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Myths are…. Maya, Mesoamerican Indians occupying a nearly continuous territory in southern Mexico, Guatemala, and northern Belize. In the early 21st century some 30 Mayan languages were spoken by more than five million people, most of whom were bilingual in Spanish. Before the Spanish conquest of Mexico and….

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Maya Civilization for Kids: Religion and Mythology

Sign up here to see what happened On This Day , every day in your inbox! By signing up, you agree to our Privacy Notice. Be on the lookout for your Britannica newsletter to get trusted stories delivered right to your inbox. Related to the creation and end of the world, Mayan mythology had a cyclical concept of the world. According to this concept, at the end of the each time cycle, gods destroyed the world and then it was created anew.

The destruction was usually done by collapsing the sky or caused by a great flood. The world was then re-created by the raising of the sky and erection of the five World Trees. The last and the fourth period in this time cycle began on the 11th or 13th August BC and ended on December 22, Creation of mankind is one of the most interesting aspects of Mayan mythology.

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According to this myth, gods were able to create the right kind of human after several failed attempts. They first used earth and mud to make the human body but this experiment failed since the body would dissolve and disintegrate every time. Next they created humans with wood but gods were not satisfied because this kind of humans as they did not worship gods.

Maya Hero Twins

Thus they were also destroyed through a great flood. In the fourth attempt, gods were finally able to create right kind of human using corn mixed with water. Humans made this way were too perfect so gods had to take away some of their powers. Other than gods and deities, Mayan Mythology also describes the lives and glorious achievements of various heroes.

The myth of the hero twins, Hunahpu and Xbalanque, is particularly famous.

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Both these brothers defeated the bird demon and the deities of death and disease. Another myth features the maize hero who defeated the deities of thunder and lightning and established a pact with them. According to the story, an ancestral hero Xbalanque changed into a hummingbird to woo the daughter of the earth god.

What The Ancient Maya Can Teach Us About Living Well

The peoples of the region believed in the same gods and myths, built temples in the form of pyramids, practiced divination, and had an interest in astronomy. They also had a ball game in which teams competed to pass a ball of solid rubber through a stone ring or hoop. Only certain men and gods could play this game.

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  • Sometimes it was simple sport, sometimes a sacred ritual. Scholars do not know the full meaning of the Mesoamerican The Maya played a ball game in which teams competed to pass a rubber ball through a stone ring or hoop. Although the meaning of the game is not clear, the players may have represented the struggle between light and dark, and the ball may have symbolized the movement of stars through the heavens.

    The Maya also shared the elaborate calendar system used across much of Mesoamerica. One part, called Haab by the Maya, was a day calendar based on the sun's annual cycle. The other, called Tzolkin, was a day sacred calendar.

    The two calendars meshed in a cycle known as the Calendar Round, which repeated every 52 years. The Maya used the calendar both for measuring worldly time and for sacred purposes, such as divination. Each day in the Calendar Round came under the influence of a unique combination of deities. According to the Maya, the combination that occurred on a person's date of birth would influence that person's fate. Like other Mesoamerican cultures, the Maya used a writing system based on symbols called glyphs that represented individual syllables.

    They recorded their mythology and history in volumes known as codices. Although the Spanish destroyed most Mayan documents, a few codices have survived. Inscriptions found at archaeological sites are also helpful. Major Deities and Characters. His wife, Ixchel, was goddess of fertility, pregnancy, and childbirth.

    Women made pilgrimages to her shrines. Ah Puch, often shown with decomposing flesh and a head like a skull, was the god of death and destruction. He brought disease, was associated with war, and ruled the lowest level of the Mayan underworld.

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    The modern Maya call him Yum Cimil lord of death. Cizin or Kisin stinking one is another death god. He is linked in particular with earthquakes, which often strike Mesoamerica with devastating force. The ancient Maya depicted him as a dancing skeleton with dangling eyeballs.


    He was associated with jaguars. The rain god, a major figure in all Mesoamerican mythologies, was called Chac by the Maya. He was often portrayed as a fisherman or as a figure with the features of a fish or reptile. This fourfold aspect is a common feature of Mesoamerican mythology. Quetzalcoatl, the Feathered Serpent, called Kukulcan by the Maya, was also a figure of great importance throughout Mesoamerica. Major Themes and Myths. The Maya believed that creation was related to divination and magic, and they often referred to their heroes and creator gods as diviners. The men and women who practiced divination regarded it as a form of creation similar to the divine miracle that produced the world and humankind.

    Like the Aztecs and other Mesoamericans, the Maya believed that the present world is only the most recent in a series of creations.