Maya Religion


Essential Themes​Beliefs:​Why do civilization live the method they do?Culture:​How perform we understand what us know about human history?
Bloodletting, shown over in a Maya mural, was just one way the Maya human being included religious beliefs in their daily lives.

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Whatrole did religion play in the everyday life the the Maya?MAYA faith Religion to be at the center of Maya culture and life and, like lot of what we know around the Maya, it is complex, frequently confusing, and filled through mystery.What is animism?The Maya werepolytheistic. That method that they believed in many gods. Maya gods were greatly the god of nature, including the gods of the sun and also of Venus and also the Maize god (maize, or corn, was your most necessary crop). Their religious practices included festivals and rituals come honor their gods. Together festivals to be led by clergymans who held specifically important location in Maya society. Maya priests had actually a hand in controlling almost everything in Maya day-to-day life. They determined when to tree crops, when to marry, and also whom come sacrifice.​

Maya religion, however, to be about much more than simply following the commands of your priests. The Maya viewed all of nature assacred. They exercised a belief system calledanimism. Animism is the beliefthat objects, places and creatures all possess a unique spiritualessence,or soul. Because that the Maya, all things - animals, plants, rocks, rivers, weather systems, human being handiwork and perhaps also words - were alive. Indigenous themultitudeof spiritual forces alive in your world, every Maya had their own spiritual guide, aWayob.In stimulate to assist a human being through life, an individual"s Wayobmightappear to them together an pet or in a dream to sell guidance. In the carving come the left you see a figure arising from the mouth of a "vision serpent."THE MAYA WORLDTo the Maya, the human being was flat. The Maya world, however, to be anything yet one-dimensional. The Maya believed that their flat world was watched end by four strong gods, one each at the corners representing the north, the south, the east and also the west. Over the planet was heaven with its 13 layers. Each layer was stood for by its very own god. Below was Xibalba, or the underworld. Xibalba to be a cold, unhappy ar that was split into nine layers, each through its own death Lord. As soon as someone died of natural causes, their heart went come the underworld where it had actually to work its means up with the great to acquire to the supreme heaven. Ladies who died in childbirth and also those who died as a sacrifice, and also sacrificial victims of the ball game, Pok A Tok, however, obtained a fast ticket come go directly to the can be fried heaven instantly after death.
Maya religion in-depth a clear check out of the universe and also how its countless parts every fit together. In the snapshot below, note the gods of the moon and also sun above, god at every of the 4 corners and, interestingly, a sphere court in the underworld.
TREE the LIFE​The Maya thought that a great and sacred tree linked the 3 levels. The root of this “tree of life” extended down right into the underworld and also its branches spread in the four directions of sky above. The tree’s irpari canopy sheltered and also protected the Maya and collection the stars and heavenly bodies in motion. Both the souls that the dead and also the gods could travel follow me the size of the tree and also used this “road” to do their journeys between the level of the universe.Of course, the tree had actually symbolic meaning, as well. In the legend that the Hero Twins, once the dad of the pair was killed by the lords the the underworld, his head was inserted in the branches that a dead tree. As soon as that happened, the tree sprang to life and bore a fruit which looked favor the head of the twins’ dead father. The lords the the underworld ended up being afraid that the tree’s power and forbade anyone native approaching it. Once a daughter of one of the underworld lords approached the tree, however, she came to be pregnant. She then climbed from the underworld come the world and also gave bear to the Hero Twins. In the story and also in Maya religion, the tree to represent the never ending cycle of life

