Ancient Mayan Gods and Goddesses

From agriculture to the sun in the sky, there were a wide range of gods and goddesses that the ancient Mayans worshipped. In this article, you will learn more about Mayan beliefs through the different deities associated with their culture.

Kinich Ahau , the Sun God

Not only was Kinich Ahau an ancient Mayan Sun god, but he also served as the patron god of the city Itzamal. It is said that the god visited the city at noon every day , coming down in the form of a macaw where he would eat any offerings left behind in his honor. In artistic depictions of the god, he is often shown with features similar to a jaguar, such as having filed teeth. A symbol associated with the god is the Kin, which symbolizes the Mayan day. Some Mayans also called the god Ah Xoc Kin and acknowledged him as a deity linked to poetry and music.

Yumil Kaxob , the Maize God

Representing ripe grain, Yumil Kaxob is known as the Maize god. He was quite important to the Mayans since the grain played a significant role in Mayan agriculture. In certain parts of Mesoamerica, the Maize god is also associated with the god of flora. This was commonplace in the Yucatan. The Maize god generally wore a headdress made out of maize and had a curved streak across his cheek. He also appears as a youthful god and is easy to identify, yet he is powerless on his own. The good fortune or unfortunate events that occurred to him were decided by the rain and drought. He enjoyed protection from the Rain god. However, he endured suffering when the Death god brought drought and famine to the Mayans.

Yum Cimil , the Death God

Beliefs concerning the afterlife and the god in charge of the Underworld play an important role in the way a culture approaches and conducts their lives. For the Mayans, it was Yum Cimil (or Ah Puch) that served as the death god and the ruler of the Underworld. It is easy to pinpoint the god in artist depictions, as he appears in a mostly skeletal form. Embellishments of his appearance consist of bones or a collar made with eyeless sockets , a symbol of the Underworld.  Sometimes, his body is shown covered with black spots as a way to symbolize decomposition.

Ixtab , the Suicide Goddess

With a rope around her neck, it is Ixtab that represents the goddess of suicide. Unlike other cultures that look down upon taking one’s own life, the Mayans believed that a suicide was one way that you could reach heaven. Because of this, suicides were common during ancient times and could take place from a bout of depression to even something quite trivial.