A Woman In Charge: Magic, Politics, and Discrimination in the Classic Maya Lowlands
The kingdoms and other principalities that dotted the Yucatan in the seventh century were, in terms of everyday governance, patriarchal. Consequently, female rulers existed but were rare. This talk explores the life of one such rare individual: Wak Chanil, a woman who once ruled what is today the archaeological site of Naranjo, Guatemala. Like many powerful women in antiquity, Wak Chanil was a politically ambiguous figure: she was a ruler, but not formally invested as a king or a queen. Unlike most people in her position, however, she was also a usurper and an unapologetic sorcerer. In a time of extreme social and political divisiveness, she was a competent figure. Beloved by her friends and hated by her enemies in a time of extreme social and political divisiveness, Wak Chanil became one of the most successful leaders of her era. Yet, in the end, no women followed her example. She was the last of her kind; this is her story.