(A.K.A. SAN SIMON of GUATEMALA)
The "man in black" seen on many Guatemalan folk charms is Maximon
(pronounced "Mashimon"), a local deity also know as Hermano San Simon, "Brother Saint Simon
Peter." Maximon is actually a pre-Columbian Mayan god of the
underworld formerly known as Maam ("grandfather"); his modern
name is a conflation of Maam and Simon. Contemporary images do not
depict the deity himself, but rather a life-sized carved wooden statue of the god
dressed in 20th century clothing. He is portrayed
as a mustached man seated outdoors at a crossroads, wearing a black suit, red
tie, and wide-brimmed hat.
In the small votary image from
Chichimula shown here, he balances a closed money bag in his lap
with his left hand and holds a short flag staff with his
right. In other images he holds gold coins in his open left hand and
carries an alcalde's baton in his right.
Maximon symbolizes chthonic male sexual power. As an "opener of the
way," his feast day falls at the onset of the fertile rainy
season, but except for that day, his darker aspect leads
his devotees to carefully guard his visage from public view, for
fear that his sexuality may run rampant. Primarily a bringer of
rain and fertility, he is sometimes also called
"the saint of gamblers and drunkards." He brings wealth and
worldly success to those who venerate him.
Despite the hostility of
the Catholic church, which has tried to identify him with Judas
Iscariot, in many Guatemalan villages Maximon is still worshipped
with offerings of tobacco, alcohol, Coca Cola, and a
tropical plant with orange-red berries. Incense and perfume
dedicated to him is scented with the orange blossoms or blended citrus odors of lemongrass,
citronella, and sweet orange. On his feast day, he is carried
through the streets on the shoulders of his human "horse,"
and his statue is given cigarettes or cigars to smoke.
In some villages he may be hung from the
sacred Mayan world-tree-cross at the end of his ceremony.
Cultural equivalents of Maximon in other regions include
Eshu-Ellegua-Legba of West Africa (also identified with Saint
Simon Peter in Santeria and Voodoo
practices), Hades-Pluto of the ancient Mediterranean, and
the African-American Black
Man at the Crossroads. Another New World deity whose statues are
ceremonially given cigarettes to smoke is the Andean wealth-god
Order Maximon San Simon Essencia Perfume Oil from the Lucky Mojo Curio Co.
Order Maximon San Simon Novena Candles from the Lucky Mojo Curio Co.
copyright © 1995-2003 catherine yronwode. All rights reserved.
Send your comments to: cat yronwode.
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