In a vast and rich region of America, Mayan culture covered the territory southeast, of what is now, the Mexican Republic that is part of the states of Yucatan, Campeche, Tabasco, Quintana Roo and eastern Chiapas, as is most of Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Belize which in fact covers a land area that varies according to the various archaeologists and historians. The Mayan people created one of the most original and great ancient civilizations (Sabloff 14).
The Mayans are not a homogeneous group, but a group of ethnic groups with different languages, customs and historical realities that share features that allow us to integrate them into a cultural unit. At the same time, they are part of a larger, Mesoamerican culture. Dominating most of the aspects of the life of the Maya, religion, was always present, influencing agricultural rites, public ceremonies, art and culture, each city-state had majestic pyramid temples where spectacular parties and elaborated rituals in honor of the gods were made.
Their religious leaders were the Ahuacan: was the high priest of a city-state was the supreme authority in regards to the calendars, rituals, sacrifices, divination, prophecy, writing and religious education. These responsibilities also involved the chilamob, auxiliary priests. The Nacom: was the priest in charge of performing human sacrifice with the help of chacs or assistants. The most common sacrifices were: removal of the heart, the pyramids and throwing them off by beheading (Gugliotta).
It is believed that the introduction of agriculture and the invention of the Mayan calendar, the chronology and hieroglyphic writing, probably in 7. 0. 0. 0. 0 or 7. 6. 0. 0. 0 of the Maya Era (353 OR 235 B. C), that the Mayan religion begin to change, individualized gods, a growing priesthood, and rituals begin grow (Morley 183-4). Religion was important in the Mayan culture, it was linked to the political control and beliefs. The main features of the Mayan culture. For example, the polytheistic religion, was based in worshiping various gods at once.
Another characteristic is the religion of naturalistic aspects, their gods were the elements, the atmospheric phenomena and celestial bodies. As well as, the dualistic religion that is the most common known, which was based on the principle that good and evil are equally divine. The gods of good were in constant struggle with evil gods, but they were so inseparable from each other as day and night. Other examples are the fertilizing father and the fertilized mother; life and death. The destinies of mankind always looked affected by this struggle.
The benevolent gods were producing positive things, like thunder, lightning, rain, corn and abundance. the evil gods instead, were attributed hunger and misery caused by hurricanes, droughts and the war seed drill of death and destruction (“Civilizacion Maya”). As I mentioned earlier the Maya believed in different gods and each of the gods offered different miraculous events. The following Mayan Gods are to be known as the main and most important gods in their culture according to history. Hunab Ku, the creator, Lord of heaven and god of the day. It was the only and supreme god of the Maya.
They believed that his heart and mind are in the center of the universe and only through the sun they were able to communicate with him. He was the creator god of the world and man (“The Culture, Religion, and Deities”). Others believe that Hunab Ku was only a phenomenon invented by the Maya under the concept of a single, all-powerful creator (Gallenkamp 105). In other theory, Hunab Ku “God of Gods” was worship under no external form and had neither temples nor altars erected to him and was only spoken with extreme dread (Vv 36) Itzamna, Son of Hunab Ku, God of Heaven, Night and Day.
Is represented as an old man with a pronounced Roman nose, no teeth, and hollow cheeks. He is always represented in sculptures with characteristics of snakes, lizards or crocodiles (Gallenkamp 106). He was attributed to the creation of books and writing and believed he was the first priest. he is also considered the god of writing (“The Culture, Religion, and Deities”). Ix Chebel Yax, goddess of childbirth, tissue and the Moon. Ix Chebel Yax was the wife of Itzamna, it was believed that her husband was seen during the day, as the god of the sun and she was seen at night as the god of the moon.
Despite having so nice attributes she was depicted as an angry old lady, surrounded by symbols of death and destruction: a serpent’s head in his lap and crossed bones. She believed water was destructive element because it caused of floods and other disasters (Thompson 241). Chac, the God of Rain, is represented with a long nose and two curling fangs which project downwards from his mouth and oh his head was a piece of cloth as a turban. Chac was a universal deity of first importance. Chac, god of rain and fertility of agriculture.
Chac was regarded not as single god, there are 4 and each referred to a cardinal point. Xib Chac Chac (Red Man) was the Chac of the East. Sac Xib Chac (White Man) was the Chac of the North. Xib Chac Ek (the black man) was the Chac of the West. Kan Xib Chac (Yellow man) was the Chac of the South (Morley 196). Yum Kaax, The God corn and agriculture. is associated to life, prosperity and abundance. He was depicted as a young man with an ear of corn, covered with sheets on the very misshapen head. He had many enemies, his fate was subject to the gods of rain, wind, drought, famine and death.
It was believed that his name at beginning of his existence was “The God of corn” but in later post classic time his identity became known as “Yum Kaax” (Morley 198). Ah Puch, God of violent death and human sacrifice. He was depicted with a skull on his head. In his torso were visible ribs and spine. If the body had flesh, it was represented cover black circles indicating putrefaction. His ornaments were bells on the hair or pinned shaped necklace. In its representations he is seen with a torch burning homes and shooting them down with a spear.
Ah Puch was a malevolent deity. He was frequently associated with the God of War and Human Sacrifice, and his constant companions were the dog, the Moan bird, and the owl, all of these were creatures considered to be evil omen and death (Morley 200). Ixtab, goddess of suicide, it is represented around his neck by a rope that reached to the sky, with closed eyes and a black circle on the cheeks. The Maya believed that suicides went directly to paradise and for that reason were assigned a protective goddess (Morley 202).
A Tale once said that Ixtab would drop out of the noose from which she permanently hung in the sky and she would be welcomed by the relatives of the victim as she claimed their souls (Bartlett 197). Xaman Ek, the god of wind, is a Mayan deity of the North Star, roads and trade. Giver of light to be lord of the North Star, neutral in conflicts of other deities; care and guidance to merchants and messengers on their long journeys to other towns (Gallenkamp 106). He is always portrayed with a sub-nosed face and peculiar black markings on his head.
The nature of the occurrences of his name also indicates that he must have been the personification of some important heavenly body (Morley 200). Ek Chuah, The Black War Captain. Ek Chuah is a god of the Mayan culture. He is the god of cocoa, war, destruction, and benefactor of the merchants. It is represented with the lower lip hanging, carrying a spear when he represented the war, and with a bundle of goods when he represented the merchants. This god seemed to have had a twofold and somewhat contradictory character; as God of War he was malevolent, but as God of Traveling Merchants he was friendly (Morley 200 – 1).
Kukulcan, The God of the Wind. It is portrayed as a man that is coming out of a snake’s mouth. Although the Mayan culture has decided to associate Kukulcan with the Maya God of the Wind this is not surely established. There are less than a dozen representations of him in all the codices and not one in the Codex Tro-Cortesianus which is a late Postclassic manuscript. It is only seen in one of the figures in a katun-ending ceremony in the Codex Peresianus, and Chac the rain God is offering his head and is also believed that Kukulcan was a god imported from the Aztec were they used to call him “Quetzalcoatl” (Morley 201-2).
The Mayan Gods despite of discoveries in the codices and hieroglyphics remain an unsolved mystery, what is certain is that their religion and their way of worshiping gods are still represented in different religions that exist now. The Mayan religion itself was a little naturalistic, as mentioned above for each element on earth a Mayan God existed and it was important for every god representing each to be worship and respected.