Maya Tattoos And Body Piercings Essay

1794 words - 8 pages

Tattoos and Body Piercings: What They Meant to Ancient Maya Civilization

The sun shone down upon the magnificent temple. At the base of the temple is a gathering of people. They pray, chant, and dance in honor of the rain god, Chaak. Atop the pyramid-like temple sits the ruler of his people, Pacaal, the mighty king of Palenque. Dressed in his ritual headdress, body painting, and both ears and nose pierced. Surrounding him are his priests in a deep trance. Warriors escort a prisoner, who has been painted blue, to a blood stained altar. Four priests hold him down as a fifth approaches. Brandishing an obsidian knife the priest pleads to Chaak for rain. As suddenly as it ...view middle of the document...

However, there is an ample amount of documented usage of ritualistic body piercing, also known as bloodletting.
The implements used for body piercing varied. Obsidian, flint, various types of needles, and stingray spines all were used. Hooper Trout, L. (1991). The instrument used for drawing blood, called the lancet, was sacred to the Maya. The lancet was often carved with decorative images of the perforator god. Research compiled to date does not conclusively state what parts of the body were used in which particular rituals, beside the heart during human sacrifice. There is evidence that ears, tongue, genitals, and the nose were pierced.
Kallen, S. (2001). Bloodletting was a common event in Maya society, used by all levels of society. Weddings, childbirth, funerals, and religious holidays were all times that peasant’s used bloodletting. Political events, planting of crops, and religious ceremonies called for noble bloodletting. The Maya also believed that world order and ruler ship was sanctified through the act of bloodletting.
It is not known exactly when during the Preclassic era that religion came into existence. Schele, L., & Freidel, D. (1990). A chronological listing shows early Izapa monuments carved with Popol Vul mythology appeared around 200 B.C. The Popol Vul is an early hieroglyphic work of the Maya storytelling about the creation of the world. The Popol Vul is also one of the last surviving books of the Spanish conquest of Mesoamerica. Much of the recorded Maya history was destroyed in1562 by Diego de Landa, the first provincial minister of Yucatan. Hooper Trout, L. (1991) wrote that on July 12, Landa burned 27 sacred hieroglyphic books under the pretense of devil worship.
After extensive research of the Popol Vuh, there is much evidence of an event called bloodletting. This is a ritual performed in a number of ways, usually dependent upon the current situation. One example would be to sacrifice a human during the ascension ceremony of a king. Tedlock (1996) has translated the stories of the Popol Vuh, which contains the first references of blood sacrifice.
During part three of the Popol Vul was the first mention of blood sacrifice. The hero twins, Hunahpu and Xbalanque, had been playing a game of pok-a-tok, a ball game that combines elements of modern soccer and basketball. The ball court was located over a chamber of the underworld, called Xibalba, and the game had disturbed two of the deities, named One and Seven Death. The gods had summoned the heroes to Xibalba to play a ballgame. The hero twins had shot out the eye of a falcon that had arrived to deliver them the summoning. The falcon had demanded them to heal his eye before he would give them their intended message. Blood sacrifice was the name given and the heroes received their summons.
Enduring many trials set before them, Hanahpu and Xbalanque became known for their ability to arise from the dead. The...

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