Xajooj Keej

Rabinal is a veritable center of indigenous dances in the Highlands. A very interesting series are its Deer Dances, unique in all of Mesoamerica for including long texts. In 2003 anthropologist Bert Janssens and the author published a book with a number of librettos of the Deer Dance from three different parts of the valley. These texts are still incredibly Maya. There are various personages in the drama who each represent the same old god Lord Mountain-Valley who is the Owner of the Deer, but in his different aspects. He is called the Sick One and the Fondler, among others. Then there is his daughter who plays the role of a seductive young woman.

There are a number of outstanding Classic Maya vases with scenes of the Owner of the Deer amidst his children. They are depicted in different phases of deer and human. I have used them for the interpretation of the texts. Quite a few vases have the Owner of the Deer as an ailing person lying on his bed while his children are trying to comfort him, which may betray his nickname the Sick One. One of these children is a beautiful young woman. She is portrayed mounting deer or attracting the male deer while disrobing herself, which is also her role in the Deer Dance texts. There are other scenes in which the Owner of the Deer stretches out his hands to the naked breasts of a young woman. Again, that is literally the meaning of one of the old god’s name, Fondler or Yubuur, derived from the verb yubuuj, which means “touching, caressing or fondling repeatedly with sexual intention”, an apt name for what we see in these scenes. These Maya vases are Late Classic, the Deer Dances of Rabinal are still performed.