Maya Religion

Maya Religion

In the Maya religion, we can observe a strong dualist tendency: the eternal struggle between the influences of good and evil over the destiny of man.


Dr. Sylvanus G. Morley, who was an eminent Mayanist archaeologist, explains that for the Maya the benevolent gods produce thunder, lightning, and rain, help the corn bear fruit and guarantee abundance; while the evil gods, whose attributes are death and destruction, cause droughts, hurricanes, and war, ruin the corn, and carry hunger and misery in their breast.


In his book La Civilización Maya, he states that, for the ancient Maya, the main object of religion was to procure life, health, and sustenance.


According to the knowledgeable North American, the ancient Maya invoked and placated the gods in different ways. Almost all important ceremonies began with fasting and abstinence, which were scrupulously observed, and it was considered a grave sin to break these rules. These preliminary purifications, which included sexual abstinence, were obligatory for priests and for those who directly assisted at the ceremonies, but voluntary for everyone else. As well as fasting and abstinence, they renounced, as part of abstinence, eating meat and using salt and chile.



The Maya and Sacrifices

Sacrifices were an important part of the Maya culture, and they ranged from simple food offerings to all kinds of ornaments and other valued objects, as well as the practice of human sacrifice. The offerings varied according to the urgency of the case. If the sacrifice was needed to cure an illness or to avoid a small nuisance, it was usually sufficient to offer food or adornments. In times of great public necessity, they sacrificed human victims.



The Maya Religion Today

During the several millenia when the Maya evolved from a nomadic to a sedentary life, their religion underwent various changes. At first the Maya religion was devoted to nature, and its last transformation came about during the XVI century when the Spanish enforced Christianity; however, the simple faith of the people, much more diffused, has survived, in part, until today.



Article by Yurina Fernández Noa


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