Sunday, September 29, 2019

The Mystifying Rationale of Mesoamerican Directions – Part XIV

Continuing with Brant A. Gardner’s rationale of John L. Sorenson’s skewed Land of Promise, and Gardner’s idea that the various meanings of words in foreign cultures, and that the Maya had no word for “north” and only a vague concept of it in a “down slope” manner (please read the previous post before reading this one), we continue here in the midst of this discussion.
As an example, according to long-time expert on the Maya, anthropologist and linguist, Richard Luxton, Ph.D, (left), , states: “The short stint in the Peni Juarez that offered a springboard into the Maya world via an old shaman who was incarcerated there and showed an interest in the Bishop Diego Landa's book on the hieroglyphs. The old shaman perused the book and discussed the various interpretations of the glyphs by Landa, and how they dove-tailed with the oral tradition that had been passed down through the generations. The journey continued with Don Pablo Canche and others and shared in his easy reading travelogue styled book, which was translated into Spanish and titled "Sueño del camino Maya: El chamanismo ilustrado anthropology or linguistics." The shaman, called h-menob, was delighted to learn the English word was “Shaman,” which he repeated enjoying the rich Maya sound of the word, like xaman, the Maya word for north where shamanism originated” (Luxton, The Mystery of the Maya Hieroglyphs: The Vision of an Ancient Tradition, HarperCollins, New York, 1982).
Then, too, there is Aluna Jo Yaxkin, author, spiritual life coach, sacred site guide, alternative historian, ordained minister and modern mystic of the Maya, stated: “The Maya word for north is Xaman. It is pronounced ”chaman” and clearly points out a linguistic connection with the native American word “Shaman.” She claims that in Maya Tradition many Shamans are born within the influence of the northern suns. Especially powerful is the sun of Ix.”
Maya Jaguar Priest presides over a pantheon of Jaguar deities

In fact, those “born with the influence of this sun are the Jaguar priest (on stela above) and their words are considered holy and absolute truth.” In addition, Yaxkin adds, “The five sacred suns of the North hold a common theme of inward refinement and the use of the mental facilities, and named Ik, Cimi, Oc, Ix and Etznab and are represented by the color white. North can be a direction of cold and ice and symbolizes the turning inward of life. In some cases it can represent danger and difficulty” (Yaxkin, The Sacred Maya Suns of the North, November, 1994
Regarding the Maya pantheon, Joshua J Mark (left), in The Maya Pantheon: The Many Gods of the Maya, (2012), Xamaniqinqu is the patron god of merchants and travelers, god of the north and the northern energies, and brother to Nohochacyum, Yantho, Usukun, and Uyitzin. He is also known as Xaman Ek: the North God.
    Yet, despite this Gardner goes on to continue with there being no word for “north” in the Maya lanauge.
Gardner: “There was no “north” in the Mesoamerican system–only a spatial relationship to that side of the sun’s path. That is why the vocabulary varies so greatly. It wasn’t that Mesoamericans didn’t know where north was, they conceived it entirely differently. It existed only as a quadrant on the right or left of the sun’s path—where some Mesoamerican cultures called it “right” and some “left.
Response: We covered this in the last post, showing the Maya do have a word for “north” and it means “north” in the same spatial sense our “north” means “north.” While this is not accepted by all Maya glyph experts, it is accepted by many and who is to say one expert is right and another wrong. Since the word has been defined as “north” in the normal sense, it seems to make sense that the Maya had an understanding of north like everyone else.
As an example, John Mamoru Watanabe (left), who received his PhD from Harvard, works in the area of ethnic identity and conflict, religion, and cosmology among Maya peoples of Guatemala and Mexico. Among several other works has written “The Thinking of Mam Speakers,” a language of a unified Maya Indian group of half a million people in western Guatemala for the past 2600 years, the language being after K’iche’ (Quiché), in which we find that “the east is where, as well as when, the sun comes in; west is where and when the sun goes out, and among the Quiche, the Mam, and other Maya groups, the directions north and south are also given by referring to the sun’s right and left sides from the point of view of the sun’s emergence on the eastern horizon” (Watanabe, In the World of the Sun: A Cognitive Model of Mayan Cosmology, Man, Vol.18, No.4, Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, December 1983).
This sounds pretty much like a standard description of the cardinal directions that we know.
    As Hopkins and Josserand of Florida State University have stated: “The words and hieroglyphs used by the Classic Maya, the Colonial Maya, and the modern Maya for the “four directions” have been a subject of interest for a long time. Sixteenth-century sources provided the words used by the Yucatec Maya for the directions.
    The terms were East: lik’inor lak’in; North: xaman; West: chik’in; and South: nohol. These are still the terms used by Mayas of the Yucatecan branch of the Mayan family,” according to Martínez Hernández, Book of the Jaguar Priest of Mani, 1909, quoted in Handbook of Middle American Indians, Volume 6: Social Anthropology by Manning Nash (2014), former Professor of Anthropology at the Center for Study of Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago.
    Martínez Hernández in a 1929 work defined “lak’in” as “east,” “lik’in” as “east coast,” and “lik’in tan” as “thing which is toward the east, toward where the sun rises.” Conversely, “chik’in” is “west, where the Sun sets.” And in the Diccionario Maya Cordemex (Barrera Vasquez, et al, 1980), which is a huge Maya dictionary (like the Oxford English Dictionary) that lists: “lakin” as the older form of the modern Yucatex word for east, “likin.”
The Classic Maya hieroglyphs that represent the “four directions” in Rio Azul Tomb 12 (drawing by David Stuart): 1-North (the Moon); 2-East (Day or Sun); 3-South (Venus); and 4-West (Night)

