A brief history of the Maya
The Maya identity goes back a little more than 4,500 years, when a group of Proto-
Mayan speakers settled in the region of Altos Cuchumatanes, in what is modern day Guatemala. Over time this group of people became one of
the most prosperous and powerful empires in Mesoamerica. Between A.D. 250 and 600, major Maya cities consolidated their power and as the surrounding regions saw the rise of many newer ones. It was a period of growth and development based on a social, economic, and political organization led by a noble ruler, as the guiding force, to all levels of the community. Although this was a period of significant expansion, it was not until between A.D. 600 and 800, that Maya culture attained its greatest splendor. This period saw the growth and development of the most famous and imposing cities, such as Tikal and Caracol, in Guatemala; Izamal, Aké, Uxmal, and Ek Balam, in Yucatán; Xunantunich, Lamanai, and Altun-Há, in Belize; and Copán, in Honduras (Lopez M. , 2011).
When the term “Maya” is mentioned, most people conjure up images of the complex cities, giant temples emerging through the green rainforest and thousands of hieroglyphic texts providing the names, deeds, and rites of Maya kings and queens. From the Northern tip of the Yucatan Peninsula to what is now modern day El Salvador the Maya created a formidable society that still influences the region to this day (Braswell, 2014).
The Maya culture was one of inherited nobility. Leaders of large cities could exact tribute
from smaller communities, command men to build large public works, or enlist men from subordinate villages to defend them whenever enemies attacked or assist with warfare
against rival cities (Braswell, 2014). Securing
or reassigning social and/or political status
was typically achieved by evoking ancestors, supernaturals, animals, architecture, history, and memories used to actively link individuals to a past, a powerful (or important) lineage, an apical ancestor of a kin group, or a significant built landscape (Pugh, 2009).
There were no shortages of powerful rulers over the duration of the long period of Maya rule. Documents indicate that a Maya ruler named Hunac Ceel conquered Chichen Itza. From A.D. 1100 to 1300, according to sixteenth-century documents, a Triple Alliance called the League of Mayapan was co-administered by Chichen Itza, Uxmal, and Mayapan. Later, with the collapse
of the governments at Uxmal and Chichen Itza, Mayapan came to be governed by a multepal or joint rule. That alliance involved the Kokoom, the ruling lineage at Chichen Itza, the Xiw, the ruling lineage at Uxmal, and a few other groups (Braswell, 2014).
The Maya and their deities interacted on a regular basis through a series of communal and individual social rituals. When performing rituals such as the New Year ceremony and bloodletting, the Maya called upon various deities to ensure rains and good harvests as well as the life and health
of the elite and nobles in the community. The relationship of the Maya and the cosmos is most apparent in the Maya codices and the deities that appear as idols or on effigy incensarios, which provided smoke during rituals. One relationship between the Maya and their gods that was prominent was that with Ix Chel. Ix Chel (goddess of fertility, childbirth, and medicine) is the Moon Goddess in the codices and serves as the deity of Cozumel. At Cozumel, Ix Chel’s association with caves and water ties together the Maya primordial past with the present trade and pilgrimage routes, thus bolstering claims to traditional powers and memories of the past. (Pugh, 2009).
The Maya universe was divided into three realms: the celestial realm; the earth; and Xibalba (the Underworld). Each part of the universe was associated with a series of gods and a number
of layers: the celestial realm was composed of thirteen layers and was ruled by one of the thirteen Gods of the Upper World and Xibalba had nine layers and was ruled by the nine Gods of the Lower World. The terrestrial realm is typically shown as
a turtle. All three realms were linked together and Maya living on the terrestrial realm communicated with and were affected by the supernatural beings in the celestial realm and Xibalba (Pugh, 2009).
Shamans who were deemed to have a stronger essence (or nagual) could initiate and sustain an interaction with the detached soul. In some cases, evil magic aimed at displacing and harming the soul is carried out and was considered to lead to sickness and required shamans to perform curing ceremonies to avoid death of the receptacle-body (Iannone, 2016).
It is believed by some that this nagual could be so powerful its spirit could allow men to shift forms into creatures like jaguars, taking on their speed and power.
Their cosmological views, in turn, encouraged their imaginative efforts in architecture, mathematics, and astronomy. In Mayan belief, however, one did not die and go to a `heaven’ or a `hell’ but, rather, embarked on a journey toward Tamoanchan.
This journey began in the dark and treacherous underworld of Xibalba where the Xibalbans who lived there were more apt to trick and destroy a soul than help one (Mark, Maya Religion: The Light That Came From Beside the Sea, 2012).
The Popol Vuh is a collection of stories which describe the creation of the world, of human beings, and how order was established by the great Hero Twins, Hunahpu and Xbalanque, through their victory over the forces of darkness and death. The characters whose tales are told in these stories are carefully constructed figures who symbolize the planets and the stars.
