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The Mayan Indians of Central and South America (Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and Belize) believed in many gods. The gods ranged from a suicide goddess, to a god of maize, or corn. With the Mayan believing in over 190 gods and goddesses, they had a god/goddess for just about everything.

The principle gods of the Mayan religion were:

  • Chac, the rain god
  • Kinich Ahau (also known by Ah Xoc Kin, who was associated with the writings and poetry), the sun god
  • The maize god, who was associated with Yumil Kaxob the god of flora
  • Yum Cimil (Ah Puch) was the death god, or god of the underworld
  • Ixtab, the suicide goddess
  • Kukulcan, the wind god.

The Mayans also believed in Duality. What this means is that a god/goddess could have dual or contrasting roles, such as being the ruler of the sky and underworld, or being good and evil. Another aspect was being part human and part animal. Kukulcan was depicted as being part human and part reptile. The dualism also extended to life after death. The good souls were cast into heaven while the evil souls were cast into the underworld, where they were tortured by cold, exhaustion, hunger, and sadness.

Principle gods

of the Maya

Chac was the Rain God. The Mayans often sought his help for their crops. Chac was closely associated with the creation of life. Chac was believed to be divided into four equal parts, representing North, South, East and West. Chac was also believed to be associated with the Wind God, Kukulcan. Some Mayans and historians believe Kukulcan was just a variation of Chac. Gold and jade were sacrifices to this god.

The Sun God was Kinich Ahau, the patron god of the city Itzamal. He supposedly visited the city at noon everyday, and would descend as a macaw and consumed prepared offerings. Kinich Ahau is usually shown with jaguar-like features, and he also wears the symbol of Kin, a Mayan day. Kinich Ahau was sometimes shown by the name Ah Xoc Kin, who was associated with poetry and music.

The Maize God is representative of the ripe grain which was the base of the Mayan agriculture. The Maize God is combined with the God of Flora, Yumil Kaxob in certain areas of Mesoamerica.The Maize God is usually shown with a headdress of maize, or corn, and a curved streak on his cheek. He is also different from other gods because he is portrayed as a youth. However, the Maize God was powerless by himself. Rain and drought controled his fortunes and misfortunes. He suffered when the Death God exercised drought and famine, and the Rain God would protect him.

Ixtab was the name of the Suicide Goddess. Ixtab was always shown with a rope around her neck. The Mayans believed that their gods needed blood to be happy. Suicide was believed to lead you to heaven. Therefore, suicide was more common and more acceptable then that today.

Yum Cimil was the name of the Death God. He was also called Ah Puch, the God of the Underworld. The underworld was called Xibalba. His body was mostly skeletal. His adornments were also made of bone. Yum Cimil has also been shown with black spots representing decomposition. He also wears a collar with eyeless sockets, which was the symbol for the underworld.

The Wind God was also known as the feathered-serpent Kukulcan. Many people argue as to whether or not Kukulcan was just a variation of Chac. Many also believed that he was actually a living man.

The Mayans also believed in many types of sacrifices to appease their gods. The three below are the three most common types of sacrifices.

The first type of sacrifice was the Arrow Sacrifice. The victim was taken to a temple, stripped, smeared with blue paint, and tied to a stake. The priest performed bloodletting when he cut the victim. The spectators danced around the victim, and waited for a signal from the priest. Upon getting the signal, the men would shoot an arrow at the victim's heart.

The second type of sacrifice is the Well Sacrifice performed at Chichen Itza. The victims were bound and thrown into a well. After time, if the victim was still alive, he was considered to be spared by the gods and rescued.

The third and probably the most common sacrifice was the Heart Sacrifice. This sacrifice would take place on the pyramids. The priest would stab the victim and pull out the beating heart. He then passed it on to other high priests, who would smear the blood all over their bodies. The dead body was then rolled down the side of the pyramid, where at the bottom the priests would dismember, skin, and eat the dead person.

Overall, the Mayans were a very religious group who took their beliefs and gods/goddesses seriously. It seems strange to us now, but it was part of the daily life, in which the gods played one of the biggest roles, and were very important.


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