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Mayan Cosmology


Mayan Cosmology Mayan World View Creation Myth: Pre and Post-Contact Religion Gods and Goddesses KINICH AHUAU He was the sun god and the god of the rulers. – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Mayan Cosmology

Mayan Cosmology
  • Mayan World View
  • Creation Myth
  • Pre and Post-Contact
  • Religion
  • Gods and Goddesses

Mayan World View
  • Maya conceived of the earth as flat and
  • Each corner had a color value
  • East-Red
  • White-North
  • Black-West
  • Yellow-South
  • Center-Blue-Green

World Supports
  • Each corner was held up by four Powahtuns (old
  • The sky was held up by four Bakabs
    (Human/Atlantean figures) of the correct color
    for each direction.
  • Although sometimes these are represented as

Pre-Contact Creation
  • The oldest evidence is from pre-Classical
    monuments (1st C. BC) at Izapa that depict the
    World Tree and other symbols of Creation.
  • Izapa World Tree glyph (Stela 25) The crocodile 
    represents the the Earth, its hills symbolized by
    the rough skin of the reptile, a characteristic
    shared with the bark of the ceiba tree.

Post-Contact The Popul Vuh
  • The creation myth of the Maya takes place in four
  • Stage 1
  • Before anything else, the world was nothing but
    sea and sky.
  • Then the Maker stretched a cord across the sea
    and sky to create the four corners of the earth.

Stage 2
  • In the second creation, the Modeler made
    mountains, lakes, forests, animals, birds, and
  • Although the Maker was happy with the creations,
    these organisms couldn't speak, pray, keep track
    of time, or most importantly, show their love and
    appreciation by returning nourishment to the
  • Dissatisfied, the Creator Couple commanded a
    flood that eliminated all life on the earth so
    they could start over.

Stage 3 Birth of the Hero Twins
  • The third stage is the legend of the Hero twins.
    The father and Uncle of the Hero twins were great
    ball players. Unfortunately, the court where they
    played caused great noise, disturbing the Lords
    of Death in the Underworld of Xibalba (Place of
  • After trials set forth by the Lords, the Father
    and Uncle were put to death and buried under the
    ball court. The father's head was severed and
    placed in a tree as a warning to others.

Birth cond
  • One day the Father called a girl over to the
    tree. She complied when she was asked to hold out
    her hand.
  • The Father spit in her hand, impregnating her.
  • When this girl's father found out, she was
    banished to the middle world of humans.
  • She had twins who she named Hunahpu and Xbalanque
    (schpah-len-kay), the Hero twins.

Stage 4 The Hero Twins
  • One day they were playing ball like their father
    and uncle before them.
  • Their shouts were heard down below in Xibalba.
  • The Lords of Death were affronted.
  • These twins were no more humble than the others.
    And so messengers were dispatched, summoning them
    to a ballgame in Xibalba.

Stage 4 Cond
  • Now the Twins were challenged to a series of
    ordeals, each in a special "house".
  • In the Dark House they were given a torch and two
    burning cigars. They were supposed to return
    these in the morning just as they had received
  • Their father and uncle had let the torch burn
    out, and they had smoked the cigars. But the Hero
    Twins knew better.
  • They swapped a macaw's scarlet tail feathers for
    the torch's flame. And they stuck fireflies on
    the ends of their cigars.

Hero Twin Challenges
  • When they were sent to the Razor House, sharp
    blades were supposed to cut them to pieces. But
    they convinced the blades that their job was to
    cut up animals, not hero twins.
  • And when they were sent to the Jaguar House, they
    distracted the tigers by feeding them bones. The
    Cold House they survived by locking out the cold.
    The Fire House didn't burn them to ashes, but
    only toasted them golden brown.

The Bat House
  • It was when they were sentenced to the Bat House,
    they made their first mistake, in accordance with
    their destiny.
  • Hunahpu decided to peek outside the blowgun and
    see if it was morning yet. When he did so, a bat
    sliced off his head and it went rolling out onto
    the ballcourt of Xibalba. His brother called all
    the animals together, asking each to bring its
    favorite food.
  • The coati brought a squash, and with the help of
    the gods this became a new head for Hunahpu.
    Meanwhile the Twins told a rabbit to hide outside
    the ballcourt.

