History of Mexico - Prehistory and Pre-Columbian Civilizations - Religion

Religion

The Mesoamerican had the concept of god and religion, but were very different from Abrahamic concepts. The Mesoamericans had a belief where everything, every element of the cosmos, the earth, the sun, the moon, the stars, which mankind inhabits, everything that forms part of nature such as animals, plants, water and mountains all represented a manifestation of the supernatural. In most cases gods and goddesses are often depicted in stone reliefs, pottery decoration, wall paintings and in the various Maya, Aztec and Mixtec codices.

The spiritual pantheon was vast and extremely complex. However, many of the deities depicted are common to the various civilizations and their worship survived over long periods of time. They frequently took on different characteristics and even names in different areas, but in effect they transcended cultures and time. Great masks with gaping jaws and monstrous features in stone or stucco were often located at the entrance to temples, symbolizing a cavern or cave on the flanks of the mountains that allowed access to the depths of Mother Earth and the shadowy roads that lead to the underworld.

Cults connected with the jaguar and jade especially permeated religion throughout Mesoamerica. Jade, with its translucent green color was revered along with water as a symbol of life and fertility. The jaguar, agile, powerful and fast, was especially connected with warriors and as spirit guides of shamans. Despite differences of chronology or geography, the crucial aspects of this religious pantheon were shared amongst the people of ancient Mesoamerica.

Thus, this quality of acceptance of new gods to the collection of existing gods may have been one of the shaping characteristics for the success during the Christianization of Mesoamerica. New gods did not at once replace the old; they initially joined the ever growing family of deities or were merged with existing ones that seemed to share similar characteristics or responsibilities.

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