Order (Structure) Versus Disorder (.Anti-Structure): A Ritual Organising of Interval Deified Linear Time

That time was considered to be deified seems to have been the reason why the lords and some members of the elite celebrated temporal rituals as public political manifestations legitimating their claim to authority and power. The sovereign and the high nobility (i.e. the dynastic lineage and allies of the k’uhul ajaw) appeared, in their capacity as religious specialists and ritual experts, as the guarantee and foundation for order and civilisation in order to avert (ontological) temporal chaos.

The ritual practice of time of the Long Count calendar created order (structure) out of disorder (anti-structure) of deified linear time. This chro- novisionary philosophy was executed under the control and supervision of the political and military ruler and elite whom both acted as the ritual performers, participants and witnesses. Schele and Mathews has championed the idea that it was the rituals “... enacted in association with the time posts that gave regularity and symmetry to the passage of time” (Schele and Mathews 1998: 108). It is reason to assume a ritual obligation to observe deified time was motivated by the determination to create order out of disorder. Ritual practices created a structure of time, an entity that was sacred or deified, in order to maintain the harmony of the cosmos. Louise M. Burkhart claims that there existed a notion of Mesoamerican dialectic of order and chaos, structure and anti-structure, a dichotomy of the centre and periphery. This was not an eternal structure. Order was temporary and incomplete in a developing process and movement (Burkhart 1987: 28; 3439). Not only space but also time was defined and structured through rituals. The “period-endings” operated not only as chronological time-anchors where “period-ending dates” certainly secured time of the linear calendar in the longer narrative inscriptions. The accompanied rituals to the “periodending dates” denoted time in the linear calendar and thereby created structure out of anti-structure. The Mesoamerican idea of order versus disorder is indeed related with their concept of time according to Farriss (Farriss 1987: 574). Ritual observance creates structure where anti-structure simply threatens human existence.[1]

Ordering of time is one function of the ritual or festival, as Leach formulates it; time is measured, organised and constructed through a creation of a succession of ceremonies in social life (Leach 1968: 134-135). The rituals of time were the chronometer and creator of the Long Count calendar because these practices demark time. The linear character of the Long Count calendar contributes to explain the rituals. The ritual language in the inscriptions of the temporal ceremonies of the Long Count calendar did not delineate an ending of a cycle but the completion and inauguration of intervals within a linear sequence. The ritual practices were as a consequence not calendar-ending. Deified linear time, which had no evident termination, was defined, organised and venerated through the rituals. Temporal rituals of intervals within the Long Count calendar created a structure in the linear sequence, the sacred chronology of time. The rituals define linear time.

As noted, the linear Long Count calendar has no perceivable or recognised culmination. The “period-ending” dates only constitute stations which organised time through ritual. This temporal conception can contribute to explain the commemoration of past “period-endings” and of the statements of future “period-ending dates” and their related rituals. The ritual practice of time was not just celebrations of completed periods of the past—already experienced time intervals of the linear Long Count calendar. A political and social commemoration of rituals of previous time stations was recorded in the inscriptions (Stuart 1996: 154). Important dates were observed in illustrations and inscriptions, like the founding of the city, of the dynastic lineage and the life of the individual ruler and his/her ancestors and kinship. Rituals of time of past “period-endings” in the lifetime of a sovereign, of previous lords, ancestors like dynastic founders and 3 Ajaw 3 Suutz’ (10 May 613 ad) was not undertaken according to a passage on The East Tablet of The Temple of the Inscriptions, Palenque. The formula satay k’uhul ixik, satay ajaw,” lost is the divine Lady, lost is the lord” (Q8-P9) probably signifies the bereavement of the “idols” of the Palenque Triad from Palenque. A deity was not adorned, ma u nawaj, (O10-O11) and there was not performed an offering, mayak’awu tutal, “he does not give the tutal” to various deities (P11-R6), expressed for the lacking “period-ending” celebration of in Palenque, because of attacks against this city from Pipa’ (Grube 1996: 5-6; Martin, Zender and Grube 2002: II-18). There was also stated machajchum tun, “No seating of the stone” on the date 11 Ajaw 13 Yax (August 2, 803 ad), in the inscription on The Temple of the Inscriptions, East side (M1-N5) of Palenque. This lack of ritual observance may have been caused by the attack by Calakmul, which happened seven years in advance (Martin, Zender and Grube 2002: II-16). This caused disorder and anti-structure for Palenque society. How were the religious specialists of Palenque able to symbolically repair this damage other than explaining the reason why they did not conduct the prescribed temporal ritual? deities of former Long Counts were also remembered in the inscriptions. The calendar observed ceremonially, by repetition or recapitulation in commemorative rituals, constitute a recollection of the past. Our experience of the present largely depends upon our knowledge of the past (cognitive memory). The social memory or the shared memory of a society of the past legitimates the present social order according to Connerton (Con- nerton 1989: 2-3; 61).

As we have seen there was no eschatological philosophy behind the ritual practice of time of the Long Count calendar, which is confirmed by registering the ritual practice of time of the future in the scriptures. Why conduct ritual practice of time of the present to avoid a possible cosmic disaster, when it was recorded, and hence believed, that there would be rituals celebrated in the future? The future was also structured ritually through ceremonies. Another argument against an eschatological theory explaining the ritual practice of time is that the stone monument was not only time-keeping solitary “period-endings”. A variety of rituals—of the present, of the past and of the future—were recorded. This is mirrored in the depiction of various ritual performers. The two-sided stela and scenes with various protagonists illustrates both the ritual specialist of time of the past and of the present. It is hence a structure of a ritual-symbolical commemoration where the past and the future are associated with the contemporaneous ritual observance. Time is shaped ritually to create structure. The ordering and structuring of deified linear time may then have been an observance intimately connected to the reverence of the Time Deities. The sacred quality, and not only the quantity, of time were accordingly significant. Structuring the passage of time by ritual symbolic acts could be executed through an interaction with divine beings. This represents an interesting and puzzling circumstance that can explain that deities were related in the inscriptions to perform ritual practice of time, simply to create order and structure. Consequently, not only a social or political motivation of the governing body but an interconnected deeper philosophical and religious (ontological) meaning explains the ritual practice of time of the classic Maya Long calendar.

  • [1] It is quite fascinating that certain rituals of time were commented by the Maya tohave not been conducted at the end of the “period-ending”. The ritual practice on
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