6 Unusual Facts About the Ancient Mayan Rituals

Religion played a very important role in the Mayan society. Priests were on the second from the top step of the social ladder, just below the rulers. So it’s not surprising that there are some fascinating Mayan rituals and ceremonies. Below you can read up on some examples of such practices.

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Crossing babies’ eyes

The Mayans had very particular ideas about what their children should look like. They’re said to have dangled various objects in front of babies’ until their eyes became forever crossed. There was also a quite common practice among Mayan rituals in which they flattened babies’ foreheads by pressing boards on their faces.

Closeup of a Baby's eyes

Closeup of Baby’s eyes, Credits: Wikimedia

Death and corn

When a citizen died, usual custom in Mayan rituals was a burial with maize placed in their mouth. According to their belief corn was the food for the dead on their way to the afterworld. This vegetable was also the Mayan symbol for rebirth. That was very important to the Mayans who placed a large emphasis on the circle of life and rebirth.

Mayan Burial Pot - Archaeological Museum

Mayan Burial Pot – Archaeological Museum, Credits: Wikimedia

Human sacrifice

Perhaps the most infamous practice of the Mayan religion was the human sacrifice. They didn’t see it as murder. On the contrary, the Mayans considered offering themselves to the gods, who drank human blood, to be the most honorable thing they could ever do. People believed that all who have died in sacrifice went to go straight to heaven.
One of the popular human sacrifice methods was ripping out the heart by a priest who then burned it. This Mayan ritual was common at the most important ceremonies, such as the coronation of a ruler. Beheading was more common during other rituals. One of those rituals was a game, in which the goal was to hit a rubber ball through a hoop. According to sources, the ball represented the head of a decapitated warrior.

Illustration of Mayan human sacrifice ritual, Credits: Pinterest

Bloodletting rituals

Ritual bloodletting was another significant part of the Mayan rituals. Boys had their first bloodletting when they were five, for example. Surely you’ve seen pictures of various Mayan citizens that depict them with many piercings and body art. These piercings were actually bloodlettings. And the more piercings a person had, the higher their status. The rulers were the ones expected to take part in the most bloodlettings. The blood was then smeared on idols, which were then burned. They believed that smoke would bring the blood up to the heavens to feed the gods.

Maya Relief of Royal Blood-Letting

Maya Relief of Royal Blood-Letting, Credits: Wikimedia

Make war, not love

The Mayans were very good at astronomy and believed in a blend of religion and cosmic sciences. In fact, the priests were the most educated social class of the Mayan civilization, second only to the kings. They were the ones who noted the movement of the stars and planets. All Mayan rituals and personal significant events in people lives were coordinated with these movements. Perhaps the most fascinating example of this practice is that they only went to war when the planet Venus, which the Western nations associate with love, rose in the heavens.

Tzolkin calendar, used by Mayans

Tzolkin calendar, used by Mayans, via new-zodiac-symbols.blogspot.rs

Termination and rebuilding

The nation’s belief in rebirth and the circle of life led to many frequent rituals of “renewal”. For example, every 73 years the Mayan rituals demanded the destruction of peoples’ homes. They burnt all the household items, and the houses themselves, naturally placing the sacrificed humans on top. Then they burned them again. This ritual used to be a part of the circle of life process in which Mayans believed.

After the destruction, the Mayan rituals commanded every family to build a brand new home. They had to use broken, as well as whole parts on the very top of the old foundation.

Burning houses, mayan reneval ritual

Burning houses, Mayan renewal ritual, Credits: chocversushudbay.com


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