The Mayan God

(Pilgrimage to The Mayan God Maximon – (Ri Laj Mam) – in Santiago on
Lake Atitlan)

He is a Trickster-God, just as the Mayan People have been tricksters,
pretending to be Roman Catholics while still worshiping what they
always worshiped.

He loves women, so much, and women love him. He must be handicapped,
or else he’ll be taking everybodys’ woman. His likenesses have their
arms and legs, purposefully, amputated.

He is a Gangster God master of the Gangster World of the Mayan
Highlands. The Mayans have never stopped resisting, any way they can.
Their uprisings continued into the 20th Century. The Mayans started
the first unions of agricultural workers. The masters of the
Guatemalan gangster world, the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church,
United Fruit, the oligarchs, lunatic evangelicals who have taken the
power as the Roman Catholic Church’s power has waned, and always a
U.S. armed and trained army always have responded to the Mayans
standing up for their basic Human Rights the same way.

They killed everyone.

From 1960 – 1996 the Guatemala Gangster World was killing everybody.
In 1976 an earthquake killed 22,000, left a million people homeless.
Most all of the international relief money was stolen by the
Guatemalan Gangster World.

And then the genocide resumed in earnest. Four hundred villages were
massacred. At least 200,000 people were murdered, at least 1,500,000
people were displaced, and are mostly still displaced.

And yet, after the peace accords were signed in 1996, the Mayans have
become very ‘politically’ involved, very mobilized in the Guatemalan
gangster world. Their Resistance has not ended in the 21st Century.

The Mayan people pray to Ri Laj Mam in Mayan languages and they ask
him for things they can’t ask of Jesus. They ask him for revenge and
power over their enemies. They ask him for power over the opposite
sex. They ask him for bling and success in their ‘business engagement’
of the world. They ask for nimbleness, agility in their physical
engagement of the world. They ask for good crops. They ask for good
health. They ask for motorcycles, and cars, and a winning lottery
ticket. They ask for gangster power.

I went to Lake Atitlan, with new friends that I met at the ‘Good Place
to Stay Hostel’, in Antigua. Nick, Joe, and Tabitha. We all stayed at
‘The Lost Iguana’ in Santa Cruz. And as soon as I arrived at Lake
Atitlan, I began hearing about the master of this catyclismic place.

About 180,000 years-ago a large piece of the earth’s crust was blown
to kingdom-come, by a massive volcanic caldera eruption, leaving a 50
square-mile lake with an average depth of 720 feet. Even before the
conquest there was perpetual war for possession of this beautiful
paradisaical place. This beautiful, paradisaical place has always had
an equal measure of hell. During the civil war over 2,000 people were
murdered in Santiago, the largest city on Lake Atitlan, a very
traditional Mayan place, the place that Ri Laj Man lives.

And yet, this is a beautiful, magical place where many foreigners
come, and many never leave (some because they too are murdered by the
U.S. backed military).

We all decided to make a pilgrimage across the lake to the place Ri
Laj Man lives.

On the Friday before Semana Santa we hired a boat and did the 26 mile
crossing of the lake. When we arrived in Santiago, to find Ri Laj Man,
we hired a put-put taxi, and a guide. We were taken about two miles
out of town, to a modest home, where he had lived the previous year.
Now, with the coming of Semana Santa, he was being prepared for the
move to a new home.

Every Semana Santa he is moved to a new place in parallel pagentry to
Roman Catholicism’s. When we arrived, we walked on the palm fronds
that his procession to his next home would soon walk on, and entered
his crowded sanctuary redolent with the smoke of tobacco, candles, and
incense, and the fumes of Quetzaleca grain alcohol.

I had wanted to make an offering to the God, of some arhite Lake
Atitlan ganga. I had rolled a respectful joint, and before the
crossing of the lake, I had smoked some – just to be sure it was
arhite. And yet, when we arrived at the God’s sanctuary, I realized it
wasn’t arhite.

He is the Mayan God of tobacco. He wants offerings of tobacco, or rum.
And yet, if you don’t have rum, he’s totally arhite with Quetzaleca
grain alcohol.

Nick bought six pint bottles of Quetzaleca for about $8.70. He gave me
one to give to the God. I opened the bottle and took a long pull, just
to make sure it was arhite – it was arhite. And then I sat beside,
shared a chair, with one of the two priests that had been attending
the God the previous year., who sat beside the likeness of Ri Laj Mon.

To be a priest, to be an attendant of the God, to truly share in his
mystery you must stay continually drunk for an entire year.

I introduced myself with my very latino name – Me llamo Samuel Victor.

The priest introduced himself as Maximon, Ri Laj Mon.

I told him – mi gusto su trabajo (I like your work).

Maximon, Ri Laj Mon laughed, and said he liked my work. He said he
knew I was a gringo and yet, in many ways, I seemed to be, it felt
like I was Mayan.

I thanked him and gave him the partially drunk bottle of Quetzaleca.
He gave the bottle to the other priest. He covered the mouth of the
likeness of Ri Laj Mon with a cloth, and then poured the bottle into
the cloth and the mouth hole of the likeness.

Maximon/Ri Laj Mon, the priest I sat besides, said the God was looking, considering my offering in a favorable way. He asked me what I wanted from the God.

I asked him about being able to request things from Maximon/Ri Laj Mon
that you couldn’t ask of Jesus.

Maximon/Ri Laj Mon, the priest I sat beside laughed again and said
there is no limit to the things you could ask. He said to take my time
in framing my request. He said I was welcome in this sanctuary, and I
could hang out as long as I wanted.

I got up so that Tabitha, Joe, and Nick could have their time with the
God. And yet, I have no memory of witnessing Tabitha, Joe, and Nick’s
time with Maximon/Ri Laj Mon. It seemed like my conversation with the
God continued as I stood in the smoke-filled, fume-filled sanctuary.
We conversed about what a person could ask of Maximon/Ri Laj Mon. And
somewhere in there I made my request.

Tabitha, Joe and Nick had their time with the God when I again
became aware of my surroundings. We then took the group picture that
accompanies this story.

When we left the sanctuary we again walked on the palm fronds that the
procession to the next sanctuary would walk on. Nick still had a
couple of pint bottles of Quetzaleca. He offered me one, I opened it
and took a long pull – that went straight to my head.

When the put-put drove about 100 yards from the sanctuary, I saw this
beautiful black dog laying beside the road. The dog had no apparent
injury, and yet, when the put-put passed him, I realized the
beautiful, black dog was dead.

I can’t say why – but I knew my request to the God had been accepted.

And what that request is – well – that’s between Maximon/Ri Laj Mon,
the priest I sat beside y yo.

Sam Libby

Sam Libby (a.k.a. Rabbi SchmuDawg) currently resides in Terranas, Dominican Republic and is completing a collection of Central American stories entitled 'The Gonzo/Kukalcan Papers', to be published in spring 2021.

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