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McLeod, Alexus. Philosophy of the Ancient Maya. Lords of Time
2018, Lexington Books
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Added by: M. Jimena Clavel Vázquez and Andrés Hernández Villarreal

Publisher’s note: This book investigates some of the central topics of metaphysics in the philosophical thought of the Maya people of Mesoamerica, particularly from the Preclassic through Postclassic periods. This book covers the topics of time, change, identity, and truth, through comparative investigation integrating Maya texts and practices — such as Classic Period stelae, Postclassic Codices, and Colonial-era texts such as the Popol Vuh and the books of Chilam Balam — and early Chinese philosophy.

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Gillespie, Susan D. The Extended Person in Maya Ontology
2021, Estudios Latinoamericanos, 41: 105 – 127
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Added by: M. Jimena Clavel Vázquez and Andrés Hernández Villarreal
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For the Maya reality is a unified whole within which every entity shares in the same fundamental animating principle. This is a relational ontology whereby no phenomenon is self-contained but emerges from relations with others, including humans and non-humans, in various fi elds of action. Th is ontology correlates with a more encompassing “process metaphysic” in which reality is in constant flux, continually “becoming.” The process metaphysic envisioned by philosopher Alfred North Whitehead provides a technical language for analyzing the composition and extension of Maya persons, using the model of personhood developed by anthropologist Marcel Mauss. In life individual Maya persons assembled divergent components endowed by their maternal and paternal ancestors, which were subsequently disassembled upon their deaths. They also assembled non-corporeal components–souls and names–that linked them to existences beyond the physical boundaries and timelines of their bodies. Aspects of personhood were also shared by objects worn or manipulated by humans. Persons were thus extended in space and in time, outliving individual human beings. Maya belief and practice reveals the fundamental process known as k’ex, “replacement” or “substitution,” accounts for much of the flux and duration of the universe as a Maya-specific mode of “becoming.”

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McLeod, Alexus. Philosophy of the Ancient Maya: Lords of Time
2018, Lexington Books
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Added by: M. Jimena Clavel Vázquez and Andrés Hernández Villarreal

Publisher’s note: This book investigates some of the central topics of metaphysics in the philosophical thought of the Maya people of Mesoamerica, particularly from the Preclassic through Postclassic periods. This book covers the topics of time, change, identity, and truth, through comparative investigation integrating Maya texts and practices — such as Classic Period stelae, Postclassic Codices, and Colonial-era texts such as the Popol Vuh and the books of Chilam Balam — and early Chinese philosophy.

Comment: McLeod begins by asking whether, for ancient Mayans, the name of rulers or gods is a case of proper names or of function names, i.e. a description of a role. He is interested in a Mayan view discussed in previous chapters according to which the attributes of e.g. an exemplary ruler are attached to the role they fulfilled. For McLeod, the Mayan view is partly supported by their metaphysical views on the self. As preamble to his discussion of the Mayan notion of personhood, McLeod provides some comparison between the Mayan view of the self to that of other traditions. He refers, too, to the sacrality of objects discussed in the previous session. McLeod, then, moves on to discuss the ideas that Mayan personhood can be collective and that someone’s essence can extend to material artifacts. The text also includes a discussion of the Mayan notion of substitution (k’ex), the act in which someone took the essence of a god.

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Meskell, Lynn M., Joyce, Resemary A.. Embodied Lives: Figuring Ancient Maya and Egyptian Experience
2003, Routledge
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Added by: M. Jimena Clavel Vázquez and Andrés Hernández Villarreal

Publisher’s note: Examining a wide range of archaeological data, and using it to explore issues such as the sexual body, mind/body dualism, body modification, and magical practices, Lynn Meskell and Rosemary Joyce offer a new approach to the Ancient Egyptian and Mayan understanding of embodiment. Drawing on insights from feminist theory, art history, phenomenology, anthropology and psychoanalysis, the book takes bodily materiality as a crucial starting point to the understanding and formation of self in any society, and sheds new light on Ancient Egyptian and Maya cultures.

The book shows how a comparative project can open up new lines of inquiry by raising questions about accepted assumptions as the authors draw attention to the long-term histories and specificities of embodiment, and make the case for the importance of ancient materials for contemporary theorization of the body. For students new to the subject, and scholars already familiar with it, this will offer fresh and exciting insights into these ancient cultures.

Comment: pp. 23-29 offer a useful discussion of the materiality of the Mayan conception of human beings.

