Heart of Heaven, Heart of Earth and Other Mayan Folktales

Heart of Heaven, Heart of Earth and Other Mayan Folktales

by James D. Sexton, Ignacio B. Uipan
     
 
About the Authors:

James D. Sexton and Ignacio Bizarro Ujpan (a pen name) have worked together for twenty-eight years, collaborating on four other books, including Mayan Folktales: Folklore from Lake Atitlan, Guatemala (1992). Sexton is Regents' Professor of Anthropology at Northern Arizona University. Bizarro Ujpan is an elder of San Jose la Laguna (a

Overview

About the Authors:

James D. Sexton and Ignacio Bizarro Ujpan (a pen name) have worked together for twenty-eight years, collaborating on four other books, including Mayan Folktales: Folklore from Lake Atitlan, Guatemala (1992). Sexton is Regents' Professor of Anthropology at Northern Arizona University. Bizarro Ujpan is an elder of San Jose la Laguna (a pseudonym) on Lake Atitlan in Guatemala. He has served in a number of civil and religious offices in the town

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Editorial Reviews

Folklore Americano
James D. Sexton and Ignacio Bizarro Ujpan have created a marvelous collection of myths and legends that is entertaining and informative. The book is very easy to read, and it is about interesting topics.
Arizona Daily Sun
This collection of folktales and legends provides insight into the behaviors and beliefs of Ignacio's Guatemalan culture. The "Story of an Enchanted Place, Paruchi Abaj," demonstrates that rich people who don't treat poor people well during life on earth have the suerte (which may be good or bad) to go to a place of suffering after death ruled by Nima Sotz' (the big bat). A popular saying, El que mal hace, mal espera (He who evil makes, evil awaits) is illustrated in "The Louse Who Caused the Death of the Womanizing King: A Tzutuhil Story," in which a ruthless king who sends men to battle in order to get their wives as concubines suffers his own misfortune.

Another local saying, Cuando la muerte llega, no pide edad, posicion o sexo (When death arrives, it doesn't ask age, position, or sex) is explained in the story "The Woman Who Died for Three Days and When to Get Acquainted with Hell." The story tells of a woman who dies rich in material goods but poor in social status. Some of the tales are ribald and colorado (vulgar). In "The Oldest Tale of my Town," a priest puts a curse on his parishioners after they whip him for farting during a mass."

The stories will appeal to all readers, with their colorful details and rich cast of characters.

Reference & Research Books News
A collection of 33 tales from the Tzutuhil Maya in Guatemala. They portray lords protecting forest creatures, a bat ruling in hell, a singing lake goddess, and other delights. Ujpan, an elder, told the tales; Sexton (anthropology, Northern Arizona U.) translated, edited, and extensively annotated them. He also provides a substantial introduction and a glossary, but no guide to pronunciation or index (Reference & Research Books News, May 1999).
Robert M. Carmack
The tales are lively and full of humor, paradox, moral lessons, and patterns of Mayan daily life in the Lake Atitlan region. Sexton's translations are excellent, capturing well the spirit of the tales and the flavor of rural Indian culture in Guatemala...a most welcome and valuable contribution to our growing corpus of Mayan oral tradition. Furthermore, it is a joy to read, and I would expect it to appear on reading lists for courses in Latin American and Native America literature.
Booknews
A collection of 33 tales from the Tzutuhil Maya in Guatemala. They portray lords protecting forest creatures, a bat ruling in hell, a singing lake goddess, and other delights. Ujpan, an elder, told the tales; Sexton (anthropology, Northern Arizona U.) translated, edited, and extensively annotated them. He also provides a substantial introduction and a glossary, but no guide to pronunciation or index. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
Rapport
This compiliation has stories that will appeal to everyone’s idea of entertainment, be it humor, drama, suspense or fantasy...This book deserves its four stars because it appealed to all senses at different times. If you want something funny, you’ll find a story, and if you want to read something insightful, you’ll find another story.
Todays Books
(Exceptional) Coauthors James D. Sexton, Northern Arizona University anthropologist, and Ignacio Bizarro Ujpan, Guatemala, retell contemporary and age-old stories of magic and transformation among the lake people.
Mary Preuss
Since the early 1970s, James D. Sexton has been working with Ignacio Bizarro Ujpan, the pseudonym for a Tzutuhil Maya from the Guatemalan area of Lake Atitlan, in an effort to learn and record folktales. Their efforts can be appreciated in two delightful books: Heart of Heaven, Heart of Earth and Other Mayan Folktales and Mayan Folktales: Folklore from Lake Atitlan, Guatemala.

