K'iche' - Religion and Expressive Culture



K'iche' religion is a combination of traditional and Catholic elements. At present, there is a certain amount of conflict between the K'iche' belief system and the Catholic belief system. The Catholic priests argue for a more orthodox Catholicism, whereas the K'iche' priest-shamans subscribe to a syncretic version of traditional and Catholic beliefs. For example, the K'iche' have accepted the concept of a trinity, but it differs markedly from the Catholic Trinity of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. The K'iche' believe in Dios, Mundo, and Nantat. Dios is a category that consists of all of the Christian gods and powers such as God, Jesus, angels, and saints. Mundo refers to nature and the earthly world. Nantat includes all of the ancestors and the spirits involved with them. In this way, K'iche' priest-shamans are able to place traditional views within a Catholic framework.

There are a number of religious functions to be performed in the community, and these are accomplished by a number of different people. Leaders such as the mayordomos are responsible for the success of fiestas, church events, and the care of the saints. Others, such as the ajk'ij , or day keeper, fulfill the roles of calendar diviners, dream interpreters, and curers. The calendar diviner uses his knowledge of the 260-day Mayan calendar to tell whether a person's fortune will be positive or negative. Dream interpreters give explanations of people's dreams in light of K'iche' cosmology. Although individuals trained in Western medicine do exist in medical clinics in the K'iche' region, few people use their services. Most prefer to go to traditional curers, who are believed to have a better understanding of the spirituality of healing.

There are a host of ceremonial occasions stemming from traditional culture and Catholic ritual. The most important of these are the ceremonies linked with events in the life cycle. Birth, baptism, and death are important points in the lives of K'iche', and appropriate ceremonies are conducted to commemorate them. At each of the aforementioned occasions, liquor plays an important social and ritual role.


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