Tuesday, January 05, 2010

The Indigenous History of El Salvador

Blogger Tim Lohrentz has begun writing a blog titled The Indigenous History of El Salvador, which is described as "A look at the Chorti, Poton Lenca, and Pipil peoples of El Salvador, perhaps the birthplace of the Mayans, as well as recognizing the indigenous spirit in the struggle for social justice today."

Lohrentz' post from New Years Day describes the legends of ancient Mayan religion:

Transforming the Gods

The beginnings of the Mayan religion were tumultuous. As the Chortis, the Mayans along the Pacific Coast, became more adept at agriculture - hybridizing corn, beans, and squash, and introducing yuca (manioc), peanuts, and cacao from areas to the south - adoration was given to Mother Earth, ix, who provided all good things. The Chortis named corn, ixim, which means something similar to 'fruit of Mother Earth'. Corn came from teosinte, ixim ka, 'wild fruit of Mother Earth'.

But as people ate more corn, a disease appeared (pellegra - a niacin deficiency) and destroyed entire villages. Leaders became lesioned, weak, demented, and died. After many deaths, much sacrifice, the gods seemed to reveal a solution to help the Mayans overcome the awful disease - soaking corn in ash. A new creation narrative was developed to explain how this happened, gods were transformed, and new language was created.

While still female, Ix was transformed from mother earth to jaguar god, the spotted (lesioned) god that came from the underworld, the land of death. This was done through creating the legend of Ixbalanque - the spotted (lesioned) jaguar hero twin. Balan means jaguar - clearly the linking of ix and balan in this hero twin was a way of transforming this god from the generous and beneficent Mother Earth to the clever and death-dealing jaguar. Likewise, it is likely that at this time Ixbalba, also written Xibalba, came to mean 'the underworld'. The new theology and philosophy was carried with the Mayans to help convince neighboring peoples to trust their new discovery of the cure for the diseased corn. And it clearly worked, as civilization spread at a tremendous pace from 1500 to 1300 BC.

Everyday language was transformed as well. A new word was created for corn, nar, to differentiate it from the diseased corn, ixim, the corn of the jaguar god. The term nixtamal, the process of soaking corn in ash or lime, was created and means "to cure the corn of the disease ix." Ix refers to pellegra, the disease of spots, the disease of the lesioned jaguar god of death. Nir means 'to cure' in Chorti and nian means 'none' or 'not any'.

Go and check out The Indigenous History of El Salvador for more information about these ancient peoples, their calendar, language and culture.

No comments: