate this paper to her memory as an esteemed colleague and valued friend. Previous researchers have commented on connections between renewal ceremonies practiced in various contemporary Maya communities see, e. Although they are separated by great distances in time and space, our analysis suggests the possibility that renewal ceremonies similar to those depicted for the yearbearer days in the Maya codices were part of a widespread tradition that encompassed much, if not all, of the Desfargar region inhabited during the Terminal Classic and Postclassic cbilam.

There are significant points of comparison between ethnohistoric descriptions particularly those of Bishop Diego de Landa and the activities and events depicted on the Dresden pages. Yearbearer ceremonies on pages of the Dresden Codex. This is the system that appears in the Dresden Codex Bricker and Vail, It is recorded not only in the chilm almanac on pagesbut in other contexts as well, such as the almanac also with a yearbearer function on pages 31bb see figure The calendar round almanac on pages of the Madrid Codex.

The birth of the rains, personified by Chaak, on Dresden Codex 31bb. The Dresden yearbearer pages reference two different dates on each page: To take a concrete example, D.

The key elements in this composition include the jaguar an aspect of the sun godwho is being carried by an opossum figure dressed as a ritual performer see Taube, and Vail, for a detailed discussion of this figure.

In the Colonial period Books of Chilam Balamtrees were set up following a great food that destroyed the previous creation Taube, The depictions of these trees in the Dresden Codex show them as personified stone columns perhaps stalagmites2 dressed in a loincloth and cape.

This idea is reinforced by the burning of incense an action that is performed in ceremonies today to call the rains and the presence eescargar possible stalagmites. If the stone objects do represent stalagmites, they were likely meant to symbolize a cave location; as Andrea Stonenotes, yearbearer and other period-ending rituals were often performed in descaggar contexts.

The presence of glyphs symbolizing cenotes in the upper registers on pages 27 and 28 is likewise suggestive of the performance of yearbearer ceremonies at watery, underworld locales.

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That the Dresden yearbearer almanac was concerned with rituals to ensure adequate rainfall and thereby an abundant crop is also suggested by the hieroglyphic captions to the lower register, which give prognostications for each year. The yearbearer almanac in the Madrid Codex M. For example, the death god is shown in the lower left of M.

The almanac on D. Each set of dates is associated with two separate pictures, organized as follows. He holds a rattle staff and torch in one hand and his axe upraised in the other. Drought [and] sudden fire [are the prognostications].

Chaak stands, holding his axe in one hand and a torch in the other. His offering to the earth-cave. Rulership [and] maize [are his prognostications. He holds his lightning axe aloft. Drought [and] dead person [are his prognostications.


He holds his lightning axe in one hand and an incense bag in the other. Abundance of food [and] maize [are his prognostications. Chaak is the protagonist of all eight pictures, the first of which shows him dressed as a yearbearer Mam. The second set of pictures on D. The hieroglyphic captions refer to Chaak or the rain entering i. This is associated with nine offerings of incense to the earth-cave, or primordial place of creation. The Madrid Codex also details the ceremonies associated with the beginning of Pop.

Among the other rituals that Landa discusses are those that involve drilling new fire and ritual cleansing Tozzer, To celebrate it [the new year] with more solemnity, they renewed on this day all the objects which they made use of, such as plates, vessels, stools, mats and old clothes and the stuffs with which they wrapped up the idols… It was at this time that they chose officials, the Chacs to assist the fhilam, and he prepared a large number of little balls of fresh incense… so that the fasters and abstainers might burn them in honor of their idols….

As scholars have previously noted, the almanac on page 19b of the Madrid Codex figure 4 shows a variant of the ritual described by Landa of stretching a rope around the corners of the temple courtyard in this instance, the rope is being used to perform a loodletting ritual, which is another ceremony that Landa describes [ Tozzer, Renewal rituals associated with 4 Ahaw on Madrid Codex 19b.

After De Rosny Several of the deities from Madrid 19b are also pictured drilling new fire in the almanacs on Madrid pages 38b, 38c, and 51a, including the black merchant deity God M and Itzamna. The information concerning these rituals derives mainly from the work chipam the Swiss ethnologist Raphael Girard, who focuses on rites performed at Quezaltepeque in the early twentieth century Girard, More recent work by Kufer and Heinrich supplements, and largely confirms, the data gathered by Girard.

At Quezaltepeque, the confraternity of Saint Francis the Chila, is responsible for the agrarian cult, which includes rainmaking activities. The rituals are directed toward the fertility deities Saint Francis and the Virgin Mary, whose offspring is the Maize God Girard, The agricultural descargat is structured according to a count of days, starting on February 8 and ending on October 25 Girard, This body of water is recognized as a portal to the underworld, as chioam as a cosmic basin from which clouds take their water.

At this sacred place, the ritual participants prepare a mesaor ritual feast for the gods. Five gourds of chilatea ceremonial drink made from maize and cacao, are placed upon a cloth spread on the ground. After returning to the temple of Saint Francis in Quezaltepeque, the elders capture malevolent winds, which are stored in sealed jugs. Finally, a feast is served on an adjacent table. Following these Creation rituals, the fields are cleared of cchilam, concluding by the time of the vernal equinox March Activity begins again on Good Friday, when, following ceremonies in the church, a mesa is set in the temple of Saint Francis.

On the next day, the padrino extinguishes the temple fire and starts a new fire, from which the domestic hearths are relit. This rite announces the time when the fields should be burned, thereby feeding the clouds that bring rain. A pilgrimage is made to the sacred spring that is the source of the Conquista River, located near the hamlet of Azacualpa in the municipio of Quezaltepeque.

This spring is associated bwlam the crucifixion of Descagar and the transformation of his flowing blood into the primordial rain Girard, It is also the abode of the Noh Chih Chan, a great serpent that guards the water Girard, Sacrificial offerings encourage this deity to release the moisture that transforms into clouds that bring rain to the fields.

In the clearing near the spring, the Padrino dedicates a cross that is inscribed with his name adjacent to the crosses of his predecessors.

All crosses are then adorned with conte leaves, and candles are lit before them.


Meanwhile, at the temple of Saint Francis, the women prepare food tamalitos to feed pilgrims to the shrine and replace the dry altar adornments with fresh greenery conte leaves and green coconuts. The next day April 23the women prepare additional ceremonial foods, including chilate, tamalesbean empanadasand maize tortillas.

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In the evening, a procession departs for the sacred spring. According to Girard Upon reaching the spring late at night, a ritual meal is spread descargat the ground and consumed by the specialists. The padrinos pray, burn incense, and then sacrifice a young female turkey to the Noh Chih Chan by drowning. Afterward, chilate is poured into the spring, followed balsm the blood of a male turkey Kufer and Heinrich, When Girard made his observations, these offerings were placed in a pit in the earth rather than the sacred spring itself, from which drinking water was being drawn Girard, On April 24, the altar of Saint Francis is fully adorned, and a canoe containing aquatic animals and water from the sacred spring is placed beneath it.

Its placement beneath the altar of Saint Francis associates this location with the underworld. At midnight, a mesa dedicated to the rain gods is set in the temple. The next night, and each night afterward until regular rainfall commences, the interior of the temple is sprinkled with water in order to induce the gods to send rain to the fields Girard Following this complex ritual sequence, men initiate the planting of the fields, accompanied by additional sacrifices of birds and chilate in holes dug in the milpa Wisdom, The rainy season is officially inaugurated on April May baalm by the zenith passage of the sun.

Shortly afterwards, on May 2, a mesa is set in the temple to Saint Francis. This is repeated every nine nights through the end of the rainy season.

Each time, the greenery of the altar is refreshed, and chilate is poured to the four corners of the temple patio and under the altar. Similar ceremonies of rainmaking and offerings to the earth may also occur later in the agricultural season, in association with the second planting of the milpa. This occurs around August 12 or 13, marked by the second solar zenith passage.

However, these ceremonies are on a smaller scale than those held on the first zenith passage of the sun Girard, Rites emphasize the use of sympathetic magic, such as scattering water and pouring chilate or blood, as well as ritualized exchange involving the offering of candles, incense, lavish meals, and sacrificial birds.

The main purpose of these rites is to provide sustenance to the rain gods. In exchange, the gods are expected to supply regular rainfall during the agricultural season. The overall schedule for these rites may be recapitulated as follows: Saturday of Holy Week: The same pattern is later refected in the arrangement of mesas ritual meals at sacred locales in the landscape, particularly at the spring that is the source of the Conquista River.

Acts of sacrifice are fundamental to the aims of the ritual cycle. These mainly take the form of food chila placed on mesas in the temple of Saint Francis, as well as meals prepared at the sacred spring. Incense and candles are also offered. Most dramatic is the offering of male and balamm turkeys at the sacred spring.

Sacrifices to the serpent Noh Chih Chan are made at the sacred spring. In addition, liquid offerings to the spirit of the earth are poured into pits dug in fields or the sacred spring.

The vertical ddescargar of these offerings replicates the cosmic act of impregnation of the earth by the sun as well as the descent of rain to the earth. The cacao drinks that are used extensively in these rituals are specifically associated with the cold, moist rainy season Kufer and Heinrich,