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Essay/Term paper: Mayan beliefs

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Mayan Beliefs

The Mayans believe that Mother Earth was a gigantic monster. It was an
alligator, toad, and a turtle combined. Above her was a sky with a layer for
each planet and spheres of movement for the sun and the moon. Below her was the
underworld where heavenly bodies passed when out of sight. All around her were
the spirits of rain and thunder. The deities of the food plants and animals
attended her. All nature was alive and it was constantly dying and being reborn
(Burland 1771).
The Mayans are American Indian people who lived in southern Mexico
(Miller "Maya" Grolier). The Yucatan was the center of the Mayan civilization
from about the 1st century B.C. ("Yucantan" Grolier). They flourished in Mexico
and central America from 250 to 1600 A.D. ("History of Agriculture" Grolier).
Their ancestors had crossed the Bering land Bridge from Asia (Miller "Maya"
Grolier). Honduras was once a part of the Mayan Empire. It had flourished
between 250 and 950 A.D. (Seligson "Honduras" Grolier). The Mayans also had
lived in Mexican states: Yucantan and Chiapas, British Honduras, Guatemala,
Honduras, and El Salvador (Burland 1770)
By 1200 B.C., they had dominated trade routes. The trade routes
extended from the modern Mexico state of Guerrero to Costa Rica (Miller "Maya"
Grolier). The Mayans had constant cultural and commercial contact from other
tribes such as the Aztecs. They were with the central and coastal Mexican
civilization that had influenced them and influenced other cultures (Harrison
"History of Latin America" Grolier).
The Mayans worshiped peace deities (Matthews 45). They also worshiped a
creator who lived beyond the sky, and believed it was male and female. Mayans
also believed that males were more important (Burland 1771). They explain this
with the fact that man came first (Thompson Internet). They also believe in
satisfying the creators and fear death. The Mayans had similar beliefs of
creation and similar and not similar gods with the Greeks, had a belief in a
Heaven and a Hell, four attempts at making humans and three different worlds
The Greeks had believed there was nothing, that the world began with
Chaos, which is similar to the Mayan belief that there was no Earth, no sun and
no moon. The only existence was the house of Gucumatz, which is Heaven where
the father and mother of all creatures lived. The other is the house of the
Ahauab de Xibalba, which is Hell. In Hell, Hun Came and Vucub Caquix, Lords of
Hell lived (Eufraccio Internet).
The Mayans had many gods: Ah Puch, a god of death; Akhushtal, the
goddess of childbirth; Cit Bolon Tum and Ahau Chamahez, the gods of medicine;
Kan-u-Uayeyab, the god who guarded cities; Kukucan, the wind god; Ekahau, the
god of travelers and merchants (The Mythical Encyclopedia Internet); Ixtab, the
goddess of the noose and the gallows. The Mayans believed that if a person
committed suicide by a noose, he or she would go to her paradise. And Izamna is
the sun and sky god, he rules over the night. They also call him "God D." His
title is "lord of knowledge." He was the founder of Mayan culture. He taught
them script, healing, and the use of calenders and brought them his people maize,
which is corn, and cacao, a coca seed. Ixchel is the earth and moon goddess
and patroness of pregnant women. She invented the art of weaving. They think
that she was the consort of Itzamna. She had also given birth to the Bacabs
(Eufraccio Internet).
Bacabs, the children of Izamna and Ixchel, are a group of four
protective deities. They are the canopic gods. There are four Bacabs. They
stand at the four corners of the world, the cardinal points. They also
supported the heavens. The first one four of the Bacabs is Cauac. He is the
south and his color is red. Next is Ix. He is the west and his color is black.
Next is Mulac. He stands for the north and his color is white. Kan is the last
one of the Bacabs. He is the east and his color is yellow (The Encyclopedia
Mythica Internet).
Hun Came and Vucub Caquix were the rulers of the underworld, called
Xibalaba. The steep road that leads to the underworld is very dangerous. There
are torrents; it is flanked by the abysses, and it is covered with thorns.
Vucub Caquix had two children. Kabrakan causes earthquakes and the
disappearance of mountains. His brother Zipakna makes' mountains rise through
earthquakes (Eufraccio Internet).
Hun Came and Vucub Caquix invited Hun Hunahpu and Vucub Hunahpu to a
ball game. When Hun Hunahpu and Hunahpu arrived, Hun Came and Vucub Caquix
killed them. Hun Hunahpu's head was placed on a dead tree that came to life.
Ixquic, a virgin, wanted a fruit. Hun Hunahpu told her to open her hand, where
he spit. She instantly became pregnant. She gave birth to Hunahpu and
Ixbalanque. Hunahpu and Ixbalanque killed Hun Came and Vucub Caquix to avenge
their father's death (Eufraccio Internet).
There are some Mayan gods that have similar functions with the Greek
gods. Hunab Ku is the god of gods, as Zeus is the god of gods. He also is a
creator. Nacon is the god of war, as Aries is the god of war. Ah Kinchil is
the sun god, as Apollo is the sun god. Kinich Kakmo is also a sun god whom the
Macaw symbolizes. Ahmakiq is the god of agriculture, as Demeter is the goddess
of agriculture.
Hun Hunahpu is a fertility god. His son is Hunahpu. He also is a
creator god. Him and his brother, Ixbalanque became rulers after their father's
death. Hunahpu became the sun god and Ixbalanque a female moon deity. They are
the parents of the first pair of humans (The Encyclopedia Mythica Internet).
The creators made four attempts to create creatures. The creators
wanted creatures to worship and praise them. All attempts failed but the last
attempt. The last attempt was with corn. The corn is important to the Mayans.
The creators called them the "First Fathers." The four animals that found the
corn were a mountain cat, a coyote, a crow, and a parrot. They were to look for
suitable building materials (Cotterell Internet). The first creatures consisted
of wood. They displeased the creators with them, so they created a great flood.
The flood knocked them over. Eagles would peck out their eyes while some bats
chopped off their heads and jaguars broke and mangled their bones. What was
left of them had climbed to the roofs. After climbing to the top, the house
collapsed. The animals then killed the survivors (Thompson Internet).
Hunab Ku rebuilt the world after three deluges that poured from the
mouth of a sky serpent. Dwarfs, the builders of the cities, lived in the first
world. An obscure race, Dzolob or "the offenders," had lived in the second
world. The third and final world was for the Mayans (Eufraccio Internet).
As in any myth, the Mayans believed in many things that started the
creation of their time. They believed that there were four attempts at creating
man, there was a Heaven and Hell-like most beliefs, there were three different
worlds created, and that there were different gods for almost everything.


