of gods, glyphs and kings

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Of gods, glyphs and kings: divinity and rulership among the Classic Maya STEPHEN HOUSTON & DAVID STUART* The ANTIQUITY prize-winning article in the last volume addressed writing, its varying nature and role in early states. Now that the decipherment of Maya writing is well advanced, we can know more of the records of kingship, From them we may discern the concepts and beliefs that defined the authority of these holy lords, as we seek the source of the power of rulers like ‘Sun-faced Snake Jaguar’. ‘the mere fact of royal divinity was not so impor- tant as the relations which the king formed with other gods and men, and the contexts in which he was able to assert his divinity’. (BURGHART 1987: 237) New hieroglyphic decipherments now allow us to address several fundamental questions about the conceptual and religious underpin- nings of Maya rulership. We can now explore the Maya concepts of relationships between deities and kings. Of particular interest are the ritual expressions of these relationships in the political and social arenas of various kingdoms. We can also attempt to delineate how relations between royalty and divinity changed over time in the Maya area, most notably after the fall of numerous kingdoms at the dawn of the Post- classic era. The implications of these issues reach far beyond the Maya region. Scholars studying cultures from Ancient Egypt to China have confronted the question: how can rulers em- body characteristics of both the human and the divine? Comparative studies show this ques- tion to be relevant to many traditional systems of authority, since rulers may tend to connect themselves with an immutable, divine order ‘which transcends mere [human] experience and action’ (Bloch 1987: 272). The power and mys- tery of divinity provides the ultimate sanction of worldly authority. There is, however, an apparent difficulty with attributing godhood to human rulers, namely, the fact that rulers are observed by their subjects to undergo the same processes as commoners do. Rulers are born, they live and die, demonstrating muta- bility and frailty as they do so. Some scholars have suggested that rulers may seek identifi- cation with the divine precisely because of their mortality and evident human weakness (O’Con- nor & Silverman 1995a: xxiii). And yet, despite what many researchers consider to be the paradox of the concept of divine humans, cultures ruled by such hybrid divinities do not seem to find any inherent contradiction in it. As this article will make clear, a large part of the ‘paradox’ is created by scholarly preconceptions of what a ‘god’is. The Western concept of a god as one who is all- powerful, without faults, whose existence is not marked by either birth or death, is at times indiscriminately applied to other cultures. In a belief system where gods or supernaturals are born and can die, are changeable and even ca- pricious, and have their own vulnerabilities, it is less necessary for a ruler to explain away these qualities in him- or herself. In 19th-century Fiji, the ‘stranger king’ and his family were established as beings that were ontologically and historically separate from their subjects. Rulers did not ‘spring from the same clay as [their] people’ (Sahlins 1981: 112). In other parts of Polynesia, rulers were likened to sharks travelling on land, rapacious, unpre- dictable, wholly foreign in origin - danger- * Stephen D. Houston, Department of Anthropology, Brighain Young University, Provo UT 84602-5522, USA. David Stuart, Peabody Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge MA 02138, USA. Received 6 June 1995, accepted 3 September 1995, revised 2 December 1995. ANTIQUITY 70 (1996): 289-312

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Houston y Stuart analizan apartir de los textos glificos y la iconografia las relaciones fundamentales de la religion y la politica de los mayas clasicos.

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Of gods, glyphs and kings: divinity and rulership among the Classic MayaSTEPHEN HOUSTON DAVID & STUART*The ANTIQUITY prize-winning article in the last volume addressed writing, its varying nature and role in early states. Now that the decipherment of Maya writing is well advanced, we can know more of the records of kingship, From them we m a y discern the concepts and beliefs that defined the authority of these holy lords, as we seek the source of the power of rulers like Sun-faced Snake Jaguar.the mere fact of royal divinity was not so important as the relations which the king formed with other gods and men, and the contexts in which he was able to assert his divinity. (BURGHART 1987: 237)

New hieroglyphic decipherments now allow us to address several fundamental questions about the conceptual and religious underpinnings of Maya rulership. We can now explore the Maya concepts of relationships between deities and kings. Of particular interest are the ritual expressions of these relationships in the political and social arenas of various kingdoms. We can also attempt to delineate how relations between royalty and divinity changed over time in the Maya area, most notably after the fall of numerous kingdoms at the dawn of the Postclassic era. The implications of these issues reach far beyond the Maya region. Scholars studying cultures from Ancient Egypt to China have confronted the question: how can rulers embody characteristics of both the human and the divine? Comparative studies show this question to be relevant to many traditional systems of authority, since rulers may tend to connect themselves with an immutable, divine order which transcends mere [human] experience and action (Bloch 1987: 272). The power and mystery of divinity provides the ultimate sanction of worldly authority. There is, however, an apparent difficulty with attributing godhood

to human rulers, namely, the fact that rulers are observed by their subjects to undergo the same processes as commoners do. Rulers are born, they live and die, demonstrating mutability and frailty as they do so. Some scholars have suggested that rulers may seek identification with the divine precisely because of their mortality and evident human weakness (OConnor & Silverman 1995a: xxiii). And yet, despite what many researchers consider to be the paradox of the concept of divine humans, cultures ruled by such hybrid divinities do not seem to find any inherent contradiction in it. As this article will make clear, a large part of the paradox is created by scholarly preconceptions of what a godis. The Western concept of a god as one who is allpowerful, without faults, whose existence is not marked by either birth or death, is at times indiscriminately applied to other cultures. In a belief system where gods or supernaturals are born and can die, are changeable and even capricious, and have their own vulnerabilities, it is less necessary for a ruler to explain away these qualities in him- or herself. In 19th-century Fiji, the stranger king and his family were established as beings that were ontologically and historically separate from their subjects. Rulers did not spring from the same clay as [their] people (Sahlins 1981: 1 1 2 ) . In other parts of Polynesia, rulers were likened to sharks travelling on land, rapacious, unpredictable, wholly foreign in origin - danger-

* Stephen D. Houston, Department of Anthropology, Brighain Young University, Provo UT 84602-5522, USA. David Stuart, Peabody Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge MA 02138, USA. Received 6 June 1995, accepted 3 September 1995, revised 2 December 1995. ANTIQUITY (1996): 289-312 70

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ous (Sahlins 1981: 112). In a very different place and time, legal theorists in Tudor England found it useful to distinguish between the kings body natural and his bodypolitic, the domain of certain truly mysterious forces (which) reduce, or even remove,the imperfections of. . . fragilehuman nature (Kantorowicz 1957: 9). These societies framed authority in terms of mystical and religious forces, vested in a king who reigns not by force, still less by illusion, but by supernatural powers. . . [within] , . . him (Kertzer 1988: 52). Throughout the worlds history, culturally accepted linkages between rulers and the supernatural fall into recognizable patterns, demonstrating the ease with which such associations could be made in a context of appropriate beliefs and values. Cross-culturally, arrogating divinity and its attributes directly to the ruler occurs in three typical ways. 1 The ruler claims to be divine, in direct descent from other divinities, or receives divine honours after death (Price 1987:2

The ruler is rhetorically described in terms of qualities and epithets appropriate to a deity, although remaining recognizably distinct from a true god (Moertono 1968: 43-4; Liebeschuetz 1979: 238). Sacrality may hinge then on the possession of legitimating icons, such as the royal drum of the Ankole kingdom in East Africa, the magical pusaka, holy relics of inheritance, of 18th-century Java or the ting tripods of early China (Moertono 1968: 65; Pemberton 1994: 32; Ferrie 1995: 317). Alternatively, sacrality may connect with an aura of dangerous, sacred force emanating from royalty: the tapu restrictions surrounding traditional Hawaiian Blites or prohibitions regarding the imperial person in 17th-century Japan exemplify this force (Kertzer 1988: 46-7). 3 The ruler achieves divine status only on occasion, through the ritual summons of god-like forces which he appropriates for himself (Hocart 1970: 92.-3). By this form of possession, godly words form on a rulers tongue. His statements pass into the realm of unexamined, unquestioned truth, and his body becomes, as in ancient Egypt, suffused with the same divinity manifest in his office and the gods themselves (OConnor & Silverman 1995: xxv).

