Maya Cosmos

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The ancient Maya, through their shamans, kings, warriors, and scribes, created a legacy of power and enduring beauty. The landmark publication of A Forest of Kings presented the first accessible, dramatic history of this great civilization, written by experts in the translation of glyphs. Now, in Maya Cosmos, Freidel, Schele, and Parker examine Maya mythology and religion, unraveling the question of how these extraordinary people, five million strong, have managed to preserve their most sacred beliefs into modern...
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Overview

The ancient Maya, through their shamans, kings, warriors, and scribes, created a legacy of power and enduring beauty. The landmark publication of A Forest of Kings presented the first accessible, dramatic history of this great civilization, written by experts in the translation of glyphs. Now, in Maya Cosmos, Freidel, Schele, and Parker examine Maya mythology and religion, unraveling the question of how these extraordinary people, five million strong, have managed to preserve their most sacred beliefs into modern times. In Maya Cosmos, the authors draw upon translations of sacred texts and histories spanning thousands of years to tell us a story of the Maya, not in our words but in theirs. At the heart of this extraordinary world was the myth of Creation, as enduring and persuasive as any from the Old World. Recorded in stone texts and illustrated on pottery vessels, in books, and in stone at many ancient sites is the narrative of the Maize God and his children as they confront the Lords of Death in the Otherworld called Xibalba. The authors reveal the myth in its ancient form, not as a quaint story for children but as a map of the sky with the actions of the gods revealed in the movements of the Milky Way and the stars. They investigate the myth as the basis of government and the symbolism of political power, as a description of the daily lives of common people as they planted their fields of corn and cooked food for their children, as instructions for the afterlife and resurrection of the soul, and as the lesson at the heart of the famous Maya ballgame. Maya Cosmos takes this Creation myth from its first expression three thousand years ago by the Olmecs, the first civilization in Central America, to its living expression in a Ch'a-Chak ceremony held in Yukatan a few years ago. As an archaeologist, David Freidel shows how using the myth and understanding its effect on the artifacts and architecture created by the ancients help explain what we excavate from the
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
In this highly original and politically provocative synthesis, archaeologist Freidel and epigrapher Linda Schele team up with Joy Parker, a popular writer, in an attempt to bridge history and prehistory in the Yucatan peninsula of Guatemala and Mexico. Their device is to apply shamanistic belief and practice among modern Maya to interpretations of hieroglyphics and other archaeological remains. In this captivating thesis, foreshadowed in Dennis Tedlock's Popol Vuh ( LJ 1/85) and their own A Forest of Kings (Morrow, 1990), they argue that the world view of the prehistoric Maya lives on in the language and beliefs of the survivors of the Spanish conquest. While at once compelling and controversial, this book will appeal to everyone interested in the Maya and non-Western religion.-- William S. Dancey, Ohio State Univ., Columbus
Pat Monaghan
This is pure pleasure to read--an extraordinary contribution to academic knowledge written like a well-paced novel. Linda Schele, whose "Blood of Kings" 1986 and earlier collaboration with Freidel, "A Forest of Kings" 1990, are both well-regarded books on the Maya, goes deeper into the Mayan gestalt in this second collaboration with him and first with new partner Joy Parker. The subject is Mayan cosmology, and interweaving archaeology and anthropology with personal experience, the three authors examine the major religious concepts of the Maya and how those concepts found expression in religious architecture and myth. The Maya, they reveal, were not destroyed by the Spanish invaders. Their religion continues, sometimes under the guise of Christianity, sometimes in folk custom, sometimes in ancient rituals still practiced among the descendants of one of America's premier civilizations--rites informed by the concepts the authors present. The creation myth, the ritual ball games, the pyramidal world-tree--these are examined and fleshed out so substantively that the reader feels truly immersed in Mayan reality.
Booknews
Draws upon translations of sacred texts and histories to examine Maya mythology and religion and unravel the question of how they have managed to preserve their sacred beliefs into modern times. The creation myth is explored as the basis for government, the symbolism of political power, a description of the daily lives of the common people, instruction for the afterlife, and as the lesson at the heart of the famous Maya ballgame. Includes 16 pages of color photos, and many black and white illustrations. Freidel is an anthropologist who has collaborated for this book with art professor Linda Schele and writer Joy Parker. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR booknews.com
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780688100810
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 11/1/1993
  • Edition description: 1st ed
  • Pages: 543

Table of Contents

A Personal Note from the Authors 9
Foreword: The Orthography 15
Acknowledgments 21
Ch. 1 Worlds Apart, Joined Together: The Road of Maya Reality 29
Ch. 2 The Hearth and the Tree: Maya Creation 59
Ch. 3 Centering the World 123
Ch. 4 Maya Souls 173
Ch. 5 Ensouling the World and Raising the Tree 231
Ch. 6 Dancing Across the Abyss: Maya Festival and Pageant 257
Ch. 7 Flint-Shields and Battle Beasts: The Warrior Path of Kingship 293
Ch. 8 Gaming with the Gods: Destiny and History in Maya Thought 337
Afterword 393
Notes 405
References 495
Index 526
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