The Mayan Practice of Human Sacrifice

Many people who have studied the Maya civilizations before may have learned that they practiced ritual human sacrifice. You may wonder how killing somebody for a religious reason alliance with the idea of a cyclical existence and an afterlife journey. Sacrifice did not exist as a punishment or some unhappy accident of fate. Instead, it was one of the very few ways a person could die to avoid the entire 22 level journey from the depths of Xibalba all the way up to the highest peak of Tamoanchan. Other ways included death in childbirth, a glorious defeat on the battlefield, death during a ballgame, or through suicide, which was watched over by a rotting corpse of a goddess named Ixtab.

Sacrifices were also made to ensure victory in battle. They would also give prisoners to the gods in this way. The priests performing the ritualistic killing would cut off the person's head, cut out their heart, or simply toss them in a deep well to drown or languish until they were dead.

For the Maya people, and probably for their sacrificial victims, the idea of being killed ritualistically probably seemed like a great deal. For them, death is not the end. They did not even need to go through the struggle of dodging the demons in the underworld. They simply moved on to the most wonderful spot in their afterlife right away. This idea of how the life cycle worked gives insight into why the Maya performed rituals in both dark caves and on the highest peaks of mountains and pyramid temples.