104).

Another mode of relating kings to divinity involves less the practice of sharing in divinity - the three customs outlined above - as fulfilling a central role in communications between gods, humans and, frequently, royal ancestors, who operate as crucial intermediaries (Bendix 1978: 18; Keightley 1978: 212-13). To the ruler goes the important task of interpreting divine will and controlling human approaches to the divine and the communication of gods to men (Beard 1990: 30; see also Moertono 1968: 40-41). Contrast with this situation the case of Classical Athens, where religious functions took place on many different levels, involving people of varying status (Garland 1990: 90). Perhaps the unique characteristic of royal interpretation of divine will is its applicability to all subjects in a polity. Finally, a divine rulers human qualities, particularly his mortality, may be cast in such a way as to exemplify larger, cosmic cycles or patterns. In this manner the symbolic attributes of the ruler negate common, human ones, or at least elevate them to another dimension of meaning (FeeleyHarnik 1985: 281-2). To quote Bagehot, a princely marriage is the brilliant edition of a universal fact, and, as such, it rivets mankind (cited in Cannadine 1987: 7). Royal divinity can also be reinforced by myth and ritual. To those who believe, myths provide incontrovertible, narrative rationales for why things exist in the way that they do. A subset of myths includes royal charters, stories that justify or explain regal behaviour. Similarly, as highly structured, standardized sequences, rituals often engage distant events, forces, or beings that are described in myth or charters and make them tangible and potent in the present (Kertzer 1988: 9). The parading of god effigies - seen extravagantly in ancient Egyptian processionals (Kemp 1989: 205) or Sumerian Gotterreisen (Sjoberg1957-1971: 481) -underscores royal pretensions of affinity with the gods. To spectators, the gods concretely and visibly participate in the rulers ceremonies. In much the same way, Mesopotamian rulers boast of housing gods in sumptuous dwellings and enjoy, particularly in the late 3rd millennium BC, the role of physical proxy in the marriages of gods (BottBro 1992: 225-6). Broadly speaking, then, there exists considerable variety in royal identifications or interventions with gods. Rulers may lay direct claim

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to divinity, or do so rhetorically by using godlike titles and demanding the ritual veneration due to gods. They may possess divine force intermittently, employing godly costumes and behaviours to summon supernatural presences. Further, lords may invite gods to witness and validate ceremonies (Liebeschuetz 1979: 43), often through god effigies or physical proxies that may be paraded ceremonially. A more subtle invocation of divinity consists of stories that liken royal lives to the immutable patterns set by gods. Implicit here is not only the notion of remote events and beings, but the continual repetition of such patterns in later times. For Mesoamerica, Nicholson (1971a) calls this pattern history, founded on the idea of recurrence: as calendar cycles, or certain permutations of these cycles, repeat, they produce like-in-kind repetitions of mythological or historical events. The artistic and documentary sources of the Classic Maya employ all these methods for linking rulers with the divine. Kings make frequent use of the explicit title kul ahaw, or divine lord. In rituals, lords also frequently impersonate gods by the wearing of deity masks, clothing and ornament. Gods or spirits may also appear in ceremonial situations as actual witnesses or participants, perhaps as effigies of wood, stucco, or stone. Before documenting these manifestations of divine rule, however, we must address the complex nature of gods i n Classic Maya and Mesoamerican belief.

The nature of Maya gods Ancient Maya sources are replete with depictions and mentions of supernatural beings, most of which are commonly called gods by students of Mesoamerican religion. The Mayan word is ku or chu, the pronunciation being dependent on the particular language, be it of the Yucatecan or Greater Tzeltalan branches. But god is not always a satisfactory translation. K u or ch u-which more accurately means a sacred entity when used as an adjective kul or chul (as in kul U ~ Q W holy lord) -has the , meaning of holy, sacred, divine. With these cautions, we retain the term godfor most major1 For glyphic notation we use a system advocated by George Stuart for his Research Reports series: bold indicates literal glyph transcription, italic the probable rendering in Classic Mayan.

deities while recognizing its limitations and understanding that not all supernatural entities can be grouped under a single, inclusive term. Partly in reaction to Schellhascompilation of Maya divinities (1904),Tatiana Proskouriakoff and others (Proskouriakoff 1965: 470-71; 1978: 113, 116-17; Marcus 1978) make four, related assertions: that the idea of gods results from the spurious application of Old World parallels (Marcus 1978: 180; Proskouriakoff 1978: 113; Marcus 1983: 345,349,351;Marcus &Flannery 1994: 57); that the concept pertains only to a few, late periods in Mesoamerican antiquity, especially those at a state or imperial level of political organization (Kubler 1969: 32; Grove 1987: 426; Marcus 1992: 270-711; that the notion of a god inherently distorts nuances of indigenous belief (Beals 1945: 85; Marcus 1989: 150-52); and that most gods in Mesoamerica represent euhemerized ancestors (Proskouriakoff 1978: 116-17). Rather than devising a pantheon, a roster of gods organized into a family on a Greco-Roman model, ancient Mesoamericans categorized and worshipped vital, impersonal forces of nature. These forces embodied essences that animated all (or most) things in nature and incorporated the powerful, intercessionary spirits of ancestors (Spores 1984: 85). There is some merit to such views, and the critics are correct in questioning indiscriminate use of the term god. To illustrate the complexities, we can point to an important category of supernaturals known as wayob (singular way), the animal companion spirits that helped constitute the psychological and spiritual make-up of Maya lords, rulers and places (Houston & Stuart 1989; Grube & Nahm 1994). Among modern native Mesoamericans, these entities are often called naguales, and remain an essential aspect of native Mesoamerican spirituality. They are consistently viewed as an aspect of the human soul, sometimes wandering at night from their sleeping hosts. This connexion is no doubt reflected in the alternate meaning of WQY as the verb to dream. In their depictions in Classic Maya art, usually on the exteriors of polychrome drinking vessels, wayob are shown as animal composites or as animals with unusual behavioural or bodily attributes. They are also explicitly linked with people. These depictions, then, are of ancient royal souls, or parts of these souls,

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FIGURE Glyphs for ku, god. 1. a The God C head. b Its common abbreviation.

and constitute an important key in the study of ancient Maya religion. Significantly, the way entities seem separate from the notions of ku or chu, and we prefer not to call them gods. This, at least, is a distinction the Maya were apparently careful to make. Chu is the foundation of the word chulel, which appears in Chol Mayan and the Greater Tzeltalan languages with the meaning like vitality, but perhaps more literally holiness [the term is composed of chu and the abstractive suffix -1eI).Widely translated as soulor spirit, it more correctly refers to the vital force or power that inhabits the blood and energizes people and a variety of objects of ritual and everyday life (Vogt 1969: 369-71). This general Maya conception is essentially identical to conceptions of divinity found elsewhere in Mesoamerica. The Classical Nahuatl word teotl, also widely translated as god, is more appropriately understood as a numinous, impersonal force diffused throughout the universe (Townsend 1979: 28; see also Hvidtfeldt 1958).Burkhart (1989: 37) aptly classifies this system of belief as polytheist monism . . . (a) divine principle manifested . . . in multiple forms, some ambivalent, some expressing opposite principles in their different manifestations. Ethnographic research among Mixtec-speaking peoples in Mesoamerica confirms the durability of this concept: potent forces, some linked to the earth, others to w i n d , water and the sky, present different faces or aspects for human apprehension [John Monaghan pers. comm.). Humans receive only partial glimpses of a divine totality, often in manifestations we call gods (Townsend 1979: 28). Not surprisingly, then, it is difficult to develop an inclusive and satisfactory definition for Maya gods. They may assume special human or animal forms [often both), and embody certain specific natural forces, such as lightning, wind, or the essence of maize [Taube 1985;

