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Researchers define human sacrifice as act of deliberate killing humans being part of both spiritual and religious functions in the society. Among the Mayans, human detriment began many centuries before Mexico civilization. Human sacrifice prevails in different cultures in history. In the ancient history, cultures such as Greeks and Aztecs in addition to the Mayans practiced these acts of human sacrificing. Surprisingly, despite the geographical separation between these cultures, they had similarities in their planning and performing these rituals. In some cultures such as Mayans and the Aztecs, human sacrifice marked the core characteristic of their religion. Similarities between these cultures had a basis on the generalized approach and role of human sacrifice in the society. These cultures pre-assumed that human sacrifice maintained the universe. In the modern society, attributed to civilization, sacrifices are not normal spiritual rituals. Normally, people view these acts as acts of inhumanity and disrespect of human life.
Over the ancient world, there was a common observation among many bloodthirsty cultures in their sacrifice practices. In the ancient times, ritual sacrifice and human torture were some common religion aspects. Mayan human sacrifice refers to the process and religious act of killing human beings as a part of observing the religion and as well special rituals defined by the culture. Mayan sacrifice has a direct resemblance with animal slaughter in communities and cultures that are highly against human sacrifice. As demonstrated by their archeological designs, Mayans had strong belief that these human sacrifices provided a direct link between their cosmic layers. Apparently, as postulated by their culture, through their human sacrifice practices, Mayans had the opportunities of developing strong links and as well initiating communications with their ancestors and other gods. Conversely, through the engagement of gods and ancestors during their daily life activities, leaders from these communities developed divine power and authority on a temporal basis. Similarly, these bloodletting rituals practiced by the Mayans had great role in invoking the immortals as depicted by many visual images presented by their cultures (Meszaros, 88).
Human sacrifice was an important aspect among the Mayans. It not only gave their leaders channels of communicating with their ancestors and gods but also enhanced the existence of the Maya culture. Hieroglyphic texts, as presented by their archeological designs, indicated that these rituals took at various seasons in the lives of the Maya lords. Particularly, there were some special occasions and periods presented by the Maya culture, that enhanced human sacrifices (Chládek, 69). Common events included; successions and centenaries, birth of kings and as well, some special calendar dates. Seemingly, during these occasions, leaders had the opportunity of persuading the ancestors to endorse new leaders. Furthermore, the occasion was vitally important to the community as it persuaded the gods to protect the new leaders and as well direct intervention during the human events presented by their annual event calendar. The paper is a research objecting at enhancing a vivid understanding of the Mayan human sacrifice (Meszaros, 56).
Mayan religiousness was part of the important aspects defining their culture. Similarly, it played the part to some daily and occasional traditions such as human sacrifice. Human sacrifices by the Mayans played special roles in appeasing the ancestors and as well protecting the community life (that is enhancing community continuity).
Human sacrifice was a common aspect in the Maya culture. Mayans performed bloodletting rituals as part of their religious beliefs. In the discussion, there will be a discussion of the forms of human sacrifice carried out and their implications to the culture.
While understanding the religious aspect of the Mayans, it is vitally essential defining Maya. The Maya refers to an ancient Mesoamerican group of people who had a great contribution towards the evolution of the Western culture prior to the arrival of the Spanish culture. Maya religion had a characteristic of worship of nature gods (Chládek, 30). Additionally, their religion provided avenues of worshipping different seasons as presented by their annual calendar. In addition, their religious aspect had characteristics of building pyramid temples and observance of human sacrifice. Based on the ancient culture of the Mayans, there are some religious aspects observed by some surviving Mayan Indians in Mexico and America.
The prevalence of religious practices in Mexico has an interrelation with the Mayan religious practices during the 900AD period (Sharer, 29). On the other hand, after Spanish culture conquered the Mayan culture, Roman Catholicism absorbed their culture leading to an emergence of Christianity. As highlighted earlier, there were special aspects in the Mayan religion. Texts, which included archeological monuments painted on pottery and written in hieroglyphic language, made a description of the religious rituals of the Maya culture. Some texts, such as ‘The Ritual of the Bacabs’ makes a comprehensive description of the religious symbolism of the cultural practices practiced by the Mayans (Meszaros, 121).
