Sin in Mayan Culture

By Susana Ramundo

Our culture is full of customs, beliefs and traditions that distinguish our nation from others. Humanity itself  created the concept of sin to manipulate its social and familial environment. So that she doesn’t have to keep telling her child to be still, the mother tells him that it’s a sin to stick his head into the fabric she is weaving, otherwise he will stop growing. Obviously the real reason is that she will never be able to make any progress with her work if he keeps being a nuisance every couple of minutes.

The neck is one of the most sensitive parts of the human being, sexually speaking, and so is it a sin for a woman to touch the back of the neck of a man because if she does he will lose all his wisdom and become a fool? Or is it a sin because any man can quickly become rather foolish in response to a touch from a woman’s delicate hands on one of those sensitive parts of the human body?

It is said that it is sinful for a man to reach directly into the pot to take out a tamale, and that if he does he will lose his marksmanship and hunting skills. The reality is that he will simply burn himself if he reaches into a boiling hot pot in order to grab some food.

It is also a sin in Guatemala for one to stop and stare at people with disabilities, and it is said that if you do then in the future your own children will be disabled. Whilst no one likes to be stared at, the main result of this myth is that disabled people come to believe that they are the product of sin.

Is it a sin to learn the Mayan calendar because you can go crazy? Or is it just because all those who dedicate themselves to learning can go a little bit crazy?

We Mayan women wear the typical skirt, the ujq chik (from the Ixil and Tzutujil Mayan languages), which is cut to surround our legs like a large umbrella. Others are made from a large, thick fabric that is so heavy it makes it difficult to take long steps, or to climb stairs that are higher than our legs.  When you have to wash it, it is like trying to wash a heavy jacket that you cannot wash with any type of machine due to the material it is made from. And because we have no better machine than our own hands, it has become a sin for a man to walk under women’s clothes that are hanging in the house or in the yard. If he does it is said that he will lose his manhood. But the reality is that if a woman leaves her clothes lying about the house or the yard, it clutters her husband’s way back into the house when he is carrying wood or a large sack on his back.

There are a whole multitude of things which are apparently sinful in our culture. It is a sin to marry, eat meat, sow plants, conceive a child, give birth, start projects within 5 calendar days of a holy day… It’s probably a sin to write this article, so I better stop and finish here.  Oops.


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