World Tree image recurs throughout Mayan cities, both in wall carvings
and in paintings. Look down at the smooth, green lawn out of which
the Pyramid springs like a great tree. For the Maya, this lawn and
others may have been a re-creation of the first sea, and El Castillo
may be a manifestation of the tree itself. These patterns recur
in Mayan cities again and again: the smooth sea of grass and the
sudden uplifting of a great building that draws the eye and mind
up to the sky.
Mayan iconography, buildings such as El Castillo may have also been
representative of the mountain monsters. It’s thought that
mountains were sacred to the ancient Maya: Some people believe that
images of volcanic mountains were seen as portals to the creative
and destructive forces of the gods. The Mayan creation myth includes
reference to a first mountain, the source of all food and sustenance
for the first people. These mountain images have the faces of monsters,
and they appear near to the images of kings, linking them to the
forces of creation, possibly implying that the kings were rulers
of these forces, masters of death and bringers of life.
Descend the northern stairs of El Castillo, which will lead you
directly to the great northern causeway. This is the ceremonial
pathway to a hidden focus point, the limestone sinkhole known as
the Sacred Cenote. The deep limestone caves contain wells
brimming with cold, dark water. The wells that dot the Yucatan forests
may have been viewed by the Maya as portals to the other world,
known as Xibalba. The holes into the watery earth may have
been seen as passages back to the time of the beginning, before
the sky was lifted above the sea, a time when gods debated and fought
in the watery other world.
watery tunnels into the dark earth, cenotes may have been
places of power in Mayan thought. It's believed that the Maya used
some wells for water, taking sustenance for human life. But some,
like the large Sacred Cenote at Chichén Itzá, may
have been used as receptacles for treasure and human sacrifices.
These portals may also have been seen as two-directional: Sustenance
flowed from the god world into the human world, and the Maya provided
the gods with sustenance as well.