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The Maya Midwife as Sacred Specialist: A Guatemalan Case

Lois Paul and Benjamin D. Paul
American Ethnologist
Vol. 2, No. 4, Sex Roles in Cross-Cultural Perspective (Nov., 1975), pp. 707-726
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the American Anthropological Association
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/643333
Page Count: 20
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The Maya Midwife as Sacred Specialist: A Guatemalan Case
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Abstract

Midwives in San Pedro la Laguna, like shamans, are ritual specialists who enjoy high status, despite the subordinate position of women as a class. To account for the midwives' elevated status, a five-point explanation is offered: (1) the role is highly professionalized, (2) requiring that incumbents be drawn from the pool of married women in their prime, (3) who must overcome their own and their husbands' resistance; (4) this barrier is surmounted only by manifold evidence of divine election, (5) which in turn accords midwives prestige and respect.

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