Chichen Itza and the Sacred Cenote

Chichen Itza is one of the largest ancient spiritual cities of the Maya culture, on the Caribbean side of southern Mexico. In the middle of the jungly Yucatan Peninsula, is an outstanding and well preserved feat of ancient Maya architecture, earning a slot on the 7 modern Wonders of the World list, which is well understood once you witness it. Chichen Itza means “At the mouth of the well of the Itza.” Chi’, translates to “mouth” and ch’en means “well.” Itzá is the name of an ethnic-lineage group which politically and economically controlled much of the area. Itza, was later renamed by the Spaniards as witches or sorcerers.

The grounds of the city expand 1.9 miles containing giant temples, archaic observatories, primitive sporting arenas, market places, and stages for human sacrifices. Indigenous tribes would travel thousands of miles ranging as far north as Arizona to and far south as Columbia, walking through long deserts, thick jungle, and vast mountain ranges just to witness the temples of Chichen Itza. This was the epicenter for a wide range of indigenous tribes to exchange goods, stories, and have spiritual encounters of epic proportion.

The center of the city is a giant temple, which the Spaniards named El Castillo that was built as a physical representation of the Maya calendar and a passage for gods to come down from the heavens. It has 4 sides to the pyramid each with 90 steps and an extra 5 larger steps at the top, representing the days and months of the year. Here tribes would practice spiritual rituals, walk up and down the steps with large heavy head dresses and jewelry and perform human sacrifices for the gods. Sculpted on the sides are the heads of Kukulcan, the feathered serpent that is the god of fertility, who descends from the heavens every year on the vernal equinox to collect sacrifices. To this day Chichen Itza is a gathering space for thousands of people to join together from all over the world and witness the descent of Kukulcan.

On the grounds there is also a sacred cenote also referred to as the Well of Sacrifice, where they would throw relinquished bodies into the waters covered with head dresses and jewellery, weighing them down and thwarting them from swimming or floating. Private excavations in the early 20th century found a plethora of artifacts that would have perished if not preserved by the waters in the cenote. This includes wooden objects, weapons, sculptures, pottery, bone, shells, tools, textiles made of jade, copper, and gold. These last artifacts are evidence that Chichen Itza was a cultural and economic epicenter for the time, for none of these artifacts originate in the Yucatan area.

Another corner of the city holds one of the largest preserved Ball Courts, where the indigenous would play their sports, Lining the walls of the court are chiseled in images of the adroit athletic elite, ornamented in decorative outfits, and holding the heads of their opponents. The game is played with a rubber ball which must be shot threw a turned sideways hoop with ones hips. These games are believed to not be for the common people, the players audience was for the king and their gods. The stakes are high, for one of the teams captains must be sacrificed once a winner is determined. It is still unknown whether the losing team or the winning team sacrifices their captain to the gods, being a badge of honor or defeat. They are walked over to a platform titled Tzompantli, or Skull Platform because there are hundreds of skulls chiseled into the sides of the platform. It is here sacrificial rituals would take place.

The Great Ball Court

On the opposite side of the city is a giant observatory where the Mayas would study the patterns and movements of the sun, stars and moon. Like, El Castillo, Osero is shaped like a pyramid with stairs ascending with a temple on the crown, however at the center there is an opening which leads to a cave 36 feet deep. Skeletons decorated with jewelry were found when the site was excavated in the turn of the 20th century.

Needless to say, this ancient man made city is of epic proportion, not only in size but in tale. There is a special energy that runs through the city which is something one has to experience for themselves. Chichen Itza has definitely earned being on the list of the 7 Modern Wonders of the World.

Temple of the Warriors