The stories captivate the reader's interest by various means. Beside providing a glimpse at the life and beliefs of the people, they are told in a way that allows the peruse to imagine that he or she is present. They also appeal to the emotions and imagination. The characters' nature and circumstances arouse sentiments that enable the reader to identify with and develop keen feelings about the actors.—Latin American Literatures Journal

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781560988946
Publisher:
Smithsonian Institution Press
Publication date:
02/17/1999
Pages:
152
Product dimensions:
6.27(w) x 9.25(h) x 0.67(d)

Read an Excerpt

Heart of Heaven, Heart of Earth: A Tzutuhil Tale goes like this. Our fathers, the old Tzutuhiles, were peaceful men. They didn't like war because they possessed great wisdom about how to do things [without resorting to war]. They were dedicated only to making sacrifices in the hills and the volcanoes, invoking the Heart of Heaven and the Heart of Earth, called in Tzutuhil Ruc'ux Caj, Ruc'ux Uleep.

The story says that the Tzutuhiles of great powers disappeared in the air, in the clouds; they went below the lake; they disappeared in the volcanoes and in the hills by their own ability without the help of spirits. They had in their brains, in their blood, and in their bones their own ability to become invisible when they wished to do so.

When the Spaniards began the conquest, killing many Quiches, Mames, and Cakchiqueles, the Tzutuhiles formed a single group and met in order to think and speak. They met in a place that was called Chuitinamit, now called Santiago Atitlan, on the shore of Chinimaya, now called Lake Atitlan. They could have opened a front for a bloody war against the Spaniards because there were many of them who had the power to disappear in the air, in the clouds, and to go below the lake.

Then the story goes that those who had this power said:

Indeed we can make a stand against the Spaniards for a bloody war because there are many of us Tzutuhiles who possess the power to disappear in the air, in the clouds, and below the lake. We know that we have the power to walk in the air and in the clouds and nothing will happen to us, but it's a shame that we will lose many of our people--our women, our children, and our grandchildren. We cannot allow our race to be terminated and to stain the greenery of the ground with our blood. Let us use our intelligence and wisdom.

Then the story says that an ajkum [shaman] and Tzutuhil prince called Ajpop Achi spoke to all those who were gathered:

I am an ajkum and Tzutuhil prince. My voice has been heard by Ruc'ux Caj, Ruc'ux Uleep (Heart of Heaven and Heart of Earth), and they tell me, "It is better that we disappear in the air, in the clouds, below the lake, in the hills, and in the volcanoes. When the itz'el tak' winak ("demons," the Spaniards) arrive on our land, each is to use his power. Those who don't have this great ability will remain, but there will not be a war."

The story says that everyone agreed. When the Spaniards invaded the Tzutuhil lands, many of our Tzutuhil forebearers didn't want to spill their blood; they left of their own power. Many of them disappeared with their own families. Now they say they are in the clouds, they are in the hills, in the volcanoes, and they live under the lake. Before leaving they said to those who didn't have this power:

You won't be alone. Nothing will happen to you. We will be with you by day and at night, now by means of the air, by means of the clouds, and by means of the thunder of the volcanoes. The Spanish devils will search for us in order to kill us, but they won't do anything to us. We will be with you. You won't be alone, nor will you be orphans. We will leave you but with the understanding that we must be remembered by day and at night. Then by day and at night we will be with you. The Spaniards, children of the devil, will never kill you.

So it was when the Spaniards arrived in these lands. The Tzutuhiles of great powers--that is, the ajkumes, the naguales [persons who can turn into spirit forms], the brujos [witches], the thinkers, the clairvoyants--had already disappeared voluntarily. Now they say that they are living below the lake. They are in the air, in the clouds; they live in the volcanoes and the hills. Moreover, for that reason, among us Tzutuhiles, the custom is believed and preserved that when a person goes on a trip or to work, be it in the early morning, during the day, or in the night, upon leaving one's house, he with his hand offers a kiss in the air, remembering and saying, "Nataa, nutee, watit, numamaa (fathers, mothers, grandmothers, and grandfathers) of us, the Tzutuhiles, accompany me in the sorrows, in the sufferings, and in the happiness of this day or night." The person offers a kiss with the hand to the air because he believes that our forefathers are present. And if the person departs over the lake, upon getting into a canoe, he grabs water with his hand and kisses it, saying the same words, "Nataa, nutee, watit, numamaa who are under the lake, accompany me." A person also does this when he is going to the hills and to the volcanoes.

The story says that when the people leave their houses, if they do not do these remembrances--if they don't entrust themselves to the Heart of Heaven [and] the Heart of Earth and to their forefathers--that is when the bad hour strikes them. They drown, fall in the ravines, and die in accidents or of sudden death.

--Valerio Teodoro Tzapalic, a Tzutuhil of Santiago Atitlan

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