Religion was important to the Mayans. They worshipped everything in nature and tried to explain how things happened because of the Gods. The Mayans believed that the world was made up of heavens and underworlds. They were linked together by a giant tree, which had its branches in the heavens, and it's roots in the underworld. Another Mayan explanation of the world was that the world was a giant crocodile or turtle and that Gods lived in the sky and heavens and there was a watery underworld below. People could communicate with the Gods through prayers, sacrifices and visions.
Many Mayan Gods were seen as forces of nature. The Mayan people were farmers so that many of the Gods were agricultural. Chac was the rain God. He would bring rain, which was very important to the Maya people. Chac was often represented in art with a reptile face and fangs and he carried a lightning ax. Itzamna was the reptile god and he was the lord of both day and night. The Mayans thought of him as their first priest, the inventor of writing, and the god of medicine. Yum Kaax was the god of corn and one of the most important Gods to the Mayan farmers. He was thought of as the father of the Hero Twins. Ix Chel was a rainbow deity and one of the few Gods that was seen as a woman. She was known as the rainbow goddess. She was associated with healing, childbirth, and foretelling the future.
The Mayans believed that every person had an animal companion spirit. When the person was born the same soul that they had would be placed in an animal's body. It was believed that people could transform into their animal companion. Most people would have one animal spirit, but powerful shamans would have more than one spirit. All kings would have the animal companion of the jaguar. The Kings were often shown in art as wearing jaguar helmets.
The Mayans often made sacrifices to the Gods. Some sacrifices were just offering of food but sometimes people would be sacrificed. The Mayans did not sacrifice their own people, they took captives from war and sacrificed them. Another Mayan form of sacrifice was bloodletting. The Mayans would cut themselves to make them bleed because they believed that their blood nourished the Gods. Bloodletting was also believed to help people connect with their animal spirits.
The Kings were not only the rulers of the people but also Priests and provided the way that the people communicated to the Gods. The Kings would perform many of the rituals for the people so that the Gods would be happy with them. The King was often seen as the World Tree that connected the people to the Gods.
Religion was very important to the Mayan people. Everything in their lives revolved around religion.
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