Exploratorium logo
Steps of El Castillo
Chichen Itza
About Chichén Itzá
Alignments
Activities
Resources
Webcast
Ancient Observatories

 


MAYAN MYTHOLOGY

Myths among the Ruins
Walk through the ancient ruins, and you come upon it suddenly, with indrawn breath. Alone in the midst of a vast green lawn, the central pyramid at Chichén Itzá, known as El Castillo, rears up over the surrounding area. This is the Pyramid of Kukulkcán, the feathered serpent god who ruled the Maya pantheon during the later period of Chichén Itzá's flowering.

Climb the huge stone steps of the Pyramid to the tiny sacrificial chamber, and you can see the forest stretching to the horizon in every direction. The huge green lawn spreads below you, and the other major structures appear small: the Temple of the Jaguar, the Temple of the Warriors, and the Ball Court. Stay for a while, here where it’s believed that the Mayan rulers offered human sacrifices and sat in conversation with the gods. Watch the sun move across the sky, watch the rain clouds sweep in.

Look at the buildings around you. In addition to providing evidence of Mayan knowledge about the cosmos, the architecture at Chichén Itzá preserves the mythology of the Maya. Study the site carefully and you can see a deep-rooted embodiment of Mayan myth, including the emergence of humans from the primordial sea.

According to some interpretations of the Mayan creation myth, in the beginning, there was no separation between earth and sky. Mayan texts often refer to this as the “lying down sky place,” and inscribed images of the events of this time are often represented on a black background, possibly indicating that they took place in darkness or underwater. The first father, the Maize God, planted a World Tree, the pillar that lifted the sky above the earth, creating the space for human life.

next page -->

 
© Exploratorium