mesoamerica and the maya world

Category: beliefs

Maya quiz

national geographic quiz on maya

National Geographic has an interesting quiz on the Maya. It’s fairly challenging — anyway, I got two answers wrong.

Photo Wednesday: Maximon

Maximon: A Maya Folk Deity

This image of Maximon comes from cito’s photostream


Is that Maximon playing the marimba?

, along with some recollections of Maximon.


Life has imputantly interfered with Buried Mirror’s posting schedule this summer. In upcoming days I will be backfilling and trying to get back into the flow.


Maya symbology: jaguar

jaguar motif at lamanai maya site, belize

According to joiseyshowaa, from whose photoset this image of an architectural element at the Maya site of Lamanai in western Belize is is taken, the decorative pattern represents a jaguar. The Maya admired the jaguar, whose habitat is tropical jungles, for his fearsome appearance and roar, and his stealth and prowess as a hunter and fisher.

In Mesoamerica jaguars were associated with shamans, who were thought to change into the beasts during rituals. Shamans and priest sometimes carried jaguar hides, wore jaguar clothing, or adorned themselves with necklaces made of jaguar teeth.

Jaguar gods were associated with night (or, paradoxically, the sun), caves, the underworld, and hunting. Belief in the terrifying were-jaguar — the product of a jaguar-human union — goes back to the Olmecs, but the cult of the jaguar reached its peak with the Maya — as is logical, since the Maya and the jaguar shared the same habitat.

Jaguars were sometimes sacrificed in rituals. At Copan, sixteen jaguars were sacrificed with the city state’s 16th ruler assumed the throne.


Maximon graphic

Here’s a nicely laid-out graphic about Maximon that appeared in La Prensa a few years ago. Click the image to view a larger version at Tim Hilliard’s website.

maximon graphic


maximon altar

According to, this is a fellow named Andy ( a professor of law and economics) sitting in front of his Maximon altar. As the blog succinctly notes, “En todo buen altar para Maximón no deben faltar el güaro, los cigarros, las candelas, perfumes, polvos, amuletos e inciensos” — every good Maximon altar must include guaro (a vodkalike drink), cigars, candels, perfumes, dust, amulets, and incense.

You can find more about Maximon here, together with my own photo of a Maximon altar.

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