Maya Divination by the Maya Calendar
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The American anthropologist Barbara Tedlock working among the Quiché-Maya of Momostenango, undertook formal training and was initiated as calendar diviner in 1976. Her report, entitled Time and the Highland Maya, published in 1982, is focused on the concepts and the procedures involved in the training of a Quiché-Maya calendar diviner. It not only presents new and exciting insights into the significance of ceremonial time, location, and meaning, it also provides us with a glimpse at the mental processes involved in the minds of both diviner and client during the process of a calendrical divination.

A Quiché-Maya calendar diviner's hand arranges the red seeds from the ts'ite - tree ( Erythrina corallodendron ) on a blanket woven in a traditional Quiché-design. The seeds are taken from two different piles. Each arrangement is repeatedly being counted and named following the sequence of the days of the 260-day calendar and their numbers. In this way the Lords of the Days reveal their divinatory messages to the calendar diviner. Momostenango, Guatemala, 1975-79. Foto: Barbara Tedlock.

The German anthropologist Eike Hinz has penetrated even deeper into this unique complex of Maya mentality and thus not only discovered their peculiar concept of sickness but also analyzed what are the psychical, psychotherapeutical and sociotherapeutical effects of healing in calendrical divination. During fieldwork among the Kanjobal-Maya of San Juan Ixcoy, Guatemala, between 1980 and 1983, Hinz was formerly trained and initiated by one of their calendar-diviner-healers. In his report, published in 1991, Hinz presents 12 complete cases (of a total of 50 recorded) of calendrical divination and healing. All divinations and ensuing therapeutical dialogues between healer and patient were recorded by him in Kanjobal and then transcribed in both Kanjobal and German. His book, entitled Mißtrauen führt zum Tod ( Diffidence leads to Death ), makes fascinating reading for the scholarly accuracy which Hinz put to work as an anthropologist, as well as for the clarity in which he presents his results as a writer.

His report is also quite moving for the close look it allows us to take at the states of mind of Maya-man, so utterly alien at times to our western ways of feeling and thinking, yet so convincingly practical if one considers the view which he had of himself, his community, the world, and the universe.

Suffice it to say that Tedlock as well as Hinz, as the basic condition for the type of research work they did, had to have a rather full command of the respective Maya idioms, Quiché and Kanjobal. Naturally, the same holds true for reading, interpreting and translating the life prognostications from the Books of Chilam Balam which are written in Mayat'an, the Yucatec Maya idiom, of the 18th century.

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