SACRIFICE AT THE MAIZE TREE
Achi in its historical and
van Akkeren a1|
a1 Center for Non-Western Studies (CNWS),
University of Leiden, Nonnensteeg 1–3,
P.O. Box 9515, 2300 RA Leiden, The Netherlands
In pre-Columbian times the famous dance drama,
known as the Rab'inal
Achi, but whose indigenous
name is Xajoj
Tun, ended in a human sacrifice.
A comparative study of the native documents shows that
the victim, an important prisoner of war, died by being
shot with arrows. The tun dance was part of a
larger festival, which served propagandistic aims. The
ritual of the arrow sacrifice highlighted crucial political
moments, for example, when new lords were installed, titles
were handed out, or glorious battles that led to the power
and hegemony of one or more ruling lineages were commemorated.
In the case of the Rab'inal
Achi, it is the
heroic past of the Toj lineage, rulers in Late Postclassic
Rab'inal, that proves to be the main subject. Interestingly,
when focusing on the language used to describe the arrow
sacrifice, we see that the victim, who was tied to a scaffold,
a stake, or a column, was considered game, and the archers
as hunters. The stake had a symbolic meaning, as well.
It represented a tree of life, a tree we have come to know
as the World Tree growing in the center of the earth and
holding up the sky. In the Rab'inal
that tree, the place where the Warrior of K'iche'
is shot, is named the Maize Tree, the same fictitious tree
that is depicted on the Tablet of the Foliated Cross of