The population of Guatemala is – when not descending from Spanish conquistadores(Ladinos) – from Maya origin. Though the traditional population (Indigenas)is Roman Catholic, they have always maintained many traditional, sjamanistic and voodoo elements. Apart from the Ladinos there are hardly Indigenas who are purely Roman Catholic. In several parts the followers of San Simon, nick named ‘El Maximon’, have small voodoo-like temples where they perform rituals that have utterly nothing to do with a Christian believe. I visited the headquarter in a small, but lively township a couple of hours away from the tourist centre of Antigua. In the streets are some small shops selling “religious’ articles for the services in the temple.
The temple is situated on a small walled compound, with Maya people walking in and out. In the yard a Sjaman priestess is poking with a stick in a burning circle containing wood, herbs and a precisely arranged circle of flowers decorated with white eggs. She predicts the future for a woman and her husband. While two men play an accordeon and a guitar the husband writes down information given by the priestess. Inside the building another priestess is active with all kind of rituals helping people to get rid of diseases, physical pains and mental problems by burning many coloured candals (each colour has it’s own meaning: Red is love, Green is good trade and wealth, Black candles neutralize evil, etc.). She also drinks liquors to spit it out on a patient, smokes two fat cigars together and blows the smoke in the patients face. Another priestess cures a man by slaughtering a chicken on top of his head. Quite a few people – including a priestess- are active burning candles on tables in front of small wooden dolls symbolizing San Simon, El Maximon.
The important centre of the temple is a platform with a big glass box with an open front and a life large dummy of San Simon, dressed in an Armani costume, wearing expensive brogues, a big black hat and a glass of whiskey and a Cuban cigar in his hand. People are continuously climbing the stair to the ‘altar’ to pray in front of San Simon and give him presents.
San Simon is a modern Saint representing a syncretic mixture of an ancient Maya God, Judas Iscariot and Simon the Sourcerer. For the ‘indigenas’ people Judas was not a traitor but a messenger, bringing love to the world. The ghost in the statue of San Simon possesses ‘unseen, hidden powers’ that can cure and also bewitch people. Therefore it is important to take good care of San Simon by giving him presents and expensive clothes. All along the walls of the temple followers of