The Ball Game
  • When the Lords of Death started the game, they
    used Hunahpu's head for the ball. As far as they
    were concerned, this made them victors
    automatically. But when they kicked the ball,
    Xbalanque deflected Hunahpu's head flying toward
    the rabbit's hiding place. The rabbit hopped off,
    and the Lords of Death thought it was the
    bouncing ball and raced off in pursuit.
  • The boys got Hunahpu's head back and put the
    squash in its place. When the game began again
    and Xbalanque gave the ball a particularly
    energetic boot, it split open and all its seeds
    came spilling out. The Hero Twins had defeated
    the Lords of Xibalba.

  • So the Lords of Death, with all their tricks and
    all their tests couldn't kill the Hero Twins.
  • But still the boys knew that they would have to
    die for their quest to be complete. They even
    knew how the Lords of Death would kill them.
  • So when they were called before the Lords of
    Xibalba and challenged to a new and different
    game, they knew it was a trick. "See this oven?"
    said the Lords of Death. "Bet you can't jump over
    it four times."

Reborn cond
  • "We're not falling for that one," said the boys,
    and without any further ado they jumped right
    into the flames. At this point the Lords of Death
    made a big mistake.
  • Instead of throwing Xbalanque and Hunahpu over a
    cliff or hanging their bodies in a tree, they
    ground their bones on a grinding stone and
    sprinkled them in the river.
  • This was the only way that the Twins could come
    back to life. And come back they did, first as
    catfish and then as their normal selves.

  • The Lords of Death asked that a dog be sacrificed
    and then brought back to life. And when this was
    done, they asked that it be repeated with a
    human. And when this too was accomplished, they
    asked the Twins to sacrifice each other. So
    Xbalanque dismembered his twin and cut out his
    heart. Then he started dancing and commanded
    Hunahpu to get up and join him. And when Hunahpu
    got up as good as new, the Lords of Death were
    caught up in a frenzy of delight.
  • "Now do us!" they cried. And so the Twins
    sacrificed the two foremost of the Lords of
    Death. Only they didn't bring them back to life.
    And the other Lords knew that they had been
    defeated, and from that day forth Xibalba had
    lost its glory.

Sun and Moon
  • The Twins took the head of First Father from the
    tree in which it hung, and they put him back
    together and restored him to life.
  • They left him there in a place of honor beside
    the ballcourt in Xibalba.
  • And then the Hero Twins, Xbalanque and Hunahpu,
    their heroic quest complete, ascended into the
    sky and became the sun and the moon.

Mayan Religion    
  • Religion was important to every part of Mayan
  • The Mayas worshipped many different gods.  Each
    day, month, city, and occupation had its own
    special god or goddess.  
  • The Mayas had a variety of religious festivals
    and celebrations.  Most of these celebrations
    included human sacrifice.

  • Each Mayan city -state had a ruler called the
    halach uinic.  He may have also served as the
    high priest during religious ceremonies.
  • The Mayans believed halach uinic was a living
    god.  He ruled until his death.  At his death,
    his oldest son became the next halach uinic.   If
    the halach uinic did not have a son, his brother
    would rule.  If  he did not have a brother, the
    ruler's council elected a member of his family to
  • The halach uinic dressed in elaborate and
    colorful clothes.  He also wore a very large
    head-dress.  Temple wall paintings show him with
    large ear decorations, crossed eyes, and many

  • Many other priests served with the halach uinic.
  • These priests, named ahkin performed many duties.
  • They had the knowledge of mathematics and
    astronomy.  Some of the ahkin performed medical
  • The Mayans believed that only the priests could
    explain the mysteries of life and death.  
  • They thought it was on the back of a crocodile
    that floated in a large pond.  At another time
    they believed the earth was the floor of a lizard

Mayan Worlds
  • The Mayas' religion taught that there were 13
    layers of heavens above the earth.  
  • They also believed nine underworlds were below.
     They thought that they lived in the fifth
    creation of the world.  
  • The previous four worlds had been destroyed by a
    great flood.  
  • At the beginning of the fifth world, the gods
    created humans from corn.

