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From Moon Goddesses to Virgins

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    From Moon Goddesses to Virgins
    Book Description:

    For the preconquest Maya, sexuality was a part of ritual discourse and performance, and all sex acts were understood in terms of their power to create, maintain, and destroy society. As postconquest Maya adapted to life under colonial rule, they neither fully abandoned these views nor completely adopted the formulation of sexuality prescribed by Spanish Catholicism. Instead, they evolved hybridized notions of sexual desire, represented in the figure of the Virgin Mary as a sexual goddess, whose sex acts embodied both creative and destructive components.

    This highly innovative book decodes the process through which this colonization of Yucatan Maya sexual desire occurred. Pete Sigal frames the discussion around a series of texts, including theBooks of Chilam Balamand theRitual of the Bacabs,that were written by seventeenth and eighteenth century Maya nobles to elucidate the history, religion, and philosophy of the Yucatecan Maya communities. Drawing on the insights of philology, discourse analysis, and deconstruction, he analyzes the sexual fantasies, fears, and desires that are presented, often unintentionally, in the "margins" of these texts and shows how they illuminate issues of colonialism, power, ritual, and gender.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-79898-4
    Subjects: Archaeology, Psychology, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xviii)
    (pp. xix-xxiv)
  6. ONE Searching for the Moon Goddess
    (pp. 1-17)

    As students of the Maya begin their course of study, they notice in the Dresden Codex, a Yucatec Maya manuscript written before the Spanish conquest, at least one figure that appears to many of them a bit out of place. There she is, a female figure engaged in what we are told were sexual acts with several others. We also are told that this female figure was a representation of the Moon Goddess, and indeed she was pictured in enough other places that we know this to be accurate (see Fig. 1.1). TheMoon Goddess had sex with other gods, and...

  7. TWO Religion and Family
    (pp. 18-38)

    At the time of the Spanish conquest, Maya religious thought provided society with a rigorously ordered system. The Maya family unit, the household group, was part of an extended network of kin that was an orderly unit which derived from the gods. Religion asserted moral boundaries that were reified by the perceived actions of the gods. Family/household was the place within which much psychosexual development occurred. In this chapter I seek not to give the reader an overview of colonial Maya culture, which she or he can find elsewhere,¹ but rather to present the central aspects of religion and family...

  8. THREE Framing Maya Sexual Desire
    (pp. 39-62)

    The colonial Maya deployed a system of categories in order to distinguish a recognizable “Self” from an equally recognizable “Other.” Before the Spanish conquest, the Maya people (particularly the nobles, but also the commoners) worked to distinguish various ethnic groups, lineages within the ethnic groups, individual city-states, and social classes; but with the advent of Spanish colonialism, the effort at distinguishing Self from Other took a different turn.¹ The Spanish colonizers asserted their own ideas of selfidentity, notions that were to be grafted onto the Maya in various ways. The Europeans had methods of categorizing class, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality...

  9. FOUR Fornicating with Priests, Communicating with Gods
    (pp. 63-93)

    During the colonial years, the Maya were able to use their interpretations of Catholic morality to assert control over members of their own communities and over Spaniards and others. Maya people used this understanding for individual and collective gains. Moreover, the Maya were able to develop a colonial moral code that was at once a creative enterprise, a repressive mechanism, and a resistance to Spanish intrusion. The Maya used rules and conventions of Catholicism, the legal system, and the political structure of the Spaniards. In effect, this was one central element that made colonial rule possible: the Maya used devices...

  10. FIVE The Unvirgin Virgin
    (pp. 94-128)

    In Chapter 2’s overview of Maya religion, I presented the idea that the Maya gods were repositioned in the colonial years in order to merge with the Catholic saints. Chapter 3 showed that in using the metaphors related to warfare and sin, the colonial Maya were concerned with meeting the needs and desires of the gods. Chapter 4 concluded that Maya concerns with sexual behavior related to their wish to have appropriate communication with the gods. In this chapter I return to the powerful sexual deity, the Moon Goddess. By late colonial times theVirgin Mary was more prominent in the...

  11. SIX Gender, Lineage, and the Blood of the Rulers
    (pp. 129-149)

    Maya ritual discourse made it clear that lineage was a central concern of many of the nobles, and probably of the commoners as well. The kinship lines of the leader of society were vital markers which determined whether he would be a successful ruler. Before and after the conquest, a leader ruled by developing alliances through kin groups.¹ I metaphorically center the concerns related to lineage on the body of the ruler. In essence the Maya were asking about the relationship of their rulers’ bodies to other bodies in the Maya universe. The body and blood of the ruler symbolized...

  12. SEVEN Blood, Semen, and Ritual
    (pp. 150-182)

    Let us imagine a preconquest scenario related to phallic blood:

    As the young nobleman walked through the community, he knew that the people wanted something from him. They would not be satisfied until they had blood from his penis. This was, after all, his sacred obligation. It would allow the gods and the people to see that he was willing to commit to his responsibilities. It would mark him as a potentially successful warrior, and perhaps a future king. He could maintain the community only by giving his blood. Yet the noble youth felt some anxious anticipation as he knew...

  13. EIGHT Transsexuality and the Floating Phallus
    (pp. 183-212)

    The textual placement of the phallus was vital to the success of the Maya texts. These documents were intended to evoke an understanding of the preconquest bloodletting rituals, but this understanding had to come, for the most part, without the public display of the ceremony. The mid-colonial importance of these texts centered on the figure of the phallus and the fantasy of transsexuality. If the phallus was placed appropriately in the text, the reading of this document could serve both to entertain an audience and to convince the people that preconquest kings, lords, and nobles sought to protect society by...

  14. NINE Ritualized Bisexuality
    (pp. 213-240)

    In Western fables about Mayans, we are told that sodomy was discovered in the founding myths of several of the Mayan peoples and that the acts always were shown as belonging to “outsiders” or to the realm of ritual. According to some highly speculative sources, the story went something like this: long before the Spanish conquest, the Olmecs, in conquering the Quiché Maya of Guatemala, demanded that the people give them two young men for the purpose of sodomy. While the people resisted, they had no choice but eventually to give in to the demands. In Yucatán during the same...

  15. TEN Finding the Virgin Mary
    (pp. 241-250)

    The Virgin Mary Moon Goddess of the colonial Maya people was a virgin, a bisexually active woman, and perhaps a bisexually active man. I look at this sentence and believe that something has gone awry, and indeed something has. The categorizations and boundaries that modern Western peoples prescribe for sexual acts cannot be applied to the colonial Maya. They were not “freer” with sexuality than we are in the modern West, nor is the issue that they did not have sexualized identities at all. Rather, the colonial Maya used a sexual discourse to understand many of the things around them,...

  16. NOTES
    (pp. 251-296)
    (pp. 297-298)
    (pp. 299-310)
  19. INDEX
    (pp. 311-320)