The ancient Mayan civilization worshipped and offered human sacrifices to a wide variety of deities. The culture believed that rulers were the descendants of the gods and their blood was the most desirable sacrifice, which was achieved either through bloodletting or sacrificing royal blood they had captured. In this article, you will learn more about some of the deities associated with the ancient Mayan civilization.
The Mayans believed that the universe was separated into many different levels that were above and below the earth. The levels were also positioned within the four directions of east, west, north and south. When someone died, the soul was thought to travel to the Underworld, also known as Xibalba, which was viewed as a place where sinister gods put the souls through various tests and trickery. Because of this, gods and goddesses of the Underworld were rather important to the Mayans alongside those associated with fertility and agriculture.
An example of an ancient Mayan god is Chac, who is worshipped (among other things) for his link to fertility and agriculture.
Chac , The God of Rain and Thunder
Chac (or “Chaac”) represented the ancient Mayan god of rain and thunder. Sometimes, he was viewed as a fertility and agriculture god. A common belief of the Mayans was that one god could be looked at as four separate deities in respect to the four cardinal directions. While some viewed the god as singular, others saw Chac as “Chac Xib Chac”, Red Chac of the East; “Sac Xib Chac”, White North Chac; “Ek Xib Chac” Black West Chac”, and “Kan Xib Chac”, Yellow East Chac.
Art depictions of Chac sometimes showed him as an old man with reptilian or amphibian features. Other characteristics included a long nose and fangs. Tears coming from his eyes symbolized tears and he was often seen with an axe in his hand , representing the thunder he was known to cause. Animals play an important role in the worship of ancient gods and goddesses. For Chac, the frog was a creature often linked to him.
There are many indications that Chac was a favored god, as seen in the various terms that the people used to refer to the god. A few names included: Ah Tzenul, (“he who gives food away to other people”), Hopop Caan (“he who lights the sky”), and interestingly Ah Hoya (“he who urinates”). The Aztecs worshipped a god similar to Chac, who was named Tlaloc.
Today, worshipping the ancient Mesoamerican gods is no longer a popular practice and many of the people have forgotten many of their descendants. However, some still send prayers to Chac. Some anthropologists have found that prayers to Chac still take place. The prayers are compared to pre-Columbian prayers and possess many similarities. It is not uncommon to find that the name worshipped in the prayers has been changed from Chac to Saint Thomas.