What Was the Mayan Religion Like?


Quick Answer

The Mayan religion was a polytheistic Mesoamerican religion that was popular in Guatemala, Belize, western Honduras and the Tabasco, Chiapas and Yucatán regions of Mexico starting in the late-preclassic period (200 B.C. to 200 A.D.) and extending up through modern times. The modern Mayan religion coexists with both pan-Mayan syncretism, which seeks to revitalize traditional Mayan cultural practices, and modern Christianity.

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The Mayan religion is a polytheistic one, and the main gods are Itzamná, Kukulcán (also known as Quetzalcóatl), Bolon Tzacab and Chac. The worship of these deities has been carefully recorded thanks to the Mayan hieroglyphic language, which explained areas of their society that were based in religion. The religious texts described religious rituals, astronomical studies and practices, and divination.

The pantheon of gods worshipped by the Maya was filled with gods that could be either benevolent or malevolent. The most important god was Itzamná, who was seen as the creator god of fire and of the Earth. The Mayan rulers were seen as intermediaries between the gods.

The practices of Mayans were also carefully recorded. Their religion included divination, ritual purification, prayer and pilgrimages. One of the central tenants of the Mayan religion was the offering of human sacrifices, which were believed to encourage fertility and demonstrate piety and faith. The heart of a sacrificial victim was often burned as an offering to the gods. Some practices also included dancing, competitions, ball games and even dramatic performances in order to demonstrate piety and win the favor of the gods.

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