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In the Footsteps of the Ancestors: Dancing with the Ancient Maya Gods

Saturday, March 17, 2012
02:00 PM–03:00 PM

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A fundamental aspect of highland Maya religion is the belief that human beings stand as essential mediators between this world and that of their patron deities and ancestors. Sacred ritual, performed in a manner established by ancient precedent, is necessary to maintain this link or all creation runs the risk of collapse, since all things require periodic renewal through ritual performance to regenerate the cosmos.  

As an anthropologist based in Guatemala, Allen Christenson has worked with traditionalist Maya priests, in communities such as Santiago Atitlan and Momostenango, who continue to conduct world regenerating ceremonies in the guise of deities. This entails both private ceremonies as well as street theatre involving individuals dressed as oppositional characters who challenge the traditional power structures of the community, creating an appropriate sense of chaos prior to the re-creation of the world.

About the speaker
Dr. Allen Christenson is a Professor in the Department of Humanities, Classics, and Comparative Literature at Brigham Young University. His M.A. and Ph.D. degrees are in Precolumbian Art History and Literature from the University of Texas, Austin. He has worked as an anthropologist, linguist and art historian among the highland Maya of Guatemala since 1976. His publications include Art and Society in a Highland Maya and a two volume critical edition of the Popol Vuh, the most important single work of ancient Maya literature to have survived the Spanish Conquest.

This talk is part of a day forum focused on the special exhibition Exploring Art of the Ancient America: The John Bourne Collection Gift.

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