Similarly, like other religious cultures, Mayan religion had beliefs based on their seasonal calendar. As demonstrated earlier in the discussion, their religion incorporated the worship of many nature gods (that is it was cosmic in nature) (Sharer, 33). Conversely, their nature gods presented themselves in a hierarchical manner based on the beliefs on the powers of these gods. Symbolism was another essential factor defining the beliefs of the Mayan. In their demonstrations, they used different seasons and weather situations to symbolize some aspects of their gods. Mayans had a belief and an equivalent attitude between religion and science. Their science systems had a relation with the religious rituals. Furthermore, their obsession of time had a significant contribution to their religious belief where they made the prediction of various seasonal cycles and thus different worshipping and sacrificing cycles (Schomp, 48).
Religious aspects, on the other hand, were essential aspects defining the religion of the Maya culture. Some of the essential practices included the divination, presided by priests, and gave leaders and the Mayan population a comprehensive approach separating lucky days from unlucky days (Chládek, 112). Similarly, through the presided divination, leaders would have a prior understanding of the best days to undertake some community tasks such as planting, harvesting and planning for war. Based on different seasons represented in different months of the year, the religion was cyclic in nature. As a result, Mayans relied on the definition of the seasons presented by their advanced calendar that had 18 months each of 20 days. In each month, priests presented 5 days considered as unlucky (Schomp, 60).
Lastly, another important religious definition of the Mayans was the human sacrifice. It was prevalent to among the Mayans. Despite human sacrifice, Mayans as well carried out animal sacrifices such as deer, dogs, birds and offerings. Priests presented special occasions of carrying out these sacrifices and offerings to the gods (Huck, 33). There were different forms of human sacrifices based on the festival a nature of sacrifice intended for the ancestors (Pemberton, 113). Animal sacrifice often involved holding down deer and dogs whereas the priests cut the animal from the stomach to the diaphragm aiming at removing the heart for sacrifice. Shifting from animal sacrifice to human sacrifice resulted from harsh factors facing the community members. Conditions such as famine, diseases and drought triggered human sacrifices among the Mayans (Sharer, 77).
According to beliefs presented by the Mayan religion, life was eternal. Consequently, death and destruction did not have permanent impacts on the society members (Barraud, 15). Similarly, there was passage of responsibilities from the dying parents to their children who continued with their legacy on earth (Huck, 45). Culture practiced as seen earlier in the discussion encouraged elite human sacrifice. Special equipment played the role of severing the cheeks, penis, ears and tongues of the victims. Some of the common tools used during the sacrifices were stingray spines and carved bone awls (Meszaros, 55).
Concept of human sacrifice among the Mayans
According to the ancient Mayans, death and sacrifice had a spiritual link with some life cycles. Concepts such as rebirth and creation had direct link with the spiritual attitude towards detriment and death. According to reports made by researchers based on the spiritual book of the Mayans “Popol Vuh”, hero twins (Hunahpu and Xbalanque) had to die before their rebirth on earth. Apparently, in the same holy script of the Mayans, it postulates that a god called Tohil requests for human detriment in exchange of fire (Demarest, 66).
Additionally, some archaeological texts presented by the researchers give insights that beheading of sacrificial victims had an implication of refreshing the relationship between the spiritual world and the living. Similarly, through sacrifices, there was a mark of beginning of a new era and cycle in the seasonal calendar (Barraud, 11). New eras marked by sacrifices often-included accession of a new ruler, rebirth of a new member of the society, harvest times and as well end of harsh periods such as famine and drought (Wills, 30).
Reasons why Mayans practiced human sacrifice
Essentially, human sacrifice had a stronger impact as compared to animal sacrifices. Henceforth, it had specific uses in the communities, and its application was in special occasions and situations (Stanzione, 27). Nevertheless, despite Mayans practicing human sacrifice, it did not have an implication that they did not have any value for human life. Contrarily, they made the sacrifice specifically through shedding of blood. Unlike animal sacrifices in other communities, Mayans used human detriment aimed at maintaining social order of their society and maintaining a well-structured society (Ren, 69).
Sacrifices performed when a king is taking office had a special implication to society members (Huck, 71). Unlike sacrifices to the gods, swearing in sacrifices for kings aimed at making them superior from the common people thus differentiating them with the ordinary human. More so, detriments performed before wars aimed at making promises with the gods and as well providing sacrificial victims (Demarest, 77). Among the Mayans, providing victims for sacrifice during wars justified the battle. Besides, the winning community had a role of repaying the gods with human blood from the community that lost the battle (MacDonald, 66).
