Manuel Pan Ju Lux – Young Mayan Ajq’ij
Manuel Pan Ju Lux is a Mayan Ajq’ij, or priest that comes from the village of Chichicastenango in Guatemala. Saq’ Be’ sat with Manuel while he spoke of his life and struggles upon his path that led him to becom an Ajq’ij and member of the Cofradia.
(Dictated to Saq’ Be’ by Manuel, Translated from Spanish to English by Saq’ Be’)
Born on September 15, 1974
Under the Mayan calendar, my personal sign is, Keb A’ka’bal; the darkness, with three special carriers. One which dictates me becoming an Ajq’ij.
I was born in a barrio named, Chitima. I am Indigenous, as were my parents. My parents were illiterate, as am I, but I am trying to take myself forward.
My father died in 1982, he was kidnapped. I was 7 years old. I had to start work at the age of 7 to get clothes, medicine and food. I did not go to school because I had to take care of my mother. We are four brothers and one younger sister.
Between the age of 12 and 15 I began to hang out with some youngsters that enjoyed drinking a lot. Then I met other young people that were catholic. I was with them for about four years. My body became ill around this time. I had no money. I went to the doctors and they said that there was no cure and that I was to die. My mother took me to an elder, Ajq’ij, to see if I was really to die. They began to say that I needed to become an Ajq’ij. My mother said this is why I was getting sick and that I must become an Ajq’ij. So, what I did was to gather with other Ajq’ij to perform ceremonies. Since that date, I was to serve only one god. When the elder Ajq’ij would see me carrying materials up to the altars, they would ask if I was an Ajq’ij or if I was making fun of their spirituality. I would say no, I am an Ajq’ij. “But at this age”, they would say, “this is not convenient for you”. What I had to do was think if it was better I was Ajq’ij now or if I should hide it until I was 45, 50 years of age? I began to talk with others that were conscious of my reality, other Ajq’ij. They said I had the carriers and there was the elders and that I needed to ask them for the strength and power, I needed to communicate with them, talk and ask them.
I felt the richness of the Mayan spirituality. It would be best if I go with the elders. I started to work more with them and they started to enjoy having me around. They told me I needed to hurry in getting my vara (medicine bag). They said with the age I had, I had a lot of power and strength plus that I liked working with people. They said that if they were to give it (the vara) to an older person, that it would be more difficult for them, that they would not have so much power and strength. I thought that once I became an Ajq’ij that people would come, but to the contrary, they did not. Here in Chichi there are many, many Ajq’ij.
Since I was a catholic I had a hard time believing in all of this. There was a confrontation, a meeting, between the catholic leaders and the Ajq’ij, to talk about me being an Ajq’ij and my dying. The catholic priest wanted me to choose a path, so, I surrendered to the road. I still needed age and experience and strength.
At the age of 20, I got married. Once I got married I became ill again. The doctors said that I didn’t have anything and the elders said that it time for me to receive the vara. At the age of 20 I became an Ajq’ij. I got together with a lot of Ajq’ij around the area. They helped me find my strength and force. I had to do/perform many ceremonies for the strength After I waited and I did feel the energy and strength. The elders told me to communicate with all the energies of the Mayan calendar. That on the day EE, I would do a ceremony to bring in the people. I did four ceremonies and the people started to come from all over the place. People of different religions and spiritualities. I am trying to preserve and maintain our spirituality. Slowly the other Ajq’ij that did not want me to be an Ajq’ij, saw for themselves, I did not have to convince them. I would go to all the places they would go to do ceremonies, I was able to get closer and talk with them and they also gave me the strength.
If I would of accepted the catholic path and not of the Ajq’ij, now I probably would be a catholic leader or an evangelist. But thanks to the Ajq’ij now I am completely surrendered to being an Ajq’ij. This is my job now, mostly. It was hard in a way becoming an Ajq’ij because some elders would think that you need to start competing, but this is not the case. People go where they are called, they search.
I don’t want to be only an Ajq’ij. I am aspiring to be more. The elders before did not like me but now they have full trust in me, along with two other friends. We want to take forward our spirituality, so that it won’t die. There are a lot of evangelical groups that want to do away with our traditions.