1992a).2Other, more specialized supernaturals seem to be narrowly conceived in connexion with specific places or socio-political entities. The Maya situation is similar in many respects to that which Nicholson (1971b) has described among the Aztec, where we find hierarchical categories of supernatural figures, each with diverse aspects and sometimes overlapping attributes. According to extant fragments of Classic period mythology, some supernaturals have birth-dates and named parents (Berlin 1963; Kelley 1965).Also, many Maya gods existed in two or more planes, living within sacred narratives far-removed from the present world as well as participating directly in the ritual activities of humans. As Michael Coe (1973: 22) and others suggest, sacred narratives not only worked to explain the patterning of natural events, but could establish charters for human, usually royal, behaviour. As actors and participants in rituals, gods could interact with powerful humans in an almost routine manner. Interestingly, many of these basic features of native religion survived the European conquest, and remain prevalent in Mesoamerica to the present day (Gossen 1986). In regionalized incarnations, Mesoamerican gods enjoyed tutelary relationships with particular socio-political groups (Lockhart 1992: 16), with whom they had an almost contractual relationship of quid pro quo transactions [Thompson 1970: 170). Nobility was defined in part through its direct association with particular gods. Crucial titles of rulership, as in Chalco, Mexico, involved the concept of godpossessor lord, perhaps reflecting an earlier notion of lords as carriers of god effigies (Schroeder 1991: 122-3, 142, 172-3). Similar evidence appears in the Mixtec region of Mexico (John Monaghan pers. comm.). Below we demonstrate the ways in which Maya rulers associated themselves with gods, often in similar ways.

Glyphs for gods The key glyph in discussing Maya conceptions I), of divinity is the God C sign (FIGURE deciphered as a logograph with the value KU(L) or CHU(L) (Barthell952: 94; Ringle 1988).As2 Taube (1992a) provides an excellent discussion of specific Maya deities, and Bottero (1992: 211) gives a comparable emphasis on theo-anthropomorphization in Mesopotamia. Cuthric j1993) offers a broad discussion of anthropomorphization in all religious thought.

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FIGURE Vase of the Seven Gods (Coe 1973: 1091. 2.

a proper noun, this hieroglyph conveys the ideas of ku,god, sacred entity, as already described: when prefixed to other signs, it also may be read as the adjectival form kul, sacred. The sign is extremely common in the inscriptions of the Classic period, suggesting that the ancient texts are a rich source for understanding Classic beliefs. A basic function of the KU(L) sign appears on the so-called Vase of the Seven Gods,which shows two rows of seated supernatural figures before an enthroned underworld deity (FIGURE 2; see Ringle 1988: 3, 5). According to Maya convention, these individuals - clearly nonhuman in their faces -rest on two base-lines, sitting side-by-side i n two rows. The extruded eyeballs and dark background of the scene lend a sinister, nocturnal quality to the image. The hieroglyphic text in the middle includes a long list of deity names, each followed by the KU glyph. Each of the right-facing figures, then, are designated as the so-and-so god.A verb

precedes this list of god names and follows, in turn, the 4 Ahau 8 Cumku date of Maya creation. The event may indicate that these gods are multiplied, ordered, added together at the beginning of the current creation (Freidel e t a ] . 1993: 67-9). Often certain prefix and affix signs qualify the sign for god in ways that affect its reading and meaning. For example, the KU sign often takes the prefix element U-, serving as the pronoun u-, his, hers, its, and the nominal suffix -il (FIGURE In Mayan syntax, these affixes 3). signal possession, so that the name of the possessor -the person to whom the godbelongsFIGURE The glyph for 3. u-ku-il, hidher god, from the Tablet of Temple X I V at Palenque, block C10. (After drflwing by Linda Schele.]

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- comes next in the phrase. In this way the term u-ku-il X would render Xs god. As one might suspect, the appearance of this phrase in the inscriptions helps us to understand the relationships between deities and humans. Several related inscriptions from the Cross Group temples at Palenque, Mexico, contain many such explicit statements of god ownership, and thus merit a more detailed analysis. The texts of the three temples in the Cross Group generally relate information about the Palenque Triad gods, three mystical brothers who were important tutelary deities of the local dynasty (Berlin 1963; Kelley 1968). Each of the three temples concerns one member of the Triad: the Temple of the Cross with the deity known as GI,the Temple of the Foliated Cross with GII,and the Temple of the Sun with GIII. Each god was born in the far distant past; the main tablets associated with them connect their mythic history with the early Palenque kings (see Lounsbury 1979). Secondary inscriptions located outside the inner shrines of the temple give important dedicatory information on the construction of the temples and the housing of the gods within. Significantly, the inner shrines of these temples are explicitly owned by the deities themselves. This concept is reflected throughout Mesoamerica, where temples are almost universally considered gods houses.There are a few other instances in which gods possess things. A text on the lid of a stone box parallels the Palenque material (Coe 1973: plate 7). The inscription, beginning with a date and verb, continues with an expression probably reading U-PAS-TUN-li, glyphs spelling open stone (a reference to the lidded box) along with the usual possessive affixes. To judge from the remainder of the inscription, the box belonged to two gods, identified as the gods of a ruler of Tonina, a site relatively close to Palenque. Typical of the dedicatory texts of the Cross Group is the inscription from the balustrade (or alfurda) of the Temple of the Foliated Cross. According to this text, on the day 1.18.5.4.0 1 Ahau 13 Mac (8 November 2360 BC) the god GI1 was born at a place called Matawil, and some 3000 years later, on 9.12.19.14.12 5 Eb 5 Kayab (12 January AD 692), the god of Kinich Kan Balam, the contemporary Palenque king, entered the house. One may safely assume here that the rulers god is GI1 himself, although

he is not named in this second dedicatory passage. A related inscription from the door jamb of the shrine of the same temple presents the information in a slightly different way. This text states the same house entering event involving GII, now named, but states that the deity is the cared-forthing or precious thing (huntan) of the ruler Kinich Kan Balam. Interestingly, the word huntan is more often used to express the relationship between a child and its mother (Kinich Kan Balam is the precious thing of the Royal Lady Tsak, for instance). Although no precise kin relationship is expressed, it would seem that a ruler was thought to care for a god, perhaps through sustaining sacrifices, much in the way a mother cares for her offspring. It is doubtful, however, that such statements can be extended to mean that rulers were considered mothers of deities (cf.Schele & Freidel 1990: 475; Stuart 1984). These inscriptions and their alternative phrasings demonstrate beyond doubt that the rulers could be considered owners of important deities. The possessed u-ku-if glyphs do not allude to concepts of temple nor to any abstract, impersonal invocations of holiness (cf.Schele & Freidel 1990: 473, figure 6:15), but rather pertain to distinct and personalized sacred entities. One may go so far as to suggest that such references may allude to specific images of gods, for the identical phrase u-chuil means his idol in Colonial Cholti Mayan (Fought 1986). The corresponding hieroglyph, shown in FIGURE is common in many dif3, ferent types of Maya texts, including several touching on themes of warfare and conquest. Inscriptions at Tikal, for example, refer to the gods of a ruler from El Peru and another of a Naranjo lord, both of whom were apparently the victims of military defeats. Although the readings of these passages present certain problems of interpretation, we concur with the suggestion by Simon Martin and Nikolai Grube that the defeat of neighbouring kingdoms may have involved the appropriation, capture or desecration of foreign god effigies owned by royal victims (Martin n.d.). Ideas of god ownership are not the sole source of divine qualities ascribed to rulers. In an iconographic usage, the ku glyph appears as streams of liquid falling from the hands of rulers in sacrificial costume. The streams represent royal blood shed in self-sacrifice (Stuart 1984; 1988);

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their depiction as the ku motif most likely signals the concept of the chulel, which according to numerous ethnographic sources, constitutes a part of the soul and inhabits the blood of all humans (Vogt 1969). Power and prestige are defined by many modern Maya groups by the degree of ones heat and the corresponding strength of ones chulel (Guiteras-Holmes 1961: 72). Ancient rulers, much like high-ranking Maya of today, may have had strongeror hotter souls which could be channelled, in effect, to sanctify and bless ritual objects and subordinate persons. The chulel of the rulers -it may have gone by another term in Classic times was probably a central focus of much royal blood ritual, and, perhaps, a major factor in defining the divine qualities of royal office.