Lastly, based on the belief among the Mayans, they postulated that their gods required the blood to ensure they maintained the structure order of the universe. According to a myth presented by the increased belief among the Mayans, time was from Underworld and a serpent brought it to earth. More so, different seasons and festivals presented by the calendar were in the form of repaying the Underworld for the gift of time (Barraud, 99). Similarly, there was a strong myth among the ancient Mayans where they believed their ancestors fed on human blood. Therefore, as an honor to the dead, Mayans offered elite human sacrifices thus appeasing their ancestors (Pemberton, 77).
Types of human sacrifices and their implications to the Mayan religion
Before detriment of an individual in the Maya community, some practices presided before the actual victim sacrificial (Wills, 58). The priest often stripped the victim and painted him blue before taking the victim to the altar. Blue was a significant color among the Mayans. Later after placing the detriment victim on the altar, priests held the legs and arms of the victim. Later, the priests would leave the victim still and the nacom (fourth priest involved in the detriment process) would use a designated piercing tool to penetrate the victim’s chest. After feeling the beating heart, the priest would pull out the heart from the victim’s corpse and pass it to another priest who would smear blood to the idols. In cases where the priest performed the sacrifice on a top building such as top of the pyramid temple, the performing priest would allow the corpse to roll down the pyramid (MacDonald, 150).
Image showing human sacrifice involving removal of heart from the victim
Another human detriment method used by the Mayans included throwing alive men to wells. A common well was the cenote where according to researchers, different skulls of children, men and their counterpart women. Research indicates that Cenote was a natural well and priests often disposed of alive sacrificial victims into the well during drought times aimed at appeasing the gods and invoking them to bring the rains. Apparently, Mayans had a strong belief that the victims did not die. However, despite the strong belief, none of the victims remained alive (Ren, 55).
Remains of sacrificial victims from the natural well
Similarly, common among warrior and brave victims, a bow and arrow was another detrimental approach used by the priests (Demarest, 104). Research indicates that while performing the sacrifice, priests often stripped the victims, painted them blue and later tied them upon a stake. An account made on the type of sacrifice approach indicates that in some cases, priests placed these victims at the top of the pyramid temple where everyone would see the victims as the priest presides over the sacrifice process (Stanzione, 39). In contrast with the chest penetration, arrow and bow sacrifice required the foul priest to wound the victims at their private parts (Ren, 9). Arrow and bow involved both men and women. Once blood drew from the wounded parts, it would flow to the designated idol. Dancers from the community, on the other hand, would begin their roles where they would shoot the victim’s heart one by one ensuring that they pierced the whole chest (Kienzle, 90).
Though not common, in some caves in Mexico, believed to be active habitats of the Mayans, some skulls observed presented important information on the method of detriment used. In these caves, researchers reports that there are some remains from the sacrificial victims indicating cases of hanging. Apparently, the method involved men and women during famine seasons (Wills, 66).
Skull collected from the natural well
Similar to disposal of alive victims to in a natural well is skull submerging. Skulls collected from passageway to the Cenote and on the ledge of the natural well indicate that deliberate placing of victims on the sites was common method of sacrificing these victims (Schomp, 44). Archeologists studying the Mayan culture indicate that positioning of these skulls on these strategic points was deliberate during periods of droughts when water levels are low, and these passageways were dry. Deliberate submerging of victims near the natural well significantly influenced the god of rain to bring rain to Maya land (Humphries, 98).
Though brutal, there were cases where human sacrifices engaged lethal blows on the victims. Skulls and individual remains from Maya land, collected on a rock, illustrate that some individuals underwent lethal blows from the priests during the sacrificing process. Additionally, as postulated by researchers, some skulls collected had charcoal remains beside them. Consequently, it suggests that the fire was part of the rituals associated with the victim (Ren, 106).
Child detriments, on the other hand, were other essential methods of sacrifice used by Mayans. As stipulated by researchers, the type of sacrifice seemingly aimed at protecting the community (Stanzione, 49). The presiding individuals roasted these children alive by rolling them through an opening filled with fire. It was similar to skinning of the weeping boys in the community. In some common cases, weeping boys became detriment victims where the presiding leaders murdered these weeping boys. There was a strong belief presented by Mayans indicating that children sacrifices targeted at offering these children to the Earth mother (Kienzle, 80).
