Join 3,512 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Mayan Ruins Filter: Possible Portal to the Underworld Found in Mexico
August 23, 2008 6:02 PM   Subscribe

Mayan Ruins Filter: Possible Portal to the Underworld found in Mexico. Included in the underwater tunnels (video) are two underground temples and human bones - possibly the remains of human sacrifices.

BBC Look at the underwater tunnels.

Previously on MeFi:
Mapping Mayan Ruins with Muons
The Mayan World
Maya Cities Exhibition Site
posted by grapefruitmoon (17 comments total) 37 users marked this as a favorite

 
Silly superstition. Everyone knows portals to the underworld are under high schools.
posted by Malor at 6:28 PM on August 23, 2008 [6 favorites]


That second link was really nice - I liked the slideshow guide. I'm also going to have to read more about this Maximón.
The syncretism of Catholicism and Maya religion (notably the sophisticated Custom of the Tzutijiles centered on Santiago Atitlan) is arguably not an equal mixture, but rather Maya religion with a Catholic veneer. Mayan deities have commandeered counterparts in the saints, virgins, and even multiple "Christs". The celebrated deity/effigy Maximon, for instance, incorporates multiple identities, which vary from town to town, depending on the town's character and needs. Most Maximons are subjected to symbolic sacrifice by "hanging", but Santiago's renowned Maximon (a mix of Jesus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot), is consistently revered and brings blessing to households that host him for a year (by bringing paying pilgrims and tourists).")
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 6:38 PM on August 23, 2008


"The syncretism of Catholicism and Maya religion (notably the sophisticated Custom of the Tzutijiles centered on Santiago Atitlan) is arguably not an equal mixture, but rather Maya religion with a Catholic veneer. Mayan deities have commandeered counterparts in the saints, virgins, and even multiple "Christs". "

Indeed, the same can be said for Haitian Vodou, Brazilian Candomblé and Cuban (and beyond) Santería, but with traditional African belief systems/religion.

Thanks for the post, grapefruitmoon.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:02 PM on August 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


The syncretism of Catholicism and Maya religion [...] is arguably not an equal mixture, but rather Maya religion with a Catholic veneer.

From a superficial observer's perspective, this seems true at least in some cases. I once visited the church of San Juan Chamula just outside of San Cristobal de las Casas, and the worship there bore very little relation to anything I'd recognise from my Catholic upbringing.

From the wiki article:

The church of San Juan, in the municipal cabecera (headtown), is filled with colorful candles, and smoke from burning copal resin incense, commonly used throughout southern Mexico. Along the walls of the church, as in many Catholic churches, are dressed-up wooden statues of saints in large wooden cases, many wearing mirrors to deflect evil. The local form of Catholicism is a blend of pre-conquest Maya customs, Spanish Catholic traditions, and subsequent innovations.

There are no pews in the church, and the floor area was completely covered in green pine boughs, and soda bottles, mostly Coca-cola, on the pine needle carpet. Curanderos (medicine men) diagnose the medical, psychological or ‘evil-eye’ afflictions and prescribe remedies such as candles of specific colors and sizes, specific flower petals or feathers, or in a dire situation a live chicken, to be brought to a healing ceremony. Chamula families kneel on the floor of the church with sacrificial items, stick candles to the floor with melted wax, drink ceremonial cups of Posh (bootleg whiskey based) or in recent years Coca Cola or Pepsi, and chant prayers in an archaic dialect of Tzotzil.


That describes my experience there pretty well. Another day, a friend returned to the church, to find the worshippers sacrificing chickens.
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:02 PM on August 23, 2008


Totally awesome, and great post. I'm very interested in Mayan culture, and this is a great find. There's so much lost and overgrown in the jungle, that there's lots more to be found out.
posted by Eekacat at 7:23 PM on August 23, 2008


There's so much lost and overgrown in the jungle...

Quick! Call Werner Herzog and Klaus Kinski!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:56 PM on August 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


Herzog brings us Jackass for intellectuals.

Werner Herzog Writes A Diary.

/derail
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:15 PM on August 23, 2008


UbuRoivas that sounds like my kind of church.
posted by Mitheral at 8:19 PM on August 23, 2008


MayaFilter.

This is fascinating. Thanks for posting!
posted by homunculus at 9:20 PM on August 23, 2008


Alex: Jim you have the board.
Jim: Thanks Alex, I'll take "Ancient Mayan Ruins" for $600.
Alex: Deep in the heart of the Yucatan lies these caves, rumored to be the portal to Xibalba, the Mayan underworld.
Jim: What are "Creepy-ass Mayan Caves we probably shouldn't fuck with?"
Alex: That is correct, you still have the board.
posted by JimmyJames at 9:40 PM on August 23, 2008 [3 favorites]


This is such an excellent post, grapefruitmoon. The news items are fascinating in and of themselves but you really outdid yourself in finding so many great supporting resources. Good stuff, I am only partly through. I echo mstpt's comment about the second link - not to be missed. Thank you!
posted by madamjujujive at 10:04 PM on August 23, 2008


The story of how Mayan was decoded.
posted by empath at 10:48 PM on August 23, 2008


this is wonderful...thanks!
posted by ms.jones at 10:53 PM on August 23, 2008


So how did the Maya come to know the locations of these underwater caves? That seems pretty trick. One has to, y'know, be looking underwater for them. That seems an unusual occupation, especially for a couple thousand years ago in pre-scuba era.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:35 PM on August 23, 2008


pre-scuba era

You sure about that?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 11:57 PM on August 23, 2008


in those days, the acronym stood for "sacrificing children under brick arches".
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:18 AM on August 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


Grapefruitmoon, thanks for the post! Fascinating stuff, especially the underwater caves. Even with scuba gear cave diving is scary, and these guys were just holding their breath! I'm no expert on Maya culture, but there was a definite theme of water in their sacred mythology.

The Yucatán Peninsula is mostly limestone and quite arid (the jungles we all associate with Central America actually start further south; the Yucatán landscape is flat and dry as a bone in most places). However, there are caves and sinkholes (cenotes) in the limestone. The sinkholes are particularly strange - the ground is flat and undisturbed right up to the edge of this huge hole, whose walls go straight down for many meters. They're unlike any hole dug by a human or animal, so no wonder the Maya associated them with the gods. Most sinkholes are dry but a few have water in them, and these were definitely sacred (I visited one around 1985 and it was still known locally as the cenote sagrado). The guide said the ancient Maya would throw sacrificial offerings into the water, where the gods would claim them (conveniently, the water was deep and totally opaque with green algae so these offerings did disappear from view entirely).

Empath, thanks for that link - it looks fascinating and I'll have to get back to it when I have time. I love historical adventures like that and I don't have a TV, so thanks for bringing good ol' National Geographic to my attention!

While I'm here I have to plug the book written by the guy who's featured in that video. John Lloyd Stevens published Incidents of Travel in Yucatan in 1843 and it's still a wonderful read. It's a classic 19th Century travel adventure book full of wry observations of contemporary life in small-town Yucatán and Central America, and in places it's laugh-out-loud funny. The illustrations by Frederick Catherwood are amazing (just go look at some Mayan carvings in a museum and see if you can make heads or tails of them, yet Catherwood rendered them crisply and intelligibly. Working by torchlight in a Central American jungle full of snakes and malaria, trying to keep his sweat from dripping on the drawings and ruining them. Indiana Jones, eat your heart out.)
posted by Quietgal at 10:14 AM on August 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


« Older Joel Stein on a new scoring system to improve the ...  |  NASCAR as little as they like ... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments