Ethnology: An International Journal of Cultural and Social Anthropology, Vol 50, No 1 (2011)

RITUAL EFFIGIES AND CORPOREALITY IN KAQCHIKEL MAYA SOUL HEALING

Servando Z Hinojosa

Abstract


To treat some cases of soul-loss, Kaqchikel Mayas use ritual effigies of the sufferer. These effigies, called k’al k’u’x, are made by wrapping the sufferer’s clothing around a wooden armature. For the effigy to be a viable ritual surrogate, the ritualist must douse it with water, heat it, and strike it during a soul-calling ceremony. This handling instantiates corporeality in the effigy by kindling normative body states in it, states that must be stimulated in the sufferer’s own body for it to spiritually reintegrate. Such Maya ritual substitution practices are how Kaqchikels deploy ritual surrogation processes that hinge on both an understanding of the body and knowledge of the sacred landscape. This article explores the settings and applications of ritual surrogation, which is a recurrent feature of Maya healing.

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