Rulers as gods Classic Maya rulers made direct claims to divinity by means of certain royal titles that make use of the KU(L) sign. The Emblem glyph, an exalted title used almost exclusively by kings, is the most important of these. The Emblem title includes the term for lord,ahaw, the name of a place over which the lord exercised or claimed dominion, and - as its distinguishing attribute -kul, sacred or holy (Mathews 1991: 24; Stuart 1993: 326). The holyintimates that the ruler holds a quality shared with few others, a quality that presupposes a claim to divinity or, more precisely, god-like tatu us.^ In an intriguing pattern, the kul ahaw epithet is common only rather late in the Classic period (Houston 1989: 55). An argument can be made that the Emblem title -rather like hueitlahtoani (great ruler) of the Mexica Aztec - reflects a need for new, more exalted grades in society and a distinction between the ruler and a bur3 In our opinion, Freidel & Scheles (1988: 348, 363) discussion of Classic Maya rulers as conduit(s)of supernatural power and direct divine inspiration goes too far i n connecting divine or supernatural power with the ahaw (lord] title. Apparently restricted to the royal family, the title does not in itself connote divinity, but may rather supply the Mayan equivalent of the central Mexican term, tlnhfouni, speaker:note proto-Cholan aw, shout (Kaufman & Norman 1984: 116), resulting possibly i n *aj-uw, he of the shout, shouter.The rhetorical connection with Big Men is obvious. Moreover, Freidel contends that the title of divine lord (in fact, holy [place] lord) came into being as an institution and definition of central power by AD 199 (Freidel 1992: 119). We believe that common use of this title took place far later, c. AD 500.

geoning group of nobles, many of royal descent. There is increased emphasis on royal ladies who use the honorific title kul ixik, holy woman, at about the same time. To restrict the number of ahawob, rulers may have used the expedient of bilateral descent to define royalty through paternal and maternal blood-lines, a pattern well-documented among Mixtec rulers, who lived within a closed social universe that could be legally penetrated only by birth (Spores 1967: 141).Nonetheless, present Mayan hieroglyphic evidence shows somewhat more flexibility than existed among the Mixtec. Another claim to divinity is evident from the personal names of Maya rulers (see Geertz 1977: 158; 1980: 1 2 4 , for a similar pattern in Bali). Many names incorporate references to deities, one of the most common being the initial element Kinich (Sun-faced,a descriptive name for the sun),as in Kinich Kan Balam (Sunfaced Snake Jaguar).Other royal names describe aspects of deities, such as the Yaxchilan ruler Itsamnah Balam, or Itsamnah Jaguar (widely known as Shield Jaguar), Itsamnah being the name of the very important deity sometimes known as God D. This name would seem to describe a jaguar that assumes a partial identity with the deity Itsamnah. Two rulers of Classic times share the name Itsamnah Kawil. Kawil is the name of another deity of great importance (widely dubbed God K); again the name seems to intimate that these kings are somehow hybridsof these supernaturals. Other royal names, more descriptive, are hardly less opaque: Chaakisborn from the sun (FIGURE Kawil 4a), is born from the sky (FIGURE 4b), Kinich is born from the sky, Kawil is conjured (FIGURE 4c) and Kawil is born (Chaak is the Rain God, Kinich the Sun God). The significance of these names is unclear. Decipherments provide readings of names but, to date, little understanding of why the Maya favoured certain names over others. Sometimes royal names skip one or more generations, suggesting that that they could have only one living bearer. Often, scholars focus on the initial elements of names and conclude, erroneously, that the shared signs point to use of the same name at different sites (FIGURE In fact, it is the final sign, usually a 4). deity, that forms the crucial component; preceding glyphs simply provide subtle, adjectival modifications of the god name. We have seen in the examples just cited how two out-

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a

a

b

FIGUKE Personal names of rulers incorporating 4.

the name of the god Kowil. a Chaak is born from the sunfrom Macaquila Stela 1 1 . (Drawing after Graham 1967:figure 63.) b Xawil i s born from the skyjrom an inscribed vessel in a private collection. c Xawil i s conjured. (After Kerr 1383.1

wardly similar names beginning with the same glyphs pertain to different gods. As in ancient Egypt, the outright assertion that Maya rulers were considered godsremains problematic (Baines 1995: 6,10-11). Texts which apply god names to rulers suggest they are holy (an epithet often limited to the ruler, his spouse and royal ancestors), but not once are living kings said directly to be gods. Much clearer fusions of gods and royals occur with deceased rulers, who may begin to be venerated as ancestral heroes or founder-leaders but over time take on the guise of deities. As Carrasco (1950: 143, translation in Townsend (1979: 34)) states with regard to Central Mexican religious history, one of the main processes by which

Greene Robertson.) c Tikal Stela 31. (Jones b Satterthwaite 1982: figure 51c.)

FIG~JREDepictions of ancestors. 5. a Tonina Monument 69. (Drawing by Ian Graham.] b Palenque sarcophagus lid. (Drawing b y Merle

Mesoamerican religions produce such great quantities of deities is the deification of a n ancestral tribal leader, who assumes the attributes of the gods of the tribe he represents.

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This type of transformation may have taken place among the Maya of ancient Copan, who in their later years erected the largest temples of the site to the great historical founder Kinich Yax Kuk Mo (Fash 1988; Stuart 1992). Posthumous royal portraits tend to fall into three classes (McAnany 1995): 1 static images of seated or standing lords, pictured as they might appear in life (FIGURE

this monument, perhaps because the image was intended to evoke a pre-literate period. (Other early, fragmentary monuments were incorporated into the structure behind the stela, suggesting later refurbishment of a building associated conceptually with the early years of the Tamarindito dynasty.) The only ancestors that seem to be depicted explicitly as gods are those in the ascending generation or deceased kings, often bearing the attributes of the god 54; 2 views of rulers in transformation or metaKawil. This contrasts with some central Meximorphosis, usually merged with the at- can beliefs, in which patron deities of particular tributes of the Maize God or plants (FIGURE socio-political groups merge with the deified tribal ancestor or first founder of a com5b); and munity. Temples dedicated to such gods were 3 depictions of disembodied, deceased lords, the symbol of the towns independence and wreathed in smoke (FIGUREC ) . ~ S Of these portraits, only rulers and their spouses integrity, and, in one sense, its luck and fate, seem ever to adopt the features of divinity. Royal so that military conquest was signalized by the fathers may occur as Sun Gods or individuals burning of the patron deitys shrine, frequently encased in sun disks, while mothers are iden- followed by the carrying off of the latters imtified with the Moon Goddess. Sometimes re- age (Nicholson 1971b: 409). cently deceased rulers appear in the guise of the Maize God. Thus royal parents pair with The gods made animate the two most prominent features in the sky, each Under special circumstances, the distinction diurnally opposed to the other, while the Maize between rulers and deities appears to have been God, an emblem of youth, sustenance and purposefully vague. Kings and high nobles vegetal regeneration, represents a transforma- possessed the special ability to assume the identional cycle or a mortuary charter that likens tities of certain gods through ritual impersonarulers to the first human, who was fashioned tion. Geertz (1977: 157) describes impersonation of succulent maize dough (Houston 1995). Yet, as an aspect of the rulers charisma, liminally despite such explicit representations, we must suspended between gods and men. At this point remember that living rulers seldom made un- the Aztec concept of teixiptla becomes imporequivocal claims to divinity. Seemingly holy tant, for it allows us to understand the subtleand god-likeduring their life-times, they were ties and implications of god impersonation in Mesoamerica. The teotl, the divine energy, probably set apart from actual Maya deities. A related topic is the naming of dynastic manifests itself in the teixiptla, the physical founders, some of which seem to be described representation or incarnation of the teotf . , . as kinds of stars, as at Dos Pilas (Schele 1992; [which is] called forth by the creation of a Houston 1993: figure 4-5). By Classic times, the teixiptla [Boone 1989: 4 ; see also Hvidtfeldt 1958: 76-100). In Postclassic central Mexico, Maya may have endowed these progenitors with divinity, but there is nothing in their titles - costumes, masks and effigies of gods do not many use Emblem glyphs - that would sug- represent deities. They are gods in the sense gest a markedly different status from later lords. of being partial extensions of divinity. In some One stela at Tamarindito, Guatemala, may show instances, there is such a resemblance between a Late Classic lord dressed as the founder of image and god that . . . visible forms charged his dynasty (Houston 1993: figure 4-5). Regret- with sacred power are considered to be gods tably, and rather strangely, no texts occur on themselves [Lbpez Austin 1993: 137, 138). When dancers don masks or other elements of 4 Stela 6, a monument from Caracol, Belize, may record godly costume, the essence of the god . . . that a deceased ruler witnessed or saw (yi-IL-a-hi,y-ilbecome[sl present in material form, much as oh-i, he was seeing it) a ritual performed by his succesit does for Puebloan Kachina dancers (Markman sor (Beetz & Satterthwaite 1981: figure 7b, glyph B20). This & Markman 1989: 69). In his study of manwould seem to represent a textual description of the floating ancestor motif. gods in the Mexican Highlands, Serge Gruzinski

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U-ba-hi-liC

a-nu

U-ba-hi-li

a-ANUM?

U-ba-li ANUM

FIGURE God impersonation glyphs. 6. a Naranjo Stela 24: E3-D4. (Drawing b y Ian Graham .] b Panel in the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts. (Drawing by Ian Graham.] c E k a l Lintel 3, Structure 5C-4, E5. (Jones b Satterthwaite 198Z:figure 74.)

u-bah anum?

gods namea

0 .

bFIGURE God imper7. son a tion expressions . a Maize god at Tikal. (Drawing after Jones 6. Sa tterth waite 1982: figure 74.) b S u n god at Bonamp a k . [Drawing by Stephen HOuston.) c Lord of the black hole. (Drawing after Kerr 791.)

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(1989: 2 2 , 2 3 ) comments that, through association with divine force, often present in sacred relics, something penetrated the man, possessed him, transformed him into a faithful replica of god, made him part of the very authority he adored.

Recent decipherments of Maya hieroglyphs indicate that similar concepts prevailed among the Classic Maya. A distinctive, formulaic phrase is now identified that introduces the names of kings and their close relatives, often accompanying portraits of rulers as impersonators. The

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relevant glyphs read u-bah-il, possibly hisbody or image, followed by a sign representing a banner or flag decorated with bar-and-dot numbers. This banner sign can be replaced by the syllables a-nu,suggesting its full value of A W L or ANUM, perhaps related to Yucatecan m u m , famous (FIGURES 6b).5Occasionally, these 6a, signs are conflated or compressed into a single glyph block (FIGURE One example includes 6c). the addition of the suffix KU. After these combinations come two phrases that complete the expression: first, the name of a deity (along with some rare prepositional phrases); and second, the personal name of a ruler or noble. We interpret this expression as (it is) the image of . . . the famous god, followed by the name of the ruler, lord, or lady who impersonates the god. As it happens, tracing this pattern throughout the inscriptions leads to the identification of several previously unknown Maya deities. Several deities mentioned in this impersonation phrase are clearly identifiable. The Maize god occurs in several cases (FIGURE 7a), as does the Sun God (FIGURE and a sinister-sounding 7b) deity named the the black hole lord (FIGURE 7c). Several of these phrases occur in direct association with portraits of rulers in the actual guise of the named deity. FIGURE shows 8 three examples. The first illustrates a correspondence between rulers holding staffs and dressed in elaborate capes with agnathous jaguars; jaguar markings occur on the face of one figure (FIGURE The god impersonation glyphs 8). show this deity is a being, the Jaguar God of the Underworld, whose name in two cases here is preceded by the sign for smoke or fire. We suspect this god parallels a central Mexican5 The banner-like sign is identical to the motif Michael Coe (1978: 106) first identified as the number tree or computer print-out in Maya art. The element often extrudes from beneath the arms of scribal gods (Reents-Budet 1994: figure 2:27), and one sculpture of Early Classic date shows a youthful deity writing on similar vegetation (Berjonneau et al. 1985: plate 364). We suspect that the Maya thus depicted a perishable medium for more casual script, rather like the palm-leaf employed in India and southeast Asia (Gaur 1992: 40, 50-51). The fact that only numbers occur on such vegetation suggests its typical content: rapid accountings unaccompanied by explanatory, linguistic glosses. Theoretically, these notations underline an important point made by Piotr Michalowski (n.d.: 11, 14) for Mesopotamian script, namely, that we are dealing not with one, unitary notational system, but with many, each potentially of different origin and developmental trajectory.

deity, Huehueteotl, the old fire god (Nicholson 1971b: 412-13). Apparently, the Maya rituals kindled fires with a lashed staff, perhaps a ceremonial fire-drill. One image, on Naranjo Stela 30 (FIGURE carries several records of such 8c), events as they are linked to calendrical rituals. Another deity impersonated by Maya lords and ladies is named with the glyphs in FIGURE 9. Unlike the Jaguar God of fire, this deity seems to be aquatic, represented as a serpent with a water-lily bound to its head. Previously the name of this water serpent, as we shall call it, has been erroneously interpreted as a blood-letting expression (Schele 1982: figure 50). The name glyphs of the deity include the term for snake or snake-house, as well as, in the case of male impersonators, the enigmatic term yax chit (?), perhaps a mythological referent. Another important supernatural may be impersonated in a portrait on a sculpted door jamb from Xcalumkin, Campeche (FIGURE 10). Here the inscription identifies something known as 18 Ubah Kan with the exotic costuming usually linked with the great Mexican metropolis of Teotihuacan. The name 18 Ubah Kan occurs in other inscriptions in association with Teotihuacan symbolism, and may refer to some appropriated deity from that site. Maya lords often linked themselves to Teotihuacan, long after its decline as a major force in Mesoamerica (Stone 1989; Taube 1992b; Freidel et al. 1993: 308-12; Stuart 1994). The hieroglyphic commemorations of such ritual impersonations are common; they clearly provide important evidence conclusive to questions of divine kingship. Much like modern Maya in highland Chiapas (Vogt 1993: 116), Classic Maya lords episodically adopted the names and costuming of particular gods and performed rituals appropriate to those deities, such as fire-drilling. The similarities to betterdocumented practices in central Mexico (Hvidtfeldt 1958; Klein 1986) are sufficiently striking to suggest that Maya impersonations were not simply mummery and costumed drama. Rather, rulers and certain non-regnal figures shared in some manner the divinity of those gods. The costuming offered not so much a theatrical illusion as a tangible, physical representation of a deity. Significantly, these impersonations were not reserved for high kings. As we have seen, royal women and high-ranking nobles also assumed these roles. Conceivably, those divine

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/

\\

/

FIGURE Rulers in the guise of the fire god. a. a Tikal Stela 9. (Jones 6 Satterthwaite 1982:figure 130.) . b Ekal Stela 13. (Jones 6.Satterthwaite 1982:figure 19b.)