Lastly, prisoners of capturing were another form of animal sacrifices. Men prisoners underwent the heart-penetration sacrifice method. However, in cases of women prisoners, rulers often sold them to the neighboring communities and in some cases where they were timeworn, rulers left them free in the city. While using a beating heart among the Mayans, it is important noting that the beating heart renewed and refreshed the linkage connection between the ancestors and the living. Similarly, the heart was a symbolic item for maintenance of order in the Maya society (Wills, 45).
Image showing arts from the Mayans showing blood flowing from a sacrificial victim to an idol
Link between sacrifices and important activities in the society
a. Relationship between detriment and ball game
As with the Mayans, sacrifices marked ball games. Ball games in the Mayan society, played by kicking a hard rubber ball with hips of players, not only did it have an entertainment role in the society, but also had a spiritual, symbolic implication (Humphries, 102). As understood from the test and visual images presented by the Mayans, there was an interrelationship between the ball and some decapitated heads of the already-sacrificed victims. Surprisingly, in some instances, human skulls made these balls. Under special situations, especially aimed at indicating continuation of reign and success in a battle, Mayans forced war prisoners to play the ball game before sacrificing them. Apparently, it was a common game played before sacrificing a victim (Pemberton, 131).
b. Interlink between human sacrifices and politics
After sacrificing prisoners of wars, some situations required local rulers to play the ball game with the captured rivals. In a carving by the Mayans, researchers observe a local ruler playing in full control of the ball game with a captured prisoner of war. There is a strong belief presented by the carvings that the presiding priest pushed the sacrificial victim (rival captive) being part of celebrating the ball game. It has an implication that politics, which involved rival communities, often were source of the sacrificial victims (Pemberton, 145).
c. Human sacrifice and other spiritual rituals
As a method of human sacrifice, bloodletting was common among the Mayans. As stipulated earlier in the discussion, piercing of the skin and shame parts of the victim often led to letting of blood to the gods. In other instances, where rulers and lords practiced bloodletting ritual, they would pierce their body using sharp tools such as some stingray spines. Maya royalty tombs were the source of these spines. Apparently, blood from Mayan’s kings and lords was important while marking special rituals especially those involving agriculture in the society (Kienzle, 56).
Bloodletting rituals in the society were not gender sensitively. As an implication, it involved both male and women victims. Blood from the royal families, marked by rulers and lords, when smeared on the god idols, often opened new links between the Underworld and the earth.
Human sacrifice, intended for the same purpose as Animal detriment, had some differences based on how it was undertaken. As seen in the discussion, human detriment was an important ritual in the Mayan calendar. Despite the modern society defining human detriment as an act of killing innocent humans aimed at realizing both spiritual and religious reasons in the society. In the modern society, people view these acts as bloody and gruesome and disrespect to human life. However, as in the Mayans, they had spiritual implications that enhanced continuity and orderliness in the society. Mayans did not consider these acts as inhuman and cruel disrespect to human life, but considered them as special acts of maintaining the creation from the Underworlds and thanking their ancestors for giving them time and their general success on earth.
Chládek, Stanislav. Exploring Maya Ritual Caves: Dark Secrets from the Maya Underworld. Lanham, Md: AltaMira Press, 2011. Print.
Pemberton, John. Myths and Legends: From Cherokee Dances to Voodoo Trances. New York: Chartwell Books, 2010. Print.
Sharer, Robert J. The Ancient Maya. Stanford, Calif: Stanford Univ. Press, 2006. Print.
Schomp, Virginia. The Ancient Maya. New York: Marshall Cavendish Benchmark, 2010. Internet resource.
Stanzione, Vincent J, and Angelika Bauer. Rituals of Sacrifice: Walking the Face of the Earth on the Sacred Path of the Sun ; a Journey Through the Tz'utujil Maya World of Santiago Atitlán. Albuquerque, NM: Univ. of New Mexico Press, 2003. Print.
Demarest, Arthur A. Ancient Maya: The Rise and Fall of a Rainforest Civilization. Cambridge [u.a.: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2004. Print.
Huck, James D. Mexico: A Global Studies Handbook. Santa Barbara, Calif: ABC-CLIO, 2008. Print.
Ren, C H. Two Thousand Years with the Word. Lima, Ohio: Fairway Press, 2000. Print.
Spiritual Wisdom for a Planet in Peril: Preparing for 2012 and Beyond. Langdon st Pr, 2008. Print.
March of the Mayans: An Ethan Sparks Adventure. Iuniverse Inc, 2011. Print.
