Frauke Sachse: Eschatological Encounters Maya: Conceptualisations of the Afterlife in the Context of Early Colonial Christianization in Highland Guatemala


The corpus of missionary and indigenous colonial texts in the highland Maya language K’iche’ is an exceptional resource for studying the colonial encounter of Christianity and pre-Columbian religion. To translate Christianity into K’iche’, the missionaries appropriated lexical concepts from highland Maya religion, while indigenous authors took up the doctrinal discourse to negotiate both cosmologies and maintain religious tradition. This article examines the terminology used by missionary authors to express conceptualisations of Christian eschatology and analyses how the new Christian discourse of Heaven and Hell was mapped onto pre-Columbian notions of afterlife and otherworld dimensions.