By: Tim Donohue
Chris Imken
Jeff Stumm
 Very advanced civilization
 Developed a written language and calendar
 Popol Vuh
 Cosmos and nature were very important
 Religion developed around those practices
 Large City States – largest was Teotihuacan
 Polytheistic religion
 Broken up into the earth, sky, moon, sun, caves, and
the mountains
 The cosmos affected their ritual cycles
 Mountains were viewed as animated beings
 The Mayan people divided the earth and sky into four
different sections
 Each direction was associated with its’ own color and
society was built upon this belief of the four directions
 They protected and watched over the people, and all
kings would become divine ancestors when they died
 Were seen to give spiritual guidance and protection to
their people
 Rituals were the last major belief in the Mayan
 Each god was associated with a specific task
 For example, Itzamma was the creator and patron of
 Important celestial bodies (sun, moon) were a major
and important group of deities
 Another group of gods were associated with the
natural world such as crop production and rain
 The last major group were the patrons of various social
and occupational groups
 Ek Chuah was the god of merchants and cacao producers
 The Mayan’s believed that Gods were like any other
human being living on earth. They need to be
nourished, cured of imperfections and capable of
faults (Wolfgang von Hagen 1961: 357-58).
 To please and pray to the gods, The Mayan’s offered
human sacrifices to them. Human sacrifice was used
in times of trouble, prayer, or celebration.
 The Mayan’s mainly used three different types of
sacrifices to please the gods.
 The three types are the Arrow Ceremony, the heart
rendering ceremony, and blood sacrifices.
 In this sacrifice, the victim,
 The next practice was to
usually a prisoner of war,
would be tied in a crucifix
fashion to a wooden frame
high off the ground.
 A Mayan priest would then
wound the victim in their
place of shame, usually the
genitals, and the blood
that dripped was smeared
onto a nearby idol.
have a set of dancers with
arrows come in and
symbolically dance around
the victim.
 After the dance, they
would then stand in front
of the victim and shoot
arrows in a way that
“would make the whole
chest look like a hedgehog
of arrows (Wolfgang von
Hagen 1961: 358).”
 In this ceremony, the
 As the arms and legs were
victim would be placed
spread eagle over a
sacrificial stone in a way
that would arch the chest
for exposure of the heart.
 The victim’s arms and legs
be held down by “chacs” or
priests in the Mayan
being held, another priest
would drag a flint knife
across the chest of the
victim, exposing the heart.
 The final process is the “the
arm of God would plunge
into the heart and seized
the heart like a raging tiger
and snatched it out alive
(Wolfgang von Hagen 1961:
 The final type of Sacrifice was the Blood Ceremony.
Blood in the Mayan religion was believed to express
vital principles even outside the body. They believed it
processed magical powers that were pleasing to the
 Victims blood usually came from the genitals of Males
because it was especially pleasing to the Gods.
 In the 1500s, the Mayans were conquered and
oppressed by the Spaniards
 Spaniards were devout Catholics and did not tolerate
other religions
 In order to survive, the Mayan religion adapted and
took on some Catholic principles
 Catholic beliefs were
incorporated into the
Mayan religion
 Important Catholic
figures such as the
saints, Jesus, Mary, and
God were incorporated
 “Cofradias” – serve the
Old Mayan Beliefs
Syncretinized Beliefs
 Sun god = Kinich Ahau
 Sun god = God, or more
 Moon = Ix Chel
frequently Christ
 Moon = Mary, the Virgin
 Saints are the guardians
of field, hearth, and
 Spirits and lesser deities
were the guardians of
field, hearth, and heart
 A mixed religion in Guatemala that mixes earthen
lords, Jesus, saints, and ancestors
 Many ancient rituals and beliefs have been dropped,
and new Catholic ones developed
 Still have some of old pure Mayan beliefs
 The “Monkeys”
 Although Catholicism has exerted a strong influence,
Mayans still maintain there identity
 Strong Native nationalism movements developed
 Still maintain important beliefs not changed by
 The concept of the soul is drastically different from the
Catholic Perspective
 Wolfgang von Hagen, V. (1961). The Ancient Sun
Kingdoms of the America’s. Cleveland, Ohio, USA: The
World Publishing Company.

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