Visiting the Maya Gods

Maximón Flanked by Members of His Cofradía in Santiago Atitlán

I have some heterodox beliefs regarding God and the gods. I believe that God exists but wears many masks, appearing as Jesus, Allah, the gods of the Hindu pantheon, depending on the different types peoples around the Earth. I visited two Maya idols during my trip: Maximón in Santiago Atitlan and Pascual Abaj in Chichicastenango. I have written earlier about my intent to visit Maximón, in whose person are incorporated such figures as Judas Iscariot and the evil conquistador Pedro de Alvarado.

He is a Tzu’utujil Maya god of good and evil. During the day, a cigarette or cigar is kept burning between the idol’s lips, and he frequently imbibes rum or aguardiente (very high octane firewater). There is a brotherhood (cofradía) dedicated to taking care of the image of Maximón. Each year he occupies a different house belonging to one of the brotherhood.

I made an offering to the god, which was accepted by the cofradía and attached under the knot of his necktie as shown in the above picture. I asked him to aid me in the remainder of my trip to Guatemala and Honduras.

The Glass Coffin of Santa Cruz

Next to Maximón was a glass coffin containing an idol to Santa Cruz, who is in some unspecified way associated with Maximón.

From Santiago Atitlán, I traveled to Chichicastenango in the mountains. There, with he help of a guide, I climbed a hill to the shrine of Pascual Ab’aj. What remains after members of Catholic Action damaged the idol in the 1950s is a dark featureless rock, probably of volcanic origin. I had a difficult time climbing the trail, which contains over twenty switchbacks. Fortunately, my Quiché Maya guide Juan took a knife and made a staff for me.

What Remains of the Idol of Pascual Ab’aj with Offerings

There were numerous cement bases where copal incense had been burned. At the time Juan and I visited the shrine, there were no celebrants or members of the cofradía in evidence.