Souls, spirits and human sacrifice among the Mayans

I recently discovered the immense richness of Mayan mythology and spirituality

From my first readings, I was fascinated to realize all the similarities with Buddhist mysticism. There’s a beauty and symbolism to this spirituality that makes it easy to understand concepts such as the soul, karma, consciousness and so on.

Who are the Mayans?

They were one of the greatest civilizations of the first century AD. Like the Incas, they created grandiose cities of up to 200,000 citizens. Their most outstanding achievements were hieroglyphic writing, mathematics, astronomy, town planning, medicine and architecture (pyramids and temples). Today, numerous Mayan archaeological sites can be found in southern Mexico and Guatemala.

The concept of two souls

The Maya considered their souls to be material matter no different from their physical bodies. It simply consisted of another, more subtle, natural matter.

The Maya considered the soul to have two parts:

The first aspect of the soul is called Sak Nik Nahal, « blossoming consciousness ». Just reading the translation gave me the shivers. This aspect is based on their belief that man is an extension of the universe around him. He is like a part of the overall tapestry pattern of the great creation. The soul is that matter by which man is linked to the whole of creation and also to different worlds, such as the spirit world.

The second conception of the soul is called Huay. This aspect is often represented in the form of an animal, such as a deer, a monkey or a dog. This « portion » of the soul can be understood as the equivalent of a guardian spirit. At birth, each person has a protective energy that often takes the form of an animal or fantastic being. Shamans were known to be able to transform themselves into their huay and even take on other forms such as those of animals, plants and gods.


Source: Wikimedia.

Purpose of existence and enlightenment

According to Mayan spirituality, every human being reincarnates a certain number of times, in order to one day attain enlightenment. For them, the universe has no creator. They believe in creation with many forms of energy interacting to create a continuum of life, death and rebirth, like the well-known expression: « nothing is lost, nothing is created, everything is transformed ». In this vision, the human soul visits Earth to be purified and transported to higher planes.

Life after death

The Maya believed in an afterlife. For this reason, the common people buried their dead in the basement of their homes. This way, their ancestors could watch over and protect them.

They also believed that those who were unlucky in life would ultimately receive rewards in the afterlife, to maintain a kind of « karmic balance ».

Human rituals and sacrifices

There is much speculation about the relationship between blood and sacrifice in Mayan tradition.

Experts claim that the Maya considered the heart to be the vessel of the soul. As the organ that pumps blood, it was considered to be infused with a portion of that same energy, which could nourish the gods.

Often, balls of copal incense were burned to represent a human heart, and small amounts of blood-soaked paper were added to attract the gods.

Despite this link, it was not blood but breath that was supposed to connect the living and supernatural worlds, like the concept of PRANA in Buddhist and Hindu traditions.

In conclusion

I’m always fascinated to see the expression of the sacred in all the world’s civilizations. I note that the greatest civilizations in terms of knowledge and technology were also those whose work on the soul was the most advanced.

We are part of a lineage of seekers who are moving forward together to find our way back to our source. We don’t have to do it all over again. For me, it’s essential to honor the spiritual heritage of past civilizations so we don’t have to start from scratch and move towards the total awakening of human consciousness on earth.

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