INTRODUCTION

Mesoamericanist and historian of religions, David Carrasco, has commented upon the paradox that whereas history of religions and anthropology have recognised the importance of analysing ritual practice in order to understand culture, this emphasis has not been appreciated—with some exceptions—in the same way in Mesoamerican studies (Carrasco 2002: 277-278).

One of the most fascinating aspects of the civilisations in Mesoamerica is the concept of time and the many calendars. In their sophisticated writing (so-called hieroglyphic or more correctly logosyllabic), narrative visual (including logograms) aka pictorial, semiotic, symbolic and icono- graphic systems, Mesoamerican civilisations recorded several calendars (i.e. a organised computed number of time units and/or of time) founded upon meticulous astronomical observations and mathematical epistemology. The organised and systematised (calendar) time was and is today subjected to particular ritual practices, of which I characterise by the analytical category: “ritual practice of time”. A comprehensive systematic investigation—by the use of methodology and theories from the discipline of history of religions—of the ritual practice of time of the Mesoamerican calendar systems has, however, so far not been executed. There are a quite a few publications about Mesoamerican calendars but many of these are not relevant to the present subject matter, which relate to an analysis of the ritualisation of (calendar) time.[1] I therefore call attention to that the central topic of the book is not an analysis of Mesoamerican calendars or time per se but of the different ritual practices of calendar time.

The general theory is that calendar time, like any cultural and social element becomes philosophically meaningful because it is practiced. Time is given a particular significance not because it is measured but because time is practiced in certain rituals. Or, alternately, time is effectively measured through the ritual practice.[2] The theoretical and empirical objective of this book is to investigate and analyse the ritual practice of time of certain calendars observed by a selection of cultures in Mesoamerica. In this way, it is my aspiration to contribute not only to the theory and methodology of ritual studies in general but to enhance the knowledge of Meso- american ritual temporal practices, religion, and in addition it’s various social, political and intellectual systems.[3] I commence by making some essential definitions.

  • [1] Cf. for instance: Aveni (1980; 1989); Boone (2007); Bricker and Vail (1997); Broda (1997);Brotherson (1982); Malmstrom (1997); Milbrath (1999); Paxton (2001); Read (1999); Rice(2004; 2007); Ruggles and Urton (2007); Vail (1989; 2002); Vail and Aveni (2004); Vail andBricker (1998); Vail and Hernandez (2007; 2010); Van Stone (2011).
  • [2] David Carrasco has inspired this formulation.
  • [3] Important note to the reader: the present book is about half the length of the originaldoctoral dissertation (2006)—where due to the size some empirical data, overview information and illustrations have to be left out. On the other hand, the manuscript of the doctoraldissertation has been revised and updated.
 
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