7 junio, 2024

The 14 Traditions and Customs of the Most Popular Mayans

The Mayan traditions and customs they reflect the importance that one of the most powerful civilizations of Mesoamerica has had until today. A culture that managed to spread for more than 3000 years, covering the territories that today constitute Guatemala, Honduras, Belize, El Salvador and the entire southeast of Mexico, locating in states such as Campeche, Chiapas, Quintana Roo, Tabasco and Yucatán.

After having created hundreds of dialects and having a world-renowned scientific and astronomical legacy, the Mayans built great religious and political monuments that testify to their incredible economic and social development.

They made great advances in the field of writing, mathematics, architecture and medicine, coming to sustain a great and rich culture thanks to their dedication to agriculture, trade, hunting and fishing.

The Maya served as an example for the various cultures that later emerged in Mesoamerica, leaving behind sophisticated water distribution systems and large crops of corn, tubers, beans, and cotton.

In addition, they created one of the most precise calendars and made contributions to modern science, such as the creation of the number zero, fundamental to the current number system.

Their descriptions of the position of the stars, the sun, and the light, together with their beliefs and customs, make them a civilization that, despite time, has managed to remain in the cultural roots of all of Central America and its interesting traditions and celebrations. they are proof of it.

Mayan customs

As has been pointed out, the colonization carried out by the Spanish was not limited to a territorial and political conquest. Thus, the new rulers of the conquered lands began a process of acculturation of the indigenous peoples. It was about imposing the customs, beliefs and traditions of the conquerors to facilitate political control.

In the case of the Mayans, experts highlight the mystical and spiritual nature of their customs. Many aspects of his life, from birth to death, were governed by his religious beliefs, something that was reflected in daily life.

Childbirth in Mayan customs and the Hetzmek ceremony

When it came to having a child, the Mayans followed an established procedure so that everything went well. Thus, the woman’s hands were tied to a rope, which, in turn, was tied to a beam. The woman in labor had to squat, with her legs bent.

When the time came, a man had to hug the woman from behind while blowing on her head. That breath, according to her beliefs, helped the child out.

Once the child was born, one of the most important rituals within the Mayan culture took place: the Hetzmek ceremony. To begin with, the priests made omens about the future of the child, always taking into account the day of the tzolkin on which he had come into the world.

Three months later, in the case of girls, or four, in the case of boys, the Hetzmek ceremony began. This consisted of placing them astride for the first time on the hip of a person of the same sex, who played a role similar to that of the current godparents.

Performing human sacrifices

For the Mayan culture, sacrifices were necessary to guarantee the proper functioning of the universe, the passing of the seasons, the growth of corn and the passing of time.

Their objective was to protect the life of human beings and in turn keep the existence of the gods alive.

According to their beliefs, human blood is the bond that unites the gods and the human being, hence, by making sacrifices, the gods were fed and the debts that human beings have with them were paid.

And it is that the Mayans believed that they owe their lives to the gods, and the way to please them was to offer tobacco, incense, food and their own blood was the way to show them.

Physical appearance

There are several customs that the Mayans followed related to their physical appearance. In many cases, they also had religious significance.

One of them was the custom of elongating the skulls. To do this, they placed tablets on the children’s heads on the fourth day after their birth. One of the boards was placed on the front and the other on the back.

Likewise, the Mayans also caused strabismus or squint in their descendants. Mothers dangled small balls of resin from their children’s hair. The children, attracted by the object, tried to focus on it with their crooked eyes all the time.

Piercing the nose was another of the Mayan customs. According to historians, they did it by piercing that area of ​​the face with an amber stone. The reason could be both aesthetic or for some kind of honorary recognition.

Finally, Maya men and women inlaid small obsidian or jade disks into their teeth. In some cases, in addition, their teeth were filed in the form of a saw.


In the Mayan culture there was the figure of the matchmaker, which they called atanzahab. Its function was to discover the possible conflicts that could occur in the couple in order to solve them before getting married.

On the other hand, the bride’s parents received a dowry for their daughter. In addition, the boyfriend was forced to work for his mother-in-law for a while. Both aspects, dowry and working time, were decided by the atanzahab.

