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1990-Vogt - The Zinacantecos of Mexico a Modern Maya Way of Life

1990-Vogt - The Zinacantecos of Mexico a Modern Maya Way of Life

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Published by: wernerbh on May 31, 2012
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11/03/2012

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Next to the ancestral gods, the most important deity is the "Earth Owner"
(Yahaval Balamil). He has multiple manifestations: any large or small area
on the earth may have an opening in the form of a cave, a limestone sink,
or a water hole (all called by one word-ch' en-in Tzotzil) that serves as a
means of communication with him. He is pictured as a large, fat Ladino living
under the ground with piles of money, herds of cows, mules, and horses, and
focks of chickens. He also owns all of the waterholes on which the Zinacan
tecos depend for household and livestock water; he controls the lightning and
the clouds, which are believed to emerge from caves, rise up into the sky,
and produce the needed rain for crops; and he controls all the products of
the earth that Zinacantecos use-trees cut to build houses, mud used for the
walls of the houses, limestone for lime, and so on. Hence, a Zinacanteco

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THE ZINACANTECO UNIVERSE

Photo 1, Shaman (left) prays for a patient (right) to the Ancestral Gods who are believed to
live inside mountains. The cross shrine is the means of communication with the Gods. Note
incense burning (center) and bottle of liquor (front); also note similarity in shape of other sacred
mountain (in background) to the pyramids in Ancient Maya sites. (Photo by Frank Cane ian)

THE ZINACANTECO UNIVERSE

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cannot use land, or any of its products, without compensating the Earth Owner with

appropriate offerings in a ceremony.
The Earth Owner rides on deer, utilizing iguanas as blinders for his mounts and a
snake for his whip. The shell of the land-snail is his powder flask for making sky rockets
and for shooting his shotgun. Lightning bolts are the results of the firing of his rockets

and his gun.

Communication with the Emth Owner is regarded with the deepest ambivalence.
On the one hand, there are glorious myths about how men have acquired great wealth
in money and livestock by going into caves to visit him. On the other hand, the Earth
Owner needs many workers and there is always the danger that a man may be captured
and forced to work in the earth until the iron sandals provided by the Earth Owner
wear out.

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