Maya: A People of Everlasting Life
The significant use of cacao – Theobroma Cacao – in Mesoamerican history dates back as far as 2,000 years ago during the Olmec, Maya, and Aztec civilizations. Chocolate had a variety of uses among the early people for medicinal, religion – faith /doctrine as well as ritual practices (Martin lecture 2/4/2015) – and a food of the elite, too. However, I’d like to particularly focus on the Maya, as they were the first civilization to be studied, documented and help to provide a greater insight to their civilization in Mesoamerica than the early Olmec. According to their ritualistic practices, the Mayans were influenced by cacao as it represented life of a new beginning, death and a strong symbol of their connection with a higher god. Indeed, cacao was “part of the creation myth and thus the start of life” (Seawright, 5).
From an observational perspective, a polytheistic Maya were fully appreciative and valued the life bestowed unto them from their multiple nature gods. As indicated from a tree drawing “The Maya tree typically…is rooted in the underworld, has its trunk in the middleworld, and its high branches or top ascending into heaven or the upperworld” (Martin lecture 2/4/2015). Additionally, Maya appear to have a duty or profound obligation in returning back to earth what earth had bountifully provided to them. As mentioned in class lecture, cacao was traded among gods and goddesses as a means to maintain the earth’s fertility (Martin lecture 2/4/2015).
Many aspects of Mayan life shared an interconnectedness with respect to the preservation of everlasting life. For example, as I‘ve recently noted above, the early people were closely concerned with maintaining earth and its ability to provide. From here I can easily draw a parallel with childbirth, in which they happily praised. Mayans were known for celebrations in the event of newborn children – the deep appreciation for a new life. And, new life “required the ritual use of chocolate as well” (Julie St. Jean, Heritage Daily). This practice is not much different from a more contemporary celebration of childbirth. These early people
Another important aspect of Mayan life revolved around the ceremony of weddings. And too, cacao was an integral component to be included for such ceremonies. The Maya contributed many of life events to a deity for which they praised. And again, much like the event of childbirth, we find that marriage for the Maya was a vow before and in the eyes of a god. These everlasting life events and their religious symbolism during the Maya civilization are not much of a difference from the value that we place today. Perhaps the Maya social traditions over the span of 700 years have a presence in our contemporary world.
Coe, Sophie D. and Michael D. Coe. 2013
Presilla, Maricel. 2009. The New Taste of Chocolate, Revised: A Cultural & Natural History of Cacao with Recipes. Berkeley: Ten Speed Press.
Seawright, Caroline. Life, Death and Chocolate in Mesoamerica: The Aztecs and the Maya; Where Did the Ritual Use of Cacao Originate? ARC2AZT © Caroline Seawright 2012 (n.d.): n. pag. Life, Death and Chocolate in Mesoamerica: The Aztecs and the Maya; Where Did the Ritual Use of Cacao Originate? 2012. Web. 2015.
St. Jean, Julie. “Medicinal and Ritualistic Uses for Chocolate in Mesoamerica.” Heritage Daily, 20 Aug. 2013. Web. 18 Feb. 2015.