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Freidel, David, Schele, Linda, Parker, Joy. Maya Cosmos: Three Thousand Years on the Shaman’s Path
1995, William Morrow
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Added by: M. Jimena Clavel Vázquez and Andrés Hernández Villarreal
Publisher’s Note:

The ancient Maya, through their shamans, kings, warriors, and scribes, created a legacy of power and enduring beauty. The landmark publication of A Forest of Kings presented the first accessible, dramatic history of this great civilization, written by experts in the translation of glyphs. Now, in Maya Cosmos, Freidel, Schele, and Parker examine Maya mythology and religion, unraveling the question of how these extraordinary people, five million strong, have managed to preserve their most sacred beliefs into modern times. In Maya Cosmos, the authors draw upon translations of sacred texts and histories spanning thousands of years to tell us a story of the Maya, not in our words but in theirs.

Comment: The book contextualises the Mayan Popol Vuh. Chapter 2 contextualizes the creation of human beings in the wider context of the Quiché creation myth. Chapter 4 introduces the Mayan notions of k’ul (ch’ul), essence or vital force, used to denote a sacred aspect of human that is not identical with their bodies but is inserted into them; chanul (also kanul) which is a supernatural guardian that accompanies a person and shares with them their vital force; and the ‘white flower’ and the idea that the soul is created and abandons the body in the moment of death.

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Isabel, Laack. Aztec Pictorial Narratives: Visual Strategies to Activate Embodied Meaning and the Transformation of Identity in the Mapa de Cuauhtinchan No. 2
2020, In Narrative Cultures and the Aesthetics of Religion, Dirk Johannsen, Anja Kirsch andJens Kreinath (eds.). Brill
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Added by: M. Jimena Clavel Vázquez and Andrés Hernández Villarreal
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In this chapter, Laack analyzes a migration account visually depicted in the Mexican early colonial pictorial manuscript known as the Mapa de Cuauhtinchan No. 2. This pictographic map tells the story of a group of Aztecs leaving their primordial home, changing their social, cultural, and religious identity through migration and the passing of ordeals, and finally settling in the town of Cuauhtinchan. It is painted in the style of Aztec pictography, which used visual imagery to convey thoughts and meanings in contrast to alphabetical scripts using abstract signs for linguistic sounds. Drawing on the theories of embodied metaphors and embodied meaning by philosopher Mark L. Johnson and cognitive linguist George P. Lakoff, I argue that Aztec pictography offers efficient and effective means to communicate embodied metaphors on a visual level and evokes complex layers of embodied meaning. In doing so, I intend to change perspective on the narrative powers of religious stories by transcending textual patterns of analysis and theory building and opening up to non-linguistic modes of experience and their influence on narrative structures and strategies.

Comment: This paper analyses the embodied metaphors found in the pictorial manuscript Mapa de Cuauhtinchan no. 2 (the map of Cuauhtinchan number 2) based on the theory of embodied cognition proposed by Lakoff and Johnson. According to the latter, our concepts are grounded on embodied metaphors. Laack’s proposal is that Aztec pictographic manuscript exploits these kinds of concepts to enable the communication of non-propositional meaning. It is useful to read it accompanied by Newman, Sarah E.. Sensorial experiences in Mesoamerica

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Newman, Sarah E.. Sensorial experiences in Mesoamerica: Existing Scholarship and Possibilities
2019, In The Routledge Handbook of Sensory Archaeology, Robin Skeates and Jo Day (eds.). Routledge
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Added by: M. Jimena Clavel Vázquez and Andrés Hernández Villarreal
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The cultural construction of experience and perception has been a topic of interest among scholars working in Mesoamerica for decades. Archaeological remains, art, ancient and historic textual sources, and ethnographic observations complement and inform one another in those investigations, many of which stress the particular conceptions of bodies, sensorial hierarchies, and lived experiences across the culturally and linguistically connected region extending geographically from northern Mexico to Costa Rica. This chapter provides an overview of sensorial studies in Mesoamerica that highlights the rich and diverse evidence available. It emphasizes a diachronic, comparative approach, common in Mesoamericanist archaeology, which forces scholars to go beyond the identification of specific stimuli on discrete senses and enables them to study contexts of heightened synaesthetic experience, as well as those contexts’ affective and symbolic meanings. Finally, I suggest possibilities for considering an archaeology of the senses that extends beyond the limits of a singular human body in order to more fully embrace the conceptual nature of ancient Mesoamerican experience.

