The Ancient Maya and their origins
The Maya were a civilization that devoted much of their time to the worship and study of the cosmos and celestial bodies. A belief in astronomy and
cosmology dominated their culture, religion and their every day lives in ways that we are only beginning to understand.
The Maya lived their lives by a very complex calendar that was based upon the movements of the stars and planets, and while many of their beliefs and
practices may appear to be nothing but superstition, it seems evident that their calendar was based upon real events and real movements in the sky
that do in fact have an effect on the Earth. I would like us to take a look at Mayan cosmology, the Mayan calendar and Mayan mythology and attempt to
get an informed perspective on whether the ideas contained within them do in fact have some truth to them, whether they are simply myths,
superstitious beliefs or whether they actually contain Cosmic knowledge that has been handed down from a previous civilization that existed long
before the Maya.
In Mayan society a belief in astronomy and in the importance of the movements of celestial bodies was utterly essential to their culture and to how
they conducted their everyday lives, and while some of their practices can certainly fall under the “superstition” banner some of their beliefs
and practices can not be easily rejected and definitely had a profound effect on their lives. The Maya universe “was governed by a logical order
that transcended the European distinction between the natural and supernatural realms. An invisible sacred quality (k’uh) inhabited all things in
the universe – rocks, trees, humans and all living beings – and deities took animal-like (zoomorphic) or human-like (anthropomorphic) form ”.
The Maya identified the sun, moon, stars, lightning and rain with certain deities and “saw their world as an ordered place, controlled by an
array” of these deities and they believed that “misfortune and unpredictable events – disease, droughts, earthquakes and other disasters –
were thus explained by as the actions of vengeful deities expressing their displeasure with human failings ”. Because of this belief practices such
as that of human sacrifice were dominant in Mayan culture with the purpose of making offerings and sacrifices to the sun god or deity to keep that
deity happy as to make sure that the sun would rise the following morning. While it seems evident that this practice was cruel and based around silly
superstition it certainly shows how seriously the Maya took the movements of the celestial bodies and their natural cycles.
These celestial bodies also governed Maya agriculture as they used their calendar to know the positions of the sun, moon and planets and thus plant
their crops according to the position of these bodies. Planting and harvesting of their crops coincided with carefully mapped cycles of the sun, moon
and planets and this helped them yield the largest crop possible. So while it is possible to disregard some Maya practices such as human sacrifice,
other practices such as planting crops based on the position of the celestial bodies cannot be disregarded for these are the very same cosmic laws
that farmers use today when planting and harvesting their crops.
The Maya (as with most indigenous cultures) did not see time as being linear but as a series of cycles and their complex calendar reflected this.
Their calendar contains over seventeen cycles that are based upon the “movements of celestial deities such as the sun, the moon and the planet Venus
” and these cycles were recorded with a startling amount of accuracy. Every cycle would repeat itself “so that any given day is in certain
respects the ‘same’ as some other day at some other time ” and this is where the supernatural elements of their belief structure would come into
play. As they had certain esoteric associations with particular dates in certain cycle’s wars, sacrifices and many other rituals would take place on
days that correspond with a relative date from a previous cycle so that “each passing cycle bought with it the possibility of repeated destiny ”.
The Maya believed that time repeated itself in cycles and they put much emphasis on this in the use of their calendar in the construction of their
history and belief system.
The famous Maya text the Popol Vuh states that the world has been destroyed three times by three great cataclysms and that the current world is the
fourth world, thus their calendar begins at the end of the last world (22.214.171.124.0 4 Ajaw 8 Kumk’u) in 3114 BC and ends at the completion of the next
cycle which is on December 21st 2012. The start date of the Mayan calendar is a topic of debate as it begins far earlier than when most archeologists
accept that Mayan civilization began. This leads one to speculate that their calendar was originally of Olmec origin, as most archeologists agree that
it was the Olmecs who had the first civilization in Central America around 1500 BC.
“Heaths and stone implements ” found in “Tlapacoya ” in Mexico “dated to perhaps 24, 000 years” show that there were people in the area
long before the arrival of the Maya, and it could have possibly been these very people that were mapping out the stars long ago. Bishop Diego de Landa
wrote in 1566 that “in his time The Mayas reckoned their calendar from a date which was about 3113 B.C in European chronology. They claimed that
5,125 years had passed before this date in former cycles. This would move the origin of the early Mayas to 8238 B.C ”. If we were to take the
Bishops version of events as the truth we would understand that perhaps the Olmec and The Maya civilizations had their origins a great deal earlier
than when most archeologists accept. Perhaps this is why their calendar was so detailed, precise and would make up for how it could possibly span such
long periods of time. Is it possible then that the origins of the Mayan calendar date back to an age even before the Olmecs?
The Mayan calendar maps out cycles of time that extend far beyond our current accepted version of written history. In fact the Mayan calendar maps out
cycles that take 52,000 to complete with pinpoint accuracy. One of the Mayan cycles of time mapped out a cycle that took 26,000 to complete and “is
the calendar to indicate when the Earth Mother is going to make the big changes. Because, this land many times it was underwater. And this is going to
happen again, because that is part of the natural cycle of the universe ” according to some Mayan priests. Many suppose that the end of the Mayan
calendar is a prediction that the world will end. While this may seem ludicrous to most western scholars, the fact is that the Mayan calendar maps out
cycles that are so long that they go far beyond our written history and are based on real celestial events.