J. Eric S. Thompson, in Maya Hieroglyphic Writing: An Introduction, (1960) his mid-twentieth century Maya Hieroglyphic Writing: An Introduction, J. Eric S. Thompson (1960), offered no clear readings for the directional glyphs shown above, since he assigned no 3 phonetic value to the contrasting prefixes on the glyphs for ‘east’ and ‘west’. The main sign was clearly k’in ‘Sun’, however, and he recognized the relationship of the glyphs for East and West to the Colonial Yucatec terms, guessing that East would be read lik’in and West chik’in. He also suggested that the latter term might be derived from chin-k’in ‘lowering of the Sun’. North and South presented even more problems. Thompson offered no explanation for xaman, North, but speculated that nohol, South, might be derived from noh ‘great’, a concept sometimes associated with the right hand, and South is on the right hand when you are facing East.
    The point is, one can read dozens of books, articles and papers about this or that “expert’s” interpretation of the glyphs, but the bottom line is there is no agreement on exact meaning, though all agree that there are basic words for the cardinal directions and that, frankly, there is no agreement in sight of everyone ever being on the same bandwagon on this issue. Yet, the bottom line is that when Mesoamericanists’ claim there is no word for north in the Maya language, that is an outright falsity since these glyphs are all interpreted with comparative words for the cardinal directions. It is the interpretation of meaning that has people puzzled, and though in the simplest form the words are there, so many of the “experts” feel there should be deeper meanings involved. Hence, the ongoing discussion that leaves some with the fodder to claim the words don’t really mean what we think they mean.
    But the fact is, the Maya glyphs or language has words and simple meanings (like western words) of the cardinal direction. They are not words added to the lexicon after the Spanish arrived, and it is clear that they existed in the pre-Classic Period, because the reduced forms were those that were being spelled out in Classic Period hieroglyphic inscriptions, and that the original, unreduced, terms can be postulated for Proto-Mayan, as early as 2000 BC (Hopkins and Josserand, Directions and Partitions in Maya World View: Four Directions Terms and Hieroglyphs (An earlier version of this paper was presented March 24, 2001, in the symposium "Four Corners of the Maya World," 19th Maya Weekend, University Museum, University of Pennsylvania).
(See the next post, “The Mystifying Rationale of Mesoamerican Directions – Part XV,” and the continuation of Gardner’s rationale of the Mesoamericanists’ skewed Land of Promise, and the various meanings of words in foreign cultures, and the origination of words in Hebrew and their effect on the Nephites)

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