Ancient Mayan religion gods

Aztecs And Mayas Religion
December 22, 2020 – 05:09 pm
Black Eagle canoe during a

Archaic cultures known only through archaeology form the common background of the main Mexican and Central American civilizations such as those of the Olmecs, Toltecs, Chichimecs, Aztecs and the various Maya peoples. On the other hand they are certain to have influenced each other in historic times. Both their archaic common background and their mutual influences in later times account for the numerous points of resemblance between their cultures and societies, the most striking resemblances being found in matters of religion. There exist of course great differences, or the need would never have been felt to study each of these civilizations separately. The large number of resemblances, however, justifies the fact that nearly a quarter of this short survey of the Aztec and Maya religions will be devoted to them.

Both religions distinguish between 'ancient' gods and 'younger' gods. In Central America the god of fire is invariably an ancient god. The Toltecs called him Huehueteotl (Old God). The Aztecs also considered the god of the travelling merchants, Yacatecuhtli (Lord of the Vanguard), an old god, probably because the ancestors of these merchants belonged to an indigenous population group. With the Maya peoples the original nature and agrarian deities were the ancient gods, whereas the gods they had adopted from the Toltects, like the great god Quetzalcoatl (Plumed Serpent), were the younger ones, who were more involved in the cosmic and socio-cultural aspects of their civilization.

In the religious as well as the social concept of the universe held by all Central American peoples there existed direct associations between space, time and colour, which have similar structures, but show slight variations from people to people. Taking the earth as the centre, they distinguished six cosmic directions: the four quarters of space, above (heaven) and below (the underworld). So, inclusive of the centre (the earth), there were seven divisions in cosmic space.

In fact each religious and each social system in Central America is found to have an order that is often a complicated elaboration of the system of four horizontal directions (the four quarters) and that of three vertical directions (the three cosmic layers). As the principle underlying this order was connected with a dualistic world view based on the man-woman opposition, the nations of Central America were able to find many interesting solutions for the organizational grouping of their deities, chiefs, priests, military leaders and other dignitaries, by arranging them in sets of four or three, representing either the fourfold or the tripartite system. Within each set of four, however, two members were always considered as closely connected, and in some instances even as a unit. This principle penetrated so deeply into Aztec society that the third child in a family of four children was called 'the middle one".

Each People Had Its Colour

The horizontal directions were associated with different colours, but each people had its own space-colour associations, as is seen in the following survey:

East
South
West
North
Maya
red
yellow
black
white
Aztecs
green
blue
Toltecs
Chichimecs

The combination of space and colour was associated with time, and time was closely connected with the gods, especially among the Maya. All this gave rise to associations between direction, colour, time and the cosmic forces (gods) determining these three elements. The universe and consequently life on earth was successively controlled by a particular combination of direction, time and gods. The Toltecs and the Aztecs (who were in a sense one of the twenty Toltec peoples) called the cosmic ages determined in this way 'suns'. This concept also existed among the Maya, and like the Toltecs they distinguished four such cosmic ages, each determined by one of the quarters and the gods belonging to it.

The Aztecs divided the history of the universe into five 'suns', the first being associated with the east, the second and third with the north, the fourth with the west, and the fifth with the south. The four or five different sets of gods, time and direction always existed simultaneously, side by side. The Maya as well as the Aztecs regarded time as a relative concept in that the four or five 'suns' were represented as occurring in a sequence as well as simultaneously. The idea of sequence only consisted in each 'sun' being dominated by one particular combination, which after a certain length of time (one sun) had to surrender its ascendancy to another combination.

An extra dimension was added to the concept of the universe by including the distinction between the 'world above' (heaven) and the 'world below' (hell). The Maya originally distinguished nine spheres in heaven and nine in the underworld. The celestial spheres arc to be

imagined as twice four heavens situated in the four horizontal directions and one heaven on top, viz. that of the supreme divine couple of creators. The underworld contained the reflected picture of this cosmic arrangement. The Toltecs, Aztecs, and Maya divided heaven into thirteen parts, adding one step to the pyramid of heaven by subdividing the older topmost heaven of the Maya and Olmecs into five heavens.

All the principles underlying the order of the universe are also recognizable in the social and administrative organizations of these peoples.

Each Human Has a Counterpart

An entirely different and probably very old fundamental conception occurring in Central American religious thinking is that of the existence of so-called 'counterparts in disguise'. Every human being was thought to have one or more 'counterparts', mostly disguised as animals, whose fates were linked to that of the human being in a manner conditioned by cosmic forces.

This conception is closely connected with the ritual time-units of 13 X 20 = 260 days, which the Aztecs called tonalpoalli (count of days), and the Maya tzolkin (see the comparative survey of the Aztec and Maya calendars at the end of this section). The 'days' of the ritual calendars of these two peoples ran from midnight till noon, each day being ruled by one of the cardinal points in the order: east, north, west, south, then again east etc. Each day had for its companion the daily period from midday till midnight. Each day's companion was one of the so-called lords of the night, the nine gods ruling the nine parts into which the night was divided, for during that period the sun passed through the nine spheres of the underworld. For the same reason there were thirteen gods that ruled the day.

Source: www.meta-religion.com
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