All Maya ritual acts were dictated by the 260-day Sacred Round calendar, and all performances had symbolic meaning. Self-mutilation was encouraged during important ritual times. Bloodletting was an important part of any ritual event.
For the Maya, blood sacrifice was necessary for the survival of both gods and people, sending human energy skyward and receiving divine power in return king used an obsidian knife or a stingray spine to cut himself, allowing the blood to fall onto paper held in a bowl. Kings' wives also took part in this ritual by pulling a rope with thorns attached through their tongues. The blood-stained paper was burned, the rising smoke directly communicating with the Sky World.
Prisoners, slaves, and children especially orphans and illegitimate children were sacrificed for the occasion.
Priests were assisted in human sacrifices by four older men who were known as chacs, in honor of the Rain God, Chac. These men would hold the arms and legs of a sacrificial victim while the chest was opened up by another individual called a nacom. Also in attendance was the chilam, a shaman figure who received messages from the gods while in a trance, and whose prophecies were interpreted by the assembled priests.
The Maya believed that when people died, they entered the Underworld through a cave or a cenote. Mayans dreaded death by natural causes because they were said to not go directly to paradise. Ordinary people were buried beneath the floors of their houses, their mouths filled with food accompanied by objects they had used when alive. Some Mayans mummified the heads of their lords and kept and the families kept them and fed them on a regular basis.
Some Mayans today still believe that their villages are the ceremonial center of the world.
There is also a supernatural belief in the spirits of the forest. Some villages today have four pairs of crosses and four jaguar spirits or balam at the village's four entrances, in order to keep evil away. In agricultural rites, deities of the forest are still invoked, and it is still believed that evil winds loose in the world cause disease and sickness.
Mayans are a wondrous group of people. . . because they sacrifice people.
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