Maya Cosmos

Maya Cosmos

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Draws upon translations of sacred texts and histories to examine Maya mythology and religion and unravel the question of how they have managed to preserve their sacred beliefs into modern times. The creation myth is explored as the basis for government, the symbolism of political power, a description of the daily lives of the common people, instruction for the afterlife, and as the lesson at the heart of the famous Maya ballgame. Includes 16 pages of color photos, and many black and white illustrations. Freidel is an anthropologist who has collaborated for this book with art professor Linda Schele and writer Joy Parker. Annotation copyright Book News, Inc. Portland, more

Product details

  • Hardback | 543 pages
  • 147.32 x 259.08 x 38.1mm | 1,247.37g
  • HarperCollins Publishers Inc
  • New York, NY, United States
  • English
  • bibliography, index
  • 0688100813
  • 9780688100810

Review Text

How elements of the Maya creation myth can be found in ancient Maya art as well as in today's Maya folk culture. In A Forest of Kings (1990), Freidel (Archaeology/Southern Methodist University) and Schele (Art/University of Texas at Austin) shared their extensive knowledge lucidly; here, working with writing-instructor Parker, they go astray, throwing in occasional (mostly superficial) material on the shamanic tradition, awkwardly personalizing their intellectual quest. The authors claim to reverse the idea that the Conquest destroyed links between ancient Maya civilization and contemporary Maya. In fact, cultural, survivals have long been documented, but Freidel and Schele do quite brilliantly recognize in detail previously unsuspected imagery and symbolic systems that connect present-clay practice to ancient myth. Finding that creation myths parallel celestial events, Schele concludes that "every major image from Maya cosmic symbolism was probably a map of the sky." (Interpretations here will fascinate enthusiasts of Giorgio De Santillana and Hertha Von Dechend's Hamlet's Mill, 1969, which contended that myth has an astronomical/cosmological, rather than historical, basis), The authors generously share credit with colleagues, unfortunately studding the already dense text with names of individuals and institutions. Attempts to dramatize the creative process fall flat ("One afternoon, Nikolai had arrived late after meetings in Guatemala City to find a contemplative Linda brooding over the structure of this very chapter"). Moreover, perhaps for political reasons, the recent Maya genocide is barely referred to, while the current cultural revival (in which the authors have played a role) is mentioned but left tantalizingly unexplored. Frustrating, irritating, hard to read - and not for the New Age audience the subtitle seems chosen to attract. Those with a serious interest in Maya myth, symbol, and art, though, can excavate much of value here. (Kirkus Reviews)show more