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Caves and shallow rocky recesses are rather common in the mountains surrounding Santiago Atitlan. Many are heavily stained with incense smoke and littered with the remains of candles, flower petals, alcohol bottles, and other ritual offerings. Caves serve as liminal places in which individuals may access the world of the spirit where ancestors and mountain deities may be approached directly. This practice follows ancient precedent. According to the Título Totonicapan, the gods of the various highland Maya lineages called on the first men to place their carved images in mountain caves before the first dawn, and that there they could be consulted (Carmack and Mondloch 1983:184).

Cave shrine at Cerro de Oro, near Santiago Atitlan.