Maya: Death and Afterlife Beliefs

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The Mayan religion was based in the regions of Honduras, Guatemala, Belize, and some southern parts of Mexico. It is a southeastern variant of Mesoamerican religion. Death and afterlife beliefs have always played an important role in all religions. Some religions have similar beliefs while others are very different. The Maya religion is very similar to Roman Catholicism. Many Mayas were able to adopt Catholic beliefs while still maintaining their own faith: many of their customs remain evident today.

Early creation myths are found in the Popol Vuh, which is K’iche for “the Book of the Community”; it entails the creation and genealogy of the rulers of the Mayan kingdom. It has been referred to as the single most important piece of Mesoamerican literature. It consists of a preamble and four sections that describe the creation, history and cosmology of the Mayan religion. It is said that the original Popol Vuh was lost and recently rediscovered. The alphabetic Popol Vuh gave a "long performance and account" (Tedlock, 1996, p. 29) written in two columns on each page; one in alphabetic Quiche Mayan text, the other a Spanish translation made by a priest named Francisco Ximenez in the early 1700s. The words of the Popol Vuh describe two creator Gods, Gucumatz and Tepeu, who were created from the sea. Once the Earth was created, animals came next; humans followed but were created from mud and ultimately destroyed. Hence the creation of humans from the sacred Maya crop of maize. These people of the corn were able to be worshiped and also were able to nourish the people of the land.

The Mayans worshipped a number of Gods and Goddess: their foremost god, Itzam Na "incorporated in himself the aspects of many other gods: not only creation b...

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...y that I have found a new respect for the Maya people. They were able to withstand the forcible transition into Catholicism without giving up their own identities. The Catholic religion seems to make up the majority of this country but it is amazing to see how other religions all over the world are comparable to it.

Works Cited

Coe, Michael D. "The Hero Twins: Myth and Image." In Justin Kerr ed., The Maya Vase Book.

New York: Kerr Associates, 1989.

Keen, B., & Haynes, K., (2004). A history of latin america. (7th ed.). Boston: Houghton Mifflin

Company.

Sharer, R., (1996). Daily life in maya civilization. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press.

Tedlock, D., (1996). (Trans.). Popol vuh: the definitive edition of the mayan book of the dawn of

life and the glories of gods and kings. (2nd ed.). New York: Simon and Schuster.

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