SACRIFICE AND CANNIBALISM: AN ANALYSIS OF MYTH AND RITUAL AMONG THE LACANDON MAYA OF CHIAPAS MEXICO
MCGEE, R. JON
Doctor of Philosophy
This dissertation illustrates the similarities between the ritual and mythology of the Lacandon Maya and that of the pre-Columbian Maya in the Yucatan. Its focal points are an analysis of contemporary Lacandon rituals in which the symbolic expression of human sacrifice and cannibalism are found, and a demonstration of the importance of the ba'alche ritual in Lacandon society. The drinking of ba'alche was an important part of ancient Mayan ritual, and today it forms the cornerstone of virtually all of the Lacandon communal rituals. Included as an integral part of this analysis is a film of the rite. It covers the ritual over a span of two days, from making ba'alche to cleaning up at the end of the ritual. It is meant to be a visual counterpart to the written analysis of the ba'alche ceremony. Evidence is also provided to support the contention that traditional Lacandon religion is not in danger of extinction as is popularly believed but is in fact a stabilizing force in Lacandon society today. Based on extensive interviews with young Lacandon men and economic data it is argued that the younger generation of Lacandon have very good social and economic reasons to not abandon their traditional faith. The historical analysis of Lacandon myths and prayers forms a large part of this work, and provided in appendices are the raw data, the myths and prayers transcribed in Lacandon Maya. The field research for this dissertation was conducted between May 1980 and March 1982. Support for this work and funding for the film was provided in part by a grant from the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research.