The Maya culture had a close relationship with nature, whether observing the stars for hours, allowing them to create precise astronomic calendars; or through offerings and petitions, like the ones they did for Chaac, god of the rain, thunder, and lightning.
Chaac is one of the most important gods in Maya mythology; he is considered a beneficent entity related to agricultural production and to life. He is present in the heavens and on Earth. In his absence, droughts take control of the land; and his anger can even cause storms. He is considered to have four personalities associated with the four cardinal points with their respective colors and names, similar to the Catholic trinity.
Representations of his face have been found in codices, in folk tales, and at archaeological sites, with a large nose similar to a horn, and two rolled up fangs coming out of his mouth. A clear example of this are the geometrical figureheads carved in stone that you can see at the Ruta Puuc sites, especially on the buildings of Mayapán and Uxmal. You will be amazed at the ability that the Maya had for offerings and recognition of their gods. Don’t miss them!
Each year in March, in accordance with the agricultural planting cycle, a ceremony for Chaac takes place, on the one hand to pay tribute to him, and on the other hand to ask him for his generosity to Earth to be demonstrated in the form of rain. The sacred cenote of Chichén Itzá was one of the most important settings where these rituals took place, and it was even said that he lived there, guarding the underworld.
This custom has passed down through hundreds of years and is still practiced by today’s “milperos” (corn farmers) in the southern area of the state, a key agricultural region, always in the planting season and under the name of “Cha Chaac” (ask for rains). This is a very special ritual where the X’men (Maya healer) presence is required to call forth the god Chaac and ask him that in exchange for the tribute that is offered (food and beverages prepared especially for the occasion), the blessing of the rains that will allow the corn to thrive, be harvested, and provide food.
Normally the ceremony takes place with only men, without the presence of the community women; however, in recent years, with the objective of promoting the ancient customs dedicated to Chaac, the ceremonies have been made in a public way.
Chaac, benefactor and provider of life and food, god that manifests himself in multiple facets, possesses such a huge importance in the daily life of today’s Maya, that they continue to make this offering each year. So if the rain falls during your journey in Yucatán, simply enjoy it and thank Chaac for his generous contribution to the harvest.
By Violeta H. Cantarell
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