Ancient Mesoamerica: World Trees

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World Trees

World trees are a prevalent element occurring in the astrologies, creation accounts and iconographies of the pre-Columbian cultures of Mesoamerica. Mayan world trees embodied the four cardinal directions, which also serve to represent the four-fold nature of a central world tree, “A sort of axis mundi which connects the planes of the Underworld and the sky, with that of the terrestrial realm” (Parker, Maya Cosmos). Often, world trees were represented by the king, who was said to have been chosen by the gods, and was the only being on Earth able to connect the planes of the sky and the underworld with the Earth. Cosmic Order

According to Mayan mythologies, all things, whether animate or inanimate, are imbued with an unseen power. In some cases the invisible power was amorphous. In other cases the unseen power was embodied in a deity, perceived to take animallike or humanlike form. This helped create world order for the Mayan people, something they spent their entire lives trying to obtain. Order stemmed from the predictable movements of the ‘sky wanderers,’ the sun, moon, planets, and stars that marked the passage of time. Each of these celestial bodies was animate, a deity by modern American definition. Human destiny was linked with these celestial beings, and when catastrophic events, such as earthquakes, occurred in the Mayan world, the sky wanderers and the calendar based books of prophecy would be consulted to find portents of change. “Once found and recorded, such portents explained the disorder that had fallen upon the world and thus allowed the world order to be restored” (Callahan, Mayan Religion). Earthly Creation

The cosmos according to the Maya Popol Vuh creation myth, had been through 4 cycles of birth and then 3 cylces of destruction by deluge. Hunab Ku, the creator god and the Old Woman Goddess, goddess of death and destruction, held the bowl from which the floods occurred. According to the Popol Vuh, the purpose of creation was...
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