Comment: Newman begins by discussing the methodological challenges of understanding the experiences of ancient cultures. One of the ideas she emphasizes from precious scholarship is the claim that perception is not seen as passive and was taken to be the centre of consciousness. Newman goes through each of the five senses, noting the relevance of multi-modality for Nahua understanding of perceptual experience. It is useful to read it accompanied by Isabel, Laack. Aztec Pictorial Narratives, and using the Mapa de Cuauhtinchan No. 2 as a reference.

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Olko, Justyna, Madajczak, Julia. An Animating Principle in Confrontation with Christianity? De(re)constructing the Nahua ‘Soul’
2019, Ancient Mesoamerica, 30: 75-88
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Added by: M. Jimena Clavel Vázquez and Andrés Hernández Villarreal
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-Yolia is one of the principal indigenous terms present in Christian Nahua terminology in the first decades of European contact. It is employed for “soul” or “spirit” and often forms a doublet with ánima in Nahuatl texts of an ecclesiastical, devotional, or secular nature. the term -Yolia/teyolia has also lived a rich and fascinating life in scholarly literature. Its etymology (“the means for one’s living”) is strikingly similar to that of the Spanish word “ánima”, or “soul.” Taking into account the possibility that attestations of the seemingly pre-Hispanic -Yolia can be identified in some of the written sources, we have reviewed historical, linguistic, and anthropological evidence concerning this term in order to revisit the Nahua concept of the “soul.” we also scrutinize the very origin of -Yolia in academic discourse. this analysis, based on broader historical and linguistic evidence referring to both pre-Conquest beliefs and Christianization in sixteenth-century central Mexico, is the point of departure for proposing and substantiating an alternative hypothesis about the origin of -yolia. Our precise focus has been to trace and pinpoint a pervasive Christian influence, manifest both in indigenous Colonial texts and conceptual frameworks of modern scholars interpreting them. we conclude that -Yolia is a neologism created in the early Colonial period.

Comment: Offers a critical discussion of López Austin’s 'The Human Body in the Mexica Worldview'. They propose to consider tonalli as the animistic entity that was most likely to be present in pre-Hispanic thought.

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López-Austin, Alfredo. The Human Body in the Mexica Worldview
2017, In The Oxford Handbook of the Aztecs, Deborah L. Nichols and Enrique Rodríguez-Alegría (eds.). Oxford University Press
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Added by: M. Jimena Clavel Vázquez and Andrés Hernández Villarreal
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For the ancient Mexicas, the composition of the human body was similar to that of the cosmos, with both being composed of dense and light substances. The light substance of the human body was divine in nature and formed the different souls of each human being. Some souls were indispensable for human existence while others were unnecessary and often harmful. The dense part of the human body functioned through its union with the souls. Like the different souls, the dense parts of the human body also had specific functions dedicated to different activities. For example, human thought derived primarily from the heart. Souls could be damaged, which could cause them to malfunction and lead to illness and possibly death in the human being. As the souls were divine, each was a conscious being with its own personality; thus there could be disagreements between them. Disharmony could also lead to illness.

Comment: Because of the difficulty of López-Austin’s text, it is proposed to focus only on some sections. Specifically, from chapter 5 focus on the section that introduces the location of animistic states and processes, the section on the linguistic group yol, yollo, the linguistic group tonal, the linguistic group cua, and the linguistic group ihío. Finally, read the section on the animistic centers. Individual members of the reading group can also choose to focus each on one of the animistic entity presented in chapter 6. For illustration of the concepts discussed, consider also reading Bernardino de Sahagún's Florentine Codex.

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Padilla, Amado, Salgado De Snyder, V. Nelly. Psychology in Pre-Columbian Mexico
1988, Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences, 10 (1): 55-66
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Added by: M. Jimena Clavel Vázquez and Andrés Hernández Villarreal
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Aztec psychological thought is described in this paper. The Pre-Columbian world of the Aztecs was characterized by Spanish chroniclers as being as sophisticated in the sciences and medicine as anything found in Europe at the time of the conquest of Mexico. This knowledge included a belief structure about the development of personality and the way in which Aztec society socialized the person. Concepts of psychological equilibrium and well-being are also found within Aztec medicine. Psychological dysfunctions were identified by Aztec healers and "talking" therapies not unlike today's psychotherapeutic techniques could be found.

Comment: The sections “Psychological well-being or in ixtli – in yollotl”, “Teachers of knowledge and face”, “Illness and the community”, and “Aztec healers or psychotherapists” provide a clear and helpful discussion on the concepts of destiny, free will, precarious nature of human beings on earth, and, more generally, on Nahua psychology.

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