Mayans Religion: Gods, Animal Spirits and Pyramids

The Mayans religion involved several aspects of nature, astronomy and rituals. Most Gods represented a form in nature, for example, Sun God, Kinih Ahous, or Maize God, Yum Kaax. The Mayans were known for their calenders and astronomical buildings. These were used during their religious rituals. Similar to the Egyptians, the Mayans built Pyramid like temples for religious reasons. The main difference in shape being that the Mayan pyramids have a flat top to build temples on top. The best known pyramid is El Castillo or Temple of Kukulkan in the archaeological site Chichen Itza, in the Mexican state of Yucatan.

The Mayans built two types of pyramids, and one type was meant to be climbed. These pyramids were used during human sacrifices, which would please the Gods. The other type was not to be climbed, or even touched. These pyramids were sacred and often were built with too steep of steps to climb, or a false door. When these pyramids were being used, a priest would use the dangerous steps and get closer to the Gods. Each pyramids usually had two or four staircases, often including a platform between steps near the middle. This platform was likely used during the priest-kings rituals as well.

The Mayan religion was Polytheist, and they worshiped more than 165 Gods. The Gods were human-like. The Gods were born, grew up and died. Gods would do other human like activity that was deemed acceptable behavior. This included: creating, planting and harvesting maize, performing divination, conducting business, fighting wars, forming alliances and intermarrying. This behavior led to the Gods having interrelated jobs within their hierarchy.

The Mayan religion believed that most peoples souls’ were vanquished to spend their afterlives in the underworld. Even the rulers souls’ ended up there. Only those who died at childbirth or were sacrificed would have escaped the underworld. Sacrifice was conducted using blood-letting (ritualized cutting) performed by the community, but run by the priest. The underworld is filled with with evil Gods, represented as jaguars, the symbol of the night. The jaguar was also shown on the Kings helmets.

The Mayans believed that every person had an animal companion who shared their soul. They were called, “Way’ ob”. The Mayan religion told that one could transform into their animal companion. Every King had a jaguar as their animal companion spirit, and were often depicted with jaguar in Mayan art. Most Mayans had one animal companion, but some every powerful Mayan priests could have more than one.

One thought on “Mayans Religion: Gods, Animal Spirits and Pyramids

  1. I found your blog post on Mayans Religion: Gods, Animal Spirits, and Pyramids to be very intriguing because I have always found the Mayans to be fascinating.
    I didn’t realize that the Mayans built two kinds of pyramids. Some that were used for human sacrifices to please the gods and some that were not meant to be touched. It’s odd to me that the Mayans would make pyramids that weren’t meant to be climbed. Although, it makes sense so only a priest would have the power to climb the dangerous, steep steps to get closer to the gods.

    I knew that the Mayan religion was Polytheist, but I didn’t realize that they worship more than 165 gods! It’s also interesting that the Mayans viewed the gods as humans almost. And that the gods did human activities such as harvesting maize, fighting wars, and taking part in business.

    I find it so interesting that the Mayans religion believed their souls would end up in the underworld after they died. I wonder why those who died by childbirth or sacrificed were the only ones who escaped spending the afterlife in the underworld. I also find it unusual that the evil gods in the underworld are represented as jaguars because the common symbol of kingship and authority during the preclassic era of the Mayans was a jaguar. And according to your post, this jaguar symbol was also shown on the kings helmets and every Mayan king had a jaguar as their animal companion spirit.

    I also found your information about the Mayans having an animal spirit who shared their soul called “Way’ob” to be interesting too. The fact that the Mayan religion said that one could transform into their animal companion sounds extraordinary.
    Overall, I was happy reading your blog post because I learned new information about the Mayans that I didn’t know before.

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