Incantations: Songs, Spells and Images by Mayan Women

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Ambar Past
Cinco Puntos Press, Jan 1, 2014 - Poetry - 230 pages
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This book of poems and stark, vivid illustrations is rooted in the female soul of indigenous Mexico. The Tzotzil women of the Chiapas Highlands are the poets and the artists. Ambar Past, who collected the poems and drawings, includes a moving essay about their poetics, beliefs, and history.

In the 1970s, living among the Maya, Past watched the people endure as an epidemic swept through a village. No help came. Many children died. One mother offered her dead child a last sip of Coca-Cola and uttered a prayer:

Take this sweet dew from the earth, take this honey. It will help you on your way. It will give you strength on your path.

Incantations like this—poems about birth, love, hate, sex, despair, and death—coupled with primitive illustrations, provide a compelling insight into the psychology of these Mayan women poets. The Cinco Puntos edition of Incantations is a facsimile of the original handmade edition produced by the Taller Le–ateros. It was reviewed in The New York Times.

At the age of twenty-three, Ambar Past left the United States for Mexico. She lived among the Mayan people, teaching the techniques of native dyes and learning to speak Tzotzil. She is the creator of the graphic arts collective Taller Le–ateros in Chiapas and was a founding member of Sna Jolobil, a weaving cooperative for Mayan artisans.

 

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Contents

Prayer
17
Introduction to the English Edition
19
Who Is Its Mother?
27
An Introduction to the Mayan Culture and Poetics
29
THE INCANTATIONS
93
The Bonesetters SongPasakwala Kómes
96
So the Bat Wont Bite the SheepMaria Tzu
97
The Mother of TreasureXunka UtzutzNi
100
During the Eclipse Petú Xantis Xantis
145
A Midwife Addresses the NewbornRosa Xulemhó
146
LullabyPetra Tzon Te Vitz
149
For a Frightened Child Who Cannot Sleep Petú Bak Bolom
150
For a Dead Child Loxa Jiménez Lópes
151
So teh Baby Will Learn to Speak Antonia Moshán Culej
152
A Girls Song About a Wild Deer Verónika Taki Vaj
153
Song of a ShpherdessMaría Patixtán Likan Chitóm
156

To Kaxail Maruch Méndes Péres
101
Planting a TreeXpetra Ernándes
102
Witchcraft for Attracting a Man Xpetra Ernándes
103
So the Dog Wont Bark at My BoyfriendXpetra Ernándes
104
To Plant the Earth Jwana te la Krus Posol
107
To the Blue JayAntonia Moshán Culej
108
Prayer So My Man Wont Have to Cross the LineXunka UtzutzNi
110
Song for the RainMaria Xila
111
Against the RainbowMaria Tzu
114
Words to Bring Down FeverPasakwala Kómes
117
For the HarpXpetra Ernándes
118
The Saint Keepers SongMaría Patixtán Likán Chitom
119
The Bolom Chon Rominka Vet
120
A Toast Mikaela Moshán Culej
121
The Drunken Womans Song Maruch Méndes Péres
124
Calling the Dead to SupperMaría Álvares Jiménes Me Avrila
127
How the Moon Taught Us to Weave Loxa Jiménes Lópes
128
To Enchant the Spindle Xpetra Ernándes
129
Learning to Dye Wool Maria Tzu
130
A Girls Song About a Tangled Loom María Patixtán Likán Chitom
132
Asking for Her Hand Markarita Váskes Kómes
135
Before Felling a Tree Antonia Moshán Culej
136
To the WildwoodXpetra Ernándes
137
So the New House Wont Eat Us Xunka UtzutzNi
138
Borrowing a Gourd María Álvarez Jiménes Me Avrila
140
To Return a Ceremonial HuipilMaría Álvarez Jiménes Me Avrila
141
Against the Hummingbird Who Sings at NightMaria Tzu
144
To Stop Mother WindPetú Bak Bolom
157
For Maruch Vet Sold to a CaveAntel Péres Okil
158
Drinking with the DeadMaría Álvares Jiménes Me Avrila
161
So the Lizard Wont Eat the BeansMaría Tzu
162
To the Soul of CornXpetra Ernándes
163
So the Corn Will Last for a WhileMaría Tzu
166
To Keep the Soldiers AwayXunka Utzutz Ni
167
Ten Blues of the SkyMikaela Moshán Culej
168
So I Wont Have to StealLoxa Jiménes Lópes
171
Pexi Kola MagicLoxa Jiménes Lópes
172
The Talking Box SpeaksMaría Ernándes Kokov
173
PotzlomManwela Kokoroch
174
PotzlomMaría Patixtán Likan Chitóm
175
Drinking AgainMaruch Méndes Péres
178
Song of the Plumed SerpentLoxa Jiménes Lópes
179
The Woman With a Mask of EarthMaría Kartones
180
The XpakinteMunda Tostón
181
Hex to Kill the Unfaithful ManTonik Nibak
184
To the Bearer of TimeManwela Kokoroch
185
Feeding the Black DogMunda Tostón
187
A WakeMaruch Méndes Péres
190
A Drinking Song by the Wife of the AlperezPasakwala Kómes
191
Dance of the Perfumed WomanTonik Nibak
192
Notes on the Creators
195
Notes on Incantations by Mayan Women
219
Bibliography
223
Copyright

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About the author (2014)

Poet Ambar Past immigrated to Mexico when she was 23. Thirty years ago she made her home in rural Chiapas and learned to speak Tzotzil Mayan. Since moving to Chiapas Ambar has worked to collect, record and translate Tzotzil ritual poetry. She published several anthologies of this poetry with Taller Le–ateros, a book cooperative in Chiapas.

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