The Maya also venerated a serpent-like creature similar to the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl, known to them as Kukulcan, which signifies “Feathered Serpent”. However the Kukulcan of the Maya appears to be dissimilar from Quetzalcoatl in several of his attributes. Unlike some other Mesoamerican serpent incarnations, Kukulcan of the Maya has the attributes of a thunder-god. In the tropical climate of Yucatan and Guatemala the sun at midday appears to draw the clouds around it in serpentine shapes. From these emanate thunder and lightning and the fertilizing rain, and appeal to the Maya as a god of the sky who wields the thunderbolts.
A sinister figure, the prince of the Maya legions of darkness, is the bat-god, Zotzilaha Chimalman, who dwelt in the “House of Bats,” a gruesome cavern on the way to the abodes of darkness and death. He is undoubtedly a relic of cave- worship. This deity is alluded to in the Popol Vuh, under the name Camazotz, in close proximity to the Lords of Death and Hell, attempting to bar the journey of the hero-gods across these dreary realms and claiming the head of the Hero Hunahpu as he attempted to pass through Xibalba. (Mark, Maya Civilization, 2012)
The Maya also had a connection to a fey creature known as the Alux. The aluxes protect plantations, cornfields and properties. To obtain its favors, a farmer makes a request to the shaman, who uses mud from the land, and a few drops of the land owner ́s blood to generate a strong connection between them. The creation process takes seven weeks. Once the process
is over, the shaman indicates the name of the master and brings the Alux to life through offerings and prayers, and then places him in a strategic place to become the guardian. If the master dies, these mischievous pixies go to the service of the god of corn, “Yum K’aax” and if the property they cared for is occupied by a new owner, the aluxes will become mischievous until the new owner, tired of their acts, offers them food and prayers. (The Yucatan Times, 2018)
Though long-term warfare was seemingly limited during the time of the Maya, militarism was clearly a very prevalent and important ritualistic activity. The emphasis placed on territorial control gave rise to feuds between rulers of neighboring cities and often led to raids on enemy camps. The need for sacrificial victims or slaves may also have been a reason for unannounced attacks. At some sites defense methods such
as walls and earthworks to barricade the city have been discovered. During the Classic Period guerrilla warfare techniques included the use of wooden palisades, thorny entanglements, and deadfalls. The Mayan warriors were equipped with spears, wooden clubs, flint knives, and shields for hand-to-hand combat. As they developed their methods of warfare they introduced atlatls, or spear-throwers to the Maya arsenal along with obsidian blade edged clubs known as macuahuitl. The primary goal of Maya warfare was to capture, rather than kill, as many of the enemy as possible. Captives of elite status typically became subjects for human sacrifice, while commoners were sentenced to slavery. (Maine Center for the Arts, n.d.)
Every K’atun, or roughly every twenty years, the Yucatec Maya head chief examined all chiefs under his authority to find out whether they were worthy leaders. This did not involve physical competition or documents. Instead, the head chief challenged the nobles with riddles and expected them to find the correct answers. (Eberl, 2017).
How to Play the Maya.
The Maya are an elite, well-trained force with warbands that usually muster fewer models. They rely on psychology rather than brute strength to stand up against more numerous foes. This comes in the form of pins making it harder for the opposing units to follow orders. By modifying the command check, the enemy wastes precious activations to Rally or risks being routed or even broken.
The Maya Command value is above average, signifying the disciplined nature and exceptional training of the Maya force. Their higher armor can keep them in combat past round one which enables them to be more dangerous with the Vengeful special rule. Maya soldiers can be exceptionally terrifying on the battlefield and most units have the Cause Fear and Vicious special rules which can impose extra pins from combat.
Cause Fear- Whenever a Maya unit with Cause Fear wins a round of combat, add one pin to the losing unit before break tests are taken. Units that Cause Fear, Dread or Terror and any monstrosity are immune to Cause Fear.
Vicious– Any attack rolls of ‘1’ cause a pin, regardless if the wound was saved or not.
Maya and The Way
The Way leads a Maya warband to bolster its own units or disrupt the opponent’s resources.
Children of the Maya that follow The Way of the Everliving will gain the Influence and Devotions that help bolster their smaller warband. The Everliving spells allow Maya units to shake off pins, boost their Resistance or even rain down wounds and pins upon the enemy. The Everliving Camazotz has a Baleful Gaze that can add pins to multiple units with a single attack.
A Maya warband following The Way of the Everchanging will embrace the Influence and Devotions that disrupt the enemy’s well-laid plans. Through Everchanging spells the Maya Priestess can instill deep psychological fears causing the enemy to nervously move about, take more pins or even risk being routed. The Everchanging Camazotz can be especially terrifying, affecting the Command value of a nearby enemy unit.