Eschatology and the Ritual Practice of Time

Not only the classic Maya notion of the (remote) past but also of the (distant) future must be considered in an investigation of their ritual practice of time. Elizabeth Newsome maintains that the ending of a time unit is important, but the true concern of the ritual practice of time is the initiation of the new time period. The day of the completion of the old time unit imply the birth of the new one. The inscriptions on the classic Maya stone monuments attest that the ritual practice of time was in fact “the germination” of the novel time period (Newsome 1991: 190).[1] The matter of a supposed ritual renewal or inauguration of time is affiliated to the question of whether the classic Maya had an eschatological philosophy, which had an impact on the ritual practice of time of the Long Count calendar. The following interdependent issues will be addressed:

  • 1. Did the ritual practice of the Long Count calendar not only symbolically terminate but also renew or inaugurate time?
  • 2. Was the ritual practice of time of the Long Count calendar of an eschatological or apocalyptical character with the purpose to secure the survival of the Maya cosmos?

A conception of an expected future conclusion of time and the world is quite common in many religious (eschatological) traditions and systems. The ceremonial language of the temporal practices, the fundamental temporal identity of the Long Count calendar and the structure of the temporal narrative of the inscriptions will be analysed in the following in order to find out whether the classic Maya regarded the ritual practice of time as eschatologically motivated.

  • [1] Cf. also Stuart (2011).
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