Friday, July 18, 2008

Maximon's Altar

A number of years back I was travelling through Guatemala and came across this church full of activity. It happened to be a church worshiping Maximon a saint combining Catholic rituals that I recognised and Mayan rituals that I didn't. Whilst reading a website the other day I noticed a mention of Maximon and that prompted me to dig up my old notes .... these are my (brief) recollections of Maximon.

Burning candles, black, red, yellow, blues, white and green. For envy and money. Luck, travel and enemies.

Self flagellating supplicants before the altar of the greybearded cigar smoker. Prayers from the ranks rising through teeth clenched 'round broomstick thick cigars. Priestess in kitchen woman's apron spits strong spirit upon the altar.

The air is thick with burning wax smoke. The walls dotted with plaques thanking San Simon for services rendered. The faithful pray to themselves with serious intent. A woman before the entrance lights many a red candle, perhaps she thinks about St Valentines tomorrow. A curious juxtaposition between religions.

Cloyingly thick and burning black,the smoke and bright flames of clumped together candles soon force the curious away. Outside men sweep up the ashes of another burning, placing them ever so gently upon leaves and a bed of flowers lining an ages old dented 'barrow.

A man on the steps to the church, in pirate red scarf, berates, pleads and gesticulates at a half burning, half smouldering pile of black candles. He turns to poke angrily at the mass before him and in doing so spies a young gaily dressed child to whom he smiles and waves.

Image of Maximon: Used under Creative Commons Licence courtesy of