Maya civilization religion

Mayan religion
August 25, 2018 – 10:44 am
Mayan Religion And Culture

The Maya are a native Mesoamerican people who developed one of the most sophisticated cultures in the Western Hemisphere before the arrival of the Spanish. Mayan religion was characterized by the worship of nature gods (especially the gods of sun, rain and corn), a priestly class, the importance of astronomy and astrology, rituals of human sacrifice, and the building of elaborate pyramidical temples.

Some aspects of Mayan religion survive today among the Mayan Indians of Mexico and Central America, who practice a combination of traditional religion and Roman Catholicism. Mayan religion was the subject of much discussion leading up to December 21, 2012.

Maya Fast Facts

Date founded:c.250 AD (rise of the Maya civilization)Place founded:Mesoamerica (Southern Mexico, Guatemala, Belize)Founder:noneAdherents:At one time up to 2 million. Today, several million Maya practice a Roman Catholicism that retains many elements of traditional Mayan religion.Texts:Dresden, Madrid, and Paris codices; Books of Chilam Balam; Popol Vuh; The Ritual of the BacabsTheism:PolytheismMain gods:Itzamná; Kukulcán (Quetzalcóatl); Bolon Tzacab; ChacPractices:Astronomy, divination, human sacrifice, elaborate burial for royalty, worship in stone pyramid-temples


The Mayan civilization arose in Mesoamerica around 250 AD, influenced by the culture and religion of the Olmecs. The Mayan urban culture especially flourished until about 900 AD, but continued to thrive in various places until the Spanish conquest. Also see Greco-Roman religion

During this first 650 years, which scholars call the Classic Period, the Mayan civilization consisted of more than 40 sizeable cities spread across modern-day Mexico, Guatemala, and northern Belize.

At its peak, the total population may have reached 2 million people, the majority of whom lived in modern-day Guatemala. The cities seem to have been mainly ceremonial centers, with the majority of the Maya living a rural, agricultural life around the cities.

Sometime after 900 AD, the Mayan culture declined dramatically and most of the cities were abandoned. Latest scholarship attributes this decline to the loss of trade routes due to war. Also see Religion in Mexico

The great southern cities became depopulated, but the cities of the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico (such as Chichén Itzá, Uxmal, and Mayapán) continued to thrive in the early part of the "Post-Classic Period" (900–1519). By the arrival of the Spanish in the early 16th century, however, most of the Maya were village-dwelling farmers.

The remaining Maya were conquered by the Spanish and converted (at least nominally) to Roman Catholicism. The present-day Mayan peoples are spread mainly across southern Mexico, with small numbers in Guatemala and Belize. They practice a religion that combines Roman Catholicism with Mayan cosmology, deities, and domestic rituals. (See Christianity)


The Maya had a highly sophisticated culture, and this included a written hieroglyphic language. Mayan hieroglyphics were carved into stone monuments or pieces of bone, painted on pottery, and written on books (codices) of bark paper.

Mayan texts describe religious rituals, astronomy, and divination, and are the most valuable source of information on the ancient civilization. Many of them were destroyed by the Spanish because of their pagan religious content, but three main codices have survived. Named for the cities in which they are now kept, these are the Dresden, Madrid, and Paris codices. The Dresden Codex contains very precise tables of Venus and the moon and describes a method of predicting solar eclipses.

Other important texts are those written by learned Indians who transcribed or summarized Mayan hieroglyphic records into Latin script. One of these is the Books of Chilam Balam, written in Yucatec Maya and consisting of historical chronicles mixed with myth, divination, and prophecy. Another text, The Ritual of the Bacabs, covers religious symbolism, medical incantations, and similar matters.

Perhaps the most famous of these texts is the Popol Vuh (1554-1558), which was written in Quiché, a highland Maya language, and translated into Spanish by a priest. This tells of the mythology and cosmology of the Postclassic Guatemalan Maya, and shows central Mexican influences. It chronicles the creation of man, the actions of the gods, the origin and history of the Quiché people, and the chronology of their kings down to 1550.

These Mayan texts were not regarded as sacred or authoritative in themselves (they are not revelations from the divine like the Bible or Quran), but rather as important records of religious rituals and knowledge.

Mayan Civilization: Explore the History and Mystery of the Ancient Mayan Ruins, Religion, Calendar, and More (Mayan Ruins, Mayan Religion, Ancient Civilization, Mayan Calendar)
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