Thursday, January 24, 2013

Many Roads to Heaven

    In Mayan culture, the afterlife may have varied from one region to another (such as different beliefs in the Yucatan as compared to the area of Guatamala). 

     In the Yucatan, the evil descended to an afterlife of torment in the underworld while the good were sent to paradise. Those destined for paradise, followed the 'Rope Woman', Ixtab. Ixtab has been symbolized as the figure of a female, hanged by a rope around her neck.

     Suicide, especially by hanging, was considered an 'honorable' way to die. Ixtab was the Mayan 'psychopomp', the mythical guide to souls of the dead to the afterlife. The 'hanged by suicide' would be guided to paradise. There, they would have fine food and drink and rest under the shade of a tree.

     But, for the Maya, there were a number of other 'roads to heaven'. Members of the priesthood had an automatic ticket to heaven. The unfortunate women who died while giving birth also had the gates to heaven open to them. Soldiers who died in battle and drownings were considered special. All of these souls were led by Ixtab to the 'pearly gates'.
Mayan Soldiers in Battle
    A last way of going directly to paradise was through human sacrifice. Many cultures in Mesoamerica are known to have sacrificed prisoners of war and criminals but with the Maya, there was also one very special sacrifice, usually involving a young male, a treat for the gods.
     The (often voluntary) victim would be tied down and undergo excision of the lower jaw. This procedure involved considerable loss of blood and mutilation.
Human Sacrifice

     Death came fast as the carotid arteries were severed and the victim lost consciousness before the procedure was complete. Fortunately, the soul of the young, jawless man would be led by Ixtab directly into paradise.

     Some researchers say that the depiction of this procedure is seen in the figure of the 'God of Zero', the space left by his absent chin held in the web between thumb and forefinger.
God of Zero

     *Religious beliefs: subject of research for the novel  The Tao of the Thirteenth God - Amazon Kindle.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Rainbows, Gods and Godessess

     We are all familiar with rainbows, phenomena of the weather due to sunlight being filtered through the prism of atmospheric water droplets. The rainbow appears in the section of the sky opposite to the sun and is viewed at an angle of 42 degrees (from the side opposite the sun).
The Leprechaun

     This 'illusion of light' can be single, with one full spectrum visible or double if the light is reflected twice inside the water droplets, the second arc having the reverse order of colors as compared to the first. The rainbow is a beautiful, mystical piece of art created by nature and viewed by many religions as a message from the divine.
     The term 'rainbow' has been used in reference to multi-racial communities (such as post-apartheid South Africa) and multi-racial families (Reverend Jim Jones adopted mixed-race native and mixed-race Korean children and referred to his own family as the 'Rainbow Family' - see post: The Reverend Jim Jones).
      In Irish mythology, the leprechaun kept a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow which would be yours if you could get there (which, conveniently, is physically impossible). In Norse mythology, the rainbow was the bridge between the world of gods and humans. In Armenia, it was the belt of Tyr, the sun god (see post: Worship of the Sun).
Mayan Goddess Ix Chel
     Ix Chel was the Mayan goddess of the moon, water, weaving and childbirth, founder of the city of Palenque. The translation of her name is 'Lady Rainbow'. Chak Chel (Red or Great Rainbow) is another Mayan rainbow goddess, responsible for the destruction of the 'third' world by unleashing a great flood.
     The Mesopotamian Epic of Gilgamesh tells the story of the rainbow, the jewelled necklace of the Great Mother Ishtar, that the goddess lifts into the sky to signify that she will never forget the days of the great flood that destroyed her children, brought down upon them by the god Enlil. This same flood story and promise seem to have been borrowed by the Judeo-Christian Book of Genesis 9: 13-17 where God promises that he will never again destroy the earth with flood.
Noah's Thanks Offerring-Joseph Anton

     The Mormons state that the second coming of Jesus Christ will not occur in any year when a rainbow is seen (it is not clear in what region of the planet that the rainbow must not appear for one full year in order for this to happen).
     In China, the rainbow was a rent in the sky filled in with colored stones by the goddess Nuwa. In pre-Islamic times, in the Arabian peninsula, the rainbow was the war bow of the god Quzah. The Hindus had several interpretations of the rainbow, one that it was the bow of Indra, another that it was the bow of Rama.

     The Greeks (and Romans) saw the rainbow as the path of the messenger, Iris between earth and heaven.
     But not all cultures saw the rainbow as a benign force. In the Amazon, rainbows were evil spirits responsible for miscarriages and skin disorders.
     For the Australian Aborigines, the Rainbow Serpents were, among other things, ancestors who lived in bodies of water (see post: The Serpent). They were associated with rain-making and were dangerous for the living. Another interpretation was that the 'Rainbow Snake' was a deity who lived in permanent water holes and controlled life's precious water and oils.
Australian Rainbow Serpent with Lizard

     *Sky worship: subject of research for the novel  The Tao of the Thirteenth God - Amazon Kindle.