The Maya mask above shows the various stages of life as component of a never ending cycle the human evolution through life and also the afterlife. The inner face represents the start of life at birth. The middle challenge is the most vital one due to the fact that it represents the adult stage once the human comes into his full potential and most that his life experiences happen. The outer confront with eyes closed to represent the finish of earthly life.
Above, a clay statue of a young corn god arising from an ear that corn. It"s hair to represent the corn silk beneath the husk.
​​THE NATURE that TIMEFor the Maya, the idea of time wascyclical. Maya society and beliefs reflected the cycles of creation and destruction, that seasons, that rituals and also festivals, that life and death. Corn was so essential to the Maya the the life-cycle that the corn tree is at the heart of your religion, together is the Corn God himself.When a Maya died, that was believed they had actually moved on, not ended forever, to begin a new cycle of life.​Why​did dancers wear masks during religious ceremonies?
FESTIVALSThe many important activities in Maya cities were religious festivals. Human being who lived close to a major city would travel to attend spiritual festivals and, of course, to watch the Maya round games and to walk to the market. There was a religious festival every 20 days. During festivals, clergymans dressed in fierce masks to you re welcome the gods and also climbed the pyramid procedures to carry out rituals.Festivals were always filled with lots of drama and dancing. In the plays and also dances the took place throughout Maya festivals,kings and also other nobles were shown as gods.During the festivities, Maya dancers perform in former of the pyramid or the holy place or both.​Like the festivals, Maya dancing adhered to a calendar. Run performances consisted of ones through humor and tricks, and some thatsimulatedtraining for war. Still other dancesmimicked, or even contained sacrificial events and bloodletting.Complicated costumes were component of the dances. Masks, shells, feathers, headdresses, and body key all aided to transform Maya dancers into historic figures, animals, and gods or other-worldly creatures.The Maya are particularly famous for your headdresses. The movement of the dance would certainly make their headdresses jingle and rattle. That was quite a sight. Some dances lasted all day, through food and drink carried to attendees who maintained dancing.


The Maya believed caves to be entrances to the Underworld. Here, a priest celebrate Ya"axche" in an underground cave.
​CEREMONIES and also RITUALSCeremonies and also rituals of the Maya to be performed on details days the the year. As such, their rituals were carefully related come thecelestialandterrestrial. Priests used the Maya calendar to track and also record the beginnings and end of these cycles.K’atun: K’atun is a ceremony the was carried out every 20 years. It coincides to a bicycle on the Maya calendar. Throughout K’atun, stelae were produced to share what had happened for the previous 20 years. The rulers were vital part of the story told v the stelae. A different royal family ruled every Maya city, so every Maya city put up its own stele to respect its judgment family.Ya"axche": Ya’axche is an additional important celebration for the Maya. Because of its importance, only the most highly respected priests were allowed to conduct it. Ya’axche celebrate the spiritual connection in between heaven, earth, the Maya, and the underworld. Essentially, Ya’axche celebrates the animistic ideas of the Maya and reconnects them to your environment. Because any type of place or thing in nature can hold special spiritual significance, this ceremony might be performed wherever a site was thought about holy.

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Maya sacrifice contained both animals and humans. Often, the sacrificial victims were kept at or deposit in a sacred site like the reservoir at Chichen Itza pictured at right.
Why​did the Maya prick themselves until they bled?Sacrifice & Bloodletting: during the festivals, humans and also animals were periodically sacrificed to you re welcome the gods. The Mayans sacrificed iguanas, turtles, crocodiles, dogs, jaguars, and also turkeys in huge numbers. The supreme sacrifice, however, was that of person beings. The Maya believed that person blood was necessary tosustaintheir gods. Sacrificial victims contained enemy leaders and ball players, and also criminals, slaves, women and children.Not every sacrifices ended in death, however. Bloodletting was a much an ext common kind of an individual sacrifice. In bloodletting, world would usage a stingray spine or sharp rock to prick or reduced themselves. In the picture at left you see a Maya noblewoman pulling a cord with thorns v her tongue. As soon as the king or nobles available blood, a few drops were smeared ~ above a little bit of tree bark. The bark to be then burned and also the acting floated come heaven whereby it might be consumed by the gods.​
MIRRORS One Maya legend states that if friend looked in ~ a mirror, friend might have the ability to communicate with the demons who populated the Underworld. They thought that a mirror might act together a portal or doorway come the Underworld. Taken native a Maya vase, the snapshot to the right reflects a guy staring right into a winter (highlighted through the white box). Despite the danger, Maya boys periodically looked right into a mirror as a demonstration of your courage. Legend states that warrior going into fight wore mirrors on their backs. The idea was that if friend tried come sneak up on a Maya warrior, a demon could reach the end from the Underworld and also snatch you. THE immortality The Maya believed in one afterlife. Sky was the home of the gods, and also the Maya thought that a ar of heaven was booked for the Maya afterlife. That ar of heaven is whereby the Maya thought their ancestors lived, constantly keeping a watchful eye ~ above their loved ones still alive on earth. Noble were hidden in tombs. Commoners buried their dead inside your homes, under the floor. That way, they could live through their ancestors and also keep their ancestors easily posted on their day-to-day life. The Maya believed in compensation ~ death. If they had actually a turbulent time or a unstable life, this would be made up to lock in your afterlife.