Wayob[pronunciation?] is the plural form of way (or uay), a Maya word with a basic meaning of 'sleep(ing)', but which in Yucatec Maya is a term specifically denoting the Mesoamerican nagual, that is, a person who can transform into an animal while asleep in order to do harm, or else the resulting animal transformation itself. Already in Classic Mayan belief, way animals, identifiable by a special hieroglyph, had an important role to play.
Wayob in Maya ethnography
In Yucatec ethnography, the animal transformation involved is usually a common domestic or domesticated animal, but may also be a ghost or apparition, for example 'a creature with wings of straw mats'. Moreover, in the 16th century, wild animals such as jaguar and grey fox are mentioned as animal shapes of the sorcerer, together with the ah uaay xibalba or 'underworld transformer'. Some sort of 'devil's pact' seems to be implied. The Yucatec way has its counterparts among other Mayan groups. In Tzotzil ethnography, the way (here called wayohel) is more often an animal companion and refers not only to domestic animals, but also to igneous powers such as meteor and lightning. In Tzeltal Cancuc, the nagual animal companion is considered a 'caster of disease'. Other names found are: Lab, labil, wayixelal or vayijelal, way and wayxel or wayjel.
Wayob in the Classic Period
A Classic Maya hieroglyph is read as way (wa-ya) by Houston and Stuart. These authors assert that a glyph representing a stylised, frontal 'Ahau' (Ajaw) face half covered by a jaguar-pelt represents the way, with syllabic wa and ya elements attached to the main sign clarifying its meaning. Many way animals are distinguished by (i) a shoulder cape or scarf tied in front; (ii) a splashing of jaguar spots or other jaguar characteristics; (iii) the attribute of an upturned 'jar of darkness'; and (iv) fire elements. The Classic wayob include a far wider array of shapes than the 20th-century ones from Yucatán (insofar as the latter have been reported), with specific names assigned to each of them. They include not only many mammals (especially jaguars) and birds, but also apparitions and spooks: hybrids of deer and spider monkey, walking skeletons, a self-decapitating man, a young man within a fire, etc. The animal wayob are likely to be transformative shapes of human beings, the walking skeletons (Maya Death Gods) more particularly of the ah uaay xibalba transformers.
Various wayob are explicitly associated with the taking of heads and with human sacrifice. Iconographic and hieroglyphic references to fire could suggest their involvement in disease-casting ('fire' can also mean 'fever'). The 'jar of darkness', with its escaping snakes and insects, could be interpreted in a similar way.
At times, the name of the way is followed by an 'emblem glyph' giving the name of a specific Maya kingdom (or perhaps its ruling family). The skeletal way prominent on a Tonina stucco wall carries the severed head of a defeated opponent.
- Diccionario Maya Cordemex, Barrera Vásquez et al. 1980: 916
- Redfield and Villa 1934: 178-180
- Roys 1965: 166-171
- Villa Rojas 1947: 584
- Diccionario Multilingue Svanal Bats'i K'opetik Siglo xxi editores argentina, S.A. 2005 p 175
- Houston and Stuart 1989
- See figures in Robicsek and Hales 1981: 28-34
- Grube and Nahm 1994
- Freidel et al. 1993: 191-2.
- Freidel et al. 1993, pp.320-3.
References and bibliography
- Barrera Vásquez, Alfredo; Juan Ramón Bastarrachea Manzano and William Brito Sansores (eds.) (1980). Diccionario maya Cordemex: maya-español, español-maya. with collaborations by Refugio Vermont Salas, David Dzul Góngora, and Domingo Dzul Poot. Mérida, Mexico: Ediciones Cordemex. OCLC 7550928. (Spanish) (Mayan)
- Brinton, Daniel Garrison (1894). Nagualism, a study in native American folk-lore and history. Philadelphia: MacCalla. OCLC 465085853.
- Freidel, David A.; Linda Schele and Joy Parker (1993). Maya Cosmos: Three Thousand Years on the Shaman's Path. New York: William Morrow & Co. ISBN 0-688-10081-3. OCLC 27430287.
- Grube, Nikolai; and Werner Nahm (1999). "A Census of Xibalba". In Justin Kerr. The Maya Vase Book 4. New York: Kerr Associates.
- Houston, Stephen; and David Stuart (1989). The way glyph: evidence for "co-essences" among the Classic Maya (PDF online facsimile). Research Reports on Ancient Maya Writing series, no. 30. Barnardsville, NC: Center for Maya Research. OCLC 248784010.
- Kerr, Justin (5 February 2007). "A Possible Origin of the Form of the "Way" Glyph" (PDF online publication of contributed paper). FAMSI Journal of the Ancient Americas (Crystal River, FL.: Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies, Inc.). Retrieved 10 February 2010.
- Köhler, Ulrich (1995). Chonbilal Ch'ulelal, Alma vendida. Elementos fundamentales de la cosmología y religión mesoamericanas en una oración maya-tzotzil. Mexico City: Universidad Autónoma de México, Instituto de Investigaciones Antropológicas. OCLC 36295597. (Spanish)
- Miller, Mary; and Karl Taube (1993). The Gods and Symbols of Ancient Mexico and the Maya: An Illustrated Dictionary of Mesoamerican Religion. London: Thames & Hudson. ISBN 0-500-05068-6. OCLC 27667317.
- Redfield, Robert; and Alfonso Villa Rojas (1964, 1934). Chan Kom, A Maya Village. Chicago University Press. OCLC 634014054.
- Robicsek, Francis; and Donald M. Hales (1981). The Maya Book of the Dead: The Ceramic Codex. University of Virginia Art Museum. OCLC 9073379.
- Roys, Ralph Loveland. Ritual of the Bacabs. University of Oklahoma Press. OCLC 492341.
- Villa Rojas, Alfonso (December 1947). "Kinship and Nagualism in a Tzeltal Community, Southeastern Mexico". American Anthropologist 49 (4): 578–587. doi:10.1525/aa.1947.49.4.02a00050. ISSN 0002-7294. OCLC 481352036.