Sacrifices and Blood Offerings
  • Many of the Mayas religious ceremonies included
    gifts and sacrifices to the various gods and
    goddesses.  The Mayans believed the gods would
    give factors to them in return for prayers,
    offerings, and sacrifices.
  • In many ceremonies, the priests cut themselves to
    get blood to present to the gods.  
  • Other people like the king and high-ranking elite
    would pierce their tongues, or in the case of
    men, pierce their foreskin with a stingray spine.

  • The Mayan ritual acts were generally dictated by
    the sacred almanac.
  • The numbers 4, 9, 13 and the color directions are
  • Before the rituals there are usually periods of
    sexual abstinence and food taboos.

Two women drawing thorn-ropes through their
  • The Mayas had several methods of giving the human
  • Often, the priests took the victim to the altar
    at the temple.  Then the priests cut the heart
    out of the living victim and presented it to the
  • In another method, the priests tied the victim to
    a wooden pole.  Then they threw spears and arrows
    at the victim's chest in the area of the heart.
  • The priests were assisted by four old men, called

Controlling a victim
  • In the third type of sacrifice, they threw the
    victim into a sacred well.  the most famous of
    these wells is the Well of Sacrifices at Chichén
  • If victims survived the fall and did not drown,
    the priests pulled them back out of the well.
     The Mayas believed the gods had chosen to spare
    these victims.  
  • The priests then asked the victims what messages
    they brought back from the gods.  The victims
    received special treatment from then on since the
    Mayas believed they had spoken to the gods.

Sacred Cenote
Sacred Cenote at Chichen Itza
This view of the wall of the cenote shows how
high it is from the water (72 feet). It also
shows the green algae that guards the secret of
its contents.The walls visible here are made of
limestone. http//
Maya Underworld
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  • The Mayas also worshipped the dead.  They
    believed the dead became one with the gods.  
  • They worshipped their ancestors at many religious
  • They also built pyramids over the sacred remains
    of their dead rulers.

Mayan Gods and Goddesses
  • Pre-Conquest codices mention approximately 30.
  • Post-Conquest manuscripts Ritual of the Bakabs
    (18th c) depicts 166 deities.

  • He was the head god, lord of the heavens and lord
    of the night and day.  
  • His name meant lizard.  Carved pictures show him
    as an old crossed-eyed man, and sometimes with a
    lizard's body.  The Mayas believed he invented
    books and writing.

  • He was the sun god and the god of the rulers.

  • He was the rain god.  Carvings show him as a
    reptile with a large nose pointing down and
    curling fangs.  He had four aspects
  • Chac Xib Chac Red Chac of the East Sac Xib Chac
    White Chac of the North Ek Xib Chac Black Chac
    of the West Kan Xib Chac Yellow Chac of the

  • He is the god of maize (corn) and agriculture.  
  • Pictures always show him as a young man either
    carrying a plant or has a plant as a headdress.

  • He is the god of death.  Carvings of him show a
    skull and skeleton.

  • He is the god of trade.  Mayan artists painted
    his face black and he had a drooping lower lip.

  • She is the moon and rainbow goddess.  She is also
    the goddess of weaving and childbirth.
  • Wife of Itzamna.

  • He is the god of war and human sacrifice.
    Carvings of him show a black line around his eye
    and down onto his cheek.  He is at times shown
    with a torch or weapon in his hand.

Minor Gods and Goddesses
  • Cit Bolon Tum a god of Medicine.
  • Ekahau the god of Travelers and Merchants.
  • Ixtab the goddess of the Hanged. She receives
    their souls into paradise.
  • Kan-u-Uayeyab the god who guarded cities.
  • Kinich Kakmo the Sun god symbolized by the
  • Mitnal Mitnal was the underworld hell where the
    wicked were tortured.
  • Nacon Nacon was the god of War.
  • Tzultacaj (Tzuultaq'ah) For the Mayan Indians of
    central Guatemala, known as Kekchí, this was the
    god of the mountains and valleys.
  • Yaxche Yaxche is the Tree of Heaven under which
    good souls rejoice.

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