The Spiritual Life of Contemporary Highland Maya on Volcanoes and Other Sacred Places in Guatemala
Volcanoes have always been important within the Maya spirituality and cosmovision. The forebears of today’s and pre-Hispanic Mayans, the ancient Olmecs, already adored volcanoes as places of creation. They even build a replica of a Mexican volcano in the city today called La Venta. They also made use of volcanoes, situated in today’s Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras, as points of reference to determine the solstices in the different periods of a year. Today, Xela’s Ajq’ijab’, the spiritual guides of the Guatemala’s Maya Ki’Che’, regard volcanoes as respirators and creations of Mother Nature. Volcanoes are further perceived as spiritual guards and protectors of the people. Like all sacred places, volcanoes contain positive and negative energies. Volcanoes are places of energy to conduct ceremonies because of their specific form and altitude. Maya Ceremonies, conducted by the Ajq’ijab’, are practiced to worship everything within the cosmos. Visiting sacred places to practice ceremonies was not allowed until 1996, when Guatemala’s 36-year long civil war came to an end and a peace accord was signed. For Guatemala’s Mayans, this implied that they could freely climb volcanoes again to practice their spirituality and develop a Maya identity in order to gain more indigenous and spiritual rights.