Sunday, September 14, 2008

Chichen Itza

Well I've got a little bit to catch you up on. Chichen Itza was pretty impressive. This is the main pyramid - towering into the sky, it was used to read the seasons of the sun and stars. Standing at its base it almost seems to touch the clouds in the sky. Apparently during the Spring and Winter equinoxes the zig-zag shadow cast by the stairway appears to slither like a snake (Kukulcan was a god in the form of a rattle snake decorated with feathers, that the Mayans worshiped). We decided to pay a guide, Carlos, who was of Mayan decent. This was not particularly expensive (after a little negotiation) and really brought the place alive. We visited the great ball court. We were told that the commonplace Mayans were not usually expected to be able to reach heaven. I think there were 5 exceptions to this. The three I remember were, by dying in childbirth, battle or by winning the annual ball game. Athletes trained year round to be allowed to compete with each other in the ball game. The athlete who managed to score the most goals by hurling a ball through these stone hoops was given the supreme privalege of being sacrificed to the gods with a guaranteed place in heaven. Now there is some faith for you. You have to appreciate that the priests were pretty darn smart sun worshipers/ astronomers. For example they knew when there would be a lunar or solar eclips and would tell the people 'today I will command the sun to go out'. You can see why the people were in awe of such miracles.
We enjoyed talking to Carlos who was pretty knowledgeable and enthused about Mayan history. He was interested in the British Druids also told us a little about his family, which was nice: