Marriage, as per the Mayans
Marriage today is different from marriage 50 years ago or even 500 years ago. Although countries around the world have preserved their cultural and religious significance of what marriage is, let’s go back in time and take a look at what marriage meant for the Mayans, 3,000 years ago.
The first evidence of a Mayan society dates back to AD 250-900, which is called the Classic Period. They were settled in the today’s countries of Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Even after so many years, the Mayans are recognized for their architecture, sculptures, paintings, astronomy and written language. Although the Mayan civilization per se is nonexistent today, their spiritual belief and language has been preserved in Central America. This can easily be observed when visiting the regions above.
Mayan women had an important role to play in their society, because of their role to harvest to weave but mainly due to their ability to procreate. During the Mayan civilization, two people married, not for love, but for the purpose of procreating large families. Families would resort to hiring a matchmaker (atanzahab) who would match two people based on their horoscope and then negotiate with both families to make the wedding happen. Once the wedding ceremony would occur, life went on as normal the next day.
Couples were monogamous but concubinage (i.e. co-habitation without legal marriage) was accepted. Monogamy prevailed for the poor but polygamy was widely accepted for the higher class. Couples would resort to concubinage mainly when women were war captive or sold from their parents, but it would also occur because marriage between different social statuses was not permitted. The most interesting part was their freedom to resort to a divorce if the marriage did not work out and their ability to marry a second time. I find this point very interesting because most religions don’t give their believers or followers this option and considering that the Mayans were around way before most religions of today, I was surprised to learn that divorce was an option. I’m not implying that divorce is the way to go, but I appreciate the level of freedom the Mayans had.
On a more personal note, my interest for the Mayan civilization grew during my stay in Mexico. One is easily exposed to their work and accomplishments when visiting the country. They have a very interesting and unique story for you to learn from! Next time you’re in Mexico, make sure to visit the region of Chiapas, where you’ll find interesting Mayan sites such as Palenque, Bonampak and Yaxchilan.