Creating a project

I have been interested in Guatemala and the Maya for some years, and when I arrived in Quetzaltenango in August 2012, the city was not entirely new to me. I visited Guatemala for two weeks in 2006 as part of a cultural exchange project, and I went back for four months in 2008. During that visit I was part of the Norwegian Peace Corps, and although we were travelling a lot within the country, we regularly returned to Quetzaltenango.

During our stay in the city, we met Martin. He told us he was an ajq’ij, and since Martin is a white-skinned Northern European man, that made an impression on me. He told us a little about his beliefs and his work[1] while we enjoyed a cup of coffee in his company, and then we were off to our next meeting. At the time, I was not a student of religion, and soon I had other tasks to put my mind on.

Three years later, I was starting my master’s in the study of religion, and Martin suddenly crossed my mind again. After some detective work I got hold of his e-mail address and sent him an e-mail asking him to participate in my research project. My first research question became something like “So, a European doing Maya things, what is that all about?”

I went to meet him in 2012, and I soon realised that to be able to write about Martin’s work as an ajq’ij, I would first need to explain what an ajq’ij is, preferably not just from the perspective of one person. I started looking for other interviewees - and I found them, surprisingly easily.[2] These interviewees gave me much more information than I had dreamed of, interesting material that deserved to be the focus of a study in its own right.

And so, I changed my research question to a simpler one: What is an ajq’ij? Martin is still an interesting case, but his story is now one of nine. The nine interviewees have told me about their daily practise and responsibilities, their beliefs and thoughts, problems connected to their practise and much more. In Part II, I have selected and sorted out this information, and tried to present the views of my interviewees in their own words. In Part III, I offer my own analyses of the material presented in Part II.

  • [1] The work, or el trabajo, is the term I normally found was used to signify the functionsand practise of the ajq’ijab, such as performing ceremonies, divination, counselling, etc.
  • [2] This was largely because Martin, albeit unknowingly, functioned as a door-opener.See also Chapter 2 below.
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