Maya Symbolism: rituals and religion
Who were part of the ceremony?
Priests, pilgrims, and elderly women. Children or young women were not part of the ritual. The high priest was named Ahua Can (Serpent Lord) or Ah Kin (The Sun).
The prophets were known as Chilamoob; the supreme leader received the name of Halach Uiniki, and the sorcerers, witchdoctors, and fortune tellers were named Ah meneoob. Also, the Nacomes were the sacrificers, and the Chacoob, the four elderly men that helped during the rituals.
Meaning of the Maya colors
- • Green: used by kings. It was a symbol of power.
- • Blue-Green: common between priests and associated with death. The ones who were about to be sacrified and the stone used for it, were painted in blue.
- • Red and Black: related to warriors.
- • Yellow: used by sorcerers and fortune tellers.
- • White: related to the people from the village.
- Colors related to the cosmic directions.
- • Red: East.
- • Black: West.
- • Yellow: South.
- • White: North.
- • Blue-Green: Benter.
- Ritual Colors
- Participants used to paint their bodies according to the rituals.
- • Black for fasting.
- • White, yellow or blue for sacrifice acts.
- • Red for war.
Maya Rites Structure
- There was an overall structure to perform the rituals which consisted of:
- • Fasting or preliminary abstinence, as a symbol of the Pixán (soul) cleansing and other rites to connect with the sacred, featuring the sexual abstinence, insomnia, food privation, and painting their faces with soot.
- • Selection by a priest divination in a determined moment of the ceremony. The oracle or priest set the date, time, and the guests at the celebration.
- • Steam baths or in water currents using spring water, bloodletting, change of attire, public confession, and consecrating objects, as well.
- • Perfuming the idols: This activity used copal resin, drinking alcoholic beverages such as Balché and Chicha, special food prepared with corn, cocoa beans, and dog or turkey meat, among others.
- • Prayers according to the deity by using music, dances, chants, processions and dramatic performances.
- • Sacrifice, if possible of a living being, animal or human. This was a ritual in which an offering to the gods is transformed from profane to sacred, to serve as a link between men and the divine. Its purpose is to approach that which is sacred, in order to show gratitude for its benefits and strive to bring them about , to fertilize nature, to atone guilt, to keep off evil, to communicate with the spirits of the dead, to integrate with the divine power through a communion and achieve its transfiguration.
- • Offerings such as objects, food, plants, animals or the person itself. The Maya believed gods were invisible and intangible, they were sustained with subtle materials such as the scent of flowers and incense, the flavors of food and drinks; but mostly with the vital energy contained in the blood of animals and humans, which was released when the heart stopped beating or when burned.
Motives for Maya rituals
Rituals had well-defined times and were tributes to their principal gods, fertility, unions, or as initiation ceremonies for religious people. They took place also at private festivities, to fortune tell and healing, and even during life cycles such as pregnancy, birth, childhood, puberty, marriage, and death.
The Maya myth of the corn and agriculture
Agriculture was the departing point for civilized communities. The myth of the creation of farming plants, their chants and ceremonies that celebrate its origins, features the core values of a farming society. Agriculture is synonym for wealth and civilization, besides painting, sculpture, architecture, crafting, and other art expressions.
Maya gods characteristics
Maya deities present a combination of human, animal, and fantastic features. They were represented in four denominations, each associated with a color and direction. They had a dual aspect since they can be good or evil, young or elderly, depending on the context. Also, they were associated with eras or being incarnated as ancestors and had a wide variety of names and manifestations.
Maya cosmogonic myths
Events that took place in a fundamental but timeless period. A sacred time that outstands from the common reality of the human being, which has an ending.