2. MAYA / OLD AND NEW EMPIRE
Estimated Foundation Year: 3,114 BC
Symbol of the main god of the Mayans: Hunab Ku
Location of the Mayan territory: It developed in the southeast of Mexico (in the states of Yucatán, Campeche, Quintana Roo, Chiapas and Tabasco), practically all of Guatemala and also in Belize, the western part of Honduras and in El Salvador, covering more than 300,000 km².
Key books of the Mayan doctrine.
Popol Vuh: Also called the Book of the Council of the ancients of Quiché. It is a book of great historical value that contains numerous narratives that describe the nature, norms, religion or relationships of the Guatemalan Mayan people of Quiché, one of the most numerous. It is believed that the book was written around 1550 by an indigenous man who would have learned to write in Latin characters and who would have transcribed the stories of an old man; however, in the West its existence was not known until the beginning of the 18th century.
The books of Chilam Balam: Similar to the Popol Vuh, it is a series of books that collect anecdotes and historical facts of the Mayan civilization. They were written after the Spanish colonization, by evangelized indigenous people, during the 16th and 17th centuries. Each town had its own Chilam Balam, so there are different documents. Among the most prominent are the Chilam Balam de Chumayel, the Chilam Balam de Kaua, the Chilam Balam de Ixil or the Chilam Balam de Maní.
Main deities of the Mayan culture.
In the Mayan culture the most important gods are the creator gods. There are three generations of creator gods. The first two generations failed in their attempt to create man and it would be necessary to wait for the third batch for the human being to appear on the face of the Earth.
The first creator gods tried to create man out of mud. However, the material was not very resistant and they failed in the attempt. These first creator gods were Hurakan, Kukulkan, and Tepeu.
Then another series of creator gods appeared who tried to create man out of wood. However, they failed to bestow their soul figures and also failed in the attempt. This second generation was made up of 7 creator gods: Alom, Bitol, Kukulkán, Hurakán, Tepeu, Qaholom and Tzacol.
Finally there are the last creator gods, who finally managed to create man using corn: Xlitan, Ajtzak, Akaime, Bitol, Chirakata-Ixminasune, Kukulkán, Hunahpu-Gutch, Ixmucane.
Other prominent gods were the lords of Xibalbá, the gods of the underworld. This underworld was a horrible and forbidden place for outsiders, ruled by the gods Vucub-Camé and Hun-Camé.
Brief description of the Mayan religion.
The religion of the Mayan culture was basically characterized by the passing of life around infinite cycles of the universe. In this way, it will be noted that the Mayan religion finds its roots in time, being this diagrammed through various calendar systems based on different guidelines, dividing the life cycles of the Mayan culture.
The Mayans believed that the world had been created five times and destroyed four times, this being the basis of the Mesoamerican religious culture that spread from 900 onwards, later adopted by the Toltecs.
The Mayan gods were mostly reptilian, presenting two different aspects that symbolized their benevolence and evil.
Regarding life after death, this was a point of great importance within the religion, since the Mayans maintained that there was a complex post-mortum life, in which paradise was only reserved for those who had been slaughtered, murdered or killed in childhood. All the rest of the people were sent to the xibal or hell, which was ruled by the Gods of Death.
The Mayans built numerous temples around which the cities were built. In the temples the priests gave doctrine, who were considered of the high social classes within the Mayan culture.
The calendars of the Mayans.
Towards the center was the tzolkin (sacred calendar), which consisted of 260 days. It was based on two circles, one of which was composed of 16 numbered days, and the other of 20 named days. These two circles were repeated every 260 days.
On the other hand, they also had the tun, a ceremonial calendar, made up of 360 days and 5 additional days of bad luck. Another of the most used calendars was the so-called katun, which was diagrammed by 20 tuns. They also used a 584-day Venus calendar, a lunar half-calendar, and cycles of the heavenly gods.
Together, all these calendar systems made the Mayans a meticulously calculating culture, reaching extremely complex results, thanks to deep astronomical studies that were controlled under religious rituals.
Unlike many other cultures, religious ceremonies featured a wide variety of activities, all related to offerings and devotion to their divinities. This is how sports competitions, theatrical shows, dances and sacrifices could be seen.
The Mayans maintained that the gods needed food to be able to work in their favor and among the most precious offerings were human sacrifices. These used to be blood offerings produced by cutting various parts of the human body, usually from priests. Usually the tongue, lips or ears were sacrificed and the more blood spilled, the greater the will of the gods, the size of the offering being also directly proportional to the hierarchical position of the sacrificed. Some ceremonies even demanded the living heart of the sacrificed, being then burned to entertain the gods.