The Mayan religion is an ancient polytheistic religion of Mesoamerica. The religion was founded around 250 CE and at its peak had up to 2 million adherents. As with many ancient religions it is intrinsically linked to the natural world. Religion was profoundly important to the Mayans and every aspect of their lives reflected their religious beliefs. Mayan culture is considered one of the most sophisticated cultures for the time period. Ritual was deeply embedded in ancient Mayan life. Even acts considered barbaric such as human sacrifice and torture were a fundamental aspect of everyday life.
Mayans believed that the only way that a person could go to heaven was if they died during battle, from suicide, from sacrifice or during childbirth. They also believed human sacrifice was the ultimate way to nourish the gods, demonstrate their piety and guarantee fertility. Thus death rituals and death itself was an essential aspect of the Mayan religion. The common method for humans sacrifice was called “ah nacom” and consisted of 4 people holding down the victim while another person quickly extracted their heart. Other methods included the use of arrows, removal of the skin, throwing the person off a cliff and decapitation.
Noble Mayans attempted to communicate with deities through bloodletting rituals. To achieve a trance whereby they could communicate with a deity, royal Maya cut their lips, tongues and genitals with a sharp blade and collected their blood in a bowl. This was accompanied by fasting, the smoking of tobacco and a ritual enema. It was necessary to royal Mayans to undertake the bloodletting rituals because they needed to demonstrate their ability to communicated with the gods.
The Mayans also had less bloodthirsty rituals that mirror those of modern religions. Purification was an important aspect of the Mayan religion. Sexual purity, fasting, confession and bathing were all important to the Mayan people, especially leading up to major religious...