Marvel and Miracle on Maya Pilgrimages to Esquipulas
Authors: Jan Kapusta
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The study deals with pilgrimages to Esquipulas, Guatemala, and patterns of miracle in terms of their perception by the pilgrims reaching this prominent religious hub of Central America. Two key pilgrimage discourses are distinguished: traditional Maya pilgrimage, based on regular, calendar customs, and conventional Catholic pilgrimage, founded on occasional journeys to fulfil a vow. The Western understanding of miracle as a transgression of "natural laws" or "common course of nature" is relativized and contested arguing that the ethnographic evidence of Esquipulas shows not only different, but also opposite conceptions. Then, the study presents a spectrum of miracle ideas drawing from the Maya as well as European - the case of Lourdes is exemplary here - traditions in terms of the degree of their uncommonness. It is concluded that anthropology has to comprehend miracles as marvels in its cultural context; nevertheless, there is a widespread idea among many cultures that miracle is something wonderful, related to the awareness of non-obviousness of certain things and phenomena. Miracles find its content and meaning within particular cosmology, but, anchored in the psychological characteristics of the astonishment and the difference between usual and unusual or ordinary and extraordinary, they refer to features of human mind in a more general way.