Olmec Indians
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>ANCIENT INDIAN CIVILIZATIONS



The Olmec Gods



Olmec Gods were many and varied. Some were summonded for healing. Others represented dark powers, and some were mischevious. Religion was a very strong integral part of their culture.

The Olmec practiced shamanism. They believed each individual has an animal spirit. Olmec religion centered around the Shaman. The feared and revered shaman would conduct rituals and heal the sick. Some believe that the sun was a part of their worshipping along with the jaguar.

Olmec Jaguar God



The jaguar was a very important figure to the Olmec and some form of it was probably their principle God. It was referred to as a nahual, which is an animal that is so closely related to a certain man, that if the animal dies, the man will also die. The nahual can be the animal form of a God. Jaguars were the shamans of the animal world, the alter ego of the shaman.

There is also something called a werejaguar baby that was the offspring of a feline father and a human mother. This mating resulted in a race of infants combining the features of the jaguar and man in varying degrees. These are usually shown as somewhat infantile throughout life, with the puffy features of small fat babies, snarling mouths, fangs, and perhaps even claws. These werejaguars were deities of thunder, lightening, and rain.

There are also many depictions of an Olmec God who was half jaguar, half serpent.

It is believed that the Olmecs were a kind of "mother culture" which directly gave rise to all subsequent major civilisations and this is how Shamanism first spread. The Olmecs are said to have been ancestors of the Jaquar.

The Olmec Tribe believed that the Jaquar was a rain deity and fertility diety. The Jaquar was chosen because the Olmecs believed it was the most powerful and feared animal. They also believed that the Jaquar was an Avatar of the living and the dead.

The men would sacrifice blood to the jaguar, wear masks, dance, and crack whips to imitate the sound of thunder. This ritual was done in May. The Olmec also made offerings of jade figures to the jaguar.

The Olmecs made numerous statues representing "Were - Jaguar" men. These men are normally shown with grimacing Jaquar facial features with Human bodies. They are believed to be men , of the Olmec tribe, that are transforming into the Jaquar.

The tortured facial features are intended to convey - not ferocity and aggressiveness - but emotional stress beyond endurance. It is precisely the sort of physically and mentally exhausting crisis - the crossing of the threshold between two worlds, two kinds of reality, that is part and practice of ecstatic Shamanism everywhere. The crossing over and transformation into the most powerful predator of the rain forest and the Savannah.

The Transformation was brought on by a series of activities which could incorporate singing or chanting to the Jaguar deity. The Shaman would dance around and chant a mantra to spirit world and would also use the rhythm of a beating drum.

It is also believed that the Olmec would also ingest a 'mind altering' drug which would intoxicate the Shaman and make him dizzy. Tobacco powder, which was also used to achieve the transformation, could be inhaled directly through the nose or ground up with lime to make a chewing wad.

In all, at least ten Olmec Gods have been identified:



First Mother and First Father



The First Mother and First Father are the Creator Couple described in the Popol Vuh. All the other gods who subsequently came into being were the offspring of this couple. The First Mother, the Moon Goddess, was born six years before the First Father, Hun Nal Ye. Also known as the Maize God and the Plumed or Feathered Serpent, the First Father was responsible for overseeing the new creation of the cosmos.

Hunahpu and Xbalanque



These Hero Twins overcame the forces of death, paving the way for the conception of humans. They are usually shown wearing red and white cloth headbands, a symbol of Maya rulership. The face of Hunahpu serves as a glyph for the day name ahau, meaning king.

The Patrons of Writing The Hero Twins had two older brothers who were jealous of the twins and did everything they could to make their younger brothers' lives difficult. The Hero Twins changed their brothers into monkeys and they became the patron gods of scribes.

The Maize God



Like the Sun God, the Maize God is associated with life and death. He follows the path across the sky, descends into the Underworld, is reborn, and returns to the Sky World. The flattened and elongated forehead of this deity is often accentuated by a partly shaven head and eyebrows, leaving patches of hair on the top of his head, which resembles a ripened ear of corn. The Maya elite practised changing the shape of their offsprings' skulls to resemble the Maize God's elongated head by tying two boards front and back against the infant's head.

Itzam-Yeh: the Celestial Bird



Also known as the Serpent Bird and Seven-Macaw, Itzam-Yeh is associated with the four corners of the world. He also marked the four corners of the temple, thereby establishing the sacred mountain's summit.

Itzamná: Lord of the Heavens



Itzamná, or "Lizard House", is a high-ranking god who was the first shaman and diviner; the word itz can mean shaman, a person who could open the portals to the spirit world. The Maya elite considered him an ancient form of the omnipotent, supreme deity. Kings and shamans contacted Itzamná to plead with him to open the way so sacred nourishment would flow into the world to sustain humanity. He is also the inventor of writing and the patron of learning and the sciences.

K'awil: the god of sustenance



K'awil is associated with royal power, which originates with the gods. He often appears on sceptres clasped by rulers during ritual ceremonies and when they ascend to the throne.

The Jaguar Sun God



Almighty God the Sun dwells in the highest levels of heaven. When he traces the path of the sun across the sky in the daytime, his name is Kinich Ahau. When the sun falls into the West Door and enters the Underworld, he becomes the fearsome Jaguar God.

Ix Chel: Lady Rainbow



Wife to the high god Itzamná, she oversees weaving, medicine, and childbirth. Like the First Mother, she is a moon goddess, who is depicted sitting in a moon sign holding a rabbit.

Chac: the Rain God and Cosmic Monster



Chac is a dragon-like monster with a crocodilian head and deer ears. Since he exists on the perimeter of the cosmos, this cosmic monster marks the path between the natural and supernatural worlds. In the creation story, Chacs were placed at the four corners of the world. They bring the rains by shedding their blood; they create thunderbolts by hurling down their stone axes. Chac was also the name given to Maya elders who assisted at ceremonies and sacrifices.

The Lords of Death



Many Maya gods dwell in the Underworld. The Lords of Death are depicted as skeleton people or ugly bloated beings wearing ornaments such as disembodied eyes taken from the dead.

The Witz monster



The Witz monster is the symbol of the living mountain. Images of this creature were placed on temples to transform them into sacred, living mountains. He is depicted with a zoomorphic face, a huge gaping mouth, and a stepped cleft in the centre of his forehead. The open mouth became the entry into the mountain.

An Olmec scholar, Peter David Joralemon , listed ten dieties he felt were believed in by the Olmecs.

  1. The jaguar-monster, fire god, or maize god
  2. A god with a maize symbol on his head
  3. A bird god
  4. The jaguar-baby
  5. A being with a human-feline face
  6. A figure representing Xipe Totec
  7. The Plumed Serpent
  8. A death god
  9. A bearded figure
  10. God X
The Olmec had a lot of beliefs that are obviously not believed in today, at least by North Americans. One such example is that the Olmec believed that smoke was very close to clouds, and therefore produced rain. Back in the time of the Olmec and even today with the Pueblo Indians, during a rain ceremony, the Indians will smoke in hopes for rain.

RELATED ARTICLES:
Olmec Art
The Olmec Indians
Olmec Writing








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