The Living Maya

Many present-day students of the Mayan Calendar seem to be under the impression that the Maya constitute a “lost” civilization, one which perhaps came from the stars only to mysteriously “vanish,” leaving only ruins behind them.

Nothing could be more perfectly misleading. We now know that the powerful city-states of the Classic Period (c. 200-900 CE) collapsed due to an all-too-human combination of constant, debilitating warfare and bad ecological policy. The people, however, still remain. There are more than 10 million individuals throughout Central America who grow up with one of the Mayan languages as their native tongue.

Though the people were conquered by the Spanish and converted (however unwillingly) to Christianity, the old ways were never entirely forgotten, however, and it is a common saying among anthropologists that the conquest of the Maya is still incomplete. Not only have the Maya risen in rebellion a number of times, but they have maintained their old "pagan" beliefs to an astonishing degree. Nowhere has the conquest of the Maya been more incomplete than in the spiritual realm. Many traditionalist Maya still honor the ancient shrines and heed the teachings of the village shamans. The Ki’che’ Maya of the Guatemalan highlands, however, have a reputation for being the most deeply traditional, largely because they keep the most complex surviving form of the old Sacred Calendar. Their shamans are called Daykeepers, signifying those who understand and interpret the Calendar.

Get involved in supporting the Maya.

Read more about the Living Maya

View Photo Galleries