Bray, Warwick. "Quetzalcoatl." The 1995 Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia. CD-
ROM. Connecticut: Grolier Electronic Publishing, Inc., 1995.

Burland, C.A. "Maya." Man, Myth, and Magic. 1983 ed.

Cotterell, Maurice, and Adrian Gilbert. The Mayan Prophecies. (1995). Online.
Internet. 4 February 1997.

Eurfraccio, Particio. "Hunahpu and Ixbalanque." The Encyclopedia Mythica.
(1995). Online. Internet. 4 February 1997.

Faron, Louis C. "Lacandon." The 1995 Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia. CD-ROM.
Conneticut: Grolier Electroni Publishing, Inc., 1995.

Harrison, John P. "History of Latin America." The 1995 Grolier Multimedia
Encyclopedia. CD- ROM. Connecticut: Grolier Electronic Publishing,
Inc., 1995.

"History of Agriculture." The 1995 Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia. CD-ROM.
Connecticut: Grolier Electronic Publishing, Inc., 1995.

Matthews, Warren. World Religions. Minnesota: West Publishing Company. 1995

Miller, Mary Ellen. "Maya." The 1995 Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia. CD-ROM.
Connecticut: Grolier Electronic Publishing, Inc., 1995.

The Encyclopedia Mythica. (1995). Online. Internet. 4 February 1997.

Seligson, Mitchell A. "Honduras." The 1995 Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia.
CD- ROM. Connecticut: Grolier Electronic Publishing, Inc., 1995.

Thompson, Suzzane. In The Beginning. Online. Internet. 4 February 1997.

"Yucantan Peninsula." The 1995 Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia. CD-ROM.
Connecticut: Grolier Electronic Publishing, Inc., 1995.


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