The Maya were a civilization with some of the most eccentric types of customs ever known to man.  Actually, not all of its Mayan customs were that eccentric.  The fact of the matter is, a few of their customs are akin to other different customs from different countries around the world.  However, a few of them were really considered by most people as eccentric. Well, after all, these customs of the Maya were thriving before the Spaniards came and took over their lands hundreds of years ago and most of their customs were existing thousands of years before that.


 
 

The Maya were a tall race, active and strong. In childhood the forehead was artificially flattened and the ears and nose were pierced for the insertion of earrings and nose-ornaments, of which the people were very fond. Squint-eye was considered a mark of beauty, and mothers strove to disfigure their children in this way by suspending pellets of wax between their eyes in order to make them squint, thus securing the desired effect. The faces of the younger boys were scalded by the application of hot cloths, to prevent the growth of the beard, which was not popular. Both men and women wore their hair long. Men had a large spot burned on the back of the head, where the hair always remained short. With the exception of a small queue, which hung down behind, the hair was gathered around the head in a braid. The women wore a more beautiful coiffure divided into two braids. The faces of both sexes were much disfigured as a result of their religious beliefs, which led to the practice of scarification. Tattooing also was common to both sexes, and there were persons in almost every community who were especially proficient in this art. Both men and women painted themselves red, the former decorating their entire bodies, and the latter all except their faces, which modesty decreed should be left unpainted. The women also anointed themselves very freely with fragrant gums and perfumes. They filed their teeth to sharp points, a practice which was thought to enhance their beauty.

The clothing of the men was simple. They wore a breech cloth wrapped several times around the loins and tied in such a way that one end fell in front between the legs and the other in the corresponding position behind. These breech cloths were carefully embroidered by the women and decorated with feather work. A large square cape hung from the shoulders, and sandals of hemp or leather completed the costume. For persons of high rank the apparel was much more elaborate, the humble breech cloth and cape of the laboring man giving place to panaches of gorgeously colored feathers hanging from wooden helmets, rich mantles of tiger skins, and finely wrought ornaments of gold and jade.

The religion of the ancient Maya was polytheistic, its pantheon containing about a dozen major deities and a host of lesser ones. At its head stood Itzamna, the father of the gods and creator of mankind, the Mayan Zeus or Jupiter. He was the personification of the East, the rising sun, and, by association, of light, life, and knowledge. He was the founder of the Maya civilization, the first priest of the Maya religion, the inventor of writing and books, and the great healer. Whether Itzamna has been identified with any of the deities in the ancient Maya picture-writings is uncertain. His characteristics are the aged face, Roman nose, and sunken toothless mouth.

Itzamna

One thing that sets the Mayan customs apart from other customs is that they were a huge part of their own culture because they were set on their very beliefs. For instance, if a family member dies, the Maya did not bury him or her in a cemetery. The Maya deceased were actually buried in simple graves right under their houses.  Close family ties were discovered by historians, anthropologists and archaeologists and one of the reasons for some discoveries was the custom of burying their dead underneath their houses.

The Maya were a very hospitable people, always offering food and drink to the stranger within their gates, and sharing with him to the last crumb. They were much given to conviviality, particularly the lords, who frequently entertained one another with elaborate feasts, accompanied by music and dancing, expending at times on a single occasion the proceeds of many days’ accumulation. They usually sat down to eat by twos or fours. The meal, which consisted of vegetable stews, roast meats, corn cakes, and cocoa (to mention only a few of the viands) was spread upon mats laid on the ground. After the repast was finished beautiful young girls acting as cup bearers passed among the guests, plying them industriously with wine until all were drunk. Before departing each guest was presented with a handsome vase and pedestal, with a cloth cover therefor. At these orgies drinking was frequently carried to such excess that the wives of the guests were obliged to come for their besotted husbands and drag them home. Each of the guests at such a banquet was required to give one in return, and not even death could stay the payment of a debt of this kind, since the obligation descended to the recipient’s heirs. The poor entertained less lavishly, as became their means. Guests at the humbler feasts, moreover, were not obliged to return them in kind.
The chief amusements of the Maya were comedies and dances, in both of which they exhibited much skill and ingenuity. There was a variety of musical instruments—drums of several kinds, rattles, reed flutes, wooden horns, and bone whistles. Their music is described as having been sad, owing perhaps to the melancholy sound of the instruments which produced it.

The Maya entertained an excessive and constant fear of death, many of their religious practices having no other end in view than that of warding off the dread visitor. After death there followed a prolonged period of sadness in the bereaved family, the days being given over to fasting, and the more restrained indulgence in grief, and the nights to dolorous cries and lamentations, most pitiful to hear. Among the common people the dead were wrapped in shrouds; their mouths were filled with ground corn and bits of worked stone so that they should not lack for food and money in the life to come. The Maya buried their dead inside the houses or behind them, putting into the tomb idols, and objects indicating the profession of the deceased—if a priest, some of his sacred books; if a seer, some of his divinatory paraphernalia. A house was commonly abandoned after a death therein, unless enough remained in the household to dispel the fear which always followed such an occurrence.  Only the rich people were buried in tombs accompanied with some of their precious belongings such as their jewelry, pottery, or food. In the Mayan culture, it was a common notion that families worship their ancestors as if they were the gods themselves and this was deemed necessary so that the souls of their dearly departed will rejoin the gods when they die.

