Religion was of key importance in Maya culture,
permeating all aspects of life. Priests had great
influence among both the elite and ordinary
people, since they directed ceremonies and rites
to propitiate the supernatural, which was ruled by
Gods embodied natural forces, the celestial
bodies, the rain that was so necessary for
survival, and death.
Gods were worshiped with offerings, festivals,
penitence and self-mutilation. Gods included:
Chaac, god of Rain and Lighting
Hunab Ku, Creator god
Itzamna, lord of the god of Wind
Ixchel, goddess of Moon and Childbirth
Ik, god of Wind
Ek Chuak, patron of cacao and god of War
Ah Puch, god of Death, who was also known
as Yum Kimil or Kisin.
Later, during the era of Toltec influence from the
Central Plateau, the god Quetzalcoatl, the
feathered serpent, was worshiped, who was given
the name of Kukulcan in Maya.
Gods were also symbolized by animals; for example,
rain as snake, sun as jaguar or macaw, and death
by owl or bat. Thus, in carving paintings and
monuments, deities may be shown as fabulous beings
that incorporate animal and human forms decorated
with plant motifs or else with fangs, claws and
Mayas thought of the Universe as formed by three
levels: Heaven, Earth and Underworld. Sky was
divided into 13 planes, inhabited by celestial
bodies, which were gods, and Itzamna, the
supreme god, who gave life to all the cosmos.
They thought of Earth as flat plate floating on
water, but also as enormous crocodile with
vegetation on its back.
Underworld considered of 9 layers; the lowest
being the realm of Ah Puch, god of death,
who was usually represented as human skeleton.
Sky, Earth and Underworld were in turn each
divided into 4 sectors, corresponding to cardinal
points. Each of these had its own color value, and
Ceiba (held to be scared tree) of the same
color stood there. At the center stood the great
mother Ceiba, the hub of the world.
They believed that gods have created and destroyed
the universes several times. On each occasion, man
had progressed in his evolution until he arrived
at Maya era. Here, man had been made from corn
dough and had the obligation to honor and feed
gods with offerings and sacrifices, so that they
in turn would ensure that the universe would
continue to exist.