Since many marriages were arranged by families, it was very common for the couple to meet for the first time on the wedding day. On many occasions, they did not speak until after the ceremony.

cenote worship

Cenotes are natural water wells that stand out for their great beauty. Although they can be found in other areas, it is in the so-called Riviera Maya where they can be found in greater numbers. These geomorphological forms resemble small caves, with large underground rivers inside.

The Mayans gave these cenotes a religious character. For them, these were sacred places and, therefore, they used them to perform religious rituals, such as human sacrifices.

According to Mayan beliefs, the cenotes were the door to Xibalbá, a mythical space through which the souls of the deceased travel on their way to paradise. In this way, the cenotes were the gateways to eternity and the happiness of life after death.

death and burial

The Maya thought that some of their ancestors were going to be reborn as gods. For this reason, funerals and burial sites were of great importance. Spanish chroniclers pointed out that the Maya remembered their ancestors hundreds of years ago, which proves they honored their dead.

In addition to the funeral ceremony itself, Maya families performed rituals at the graves of their ancestors to try to get their help.

The dead were buried accompanied by bread and corn, so that they would have enough food to be able to travel the path that would take them to paradise.

Mayan traditions

Some of the Mayan traditions have been lost over time and others, for obvious reasons, have been abandoned. However, the spiritual conquest carried out by the Spanish could not eliminate all its festivities. In them, the Maya have preserved some elements of their ancient religion, although mixed with Christian elements.

Mayan ball game practice

Also called «Pok a Pok», for the sound that the ball produced when it was hit against the walls of the courts or the arms and hips of the players.

The Mayans used to play ball, and the existence of different ancient ball courts in the Yucatan peninsula proves it.

The Mayans considered this game as something divine, where the main objective was to dunk the ball in some stone rings arranged for it.

It was believed that the game was a constant struggle between light and darkness, hence the winning team represented light and its strength over darkness. Generally, the losing team was sacrificed and offered to the gods.

Blood offering ceremonies

According to the mythology of the Mayan culture, the gods had spilled their own blood to form the human body. That sacrifice was honored in the blood offerings carried out by the Mayan people.

In addition to using prisoners of war, the same Mayan leaders offered their blood in rituals, although without actually killing themselves.

The blood offering, apart from honoring the gesture of their gods, should allow the Maya to reach higher levels of consciousness and be able to communicate with their deities. Normally, these types of ceremonies were held during important events, such as a birth, a death or the birthdays of the nobility.

Sac Ha Ceremony

It continues to be celebrated by farmers each year with the goal of growing corn crops.

Meaning «white water» in Yucatec Mayan, it consisted of making a sacred drink prepared with ground boiled corn mixed with water from the dew or from the depths of a cave.

This drink was presented on a special altar, being considered a powerful tradition in charge of preserving the balance of the earth.

Hanal Pixan Festival

Today, the Hanal Pixan festival has been merged with the Christian celebration of saints. This mix has resulted in one of the best-known festivities in all of Mexico: the day of the dead. The goal is to honor all the deceased.

The vision of death that the Mayans had was very natural. For them it was not a tragedy, but something immersed in the nature of people. Furthermore, they believed in an afterlife and that their ancestors should be honored.

In ancient times, the Mayans celebrated this festival in a very similar way to today’s Day of the Dead: with food, music, and incense.

Pa Puul Ceremony

In the Mayan dialect of the Yucatan, Pa Puul means «breaking tableware». The festival was intended to call for the rains to come and began at dawn, at which time the children collected animals (reptiles above all) and put them in pots. Later, these containers would break, producing a sound similar to thunder.

Currently, this festival continues to take place every June 24 in a large part of the ancient Mayan territory of Mexico.

Mayan ceremony or xukulem

It is a ceremony to approach and communicate with Ajaw, the creator god and shaper of the universe.

This ceremony is a liturgical celebration of Mayan spirituality, in which resins, candles and offerings are burned in different sacred places, making a bonfire accompanied by music and dances.

People kneel in front of the fire, because it is believed that depending on the time that the person was kneeling, the more they showed their gratitude to God. The goal was to bow with deep respect to parents and grandparents.

The Mayans performed this ceremony to show gratitude and request petitions, healings, and withdrawal of bad energies from the god….

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