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c Naranjo Stela 30. (Graham 1978: 79.)

qualities we might otherwise associate with kingship were distributed more widely among members of the Maya Blite. Alternatively, instead of diluting the singular divinity of rulers, impersonations by political subordinates may have been cast in terms of mythological subordination. In some images on carved royal thrones, high-ranking nobles are shown in mythical guises as supports of the kings seat, just as certain gods sustain the earth or heavens. The question remains why certain gods were selected for impersonation. Why was it deemed necessary, for example, for a noble to assume the identity of the Maize God or for the Water Serpent to undertake certain rituals? Lost details of mythic narratives once held some of the answers, no doubt. Impersonators, in any event, may have been considered recurring

manifestations of deities who participatedin repeating ritual cycles.As gods be our witness Aside from rulers possessinggods and assuming their identities on certain occasions, we find in the Maya texts how deities could otherwise become participants of sorts during royal ceremonies. Both iconographic and textual sources reveal that gods were invoked or summoned by various means to witness certain rituals. Several depictions exist of supernaturals floating in clouds near or above rituals, possibly emanating from incense or burnt paper (FIGURE In the inscrip11). tions, the act of conjuring spirits or deities is rendered by the term tsak, literally to conjure clouds in Yucatec Mayan. The hieroglyph for this event is the so-called fish-in-hand, read TSAK, occa-

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The body of the famous(!)

...

[gods name]

sionally spelled syllabically tsa-ka.In the inscription of the Tablet of the Cross at Palenque, we read that the ruler Kinich Kan B a l m thrice (?) conjures his god(s), apparently in reference to the three deities of the Palenque Triad (FIGURE 12). Through such royal acts of conjuring, deities were somehow manifested to become participants or witnesses in ceremonies. Many ritual activities are said to occur in the company of or in the sight of (y-ichnal) deities (FIGURE 13). An inscription from Piedras Negras, for instance, records the receiving of a war helmet by a ruler together with his god(s). A triad of deities is named, perhaps constituting a set of localized supernatural patrons, as found at Palenque and other sites. Later in this same text we read that the Holy Lord conjured the gods, a phrase which tells us that the deities were invited to participate and sponsor the ceremony FIGURE Water serpent glyphs and head-dress. 9. through the direct solicitation of the a Glyphs from Pomona Tablet 1.The term -ichnal (spelled yi-chi-NAL) perhaps appears in modern Yucatec Mayan as -iknal, an inalienably possessed noun with two possible meanings: home or habitual place or the perceptual inner space [that] can be encompassed in a single visual field and is in practical reach of any adult within it (Hanks 1989: 91-2). Linguistically, the term refers to the corporeal field of one person and as such suggests a more precise understanding of the related glyphic expression: the gods appear as witnesses and not, properly speaking, as direct participants in ritual. When theyichnol expression involves two human beings, the second name corresponds to someone of higher status who sponsors the event.67 One of the gods at La Mar, Bolon Yokte Ku, plays a role in many texts, but the most enigmatic completes the inscription of Monument 6 from Tortuguero, Mexico. Here is recorded a calendrical event in the early 21st century AD, at which time, apparently, the god may descendye-ma,y-emal (there are some technical problems with this translation). The reference is notable for its uniqueness. Prophecy forms an important body of colonial Maya literature but is poorly represented in Classic Maya texts, where future statements relate almost exclusively to impersonal temporal events that are safely predictable [e.g., the 13 baktuns will be finished at 13.0.0.0.0 in the Maya Long Count).

b Panel in Bowers Museum. (Drawing by John Montgomery)

This evidence from the inscriptions shows that gods operate not as distant creator beings, coupled exclusively with incidents in remote time and space, but rather participate as ritual sponsors, particularly at moments when rulers receive key regalia under the authority of gods. Moreover, even though some of the rites described are approximately the same (the reception of regal emblems), the emphasis on certain gods varies from site to site. In the case of Palenque, the triad of GI, GI1 and GI11 are of special interest only to the local dynasty, suggesting the existence of tutelary gods in purely local association with dynasties. This is apparently also true of other centres, where the same deities may appear in different aspects as the foci of distinct, localized cults. The records of sites in the Petexbatun region of Guatemala, for example, contain consistent references to

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I

(FIGURE 15). The action recalls the Aztec practice of seizing effigies of enemy gods and then housing them as spiritual hostages in a special building, the coateocalli (Townsend 1992: 91). By this means, the Aztecs absorbed and usurped the cults of the vanquished, undermining their claims to an independent spiritual identity. We believe such patterns profoundly affect our understanding of Classic Maya divinities. Rather like central Mexico and even Classical Antiquity, Maya deities display complex localized aspects and political associations (see Weber 1978: 413-14; MacMullen 1981: 1-7). There may be a Kawil or a GI venerated at several sites, but it is not so much a single god as multiple, distinctly conceptualized versions forming a deity complex. Such deities also suggest something of the extraordinary complexity of Classic Maya theology. There is no one set of gods codified and venerated by all Classic Maya. Rather, there are localized cults. A god revered at one site may partly share the name of a god at another, but we cannot presume an identity of ritual roles, meanings, or history of development. A creation event at Dos Pilas, Guatemala, indicates the participation of local gods at an event usually interpreted in pan-Maya terms (cf. Freidel et al. 1993: 6475 and Houston 1993: figure 4-4). Future studies of Classic religion must take this variety into account and avoid using one site, especially Palenque, as a paradigmatic model for beliefs Freidel elsewhere in the Yucatan peninsula (cf. & Schele 1988).

FIGURE impersonation of Teotihuacan god. 10. (Graham b von Euw 1992: 168.)

Godly images It would be a mistake, in our view, to assume GI-Kawii, perhaps a deity pair or, alternatively, that the participation of deities in royal ritual a hybrid form of two entities, rather like those was an abstract ideal, induced through halludescribed above in some royal names (FIGURE cinogenic visions and conjuring. Rather, we 14). GI-Kawil owned a stela, according to one suggest that, much like in Postclassic Central text, and perhaps also took the form of a cult Mexico, Classic Maya courts possessed abuneffigy that was erected or dressed. According dant images of gods comparable to the Aztec to another inscription, an enemy may even have teixiptla, described above. A possible glyph for destroyed the gods banner in an act which such images occurs in the jumbled stucco inpresumably humiliated the dynasty connected scription of Temple 18 at Palenque, Chiapas (FIGURE 16a):U-wi-ni-BAH, u-winba, effigy,imto this god or god pair. Another deity is closely linked to the Copan age in Yucatec Maya. Another glyph of the same dynasty and especially the unfortunate ruler meaning occurs on Dos Pilas Stela 15, and glyphs 18 Ubah Kawil, who was taken captive by the for koh, maskor image, have been found in ruler of Quirigua. Quirigua Stela I describes this several inscriptions (Freidel et al. 1993: 65). deity as the god of 18 Ubah KawiI just a few In artistic representations, as well, cult effigies days before the captive lord was decapitated are commonly depicted. At Palenque an im-

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FIGURE Floating 11. gods, lxlu Stela 2. (Jones 6 Satterth. waite 1982: figure80.1

age of a god is presumably unwrapped from an enclosing bundle (FIGURE 16b). According to Macri (1988: 116-17), the ritual dressing of effigies of the Palenque Triad gods is a major thematic focus of the texts within the Temple of the Inscriptions at Palenque.

The physical remains of Classic period cult effigies are understandably rare, apparently being manufactured ofwood and stucco for the most part. A large Preclassic figure of the rain god Chaak was discovered within a ritual cave by Ian Graham (see Stuart & Stuart 1977: 53).

