The Translator of the Popol Vuh, as if possessed by the story the Popol Vuh tells, must wander in darkness and search long for the clear light. The task is not a matter of deciphering Maya hieroglyphs, since the only surviving version of the Popol Vuh is a transcription into alphabetic writing, but the manuscript nevertheless abounds with ambiguities and obscurities. My work took me not only into dark corners of libraries but into the forests and tall cornfields and smoky houses of highland Guatemala, where the people who speak and walk and work in the pages of the Popol Vuh, the Quiche Maya, have hundreds of thousands of descendants. Among them are diviners called "daykeepers," who know how to interpret illnesses, omens, dreams, messages given by sensations internal to their own bodies, and the multiple rhythms of time. It is their business to bring what is dark into "white clarity," just as the gods of the Popol Vuh first brought the world itself to light. The Quiche people speak a Mayan language, say prayers to Mayan mountains and Mayan ancestors, and keep time according to the Mayan calendar. They are also interested citizens of the larger contemporary world, but they find themselves surrounded and attacked by those who have yet to realize they have something to teach the rest of us. For them it is not that the time of Mayan civilization has passed, to be followed by the time of European civilization, but that the two have begun to run alongside one another. A complete return to conditions that existed before Europeans first arrived is unthinkable, and so is a complete abandonment of indigenous traditions in favor of European ones. What most worries daykeepers about people from Europe, and specifically about missionaries, is that they confuse the Earth, whose divinity is equal to that of the celestial God, with the devil. As daykeepers put it, "He who makes an enemy of the Earth makes an enemy.


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