The Maya Cosmos

17 04 2008

The Maya conceived of the world as a quadrilateral. At each of the cardinal points a Sky-bearer god sustained his quater of the world. Each Direction was identified by its own colour- red for the east, white for the north, black for the west, and yellow for the south- and possesed its own deities of wind and rain. At each corner of the world grew a tree, of the appropriate colour, while at the center, or the Fifth Direction, rose the great green silk-cotton tree, the Tree of the World, whose branches pierced the thirteen layers of the heavens. Below the world lay nine levels of the Underworld, a chill, bleak, shadowy place, where all Maya, save for those fortunate few  whose manner of death- in war, childbirth, or sacrifice- exempted them, were doomed to wander endlessly.

-Inga Clendinnen, Ambivalent Conquests- Maya and Spaniard in Yucatan, 1517-1570