Dreams in the Ancient Mayan World

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Dreams have been an important aspect of Mayan religion and culture since the ancient Mayan civilization. Ancient concepts of the alter-ego and co-essence, the spirit of the individual that is active when dreaming, is seen in ancient Mayan art, referenced in Ancient Mayan Glyphs, and played a major role in the history of the ancient Mayans.

For the early Mayan the term “the way” referred to an individuals´ alter-ego, spirit, co-essence, which usually took the form of a mixture of multiple animals. This concept of the way existed mainly for the elite in the ancient Mayan civilization. This word way also translates to “sleep” in some Mayan languages, and thus meaning that it is possible that such mystic contacts were made in dreams, especially considering that some glyphs indicate certain Classic buildings as “sleeping places,” where Maya kings may have sought out these spirits.  These sleeping places, called wayib, were either the place where one went to sleep to connect with your way, or a place where your way lived.

In contemporary Mayan spirituality, dreams are still respected, listened and responded to. “Sueños son real, son realidad,” (“dreams are real, they are reality”) Alejandro Ben Cumez, an Ajq´ij that lives on the outskirts of Santa Catarina Palopó (Lake Atitlán), further explains. Dreams are taken seriously, and still play an active role in Mayan cosmology.

The concept of dreams in contemporary Mayan spirituality can be broken down into three general ideas. First of all, Dreams are a special time for your spirit, soul and consciousness to leave your physical resting body and travel, kind of like the way, but today known as the adiosich. Secondly, dreams act as another means of interacting with Ajaw and the ancestors. This interaction occurs mainly through rocks, called camahuilles, which can carry the voice of Ajaw, various saints or the ancestors. And finally, dreams unveil an individuals´ nawal, their individual calling and destiny.

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