Although this has nothing to do with my projects in either Field or Subject, whilst I was researching the symbolism of hands, gestures and symbols within societies and tribes etc, I came across the Mayan Symbols and their meanings. For me, knowledge is wealth and power, and even if I do not apply this to my project, I feel it is still beneficial even if it will not be applied in my current practice or body of work.
Mayan Symbols and Meanings
For over 3,000 years, Mayan symbols have long been a source of mystery and wonder.
The Maya were one of the few ancient civilizations to create their own writing system. Their symbols, or hieroglyphs are original to this Central Native American nation; most other civilizations borrowed from pre-existing systems of writing.
An American, John Lloyd Stephens, and an Englishman, Frederick Catherwood discovered the first Mayan symbols in 1839.
It was not until 1973 that the symbol meanings were discovered.
This discovery lead to the understanding that these symbols could be used singly to illustrate a word, or small letter symbols could be used in conjunction to form a whole word.
Please keep in mind that regardless of how much scholars, archeologists and scientist have discovered about the Mayan culture – there is still much that is unknown. The Mayan ways are largely mysterious. Over 3,000 years later, we can try to piece together and understand the meanings of these ancient people.
Common Mayan Symbols and Their Meanings
A symbol of strength, divinity, and general domain over all things – a very big sign of power for the Mayans. By night, the jaguar god would rule over the Mayan Underworld, by day he would prowl across the morning sky from east to west, returning back to the Underworld at dusk. The cosmic forces of day and night fall into the jaguar’s realm. A symbol of imminent domain in all things celestial, as well as an ultimate sign for confidence and leadership. See also Panther Totem here.
The eagle represents contemplative thought. When focused upon, this Mayan symbol assists in accessing inner wisdom. Known for its power of clarity – this symbol facilitates clear mental focus. After time, focus on the qualities of the eagle representative of the Mayan symbol will pave the way for higher, or even telepathic acuity. Eagles are also a symbol of community and cooperative unity amongst a diverse group. Also see my page on Eagle Totem Symbolism here.
The Mayan word for bat is “zotz.” The bat is representative of the guardian of the Underworld. Also a dubious symbol, rich in dualities, worshipped for its rule over the darkness, and a powerful sign to mark against enemies. Mayans drew a very faint line between our concept of good and evil. Meaning, good and evil was seen in totality rather than marked separation. As such, the bat was worshipped for both its dark and light qualities. Pictured here is the Central American Long-Nosed Bat. It was common to the area, and seen in Mayan glyphs. See Bat Totem page here.
Representative of movement and slow shifting. This Mayan symbol reminds us that there are larger forces at work, and our transitions (especially during difficult times) will need to be brought about with patience. The earth symbol, when focused upon will assist in becoming centered as you delve into the movements of your inner thoughts to make the conscious shifts you desire. Also see my Earth Symbols page.
A symbol of balance and putting things to rest with the goal for peace. Represents putting issues away, and allowing them to sit until your spirit is ready to pull the issues back out for contemplation. Also a sign of surrender. Night represents the cloak or shade being pulled down so that the subconscious or inner spirit can do its work while physical actions must be silenced and put into submission while this inner work takes place.
A Mayan symbol of ascension, clarity and awareness. Focus upon this symbol facilitates enlightenment. The sun was highly regarded by the Mayan civilization. It brought about high yielding crops, and the sun appeared during time of greatest productivity. Internally, the sun brings about philosophical productivity. Bringing the sun into our meditations warms our consciousness, and allows our divinity to blossom. This symbol is known as Ahau and can also be interpreted to mean “teacher.” -Makes sense as awareness is likened to light. In this case the light of knowledge (awareness) is shed by an illumined teacher, or mentor. See also my page on Sun Symbols here.