Lecture 13: Chapter 12: The Spirit World
Supernatural is difficult for archaeologists to interpret. Writing or ethnographic/historic observation is necessary.
All cultures have religious beliefs. Religion serves to:
- help people cope with the uncertainties of life and death.
- explain the mysteries of the supernatural and of the soul.
- define the place of humans in the cosmos.
- reinforce social and political values.
- explains misfortune.
Despite the Spanish conquest in the AD 1500's, many of the ancient Maya and pre-Maya spiritual beliefs continue.
Maya archaeologists have the advantage of being able to study the living Maya and read ancient Maya paintings and other writings.
Shaman: heals sick, interprets dreams, predicts future; correlated to calendar: astrology.
Rome: Archaeology and History: written legends:
Temple to Vesta (Hera: goddess of the hearth): Roman eternal flame: Priestesses were the Vestal Virgins: those convicted of losing their virginity were buried alive. The dates from these burials show that more virgins were put to death during the years of military defeats. Preservation of their virginity marked Rome's success, loss of their virginity marked Rome's failure. Of course, this shows that they were probably just scapegoats...their virginity was only questioned during episodes of street to the Roman state.
Every society explains fate in a different way: easier for archaeologists to understand with writing.
Maya glyphs are still relatively poorly understood. But they show a reverence for animals, namely the monkey, macaw, and jaguar.
All religions recognize the soul.
Understanding a society's view of the soul is the key to understanding its religion.
Modern Maya: Part of the soul lives in the blood, the other part lives outside at night. A person dreaming can become this other soul. If this other soul escapes and cannot be recovered, the person will die. They use a curing ceremony to recapture this animal soul: uses a corral-bed.
Decoded Maya glyph as "animal companion spirit"
The animal souls of Maya lords are shown as supernatural beings.
The king's prestige came from supernatural authority: evolution of a priest into a king.
Also, ancestor worship: death treatment also shows us about religion. Ancestors can act on the behalf of the living...both kings and commoners.
Egalitarian Societies: ancestor and nature worship form the core of a Folk Tradition.
Ranked Society: folk religion gets manipulated to the use of the leaders and evolves into a Great Tradition...but the tend to be fragile and easily disrupted.
Maya site of Palenque: Kings become gods upon death.
In State-level Societies, one lineage becomes special by becoming the lineage.
Maya cosmos: 13 different layers telling time to plant and make war.
"Sky Band" supported by 4 pillars (cardinal directions and colors). World is on the back of a crocodile. The nine levels of the underworld are called "Chibalba" and are where the ancestors live.
The dead emerge at night as the sun enters the underworld. Offerings are placed in houses to placate the ancestors. (stalactites...from the underworld...were found beneath stelae at Copan)
The acropolis of the Main Group at Copan was an artificial stone mountain from which to worship ancestors. Temple 22 was a model of the cosmos.
Bloodletting: blood (soul) -soaked paper was burned which enabled communication with powerful gods. soul turns into the god of the royal ancestors...kings are divine.
- helped cope with uncertainties of life and death.
- explained origin and workings of the universe.
- reinforced social values and political structure of their society.
The state religion (Great Tradition) evolved to support the rule of the kings.
Rome: State religion displayed the elite power. Folk religion still practiced in houses.
Augustus' house was also the center of religion...he was the religious head.
Copan: After death of 18-rabbit, sacred symbols (sky-band) began to be used by lesser nobles. The last king of Copan introduced exotic foreign symbols from Teotihuacan, such as skull-racks, and Tlaloc.
This also occurs in Rome: first, they imported gods from the Greeks, then the Egyptians, and finally, Christianity (AD 313).
New World: Christianity was spread to save souls. However, they Maya readily adopted it because the cross was similar to some of their symbols...merely is superimposed on top of their Folk Tradition.
Perhaps the recurring interest in the paranormal in our own society is the result of the occasional fluorescence of our own Folk Traditions.