A God that smokes – and drinks! This is a god I can relate to.
So on my birthday, I cross Lake Atitlan by public boat to the village of Santiago Atitlan to pay homage to Maximon.
Who is this god?
Maximon is revered by the Maya throughout the Guatemalan highlands.
Many Ladinos (Guatemalans of white and mixed descent – who call him San Simon) also worship him; as he’s a blend of Catholicism, local folklore, and Mayan ancestral-worship.
He’s assumed to be mix of many Mayan gods, and strangely, a portion of Pedro de Alvarado – the cruel, as in burning Mayan chiefs alive – Spanish Conquistador of Guatemala, and also a toxic chunk of biblical traitor Judas.
But he is many things to his followers: including Saint Andrew, Saint Michael ( no – not me; the other one! ) and maybe even Saint Peter.
And he was also Lord of Diviners and Day-keepers and all who spoke to Holy Earth. Maximon was Lord of Sexual Matters and could make barren wombs bear.
Maximon watched over wives when husbands were away but sometimes he slept with them himself … *1
Anyway, Maximon of Santiago Atitlan is hidden within a private house a few km outside of town; for now, as each year his guardians rotate his abode between themselves.
These guardians are an influential group known as the Cofradia (Mayan Catholic Brotherhood) and they shape the ceremonies around Maximon.
Maximon’s big public appearance is during Easter Week.
I go there with a young local guy by rickshaw – Guatemalan ones are Indian auto-rickshaws except painted red – to visit Maximon at his current residence.
The whole scene’s amazing
There he is composed, regal, smoking a cigarette as a Mayan family submits, makes offerings, asking for blessings.
Before I leave, I also make an offering – hoping my luck continues – a bottle of local spirits to Maximon: this God of gods.
[ 1* source: Time Amongst the Maya by Ronald Wright, which just have read whilst staying here on the shores of Lake Atitlan ]