What the Mayans Believed About Solar Eclipses 

We’ve already talked about the importance of solar eclipses in different cultures. From what ancient civilizations believed about them, to their spiritual importance. However, there’s one ancient culture that had particularly interesting beliefs regarding this celestial phenomenon – the Mayans of ancient Mesoamerica. So, in this comprehensive exploration, we will delve into the fascinating world of Mayan perceptions of solar eclipses, and how much of a cultural significance it had for them.


Chi’bal K’iin – When the Sun is Eaten

To the Maya, a solar eclipse wasn’t just an astronomical event—it was a cosmic drama unfolding before their eyes. They poetically described it as “Chi’bal K’iin,” a term that vividly translates to “when the Sun is eaten.” So, just like many other ancient cultures, they believed that the sun was attacked by the moon. This could also serve as a symbol of the eternal struggle between light and darkness, order and chaos. So, needless to say, a solar eclipse wasn’t a particularly cheerful event for this civilization.

Just imagine this scene for them: the Sun, their source of life and vitality, suddenly disappears. For the Maya, such an event wasn’t just a natural occurrence. It was a cosmic warning sign, an omen of approaching chaos. They interpreted solar eclipses as indicators of imbalance in the universe—a clash between opposing cosmic forces, such as day and night, good and evil. In response to these perceived threats, the Maya would conduct rituals and offerings. The goal? To please the celestial bodies, and restore cosmic harmony.

Protective Measures

As we have already explained briefly, the Maya were scared of solar eclipses. So, what would they do to protect themselves and their tribes? Take proactive measures. According to their beliefs, mythical creatures—such as the menacing “xibal” ants—threatened the Sun during eclipses, endangering not only celestial order but also human existence. To protect the sun from the ants, the Maya would create loud noises through drumming, shouting, and even firing weapons into the air. They truly believed that this was one of the best ways to repel the darkness caused by the eclipse and protect the sun during this event.


Cultural Practices

What’s particularly interesting is that the Mayas never directly looked at the sun during the eclipse. They believed that if they did that, birds would come and poke their eyes out. So, to avoid this, they would watch this celestial event from the reflection in buckets of water. Despite the fear and uncertainty surrounding eclipses, these celestial events also served as catalysts for communal bonding and cultural expression among the Maya. During eclipses, communities came together to participate in ceremonial dances, accompanied by rhythmic drumming and chanting.

They believed that their collective energy and vibrational resonance could influence cosmic energies, facilitating the restoration of balance and harmony in the universe. What’s also interesting is that they believed that being exposed to eclipses could harm unborn babies. In fact, this is a belief that still lives among the Maya today. So, what would they do to prevent this? Give pregnant women a piece of obsidian that they would place in their mouth or their belly.

Kanita is a wanderlust-fueled traveler with an inclination for unraveling the mysteries of history, the paranormal, and the bizarre world of medicine. As a true crime buff, Kanita's nights are often spent delving into the depths of chilling mysteries. Yet, it's not just the paranormal that captivates her—her background in medicine fuels a fascination with the weird and wonderful world of medical oddities, from twisted historical practices to the myths and legends that shroud the field. From exploring haunted locales to uncovering the strange and morbid tales of medical history, Kanita is your guide to the unconventional, the unexplained, and the downright eerie.

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