Another common and eccentric Mayan custom were the human sacrifices.  A movie, Apocalypto, written and directed by Mel Gibson, clearly depicted the way Mayans hold human sacrifices although the movie had some elaborate ways in showing how Mayans performed those sacrifices and, generally, that movie was not historically accurate.  However, the movie did show something to the world of the realities of Mayan human sacrifices just to appease their gods whenever the gods were thought to be “enraged and vengeful” and, of course, to please the gods to provide the Maya a good harvest.

According to historians, one way of the Mayans in doing human sacrifices was ripping out the hearts of their victims and leaving them there for offering to the gods, or by throwing them down a cliff. They used humans as their sacrifices because it was believed that the gods needed human blood to grow stronger.

One form of sacrifice that Mayans performed to please the deities was self-mutilation and, worse, self-torture and they would even do this on a daily basis.  But, of course, other than human sacrifices or self-torture in order to please and appease the gods, they also combined these practices at big festivals for religious reasons.  There would be a lot of dancing and revelry and all the Maya dressed up like gods and even wore masks to look like their gods.  One major objective for these “dancing festivals”, specifically, was to make a request to the gods for bountiful crops.  Most of the crops that Mayans cultivated were corn, squash and beans.

In the Mayan customs, it was discovered that they had a systematic way of planting and harvesting these crops and that gave the explanation why they can plant any or all of these crops all year round even though they were regularly planted during the season.  The Maya have developed this system so that they can plant beans, squash and corn at any given time of the year.  Agriculture was the chief pursuit, corn and other grains being extensively cultivated, and stored against time of need in well-appointed granaries. Labor was largely communal; all hands joined to do each others work. Bands of twenty or more, passing from field to field throughout the community, quickly finished sowing or harvesting. This communal idea was carried to the chase, fifty or more men frequently going out together to hunt. At the conclusion of these expeditions the meat was roasted and then carried back to town. First, the lord of the district was given his share, after which the remainder was distributed among the hunters and their friends. Communal fishing parties are also mentioned.

These are just a few of the Mayan customs out of the hundreds of small and large societal customs that were practiced while the Mayan civilization was thriving.  Many people these days have mistakenly believed that the Mayan race had disappeared. In reality, the Maya are now numbering between six to eight million all over the world especially in parts of Central America and the modern Mayan people still follow some of the ancient Mayan customs and traditions which make the Maya as one of the great surviving races in human history.

The Maya were a civilization with some of the most eccentric types of customs ever known to man.  Actually, not all of its Mayan customs were that eccentric.  The fact of the matter is, a few of their customs are akin to other different customs from different countries around the world.  However, a few of them were really considered by most people as eccentric. Well, after all, these customs of the Maya were thriving before the Spaniards came and took over their lands hundreds of years ago and most of their customs were existing thousands of years before that.

One thing that sets the Mayan customs apart from other customs is that they were a huge part of their own culture because they were set on their very beliefs. For instance, if a family member dies, the Maya did not bury him or her in a cemetery. The Maya deceased were actually buried in simple graves right under their houses.  Close family ties were discovered by historians, anthropologists and archaeologists and one of the reasons for some discoveries was the custom of burying their dead underneath their houses.

Only the rich people were buried in tombs accompanied with some of their precious belongings such as their jewelry, pottery, or food. In the Mayan culture, it was a common notion that families worship their ancestors as if they were the gods themselves and this was deemed necessary so that the souls of their dearly departed will rejoin the gods when they die.

Another common and eccentric Mayan custom were the human sacrifices.  A movie, Apocalypto, written and directed by Mel Gibson, clearly depicted the way Mayans hold human sacrifices although the movie had some elaborate ways in showing how Mayans performed those sacrifices and, generally, that movie was not historically accurate.  However, the movie did show something to the world of the realities of Mayan human sacrifices just to appease their gods whenever the gods were thought to be “enraged and vengeful” and, of course, to please the gods to provide the Maya a good harvest.

According to historians, one way of the Mayans in doing human sacrifices was ripping out the hearts of their victims and leaving them there for offering to the gods, or by throwing them down a cliff. They used humans as their sacrifices because it was believed that the gods needed human blood to grow stronger.

One form of sacrifice that Mayans performed to please the deities was self-mutilation and, worse, self-torture and they would even do this on a daily basis.  But, of course, other than human sacrifices or self-torture in order to please and appease the gods, they also combined these practices at big festivals for religious reasons.  There would be a lot of dancing and revelry and all the Maya dressed up like gods and even wore masks to look like their gods.  One major objective for these “dancing festivals”, specifically, was to make a request to the gods for bountiful crops.  Most of the crops that Mayans cultivated were corn, squash and beans.

In the Mayan customs, it was discovered that they had a systematic way of planting and harvesting these crops and that gave the explanation why they can plant any or all of these crops all year round even though they were regularly planted during the season.  The Maya have developed this system so that they can plant beans, squash and corn at any given time of the year.

These are just a few of the Mayan customs out of the hundreds of small and large societal customs that were practiced while the Mayan civilization was thriving.  Many people these days have mistakenly believed that the Mayan race had disappeared. In reality, the Maya are now numbering between six to eight million all over the world especially in parts of Central America and the modern Mayan people still follow some of the ancient Mayan customs and traditions which make the Maya as one of the great surviving races in human history.

 

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