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Dance of the Wayob

In Mayan mythology and folklore, the Wayob or Wayob' (plural form - the singular in Yucatec Maya is uay, way or waay) are spirit companions that may sometimes take on physical form.


Etymology

The word derives from the Maya words for "to sleep" and "to dream".


Origin

The Wayob can be seen as a regional variant of the wider Mesoamerican concept of the nahual. In Classic Period texts it is unclear whether the term is being used to describe shape-changers or whether it is being used to describe spirit companions. They have passed into modern folklore in the Yucatán Peninsula, as huayes in Mexican Spanish, evil spirits or shape-changing sorcerers that prey upon.


Description

During the Classic Period, wayob were depicted in a variety of forms, at times appearing human, or in the form of a variety of animals and as beings with a grotesque mix of human and animal characteristics. They could act like human beings, dancing for example, or could have a more ethereal presence, floating above the scenes depicted in Maya art.During battle, warriors transformed into their wayob. Even much later, in Guatemala during the Spanish Conquest, the K'iche' Maya lord Tecún Umán was said to have transformed into a quetzal bird in order to do battle with the conquistador Pedro de Alvarado. Ceramics from most major Classic Maya cities depict creatures that were the wayob of the ruling lord.


Famous Wayob

The individual names of the wayob were almost never recorded in Maya texts, an exception is at Palenque where three rulers included the name of their way ("Boney-Thing") as part of their own names, and the way of the royal lineage may have been passed on from parents to children. This "Boney-Thing" might have been one of the important skeletal death gods of the Classic Period depicted dancing on Maya ceramics. The way of the powerful city of Calakmul was the Chijil Chan ("Deer-Snake"), depicted on a number of Codex-style ceramics.

Planets and constellations were probably seen as the wayob of the ancestors and the gods.


Beliefs

In the Classic Period

In the Classic Period, the wayob were powerful spirits; lords, priests and gods in spirit form. The Classic Maya glyph for way is a stylised human face with half the face covered by a jaguar pelt. The glyph is interpreted as "animal companion spirit" and The concept of the wayob later also included the ability of a person to transform into their spirit companion

Modern beliefs

The modern Lacandon Maya of Chiapas inherit their way from their parents. Throughout the Maya region stories are told of people being followed at night by wayob in animal form. In Quintana Roo in Mexico, the word way now means an evil shape-changing sorcerer.


See also


References

  • Freidel, David A.; Linda Schele and Joy Parker (1993). Maya Cosmos: Three Thousand Years on the Shaman's Path. New York: William Morrow & Co.. ISBN 0-688-10081-3. OCLC 27430287.
  • Guenter, Stanley Paul. "The Inscriptions of Dos Pilas Associated with B'ajlaj Chan K'awiil" (PDF online publication). Mesoweb articles. Mesoweb: An Exploration of Mesoamerican Cultures. http://www.mesoweb.com/features/guenter/DosPilas.pdf. Retrieved on 2009-01-25.
  • Miller, Mary; and Karl Taube (1993). The Gods and Symbols of Ancient Mexico and the Maya: An Illustrated Dictionary of Mesoamerican Religion. London: Thames & Hudson. ISBN 0-500-05068-6. OCLC 27667317.
  • Miller, Mary; and Karl Taube (1993, 2003). An Illustrated Dictionary of the Gods and Symbols of Ancient Mexico and the Maya. London: Thames & Hudson. ISBN 0-500-27928-4. OCLC 59601185.
  • Recinos, Adrian (1986). Pedro de Alvarado: Conquistador de México y Guatemala (2nd ed.). Guatemala: CENALTEX Centro Nacional de Libros de Texto y Material Didáctico "José de Pineda Ibarra". OCLC 243309954. (Spanish)