Theme Day: Wood or Holly Wood

Maximón Effigies

As almost every first of the month, AntiguaDailyPhoto is joining the City Daily Photo community in the orchestrated global effort to show you “wood” as a theme day. I opted to show you Maximón effigies made from wood, now holly wood really since Maximón is worshiped by the Maya people of Guatemala. Below, an introduction to Maximón from Wikipedia.

The origins of his cult are not very well understood by outsiders to the different Mayan religions, but Maximón is believed to be a form of the pre-Columbian Maya god Mam, blended with influences from Catholicism. Maximón may also be called San Simón. Originally, he was believed to be a Catholic priest who had looked after aboriginals during early 1600s.

Where Maximón is venerated, he is represented by an effigy which resides in a different house each year, being moved in a procession during Holy Week. During the rest of the year, devotees visit Maximón in his chosen residence, where his shrine is usually attended by two people from the representing Cofradia who keep the shrine in order and pass offerings from visitors to the effigy. Worshippers offer money, spirits and cigars or cigarettes to gain his favour in exchange for good health, good crops, and marriage counseling, amongst other favours. The effigy invariably has a lit cigarette or cigar in its mouth, and in some places, it will have a hole in its mouth to allow the attendants to give it spirits to drink.

Maximón is generally dressed in European 18th century style, although with many local variations. In Santiago Atitlán he is adorned with many colourful garlands, while in Zunil (where he is known as San Simón) he has a much more intimidating style, with his face obscured by dark sunglasses and a bandanna.

The worship of Maximón treats him not so much as a benevolent deity but rather as a bully whom one does not want to anger. He is also known to be a link between Xibalbá The Underworld and Bitol heart of heaven (Corazón del Cielo). His expensive tastes in alcohol and cigarettes indicate that he is a very human character, very different from the ascetic ideals of Christian sainthood. Devotees believe that prayers for revenge, or success at the expense of others, are likely to be granted by Maximón. (source: Wikipedia)

Video of What Would Maximón Do? courtesy of Kara Andrade of NewMaya.org:

Like many firsts of the month, AntiguaDailyPhoto is participating in the theme day of the City Daily Photo community around the world. To see how others in the City Daily Photo community have interpreted today’s theme please click here to view thumbnails for all participants around the planet.

© 2010 – 2017, Rudy Girón. All rights reserved.

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  • What an absolutely fascinating post. I had no idea this cult existed. The wooden effigies are a delight and reading the details from Wiki, I can see parallels with western society.

    This response to the Theme of Wood is one of the very best that I have read thus far today. Thank you so much for participating.

  • This is the first ‘saint’ I have ever heard of who seems to be addicted to a lot of vices! Fascinating post, Rudy!

  • wow, excellent information and choice for theme day. well done. Happy theme day!

  • Erick

    A truly informative post! Growing up in Guate, I heard of Maximon numerous times, but I had no idea what he was all about or that people actually pray to him.

  • I like this a lot..really cool- interesting as well!

  • Once again, you nailed it! One of the most interesting posts and by far, one of the most beautiful representations of the wood-theme.

  • Thanks everyone for the amazing feedback. 😉

  • How did I miss this theme day posting?! Great photo of the WOODEN effigies and very interesting to watch the video clip! Muchos gracias!

  • Michael Bosio

    Maximon is Cakchiquel for Don Simon. He is somewhat associated with Judas, and therefore a connection to the devil. Offerings are made to him for less than honest favors such as revenge, wealth, and love interests. When I was a Peace Corps Volunteer from 1978-81, I saw his effigy in Zunil on several occasions, but if you want to see the total San Simon cult you must go to San Andres Itzapa in the department of Chimaltenango. They have a temple there full of old memorabilia, offerings, etc. It’s a real industry with shops set up to sell statues, offerings,etc. It’s worth the bus ride to see this, and it’s not just the Indigenous People that perpetuate the cult.

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