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Mayan Religion

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Alexandra Vasconcelos

on 10 September 2012

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Transcript of Mayan Religion

By Alexandra Vasconcelos and Damon Tran 10A Mayan Religion Through hundreds of years, the Maya people have continued to hold on to their values and unique way of life. The modern Maya religion is a colourful mixture of Catholicism and ancient Maya beliefs and rituals. Their ancient gods have been replaced with statues of saints but the stories of these saints only slightly resemble those of their European counterparts. Today, Maya worship at mountains and cave shrines, bringing offerings such as chickens, candles and incense with an alcoholic drink. The Maya community has both secular and religious leaders. A man rises through the ranks of a confraternity by taking on more financial responsibilities for religious feasts and processions. The Maya civilisation originated in Mesoamerica in approximately 250 AD, influenced by the culture and religion of the Olmec. The Mayan culture flourished until the Spanish conquest. During the first 650 years, also known as then Classic Period, the Mayan civilisation consisted of more than 40 cities spread across modern-day Mexico, Guatemala, and northern Belize. At its peak, the total population may have reached 2 million people; the majority lived in modern-day Guatemala. Sometime after 900 AD, then Mayan culture declined dramatically and most cities were abandoned. Scholars believe that this decline was due to the loss of trade routes due to war. The remaining Maya were conquered by the Spanish and converted to Roman Catholicism. The present-day Mayan people are spread mainly across southern Mexico, with some in Guatemala and Belize. They practise a religion that combines Roman Catholicism with Mayan cosmology, deities, and domestic rituals. Seven Components of the Maya religion:
1. Main Beliefs

The Mayans believed in 166 gods, however, the most important deity was the Supreme God Itazmna, the creator god, the god of ire and earth. They also believed that without assistance from other important gods, crops wouldn’t grow resulting in starvation. There was also a place filled with spirits and ghosts.

2. Sacred Stories and Writings

Mayan sacred stories and writings included the main belief of trusting in many Gods, that there were ghosts and spirits and that the universe was made up for many layers, the crust of the earth which was the fine layer between the real and spiritual world. In addition, some practices include prayer, dance, fasting divination and human sacrifice.

3. Rituals, Prayers and Festivals

The Mayans had many important rituals and prayers. This included bloodletting which was a vital ritual in the Mayan culture. Bloodletting was performed for two main reasons, it was considered as a sacrifice to the gods and it called the vision serpent. Also, the Mayan religion had a sacred prayer which was the Prayer of the Seven Directions. In addition every 20 days a religious festival would be held in the Mayan Empire. Important objects in the religion included stelas (large symbolic stones), the Mayan Calender and other things.
4. Sacred Spaces

Sacred places in the Mayan religion included pyramids, ruins, shrines and burial places which were set aside for prayer and worship.

5. Sacred Signs and Symbols.

Stelas, large symbolic stones, were highly special in the Mayan Religion because engraved in them were hieroglyphics that told a tale about a major event. Also, every 20 years a ceremony was conducted called K’atun, and each ceremony had it’s unique stela. Also, the Mayans had many signs and symbols, these signs and symbols represented many things from animals, to objects and specific words.
6. Social People and Social Structure.

Mayan rulers, priests and ancestors were important individuals in the Mayan religion. Priests were extremely influential, influencing the Mayas daily life. Priests had a say in everything, whether it was when plant was going to be planted, when a couple were allowed to marry and who were going to be sacrificed.

7. Sacred Time.

The religious festival every 20 days, the cycles in the calendar, prayer time and time to sacrifice were sacred times in the Mayan religion.
The Maya civilisation extends throughout the present-day southern Mexican states of Chiapas, Tabasco, and the Yucatán Peninsula states of Quintana Roo, Campeche and Yucatán. The Maya area additionally extended throughout the northern Central American region, in countries such as Guatemala, Belize, northern El Salvador and western Honduras. The Maya area is divided into three zones: the southern Pacific lowlands, the highlands, and the northern lowlands. The Maya highlands include all elevated land in Guatemala and the Chiapas highlands. The southern lowlands take up a part of Chiapas, the southern coast of Guatemala, Belize and El Salvador. The northern lowlands cover all of the Yucatán Peninsula; this includes the Mexican state of Yucatán, Campeche and Quintana Roo, the Petén Department of Guatemala, all of Belize and parts of Tabasco and Chiapas. BIbliography:
http://www.religionfacts.com/mayan_religion/index.htm http://www.criscenzo.com/jaguarsun/mayanow.html
The Mayan would pick their kings by having two or three compete in a fight to the death, the winner would be crowned king. The kings were not the only rulers of the people but also the priests, who provided ways for the people to communicate with the gods. The kings would perform many rituals for the people so that the gods were happy with them. The kings were often seen as the “World Tree” that connected the people with the gods. The Mayas believed that their priests could talk to the gods; this belief gave them incredible power. The priests, along with the kings, were the most powerful people in the Maya civilisation. Priests decided almost everything in the Mayan life. They decided when to plant crops, when and whom people could marry and who to sacrifice. The Mayans built two types of pyramids; those that were meant to be climbed and those that were not. The first type was used for sacrificing. The other was sacred and not to be touched. The steps on the pyramids were far too steep to climb and had doorways that lead to nowhere. During their rituals, the priests would ascend the pyramid from the earth to the sky by using the staircase. They believed that this brought them closer to the gods.
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