Kej is the deer. It also symbolizes the four supports, the four pillars; that is to say, the four cardinal directions. The four cardinal points were created from the beginning to forcefully and energetically sustain the Earth, the Moon, and the stars. Since Kej is the present year-bearer,(6) the priest petitions this Lord to bring strength to the great-grandchildren, to lift their legs and backs and heads, to give them the strength of a deer, to overcome weakness and tiredness, to grant them power and success. Then he counts to thirteen Kej. Qanil is Venus. It also symbolizes the four colors of maize existent in Mesoamerica: red, black, white, and yellow; as well as the four colors of skin amongst humans. Moreover it symbolizes the creation of humans: the nine Creators – Formers made the first four men out of ground red maize (their blood), ground white maize (their bones), ground yellow maize (their skin), and ground black maize (their hair). Qanil is the nagual of the farmer, the day to pray for a good harvest. The priest calls upon this Lord to bless the maize seeds, the bean seeds, the seeds of every cultivated plant; also to bless the leaves of all plants. This Lord is asked to bring forth bounteous harvests of grain and fruit to feed the hungry, and drink for the thirsty. The priest also petitions this nagual for good communications, reciprocity, and peaceful relations. Then he counts to thirteen Qanil.
Toj is jade, or payment. In the Popul Vuh the first humans were very cold and unable to cook their food, so they applied to Tohil, the god of fire (and the principal deity of the Kiché Mayans). Tohil demanded the torn-out hearts of sacrificial victims in payment for the gift of fire. This involved the Kichés in considerable conflict with their neighboring tribes, whom they raided to obtain sacrificial victims. The nagual Toj symbolizes offerings, the payment of what is due, and the leveling of justice. It’s a day to seek peace with God and man. The priest begins the ceremony by offering payment (the chicken), and now he asks Kawa Toj to accept the tribute of candles, copal incense, etc. to protect the lives and roads (journeys) of his client and all the great-grandchildren. Then he counts up to thirteen Toj. The final nagual is Tzi, the dog. On this day offerings are made so that negative forces won’t triumph and so that the authorities will use wisdom and vision to administer justice. The priest petitions Kawa Tzi to influence and win over judges, lawyers, police, and the military on behalf of the great-grandchildren; to guide and protect them in the legal system and with all governmental authorities. Then he counts to thirteen Tzi.
After all twenty of the naguals have been invoked the priest thanks them for bringing the great-grandchildren together on this occasion, and to bless everyone. Then all the participants are given a candle and instructed to kneel down around the fire and pray for whatever they desire; then the candles are thrown into the fire. The participants stand and clasp their hands behind their backs, and everyone dances a slow, rhythmic son in a circle around the fire. The priest closes the ceremony as he began it, by thanking the four cardinal directions: Balam Kiché where the sun rises, Balam Akab where it sets, Ik Balam to the north, and Mahukutah to the south. In toto the ceremony lasts about five hours.
The ritual site is dismantled, the marimba is carried back down the mountain and loaded onto the truck, and the participants retire to the client’s house for a lunch of turkey soup and tamales. By this point everyone is pretty exhausted and tending to doze off; but the marimbists are still going full blast. “Heart of Heaven, Heart of Earth! Give us our descendants, our succession, as long as the sun shall move and there shall be light. Let it dawn; let the day come! Give us many good roads, flat roads! May the people have peace, much peace, and may they be happy; and give us good life and useful existence! Oh thou Huracán, Chipi-Caculhá, Raxa-Caculhá, Chipi-Nanauac, Raxa-nanauac, Voc Hunahpu, Tepeu, Gucumatz, Alom, Qaholom, Xpiyacoc, Xmucané, grandmother of the sun, grandmother of the light, let there be dawn, and let the light come.” - Popul Vuh
(6) The current Haab, or period of 365 days, ran from 4/4/2006 – 4/3/2007. Since 4/4/2006 = 8 Kej in the Chol Qij, Kej became the year-bearer for 2006-7.
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Bob Makransky is a systems analyst, programmer, and professional astrologer. For the past 30 years he has lived on a farm in highland Guatemala where he is a Mayan priest, runs an eco-hotel for travellers, and is head of the local blueberry growers association. His books, articles, stories, cartoons, free monthly astro-magical ezine; complete instructions on how to channel by automatic writing and how to run past life regressions; free downloadable Mayan Horoscope software; etc. are available at: http://www.dearbrutus.com.
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