AUTHOR CAROL KARASIK IS OUR GUEST BLOGGER THIS WEEK, GIVING SPECIAL INSIGHT INTO HER NEW BOOK:
Myths and Tales and Textiles
Thrums Books has a glorious reputation for publishing beautiful books on textiles from ancient cultures throughout the world. In a striking departure, they decided to bring out Maya Gods and Monsters: Supernatural Stories from the Underworld and Beyond, an illustrated collection of Maya myths and folk tales. What do myths and tales have to do with textiles? Well, everything!
If you’ve read Maya Threads: A Woven History of Chiapas, you know that the relationship between weaving and storytelling is as old as time. At the beginning of the world, so the story goes, Grandmother Moon climbed into a tree, made her loom and weaving sticks out of branches, and taught the first women how to weave. Another popular tale tells us that the serpent daughters of Chak, the rain god, spend their days spinning cotton clouds. The toad that guards the door of Chak’s mountain cave and the scorpion whose lightning tail pricks the clouds are still woven into women’s clothing. This curious cast of characters brings the universe into flower.
A Mysterious Thread
Then there are the divine actors who play major roles in “The Birth of the Sun and the Moon,” my retelling of the ancient Maya creation story Popol Vuh. Blood Woman, the mother of the Hero Twins, still appears in the huipils of highland Chiapas.
The stories are many and the list of woven symbols is long: the Feathered Serpent, Jaguar, Monkey, the Earth Lord, the Ancestors, and Death, not to mention the Tree of Life and Corn. Some of these designs, and the myths underlying them, go back over two thousand years. The story and the symbol are intertwined.
That’s why every page of my book includes the sacred geometric designs found in modern Maya textiles. Women wear them as they go about their daily lives, participate in rituals, and sit by the fire weaving stories. A mysterious thread bound the spoken and visual languages together centuries before I came along and added a few embroidered touches.