The context of categories within the study of religion

Is an ajq’ij a shaman, a priest, a religious virtuoso or something else? If so, why would an ajq’ij belong to this category or those categories? Barbara Tedlock encountered problems when she tried to explain what an ajq’ij is using traditional anthropological categories of religious specialists:

If one adopted the analytical method cultural anthropologists use for separating shamans from priests, in which the priest serves as an intermediary between man and the gods while the shaman directly possesses (or is possessed by) supernatural powers in the realm of divination and curing, one would have to refer to all Momostecan daykeepers and mother-fathers11 as both priests and shamans.[1] [2]

If they cannot seem to fit within one category, are such categories and the traits they entail fit to describe the ajq’ijab? If Tedlock is right, and the ajq’ijab could be both priests and shamans, a possibility would be to test a different set of categories.

  • [1] K’iche’: Chuchajawib. This term was occasionally used by my interviewees as well,and for them it was synonymous with ajq’ij. However, in some communities this termis used to denote ajq’ijab of a “higher level" often initiated more than one time. SeeChapter 8 above and Hart, Ancient Spirituality: 232, note 9.
  • [2] Tedlock, Time and Maya: 47. For a good discussion of the categories “shaman” and“priest" see Morton Klass, Ordered Universes: Approaches to the Anthropology ofReligion (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1995) 63-78.
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