Monday, February 08, 2010

on remembering

louis v. willard

In 2001, while conducting ethnographic research in Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala, I spoke with the son of a local traditionalist priest regarding his ancestors who had founded certain ritual prayers and practices performed during Day of the Dead observances in the community.

During our discussion, I showed him a photograph of the principal elders of the town taken by Alfred P. Maudslay in the nineteenth century. He told me that these men were well known to him, although they had died long ago: “We all know them. They still visit us in dreams and in person. We know their faces, they are still very powerful -- the soul of our town. These people live because I live, I carry their blood. I remember. They are not forgotten.”

In highland Maya languages, the word na’ (to remember) also means “to feel,” or “to touch.” To remember someone who has died is to make them tangible and present to those who carry their blood.

Allen J. Christenson, Dancing in the Footsteps of the Ancestors

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