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Maya pot gods, lak-il kuh (McGee 1990: 512). Like teixiptla, the pot gods are periodic receptacles for divine force and the tangible medium through which gods consume offerings made to them. To claim the Classic Maya made use of cult effigies or idolsmay state the obvious, but some debate exists on how Maya religion may have changed during the transition between the ClasFIGURE The hieroglyph for tsak, conjure 12. (second glyph). (After drawing b y Linda Schele.) sic and Postclassic eras. Indeed, this issue has received far less attention than deserved. AcArchaeologists at Tikal, Guatemala, found disin- cording to much received wisdom, derived tegrated wooden effigies of the god Kawil -very largely from native Maya chronicles composed similar to those bundled figures depicted in the during colonial times (see Tozzer 1941: 23), the Palenque tablets - in Burial 195, a royal burial collapse of numerous Classic-period kingdoms near the centre of the city (FIGURE Coe 1990: was followed by a period of intense Mexican 16c; figure 198). Accordingly, we have textual refer- influence, where the veneration of rulers in the ences to effigies as well as their physical remains. stela cult gave way to idolatry and, according We should mention one final category of to at least one source (Seler 1898),bloody sacimage. El Zapote Stela 1 (FIGIJRE a monu- rificial rites. As Taube (1992a) has demon17), ment dating to the Early Classic period, depicts strated, however, the gods of the Postclassic the image of a Maya deity, a variant of Chak, era were closely linked to Classic period antethe rain god. The text on the back of the stela cedents. Although the infusion of central Mexiclearly specifies that the stela (u-Zakam-tun-il) can culture into northern Yucatan i n the belongs to this god, who in turn is the deity ( u - Terminal Classic period did involve the adopku-il) of a local lord. Later, the text apparently tion of new deities, cultsand new iconographic establishes an equivalence between the god and ideals, the essential Maya-ness of the religion his monument, as though both were one and encountered in the conquest of Yucatan canthe same. Effigies may also have taken the form not be denied. Certainly sacrificial rites were of vessels, such as the GI cache vessels of the as old as Mesoamerican religion itself. This is Early Classic period, that received the same sort why the later traditions of Central Mexico and of animating force attested for later Lacandon Yucatan are reasonable models for many as-

He receives the helmet

[rulersname1 in the company of

his gods

[god 1 1

[god21

[god31

FIGURE The 13. company of gods on Piedras Negras Panel 2, H1-K1. (Drawing by David Stuart. 1

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pects of Classic period religion, including the veneration of cult effigies. The chief disjunction between the Classic and the Postclassic religious paradigms concerns the changing nature of royal oversight of ritual activity, or at least in the way this was presented in the hieroglyphic writing and art. With the political disintegration of many lowland kingdoms in the 9th century, some royal ancestral cults no doubt foundered; while the role of kingly ritual underwent drastic transformations, the underlying nature of deities and the means of representing them remained startlingly similar. The practice of using cult effigies continues to be common, in one form or another. Today, ritual processions take place among the highland Maya of Chiapas, Mexico, where movement consists of a group of ritualists walking single-file, in fixed rank order, from one shrine to another (Vogt 1993: 42). A few such processions, often stretching over days, are known for Classic Maya rulers (Stuart & Houston 1994: 90-92). Remarkably, these resemble ritual movements of modern Maya in that they involve eastto-west movements (Gossen 1972: 147),which set out from the direction of the rising sun and flow[ing] along its path (Vogt 1985: 488, 489; 1993: 43). More broadly still, they recall the triumphal progress of charismatic rulers in the Old World, who may employ processions to locate the societys center and affirm its connections with transcendent things by stamping a territory with rituals signs of dominance (Geertz 1977: 153).Whether or not one accepts Geertzs notion of exemplary rulers -and there are grounds for questioning its reductionistic view of monarchy in the region where he defined it (Barth 1993: 221-4) - these processions served as more than casual outings. The custom of carrying god images during the Classic period may contribute in part to the current practice in some Maya communities, which meld syncretic images of Catholic saints with concepts of local sovereignty. When images sally forth in seasonalprocessions,they survey the boundary of their domain and function as principal participants [in ritual] rather than mere . . . objects of devotion (Watanabe 1992: 72). [Vlisible,familiar,and generally predictable,these saintly images insist on clothing, feeding and processing (Watanabe 1992: 75). Their relationship with the community presupposes reciprocal obligations,the saint to be tended, the community

FIGURE4 . Local god 1 of the Petexbatun kingdom, from Aguateca Stela 1 . (Graham 1967: figure 3.)

ku-yu-?-ki

a-ha-wa (gods name)

U-KU-il

18-(u)ba(h)-Kawil (rulersname)

FIGURE Local god of Copan ruler, from 15. Quirigua Stela 1 , 08-010. (After drawing by Matthew Looper.)

to be protected and sanctified by its presence (Watanabe 1992: 75). Visits of saintly images to other towns may preserve an earlier ritual of obeisance by patron deities, through which regional hierarchical integration was expressed and reinforced (Farriss 1984: 152). We do not suggest that the cult of saints is more Maya than folk Catholic, yet the ritual behaviour connected with them does have indigenous parallels. Often, modern Maya saints indulge in amorous intrigue and possess vengeful, bilious temperaments. Their human petitioners demand more than revere (Madsen 1967: 381), and Maya have been known to suspend unco-operative saints upside down in trees (John Monaghan pers. comm.). Some of these surprising actions occur in medieval Europe as well (Alan Kolata pers. comm.).But, at the least, we can see in the profound social bonds between saints and particular communities a reflection

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a

FIGURE . God effigies 16 in Classic Maya art and writing. a Effigy dYPh (winba), Palenque Temple XVIII stuccoes. (After Schele S. Mathews 1979: 431.1 b Image of effigy, Palenque Temple XIV tablet. (After drawing b y Linda Schele.1 c God effigy from Ekal Burial 185. (After Coe 1967: 57.)

of the tutelary gods, some tangible as carved images, that existed throughout ancient Mesoamerica. In Postclassic Mexico, these images supplied leaders with political authority as godbearers or god-protector lords (see Schroeder 1991: 122-3,142,172-3). Embodiments of the community, images were the targets of raids by antagonistic groups, just as saintly images are sometimes stolen or spirited away today (Nicholson 1971b: 409). In all likelihood, Classic Maya architecture of the elite cannot be understand solely in terms of mortuary or residential architecture -the prevailing mode of interpretation - but as places where these images were housed in the splendour and cosseted privacy due them [Houston in press).

Divinity and rulership, authority and belief This article began with a list of devices to link rulers and divinity, all of which are present

among the Classic Maya. We have evidence of: 1 declarations that living lords were god-like, alongside stronger claims for the divinity of deceased rulers in the ascending generation; 2 royal epithets representing rhetorical, analogical claims to divinity; 3 narratives or iconography likening royal behaviour to the exemplary behaviour of gods; 4 intermittent possession by godly force through costuming and behaviour appropriate to certain deities; 5 summons of gods to witness, presumably with favour, the rituals of living rulers; and 6 the possession and tending of god images which, most sources indicate, served as receptacles of divine force. This last, involving the custodianship of im-

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ages, argues powerfully for the assertion of legitimate rule through royal possession of ethnic or tribal gods that prefigure the saints cults of the historic Maya region. The strategies employed by Classic Maya rulers resemble general patterns documented for ancient Egypt, where the king is marginal to the world of the gods, yet through him they rely on this world and on human efforts to sustain them and the cosmos (Baines 1995: 11). Armed with several recent decipherments, we can return to the apparent paradox that Maya kings were at once gods and men. Through their close interactions with deities, extending to the point of apparently exerting control overFIGURE El Zapote Stela 1 . (Afterfield drawing 17. by Ian Graham, courtesy of the Corpus of Maya Hieroglyphic Inscriptions, Peabody Museum, Harvard University.]

. .. . .. ... . . .;.: ;,-:.; ...... ........ ..... . .. ... .

j. .:. ;....$ : : . - .