Barraud, Toby, Stefan Springman, Jim Fields, Matt Koskenmaki, Robert Davi, Jim Turner, and Jeff Salz. The 2012 Anthology: Disc 7. New York, N.Y.: A & E Television Networks, 2011.
MacDonald, Todd. Hieroglyphs. Mosman: IMinds, 2011. Internet resource.
Humphries, Sam, and Dalton Rose. Sacrifice. Milwaukie, Or: Dark Horse, 2013. Print.
Meszaros, Julia T, and Johannes Zachhuber. Sacrifice and Modern Thought. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013. Print.
Wills, Garry. Why Priests?: A Failed Tradition. , 2013. Print.
Kienzle, William X. The Sacrifice. Kansas City: Andrews McMeel Pub, 2013. Internet resource.
Man’s search for meaning is a book by Victor Frankl that chronicled his experiences in the Auschwitz concentration camp as an inmate during World War II. He describes his psychotherapeutic method, which involved the identification of a purpose in life to feel positively about and then immersing and imaging that outcome. The book details the conditions of the concentration camp and provides the basis of the understanding the psychology of individuals who face extreme suffering. According to Frankl, there are three general ways to discover meaning in life (Frankl, 1946). The first way that one can be able to discover the meaning of life is by performing a deed. The second way is when experiences something or encounters someone. Lastly, the meaning of life can be discovered when one demonstrates a certain attitude towards suffering (Frankl, 1946).
I agree with Frankl, ignorance is no excuse to not living life to the fullest and discovering it. It is only through the trying of new things that indeed one can be able to understand the true meaning of life. Frankl is able to make an argument regarding adventure and the fact that if one wants to really understand life, then there is a need to ensure that he or she takes up responsibility and goes out there and performs a deed. This is the first way in which one can be able to discover life. Life is enormous and in fact, the period that one lives in earth does not allow a person to be able to explore this phenomenon. However, with one doing different deeds and trying out new things, one really does cover a lot of ground in understanding the meaning of life.
Different people in the world have different perspectives regarding the world and the different systems that exist in it. It is of the essence to understand that indeed an external perception is crucial when it comes to the understanding of the meaning of life. During his years in the concentration camp, Frankl met with different people that had different perspectives about the camp itself. This sharpened his view and had a more general outlook towards the concentration camp.
This is the same case with life, in order to discover the meaning of it, there is a need to ensure that one understands the perspective of different person. The experience of someone else and their worries, fears, likes and dislikes can illuminate the pathway towards a person understanding life better and how it works (Frankl, 1946). For example, one can go to a rock concert and get lost in the lyrics and freeze at that moment in time. This might provide the much needed illumination regarding what life is and how it works.
Suffering is universal, it is of the essence to understand that there is no utopia and consequently, there are problems in different parts of the world. Compassion is one of the emotions that humans possess; they are sometimes referred to as what makes one human. This is the reason as to why; those without compassion are referred to as ‘not human’. When one demonstrates a certain attitude towards suffering, one understands the first aspect of being human and this opens up the idea of understanding life. In most cases, having a certain attitude towards suffering is often important in ensuring that one still has his or her humanity left.
I disagree with Frankl with his notion that the search for meaning is a person’s primary psychological motive. This is because it would have been at the top of most people’s objectives. A psychological motive is extremely strong, and consequently, it is preposterous for Frankl to argue that it is the primary psychological motive. Most people go on their daily work and routine without giving thought to the meaning of life (Frankl, 1946). In fact, most of them have the attitude that they found it, everyone has it and therefore, it does not have any particular or specific meaning. The meaning of life in many quarters has often been attributed to philosophers as well as other scholars. However, for the normal person, it is difficult to argue that the search for meaning of life is a priority let alone a primary motive. Therefore, it is in this regard that I disagree with Frankl and the thought that indeed the search for meaning of life is a primary psychological motive in human beings.
“It is apparent that the mere knowledge that a man was either a camp guard or prisoners tells us almost nothing. Human Kindness can be found in all groups, even those which as a whole it would be easy to condemn. The boundaries between groups overlapped and we must not try to simplify matters by saying that these men were angels and those were devils (Frankl, 1946).” This is an important quote that shows that coercive systems breed their own conformity and that there is often a need for average people to have extraordinary courage in order to step out of this norm. The people in the camp appreciated kindness from the guards and this showed that indeed compassion is something that is edged deep in the human character.
Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love” (Frankl, 1946). This quote is powerful in that love is one of the most powerful human emotions. It causes one to sacrifice his or her own life for another or others. It is the wife that kept Frankl going when he was in the concentration camp, it was love. Most persons in the military often have the pictures of their families in their helmets. This is because it keeps them going and shows them exactly what they are doing and why they are doing it. In fact, it can be said that love goes as far as motivate one in life and it is indeed the salvation of human beings.
“There are only two races of men, decent and indecent (Frankl, 1946)”. This statement shows that there is no person that is evil or good; one is either decent or indecent. It is important to note that there is no society that is free of either of them, and therefore, according to Frankl, there were decent Nazis and indecent prisoners. There were those Nazi guards that were kind to the prisoners, these can be categorized as the decent men and there were those prisoners that tortured and abused their fellow prisoners for personal gain. These can be described as the indecent persons in the society regardless of their group.
Frankl, V. (1946). Man's Search for meaning . Vienna: Beacon Press.
Mayan religion had a characteristic of many gods described by different seasonal cycles of the calendar. The religion had a unique characteristic of human sacrifices to the deities. According to the ancient Mayan beliefs, the society perceived rulers as descendants of the Underworld and had a close link with the gods. Conversely, they considered blood as the ideal form of sacrifice as a form of thanking the gods for the rulers. Blood sacrifice was either from bloodletting practices and as well detriment of war captives from royal families. Ancient Mayans had several beliefs that explained different stages of life including birth and death. On the other hand, daily activities among the Mayans highly linked with the supernatural powers of the gods (Däniken 77).
Mayans used different symbols while perceiving different aspects of their religion and as well their religion. Major symbols used in the Mayan religion included; vulture, used to symbolize air, maize, that had a symbolic meaning of the earth, lizard, which symbolized fire and lastly fish that symbolized the water. Apparently, through the perceived symbols and aspects of the weather, worship among the Mayans had a basis on the symbolic seasons of these animal occurrences.
More so, in some instances, special animals played the role of sacrificial animals depending on the situation contributing to the sacrifice (Knowlton 68). Example, in some instances before beginning war with a rival community, Mayans would offer detriments to Ek Chuah aiming at requesting for his support during a crash. Similarly, if the Mayans won the battle, they sacrificed war captives to the same god objecting at giving thanks for the success in the battle. The paper objects at investigating the nature of Ek Chuah also considered as the Mayan god of war.
Description of Ek Chuah
Mayan culture describes that Ek Chuah began as a god of conflict where he explained on telesales tactics in the society. He is the god of merchants. In the Mayan culture, architectural arts played a significant role in the representation of important aspects of their religion. Representation of these gods and goddesses was through arts. While representing Ek Chuah, Mayans used a small idol colored with either black or brown on the skin. In other instances, the idol had a zebra-striped skin. In his appearance, Mayans perceived Ek Chuah to have a long and narrow nose. On the other hand, the lower lip of the god is bigger while compared with the upper lip and a huge tooth wigging out of his mouth (Finamore 90).
Arts representing the often have him holding a spear. There is a high perception among the researchers that the spear was his walking stick. Apparently, an observation of his movements, Mayans believed Ek Chuah had a spring movement as he roamed around in the society.
Roles of Ek Chuah in the Mayan society
Similar with other gods, Ek Chuah also called Ek Chuwah had specific roles in the community. Mayans often perceived him as the god of war and merchants. His spear, which appears in some visual arts representing him, grants a connection between him and his role of fighting against attacks on the merchants. Some historical sources on the roles of the god in the community describes Ek Chuwah as the god of cacao (Knowlton 99).
Mayans highly link the god with trade routes and mountain paths as his preference sites. Surprisingly, despite the god starting as a god of conflict in the society, historical research postulated that he developed a high interest in the markets and activities involving merchants (activities such as buying and selling and as well bargaining) (Schomp 58). While in the marketplace, research indicates that the god developed a liking of the cocoa bean. During that time, Mayans used cocoa bean as a currency. Surprisingly, despite the god’s interest in market activities and currency, he did not have a high treasure on wealth. In addition, he maintained his profile among the merchants with and with an outlook like a monster with a scorpion-like tail (Däniken 59).
