Home LifestyleArt and Culture Melipona Bees Offering is made on the day when honey is harvested

Melipona Bees Offering is made on the day when honey is harvested

by Sofia Navarro
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In certain Mayan communities in Yucatán, some people who are involved in the breeding of Melipona bees keep alive the tradition of performing the Xunáan Kaab ceremony. During this ceremony, a hummingbird tamale made with honey, dough, and lard is presented as an expression of gratitude for the first harvest.

This tamale, known in the Maya language as “ts’unu’un waaj,” is part of a ritual that combines pre-Hispanic ancestral beliefs with Catholic influences. On the altar of this ceremony, one can find representations of both Mayan deities and Catholic saints.

“The ritual includes different types of yumtsiles (guardians or deities), such as Chaac or Itzamná, but also saints or virgins, such as the Virgin Mary or the Virgin of Candelaria. They have been added because we have had syncretism in religious matters,” shares Alfredo Hau, a linguist and activist for the preservation of Mayan culture in Yucatán.

The Xunáan Kaab ceremony, which means Melipona bee, is performed on the day when honey is harvested, and it involves meliponiculturists and their families, who offer the ts’unu’un waaj as tribute along with other foods and beverages.

According to Alfredo Hau, who graduated from the Bachelor’s Degree in Mayan Linguistics and Culture at the University of the East and has been working on projects related to the customs and ways of life of communities for 11 years, the tamale is made with several layers of dough, pumpkin seeds, honey, and is topped with balché liquor, an alcoholic beverage of Mayan origin, and a cross is placed on top when finished.

Like other tamales, it is cooked buried or “pib,” as this method of underground baking is called.

It is a collaborative effort with meliponiculturists where the making of the hummingbird tamale is closely observed, and it is part of an ongoing ritual in various communities.

After placing an odd number of tamales on the altar, other pieces are used to prepare a dish similar to a chicken stew or pipián for all the attendees to enjoy during the ceremony.

TYT Newsroom

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