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Maya Ceremony – Burn Hair from Tail of Dog

FINCA TATIN, Izabel, Guatemala- One of our dogs was off in a nearby jungle village biting people yesterday. Apparently, the dogs that live at the finca where I am currently working followed a tour group out to an indigenous village — as they often do, this is normal, we live in the jungle, all dogs [...]

FINCA TATIN, Izabel, Guatemala- One of our dogs was off in a nearby jungle village biting people yesterday. Apparently, the dogs that live at the finca where I am currently working followed a tour group out to an indigenous village — as they often do, this is normal, we live in the jungle, all dogs run wild. There are plenty of other dogs in this village, some pariah, some kept, and all of this action sometimes drives our younger Rottweiler a little berserk — he is half pariah jungle dog.

He bit the guide of the tour group, who lives in the village. He bit a kid and drew blood.

The guide from the village came down to the finca to let us know what happened. He showed us the slight blemish on his leg where our dog bit him, he informed us that a kid was also bitten and the skin was broken.

He was not angry, he was not yelling. No money was demanded, no doctor visit requested, no compensation was requested beyond a little hair from the dog. This was all the village wanted as retribution for our dog’s rampage.

He wanted hair from the dog for a ceremony would need to be performed in the event that the kid who was bitten becomes ill. If this were to happen, the dog’s hair would need to be burned.

I agreed to cut the hair. I found a pair of scissors and made for the big Rottweiler who often sleeps outside my door at night. This dog is still a puppy, he is only a year old, but has a bum rear leg — any action that occurs near it is met with a big chomp from his jaws. I went to cut hair from the dog’s body, away from his injured leg, but the man from the village informed me that the hair would need to be from the dog’s tail.

Apparently, the ceremony called specifically for the hair from the tail of the offending canine.

I moved to the rear of the Rottweiler, he became anxious. I cut the hair in little tufts, my hands were chomped aggressively, but the dog would not bite me.

There was a big question about how much fur would be enough. It has to be enough to burn, I was told. My hands were being snapped at as I cut tufts from the dog’s tail. I offered one amount of fur, but was told that it would not be enough. The jungle villager was anxious to get the proper amount of fur, he pointed and gestured nervously. I cut more.

I then wrapped the fur in a piece of yellow lined paper, and handed it over to the man from the jungle. He took it and broomed the floor with his fingers to get as many odd strands of hair as he could. He was very serious.

The man then thanked us and took the yellow paper filled with dog hair back to his village, apparently, to place in safe keeping — just in case the boy who was bitten becomes ill and needs it to be burned.

Maya ceremony — burn hair from tail of dog if bitten

Guatemala Travelogue Entries | Guatemala Travel Guide | Guatemala Photos

Filed under: Central America, Culture and Society, Health

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Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 88 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3411 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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  • Paulo Martins June 14, 2010, 6:18 pm

    Dude, that ain’t the 1st time that happened.

    A few months ago, Dino bit a Buga Mama’s worker and the next morning, Manuel was on our tail chasing for some dog tail.

    know what would be cool? an invitation to the burning ceremony.

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com June 15, 2010, 1:04 pm

      At least all they want is some hair as compensation. This could be messy otherwise with the dog going around biting people. Would be interesting to observe the ceremony.

      The girls here have been doing some pretty interesting things with herbs and they let me hang out and ask all my stupid questions — this is getting pretty cool.

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com June 17, 2010, 12:16 pm

      I had to give the villages some more hair yesterday, it is becoming routine to have the guides come back from the hikes with stories of how the dog is attacking kids. He better stop, his tail is going bald.

      Man, the dog tricked us yesterday — the group left and we thought he wasn’t going to follow, but then he caught up later on and began attacking people.

      He bit me a couple of times too when I was getting the hair for the villagers. That dog is half wild, and it shows.

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      • Paulo Martins June 20, 2010, 6:03 am

        Need to keep the wee monster tied up all day… That seems to be the only things that works. Remember that you are the one who feeds him so he shouldn’t bite you EVER.

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        • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com June 22, 2010, 2:41 pm

          Dog went after a Gallo guy haha. Good on him haha. He is leashed up most of the time now.

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  • Paulo Martins June 15, 2010, 2:30 pm

    See? I told you would love the Finca!
    You have that continuous inquisitive look on your face and if what it takes is some parsley and thyme so be it then!

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  • Leslie June 20, 2010, 12:31 am

    Ha what a funny story! I’m interested in what happens to the dog once someone gets sick from an infected dog bite. I met a local man in Belize named Dave…he has an adventure tour business. He noticed my Maya Research Program shirt and offered to take me to see and speak to a Maya Shaman! I was excited at first but then chickened out. Maybe I’ll pay her a visit this year…You would be a perfect candidate to go talk to her about the dog tail hair ritual.

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