The Olmecs | Teotihuacan | Western Mexico
The Maya | Aztecs | Cosmology | The Mexica Concept of the Universe

The concept of the Tree at the center of the universe is the pivotal concept in Maya cosmology. The cosmos is viewed as a cosmic tree or some form of vegetation. Or, put in another way, prior to creation, there existed a god-tree, pregnant with all life force, which eventually created the universe. The name of this World Tree was Wakah-chan, which literally meant raised up sky and its creation was to separate the sky from the earth. This tree, a representation of the axis of creation, is perceived as rooted in the underworld, with its trunk in the middleworld and its branches, or top as ascending into the upperworld. At death, Maya souls were called to, or fell into Xibalba, the watery, underworld place of the dead.

The central act of ceremonial practice was that of bloodletting, which was a two-way, or reciprocal act of exchange between human beings and the gods. The offering of blood, which contained the spiritual essence of a person, their most sacred substance, was an act of devotion, or dedication to the gods in return for the gifts of life, water, plants and corn offered to them by creation.

Time was organized by two calendars, the Long Count which was a linear calendar, which commences on August 13, 3114 BCE, the date of creation of our current world. The Calendar Round had both a solar calendar of 365 days known as the Haab, and a sacred calendar of 260 known as the Tzolkin.