Saturday, November 15, 2014

Human sacrifice in Mayan culture

Today I visited a brand new museum in the State of Yucatan in Mexico. I was there to discuss the strategy and activities UNESCO's freshwater programme IHP with representatives from all continents. What struck me most in this museum was the orange statue of this god, put high up on a small temple. The guide explained that the Maya sacrificed humans to this god. As you can see the belly of the god was made flat and horizontal, which was done to facilitate the decapitation. 

Mayan god ready to receive the victim's head on its belly. Besides the sense of drama and stupor it inspired me it also reminded me that I shouldn't forget to do my abs exercises during my trip.
Other ways of sacrificing were the ritual shooting of arrows or – fasten your seatbelt – the pulling out of the heart. This was done while the victim was alive. The trick was to do it precisely and very quickly so that the heart could be handed over to the master of ceremony while it was still smoking and beating. The master, a priest, then used the heart as a paint brush to paint blood on the temple. The body was thrown down the stairs, where four assistant priests carefully skinned it. Once the skin taken off, the priest would put it on like a dress and perform a ritual dance. The rest of the body was cut into portions to be eaten by bystanders. Except for the hands and feet: they were given to the priest who wore the bones as a trophy. In the museum I saw a beautiful sculpture carved out of a human thigh bone.

Standing in front of a Maya pyramid on the UNESCO world heritage site Chichen Itza dedicated to the Maya's supreme god Kukulcan, the feathered snake.
I wonder what you feel after having read this. Personally it took my breath away. I was smoking like the extracted heart. Not only because of the extreme cruelty but because of the fact that it was perpetrated “just” to be nice with a god. This excruciating suffering was perpetrated not to protect a territory from an enemy or as a punishment to pay back some cruelty, but to please a god. 

This is what hit me like a 12 foot wave: that a vertical relation of respect for something spiritual can be so strong that it justifies the ending of a human life. The vision of an execution always shocks me terribly, but here especially so because there’s nothing that allows me to understand it from within. There is no anger with an aggressor that I could sympathize with. Nor is there a fear from an enemy that I could share to understand the killing as a reaction to it. And so I stood there in front of the orange god like a person trying to make sense out of a horrible scene with only Chinese subtitles to go by.

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