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Dialogic and ritual language resources in a colonial Mayan text to heal smallpox

Arts & Humanities Open Access Journal
Ernesto Hernández Rodríguez

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This essay describes language practices in a 16th Century colonial Yucatecan Mayan text to cure smallpox, included in the Ritual de los Bacabes (Bacabes Ritual) by Joan Canul. The textual characterization involves the dialogical nature of the spell, performed in the different roles assumed by the healer or magician pr iest when interacting with his interlocutors, mainly, the deities and spirits related to the creation and healing of smallpox, and the bacabes, who hold the sky. The analysis includes multiple meanings in symbolic and contextual perspectives. The Mayan ritual exhibits evidence of oral tradition and reading practices from ancient codex texts. Language ritual resources include lexical, semantic, discursive, and stylistic manifestations to achieve certain communicative intentionality. In these ritual documents, it is possible to appreciate the transmission of spoken tradition to the alphabetic written texts in practices involved to cure a variety of physical and emotional illnesses in the colonial Mayan culture.


mayan literature, ritual language, dialogical expressions, oral tradition, textuality