Scholar Finds Mayans’ Path Through Hell

Scholar Finds Mayans' Path Through Hell

This is an interesting article on an archaeologist who found a series of caves where ancient Maya worshiped and that he believes recreates the path through hell mentioned in ancient text.  It’s a pretty awesome discovery.  Apparently he found it by going through records of the Spanish Inquisition wherein indigenous Indians were tortured until they revealed the location of caves where they still practiced their religion.  Gotta love that Spanish Inquisition.  Torture and evil and death, but good records!

One thing keeps bugging me about this article, though.  The guy who found these caves is convinced that the Mayans made the caves to fit the story of the path through hell.  That they found some caves that were suitable enough, then fashioned them into the appropriate torturous ways and chambers exactly as the story describes.  But it makes more sense to me that the account of the path is based on the cave.

Perhaps my bias in mythological education is showing (more Western and Egyptian than anything else), but it seems like a lot of the accounts of the underworld or hell or whatever are actually about initiation, transformation, etc.  Like the poor initiates who had to wander around under Glastonbury Tor high on mushrooms until they were frightened to death or came out later having passed through the path to the land of the dead and lived.  It makes more sense to me that the cave existed and was perhaps fashioned before the tale of the path to the underworld, and that the story itself may be part of an initiation ritual.  Or even a transformation one — going from childhood to adulthood, adulthood to elder status.  Death is often an allegory for transformation in mythological terms.

However, as I said, most of my knowledge of this symbolism comes from Western sources.  The Maya may have had a completely different set of symbols and meaning.  I still think the cave came first, though.

Comments

  1. says

    I think I know what caves they are talking about. They have done some good shows on them on the Discovery/History/Learning/Science Channels.

    The one I can think of is the one with the archaologist Josh Bernstein. I seem to remember one of his episodes of “Digging for the Truth” where they had to go cave diving to even get to the caves. It was a fascinating episode.

    I also think they went into the caves in something on the history channel too. I seem to remember seeing it recently.

  2. says

    “Gotta love that Spanish Inquisition. Torture and evil and death, but good records!”

    Gee…I’ve heard the second part of that statement somewhere…..

  3. says

    Completely agree with you, Tempest. This guy’s logic seems completely… well, illogical. It makes MUCH more sense if the cave came before the myth and nnot the other way around.