cosmology

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Popol Vuh and Chilam Balam: these two well-preserved books provide us with valuable information on Mayan mythology and cosmology. The Popol Vuh representing the myth of “creation” describes the fight of the brave twins Hunahpu and Ixbalanque against the god of death, from which they emerged victorious. As follows from these resources, the Maya believed in life after death and reincarnation (rebirth of the spirit), perceiving life as a cycle of birth, death and re-birth. An important aspect of the creation of new life was a sacrifice. The Maya had a dualist religion where good fought against evil. The jaguar and serpent are the two animals with a crucial religious importance for the inhabitants of Mesoamerica.

 

According to the Maya, the world had been created and destroyed several times. They believed that they lived in the fifth Sun Age and that the previous four ages had been destroyed by terrible catastrophes. According to the Mayan chronology, the then-current age started on August 11, 3114 BC and it should end on December 21, 2012. According to the Maya, this world was created by a pair of gods – a male and a female who formed two parts of a single deity. This story was carved into the walls of three temples in Palenque in the reign of Chan Bahlúm (AD 684–702), the son of King Pacal the Great. The god, the first father, had a large tree grown in the middle of the world, a metaphor for the Milky Way. The world had three parts: the Heavens, the Earth and the Underworld. The Heavens were the home of the gods and consisted of thirteen parts in the shape of a pyramid. Each part/step was controlled by one of the gods. The Underworld was also formed by a pyramid having nine steps, but turned upside down – even here, each step was controlled by one of the Rulers of the Darkness/Underworld. The Mayan universe was thus form by two pyramids (see the figure below).

 

 

Between the Heavens and the Underworld were situated the Earth and the sky – the world of people. The Maya imagined the Earth as a flat land placed on the back of a huge crocodile swimming on the surface of the water. The tree of life, the branches of which grew up to the Heavens and the roots of which grew deep down into the Underworld (see the figure below) grew on the back of this crocodile. The tree of life was actually the route connecting the Underworld with the Heavens: through the tree, the souls of the deceased went from the Underworld up to the world of the gods, the Heavens.

 

The tree of life: in the celestial terminology, it had its analogy in the Milky Way, called Sac Be (“white way”) in the Mayan language. In the middle of the Milky Way, we can see a dark band, which the Maya called Xibalba Be (“terrible place”), and through this dark hole souls departed to another world. It is interesting that this cosmology and today’s astrology form complementary parts. As we said in the beginning: there were four ages and we are now living in the fifth, which will end on December 21, 2012, the date of winter solstice. At that moment, the Sun during the sunrise will briefly be located exactly in the centre of the Milky Way where the dark rift Xibalba Be is situated. At the same time, it is the last point of this fifth part of the entire precession cycle, which lasts approximately 25,770 years.

The tree of life (see the figure above) is the centre and its axes represent the four main directions: east, north, west and south. Each of the directions is associated with a certain meaning and colour.

 

East - is associated with the colour red and symbolizes starts, energies forming act and though. It is the direction of sunrise and spring, the direction of the future and our descendants.

 

West - symbolizes the direction of decline and autumn. Here, everything has its end. It represents death, which is however illusory, as it is only one stage of an eternal cycle and souls will be reborn in the Heavens. West is the direction of transformation. The colour of west is either black or navy blue.

 

North - means either  “above” and represents wisdom acquired from ancestors and it is associated with their spirits. Its colour is white. This direction symbolizes the female aspect.

 

South - means “under”. South is the symbol of fertile power, which gives life to everything. It represents abundance, fertility, wealth and power, it also symbolizes the male aspect. The colour of south is yellow.

 

References:

Adrian Gilbert and Maurice Cotterell: “Mayan Prophecies”

Carl Johan Calleman “Mayan Calendar”

Kenneth Johnson “Jaguar Wisdom”

B. Scofield and B.Orr: “How to Practice Mayan Astrology”

 

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