Exploring Maya Ritual Caves: Dark Secrets from the Maya by Stanislav Chládek

By Stanislav Chládek

Exploring Maya Ritual Caves bargains a unprecedented survey and explication of lots of the identified historic Maya ritual caves in Mexico, Guatemala, and Belize. The caves have been the Maya underworld, the place rituals, together with animal and human sacrifice, have been performed. The Maya cave cult and mythology, building and amendment of the caves, and cult paintings and artifacts are mentioned. Chládek, an intrepid explorer, then describes vital caves that he has lately visited and offers photographs in their wonders.

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Not far from us was a partition built across the breadth of the cave, with another small entrance. The partition was built in the same building technique as the temple using stucco mortar. An amazing surprise awaited us beyond the partition: the cave’s floor was absolutely level and devoid of any large stones. We were standing in a sacred space, separated from the profane by the partition. The cave ended in a small alcove-shrine. Some of its stalactites had been cut out by the Maya, but it still resembled the gaping mouth of the Earth (Witz) Monster.

12). 12. Carved postclassic stela in Cenote Tancah, Quintana Roo, Mexico. 19) and may represent a guardian spirit of the cave. indb 42 6/20/11 10:43 AM Caves and the Maya / 43 Speleothems Most karstic caves are decorated with stalactites, stalagmites, columns, and flowstones, called commonly speleothems. ) For the Maya, stalactites and stalagmites were living and sacred rocks because they grew and produced “sweat” (water). Additionally the speleothems were connected with earth, fertility, and sexuality.

18. Pak Ch’en Cave vulva motifs, Quintana Roo, Mexico. Photo courtesy of Dominique Rissolo. indb 49 6/20/11 10:43 AM 50 / Chapter 2 leading to a twelve-meter-deep pool. 19). 12). The Mayas were certainly aware of the connection of this cave cenote with the nearby Caribbean Sea, where the underground system Sac Actun spills into the sea in nearby Caleta Tancah, Cenote Manatee, and Casa Cenote farther north. Freshwater springs in the sea have long been known as ojos de aqua (eyes of water). The Maya may have swum in some of these passages all the way to the sea; the sea’s depths may have represented the underworld.

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