The Dance of First Beginnings: Contemporary Maya Creation Rituals in a World Context

The Dance of First Beginnings: Contemporary Maya Creation Rituals in a World Context
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The Dance of First Beginnings: Contemporary Maya Creation Rituals in a World Context

Author Allen J. Christenson

A nearly universal characteristic of ancient societies is to periodically carry out ceremonies and festivals intended to renew life, particularly in connection with the creation of the world. Such ceremonies reinforce the notion that when the world left the hands of deity at the time of its birth, it had greater power to sustain life and nurture its inhabitants.

A nearly universal characteristic of ancient societies is to periodically carry out ceremonies and festivals intended to renew life, particularly in connection with the creation of the world. Many of these ceremonies are tied to New Year's celebrations, linking the start of the calendar year with the beginning of time itself. Such ceremonies reinforce the notion that when the world left the hands of deity at the time of its birth, it had greater power to sustain life and nurture its inhabitants. But as with all things, the passage of time and the wear and tear of day-to-day existence inevitably results in a steady decline from the world's first pristine state of perfection. By reenacting the stages of divine creation through ritual established by ancient precedent, authorized persons can act as partners with deity in recharging the cosmos. For the most part, participants in such ceremonies consider their actions to be not mere play-acting but a genuine renewal of the cosmos by deity through human mediators. For societies that believe in the efficacy of such ceremonies, the re-creation of the world also has the effect of revitalizing the life of each individual as if he or she were the firstborn child of divinity. The ceremony is therefore not so much an exercise in imitating ancient events from the age of long-dead ancestors as an opportunity to experience the more personal renewal of first creation in the souls of the living.

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