Incantations: Songs, Spells and Images by Mayan Women
By Ambar Past
This book of poems and stark, vivid illustrations is rooted in the female soul of indigenous Mexico. The Tzotzil women of the Chiapas Highlands are the poets and the artists. Ambar Past, who collected the poems and drawings, includes a moving essay about their poetics, beliefs, and history.
In the 1970s, living among the Maya, Past watched the people endure as an epidemic swept through a village. No help came. Many children died. One mother offered her dead child a last sip of Coca-Cola and uttered a prayer:
Take this sweet dew from the earth, take this honey. It will help you on your way. It will give you strength on your path.
Incantations like this--poems about birth, love, hate, sex, despair, and death--coupled with primitive illustrations, provide a compelling insight into the psychology of these Mayan women poets. The Cinco Puntos edition of Incantations is a facsimile of the original handmade edition produced by the Taller Leñateros, which was covered in The New York Times.
About the Creators
Poet Ambar Past immigrated to Mexico when she was 23. Thirty years ago she made her home in rural Chiapas and learned to speak Tzotzil Mayan. Since moving to Chiapas Ambar has worked to collect, record and translate Tzotzil ritual poetry. She published several anthologies of this poetry with Taller Leñateros, a book cooperative in Chiapas.