“Astronomers know that in the late morning of December 21, 2012 the ecliptic (the Sun’s apparent path across the sky) will intersect with the
galactic ecliptic (the projection of the Milky Way’s disc on the sky) to place the Sun at the very centre, in the crosshairs between the solar path
and that of our galaxy, when the sun is one degree above the horizon at the equator (73 degrees West) ”. So the Sun moves “into the ecliptic
crosshairs only once every 26, 000 years ” yet the “winter solstice sunrise of 2012 takes place only once in the whole history of the universe”
and the Maya were aware of this. What is peculiar is that modern scientists did not even discover the whereabouts of the galactic centre until 1963
”. “The region of the Milky Way that the solstice sun will unite with contains not only the nuclear bulge of the Galactic Centre (which, by the
way is visible to the human eye) but also a ‘dark rift’ feature caused by interstellar dust. The modern Maya call this dark rift or Great Cleft
the xibalba be- the Road to the Underworld. This feature is the key to understanding the rebirth metaphor of the 2012 end-date, for it was also
conceived, in Maya symbolism, as the birth canal of the Great mother (the Milky Way) ”.
This astronomical event does not mean that the world will end in the year 2012. If we follow Mayan legend we can assume that there were cataclysmic
natural events in the past that may have happened during certain celestial alignments that have influenced their view of the future. If we look
carefully at the history of the planet we can see that “13, 000 years ago (or halfway through the Mayan 26, 000 year cycle) the polar ice caps began
to melt and the ocean levels rose dramatically during the next 2000 years which drastically shrank the coasts of most countries and covered many land
masses with water ”. This coincides with many legends “about a lost continent that was destroyed by a great cataclysm” before the beginning of
the last ice age. This “lost continent” has been argued by many to have existed in the Atlantic and could have possibly blocked the Gulf stream
before it was allegedly destroyed, thus resulting in the warming of the oceans, the melting of the polar ice caps and the end of the last ice age.
If such a global cataclysm had indeed taken place it would make sense that they would have had to have started their civilization again from the very
bottom, and rebuild, beginning in “caves until the new ground would have been suitable for agriculture ”. Some knowledge would have to have been
kept sacred and passed on and it seems that the Mayan calendar is this knowledge. “The Chilam Balam of Yucatan asserts that the motherland of the
Maya was swallowed up by the sea amid earthquakes and fiery eruptions in a very distant epoch ”. This along with the Mayan legends of the
destruction of previous worlds leads one to believe that the Maya may have had their beginnings in the very distant past and that indeed they did
inherit their calendar from this distant epoch.
If we look at the “wall of Bimini” that was discovered in 1968 we see huge stone blocks cut into perfect squares with near perfect right angles
that weigh over two tonnes each and are sitting at the bottom of the ocean off the coast of Bimini. While this archeological find has sparked debate
amongst archeologists as to whether the stones were naturally occurring or man-made, it seems evident by the sheer number of them, the fact that they
are literally all the same size and are arranged into what looks like a wall that we are looking at the remnants of a man made construction that is
now covered with 60 feet of water and is possibly over 12, 000 years old. If this is true it can help us understand the possible origins of the Maya
and can also provide evidence that supports the Mayan legends of the destruction of previous worlds (they say specifically that the last world was
destroyed by water).
In the year 2000, off the coast of Cuba “Russian Oceanographer Paulina Zolitzsky discovered symmetrical stone structures deep below the water…over
a half a mile down. Buildings of large stature with one stone placed on top of the other. Structures made with rectangular 90-degree angles over and
over again on very large structures that seem to have wide avenues ”. The expedition found “huge stone blocks in Pyramid shapes, others more
circular. Most were gigantic, reaching 16-feet in height and weighing several tones. Thirty geometric structures emerged, appearing to be the remains
of streets, buildings, tunnels and pyramids, all at a depth of over 2200 hundred of feet of water. Using dating techniques based on the presence of
nearby volcanic ash geologists concluded that the underwater city must have sank more than 6000 years ago ”.
This evidence certainly suggests that there were indeed civilizations that were destroyed by a great deluge or cataclysm. If this is true, then it is
possible to assume that the Maya were direct descendants of people from these very near by civilizations. This would explain how they could have
inherited a calendar that mapped celestial bodies over vast time periods that go back far beyond the accepted beginnings of the Maya civilization. If
we look at these findings and accept them to be true then we can assume that the Maya legends about the destruction of previous worlds are true and
are not simply legends, as many would argue. In this light we can also assume that the Maya were not prophesying that the whole world will suddenly
end in 2012, but that great Earth changes will occur that will destroy the current world we live in and make way for a new world (or age). We know now
through modern astronomy that in December 2012 we are “moving out of the age of Pisces and into the age of Aquarius” so this is in fact true, yet
it may not mean that natural disasters destroy the Earth but rather make way for a new consciousness to be born on Earth.
The Maya were indeed great watchers of the sky. They followed a calendar that mapped real celestial events that took place over many thousands of
years with an incredible amount of accuracy. It seems evident that this calendar was not simply an esoteric calendar surrounded by superstition but
was a very real documentation of the movements of the planets, moon and stars. Given it’s long time span and accurate measurements we can assess
that this calendar was possibly inherited from a much older civilization that was able to map such long periods of time and may or may not have been
the people that the ancient Maya were descended from. It does seem to be clear though that their Cosmic knowledge was inherited and that the great
emphasis they placed on watching the movements of the celestial bodies was because in the past a great deluge had destroyed their ancestors, so in an
attempt to prevent themselves from the same fate they worshipped the stars and lived their lives by their cycles.
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Aveni, F, Anthony, The Sky In Mayan Literature, Oxford University Press, 1992
Prufer, Keith, Stone Houses and Earth Lords: Maya religion in the Cave Context, University Press of Colorado, 2005
Pendergast, David, Andrews, Anthony (eds.). Reconstructing the Past: Studies in Mesoamerican and Central American Prehistory, John and Erica Hedges,
Watanabe, John, Maya Saints and Souls in a Changing World, University of Texas Press, 1992
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Cheers, hope you enjoyed it!
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