[NB] The Book of Days

A few days ago, I had one of those dreams that came with a clear set of instructions around the intellectual side of my practice — “I want you to get out of the Anglosphere for 30 days.” There was more to the dream than just the instructions, but nothing quite so direct as that. So, since then I’ve been trying to do that. Partly because of the rest of the dream, I’ve been skewing that toward Central and South America, with a little of the Caribbean and Africa thrown in.

I’ve pulled out notebooks to remind myself what I was thinking about a few years ago when I was reading Barbara Tedlock’s Time and the Highland Maya (forgotten I had found an answer to an old childhood dream there); reopened Frisvold’s Pomba Gira; checked out a French edition of Petit Albert (my French is rusty, but thankfully the language is relatively simple); dipped into Bruce Love’s Maya Shamanism Today (his description of corn kernel divination!); flipped through the glossary and commentary to Dennis Tedlock’s translation of the Popol Vuh; put Arcade Fire’s Reflektor album on the CD player; read around Religion in Africa, edited by Blakely, et al.

Good, good stuff.

Anyway, just a little notebook from the Popol Vuh glossary:

“ONE DEATH, SEVEN DEATH Jun Kame, wuqub’kame, lords who rank first and second among the rulers of Xibalba, named after two days on the divinatory calendar. In the narrative they are treated as two persons, but one and seven stand for all thirteen possible numbers, occurring first and last among the number prefixes of any given day name. By putting the severed head of One Hunahpu in a tree, they initiate the evening-star appearances of the planet Venus that begin on days named Death.

ONE HUNAHPU, SEVEN HUNAHPU Jun junajpu, wuqub’junajpu, the elder and younger sons, respectively of Xpiyacoc and Xmucane, named after two days on the divinatory calendar….By bringing the face of the deceased Seven Hunahpu back to life, the twins initiate morning-star appearances of the planet Venus that begin on days named Hunahpu.” (351)

A descent into the underworld, hanging on a tree dead, and a resurrection. Pre-contact, and there are more than a few resonances to be had between this and the Sumerian appreciation of Venus, and reason to see why the figure of Christ might be appealing to the Mesoamericans (though I think Stanzione already nails that in Rituals of Sacrifice where Maximon plays One Hunahpu to Jesus’s Seven Hunahpu).

Also, this tidbit, which is sort of an interesting thing to consider about how day names operate:

“NINE DEER B’elejeb’ kej, Lord Minister in the fourth generation of Greathouse lords….born on the day Nine Deer on the divinatory calendar….such a birth date would augur a domineering, articulate, and masculine character with shamanic inclinations, and because of the relatively high number these qualities should be obvious.” (350; emphasis mine)

That’s useful for appreciating the worldview that orchestrates the day names. As the numbers progress, so too does the visibility of the traits associated with that day name. The day, almost like a plant, grows and flowers through its iterations over the course of the year.

There is a trail I like to chase through the Popol Vuh that often leads me out the other side into some of Quimbanda’s territory, so for all our South American tzimime, a song.

5 thoughts on “[NB] The Book of Days

  1. Amanda T.

    Have you read this? I’ve been reading it in fits and starts and it reminded me of some of the things you and S been discussing in the blogosphere lately…

    How Forests Think: Toward an Anthropology Beyond the Human
    by Eduardo Kohn

    It has flaws, but you might find it interesting – I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on it.

    1. Io

      It’s on my list, or one of my lists at least (right between Laruelle’s The Great Animal Orchestra and Gonda’s Triads in the Veda). Hmm, I’m pretty mediocre at reading through my lists. I should get on that!

  2. Pingback: Season of the dead | Otherwise

  3. Pingback: [NB] If God would send his angelob | Disrupt & Repair

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