,

.. . ., ..:.. ...:.. . .. . .

... . . ...,. , ... . .. . . .......,

1

1

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them through acts of conjuring, kings and high drawal of divine favor, and the charter of relinobles could claim an obvious qualitative dif- gious failing can be strategically used in a camference from those of lower social and politi- paign of de-authorization (Lincoln 1994: 207). cal standing. The ritual acts that displayed and Supernatural mandates, laden with possibilipresented such roles were certainly important ties, are also fraught with risk; the prudent lord in defining the category of ahaw, lord,yet they favours routinized ritual over unpredictable and were perhaps not the exclusive domain of high falsifiable divination (David Webster pers. rulers. What set rulers apart, then, defining them comm.). The same point was made long ago as true divine rulers? We have suggested that a in Webers (1978: 1114-15) study of charismore quantitative distinction may be crucial, matic domination and legitimacy. Once chaspecifically with regard to the relative strength risma and its supernatural supports were made or heat of ones life essence or soul, widely routine and institutionalized, charisma and known as chulel (literally holiness).The wide- charismatic blessing [could be transformed1 spread title of high kings, kul ahaw or Holy from a unique transitory gift of grace of exLord, may intimate that kings, through their traordinary times and persons into a permaclose connexions to the spiritual realm, were nent possession of everyday life (Weber 1978: 1121). Whether such efforts are successful is the hottest of all living people. A compelling theological framework for another matter. For scholars, a difficult issue is the nature understanding the Classic Maya idea of divinity, especially as resident in masks, clothing of the strategies documented for the Classic and effigies, comes from near-by central Mexico. Maya. Were these held by the entire society, General comparisons, once common in Meso- and how did they shift through time? We have american studies and evident in this paper, are described a system of legitimation predicated unfashionable; research tends now to focus on on dynastic assertions of divinity and monopocomparisons within sub-regions and language listic attempts to control divine mediation. These groups. That approach is defensible analytically efforts may have met with variable success, and in that scholars preserve control over context almost certainly shifted subtly as elites began and historical setting. But there is also a cost: to play a more ostentatious role in sculpture broader patterns become less clear, and students and writing towards the middle of the Late lose sight of the essential fact that Mesoamerica Classic period (Fash 1991: 160-61; Houston remains a region of intense interaction and 1993: figure 5-4). Following Giddens (1984: 29), homologous, tandem development. In our view, we see royal power not as an abstraction, to the Mesoamericanist and sub-regionalist be linked inflexibly to certain titles, or as a set approaches are neither wrong nor right. Both of static propositions, but as the tangible conremain essential to a balanced perspective on sequence of interaction between flesh-and-blood Mesoamerican antiquity, and the tension be- actors. Power derives from social and political tween the two defines a crucial zone of research. discourse involving assertion, on the one hand, We have also touched on the role of divin- and acceptance or rejection by persons for whom ity and kingship in even broader terms. In au- that message is intended, on the other. As with thorizing royal action, appeals to divinity appear any institution, divine kingship involves, as to come from a realm beyond history, society, Baines (1995: 6) contends for ancient Egypt, politics, beyond the terrain in which interested human mortals fulfilling divine roles that have and situated actors struggle over scarce re- to be continuallyrenegotiated and redefined. sources (Lincoln 1994: 112). This transcend- The system of beliefs about Maya kings student quality of divine or divine-centred rule is ied here is only one part of that equation. fundamental, for it contravenes massive chal- Whether it was widely held, whether it was lenges to a kings decisions in virtue of his link- believed firmly by the larger population, is age to godly force (Bendix 1978: 171.Yet saying another. A system of rule does not exist in the that one rules with divine authority is not the abstract, divorced from people. To operate, that same thing as exercising absolute rule. Far from system must have people who believe in its it: [wlherever authority rests on religion, any validity on an unreflective or subjective level slip in authority can be interpreted as a with- (Weber 1978: 33).

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The views expressed in CIassic Maya art and inscriptions were royal views of the universe and its divine orderings, yet this is not to say that such ideas were simply imposed upon the ancient societies at large by a controlling Blite. The presentation of royal power, divine authority and the convergence between the two certainly can be interpreted (sometimes too simply) as forms of political propaganda (Marcus 1992), but the underlying notions of divinity and power likely derived from more ancient, pervasive concepts that explained and personified the natural world (Freidel et aI. 1993: 58). Notions of rulership and divinity described here coalesced within an idiom of an animating, godly force and represented its compelling extension into the realm of political authority. The grafting of ever-changing ideas about political power on to more broadly held concepts about the nature of the universe probably made those notions more compelling to royal subjects. Interestingly, some ancient notions of divine authority and its manifestations may have survived to modern times, despite even the removal of native Blites at the conquest. The persistence of ritual presentations, terminologies and even some royal titles suggests ideas that continue over long periods. But the emphasis on continuity, on the basic premisses that underlie Maya existence, past and present, risks neglectingReferences BAINES, J. 1995. Kingship, definition of culture, and legitimation, in O'Connor & Silverman (1995b): 3-47. Leiden: E.J. Brill. BARTH, 1993. Bolinese worlds. Chicago [IL): University of F. Chicago Press. BARTHEL, T.S. 1952. Die Morgensternkult in den Darstellungen der Dresdener Mayahandschrift, Ethnos 17: 73-112. BEALS,R.L. 1945. Ethnologyof the western Mixe. Berkeley (CA): University of California Press. University of California Publications in American Archaeology and Ethnology 4211). BEARD,M. 1990. Priesthood in the Roman republic, in Beard & North (ed.): 19-48. led.). 1990. Pagan priests: religion and BEARD, & J. NORTH M. power in the ancient world. London: Duckworth. BEETZ, C.P. & L. SATTERTHWAITE. 1981. The monuments and inscriptions of Caracol, Belize. Philadelphia (PA): University Museum, University of Pennsylvania. University Museum Monograph 45. BENDIX, R. 1978. Kings or people: power and the mondate to rule. Berkeley (CAI: University of California Press. BERJONNEAU, E. DELETAILLE & J.-L. SONNERY. G., 1985. Rediscovered masterpieces of Mesoamerica: Mexico-Guatemala-Honduras. Boulogne: Editions Arts. H. BERLIN, 1963. The Palenque triad, Journol de la Socikte des Amiricanistes 59: 107-35.

important patterns of local variation. In this essay, we have identified elements, strategies and probable objectives of divine kingship among the Classic Maya, and stressed their relation to a complex, localized theology. Still unwritten, but urgently needed, is a study of how rulership changed through time - this it surely did -and how the rhetoric of rulership and divinity, our focus in this article, corresponded to the political realities of the Classic period.Acknowledgements. This paper has several ancestors, including a version presented by Houston at the University of California, Riverside, and another presented by him at Michael D. Coe's retirement symposium, sponsored by Yale University. John Clark, Cecilia Klein, John Monaghan, Bridget Hodder Stuart and Karl Taube helped throughout with good advice, moral support, and references to relevant literature, supplied also by Peter Heather. Most of the research here benefitted from support provided by t h e National Endowment for the Humanities through a Collaborative o Projects grant awarded L the authors through Brigham Young, Yale a n d H a r v a r d h i v e r s i t i e s , and from funds generously awarded by Dean Clayne Pope of Brigham Young. The NEH, an independent Federal Agency, takes n o responsibility for our comments, nor do other friends who have contributed ideas and bibliography to this manuscript: Jos6 Miguel Garcia Campillo, Tom Cummins, Miguel Civil, Nick Dunning, Bill Hanks, John Hawkins, Alan Kolata, John Robertson, Evon Vogt and David Webster. Kerr numbers correspond to roll-out images i n the Justin Kerr archive that he has most generously shared with us. Superb drawings by Ian Graham and his colleagues also illustrate this article.

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