Mayan Religion Essay

1937 words - 8 pages

In the Central America, most notably the Yucatan Peninsula, are the Maya, a group of people whose polytheistic religion and advanced civilization once flourished (Houston, 43). The Maya reached their peak during the Classic Period from around CE 250 to the ninth century CE when the civilization fell and dispersed (Sharer, 1). Although much has been lost, the gods and goddesses and the religious practices of the Classic Maya give insight into their lives and reveal what was important to this society.
The major Mayan gods and goddesses all have common characteristics and, according to “features which they share in large part with the gods of neighboring people of Middle America” (Thompson, ...view middle of the document...

Sometimes these groups were seen as one being (Thompson, 198). Among this group of four was a chief deity who ruled over them and minor gods, who acted as messengers and servants (Thompson, 200).
The Classic Maya knew their individual gods as k’uh (Houston, 11) and had two types of gods: the major gods, such as the rain or the sun gods; and the minor or lesser known gods (Houston, 11). Given the importance of astronomy in Mayan culture, the sun god and the moon goddess are quite important to the Mayans as well. Both deities are found on monuments erected during the Classic period (Thompson, 233) and other artifacts relating to the sun god have been found as well. Since a common depiction of the sun god has his front teeth “filed to the shape of a squat T” (Thompson, 236) and skulls with filed teeth in a similar fashion have been found at Mayan sites, this suggests those skulls belonged to people who might have been priests or devotees of the sun god. In other Classic representations of the sun god, he has square eyes and a Roman style nose (Thompson, 236). One of the names for the Mayan sun god is kin, for “sun” or “day”; Ah Kin; Kinich Ahau, for “Sun face” or “Sun eye Lord”; kih; ki; and many others that vary by region within the Mayan lowlands (Thompson, 235). As a celestial deity, the sun god was one of the nine lords of the night and of the underworld, being the ninth in the series (Thompson, 240). While the sun god was an important major deity with devotees, he was not as loved as other gods and goddesses were because if the rain god did not act, the sun would destroy the crops and bring drought (Thompson, 238). The moon goddess is usually seen as the wife of the sun god, who wooed the moon in his youth (Thompson, 242). The moon goddess is also the patron of disease and she is associated with bodies of water (Thompson, 244).
The Mayans believed that humans were made of maize and blood, making the maize god important to them (Thompson, 283). At the birth of a child in Mayan society, the umbilical cord was “cut over a multicolored ear of maize with a brand new obsidian knife” (Thompson, 283), but the knife was thrown into the river after the ceremony. The bloodstained maize was then smoke cured and the grain removed at the appropriate season and sown in the name of the child (Thompson, 283), furthering the importance of maize and the maize god to this society. The maize god is seen as being a passive deity, being eaten by birds and other animals or burning up from a drought (Thompson, 285). God A has a “skeletal appearance, as he usually occurs with protruding ribs, rickety limbs, and a flesh-less grinning skull” (Taube, 11) that shows up in both Class and Post-Classic portrayals. God A is a death god, who is often associated with God Q who is a god of sacrifice (Taube, 13). This deity has commonalities in appearance and function with those of a highland Mexican deity, Mictlantecuhtli. Like the sun god, God A did not have a “high status in...

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