Image by Thor Janson showing Ek Chuwah as the cocoa god
Apparently, despite the astonishing role played by the merchant god of protecting travelers, the Mayans as well perceived him with additional tasks such as killing of war captives and symbolized a god of death on enemies. Research indicates that Ek Chuah’s remains appear in the Codex Troano on page 3. Similarly, in another representation made by researchers from the Codex Cortesianus, Ek Chuah appears on page 15 where there is a representation while he is holding an axe as he strikes the sky, aiming at causing rain in the society.
The representation of Ek Chuah striking the sky came in situations when the community faced a dry spell and their cocoa stores, and plants were drying off. Conversely, it vividly indicates a high interrelationship between Ek Chuah and agricultural activities in the society thus an agricultural god (Schomp 121).
Based from the society’s perspective of nature and symbols, the god as well had a high reliance on comic structures such as stars that guided him to the war of the gods. Similarly, he used the North Star while guiding a weary traveler to the market day. Apparently, the star had a motivational role in the society where it restored hope to the Mayans in situations of dark sky. In situations when the rival communities and enemies planned to attack the Mayans, Ek Chuah used the star to misguide the enemies to a different path thus protecting the Mayans (Däniken 102).
The image below is a caption from universal mythology: compilation of gods and myths of all people of the world. Published Sunday 22, 2013.
Ek Chuwah had a strong interaction with other gods in the society. As depicted from some arts representing the god, researchers interpret the interaction with the god of war and sacrifice by highlighting the need of merchants having the ability to protect themselves from hostile communities and as well attackers (Bezanilla 114). Apparently, among the Mayans, there is a high perception indicating that Ek Chuah is the most powerful god in the community through some hieroglyphic arts from the temple. Remains from these arts have a representation of Ek Chuah fighting with F where he pierces him. As an implication to the travelers, the Mayans perceived that merchants ought to arm themselves aiming at protecting themselves from these hostile attackers (Finamore 46).
Rituals and celebrations to Ek Chuah
Among the Mayans, as highlighted earlier, they had a strong reliance on cocoa plant for running their society. The plant is special to the Mayans as merchants used it as a currency. Mayans believed that their gods discovered the cocoa plant from the mountains and used them as an ingredient to their delicacy. Mayans stipulate that a serpent played a crucial role in passing knowledge to them on the special roles of the cocoa. Later, Mayans developed a cocoa god (Ek Chuah) whom they articulated the role of bringing the plant to the community. Apparently, Mayans, in their cyclic calendar, they honored Ek Chuah through a festival held on April. During the festival, Mayans offer sacrifices and cocoa offerings to the god.
While merchants were worshipping Ek Chuah on their way back from the market places, they followed a strict pattern enhancing their interrelationship with the god. Apparently, they used three stones, which they erected on the ground. As an offering to the god, they laid several grains on these stones. Later, the merchants placed additional stones in front of the already placed stones and threw cocoa grains to them (Bezanilla 66). While they placed these incenses, the merchants as well offered thanksgiving prayers to the god requesting him to protect them as they went back home. It was a common ritual among the merchants, where they focused at establishing close interrelationships with their merchant god responsible for guiding them and protecting them during their activities (Finamore 22).
In conclusion, Mayan religion was cosmic in nature. Similarly, it engaged worshipping of many idols that symbolized different seasonal gods in the community. Harmony in the community attributed to the high reliance and observance of rituals and seasons in the calendar. Ek Chuah, as seen in the discussion, was an important spiritual idol to the merchants, despite his initial role of intervening conflicts among the Mayans, his developed liking of the cocoa contributed to merchants adoration of the god and as well observance of the special ritual festival in the month of April. In addition, representation made by the Mayans on the physical appearance of the god contributes to the perception of the role of safeguarding the community from enemies.
Finamore, Daniel, and Stephen D. Houston. Fiery Pool: The Maya and the Mythic Sea. Salem, Mass: Peabody Essex Museum, 2010. Print.
Däniken, Erich. Twilight of the Gods: The Mayan Calendar and the Return of the Extraterrestrials. Pompton Plains, NJ: New Page Books, 2010. Print.
Bezanilla, Clara. A Pocket Dictionary of Aztec and Mayan Gods and Goddesses. Los Angeles: J Paul Getty Museum, 2010. Print.
Schomp, Virginia. The Ancient Maya. New York: Marshall Cavendish Benchmark, 2010. Print.
Knowlton, Timothy W. Maya Creation Myths: Words and Worlds of the Chilam Balam. Boulder: University Press of Colorado, 2010. Print.
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