Tamoanchan – The Journey to Paradise
Heaven, nirvana, Zion — whatever you want to call it, religions and cultures around the world differ in their beliefs about where we go after we die.
For the indigenous peoples of Mexico, they had a bit of a different view of the afterlife. Instead of automatically landing a place amongst the clouds or stars, a deceased person had to do some work to earn a spot in paradise in a place known as Tamoanchan, or the “place of the misty sky.”
What is Tamoanchan?
Tamoanchan is a mythical paradise that, depending on who you ask, is associated with Aztec or Mayan culture. Like many other cultures, these indigenous peoples believed after a person died, he or she would eventually end up in Tamoanchan. They also believed Tamoanchan was a home to the gods and the birthplace of mankind, time, and the calendar.
However, there are some key differences between Tamoanchan and comparable concepts of the afterlife. Unlike heaven and similar places, Tamoanchan is not located in the sky — rather, it’s a place on Earth, situated on top of a mountain. This parallels the concept of Mount Belukha, being the gateway to the Buddhist paradise of Shambhala.
Secondly, the indigenous peoples did not believe one automatically went to Tamoanchan after death except under very rare circumstances. Instead, after dying, the deceased began a journey that would ultimately lead them to Tamoanchan.
The Journey to Tamoanchan
To reach Tamoanchan, the deceased had to first pass through a dark underworld called Xibalba, or “place of fright.” In Xibalba, they would encounter difficulties as the residents there would attempt to trick them into staying and not moving on to Tamoanchan.
According to legend, the Tree of Life sprouted from Xibalba and extended all the way up to Tamoanchan. After successfully passing through Xibalba, the deceased would then move up through a series of other worlds on the Tree of Life and eventually reach eternal paradise in Tamoanchan.
Under very rare circumstances, some individuals were exempt from the journey and could go directly to Tamoanchan after death. These circumstances included:
- Human sacrifice – Human sacrifice played a big role in Mayan culture. The Mayans had a cyclical view of life, believing people never truly died. Rather, they believed death was simply a part of life, and sacrifice was a surefire way to land a seat amongst the gods.
- Suicide – Suicide was also considered an honorable way to die in ancient Mesoamerican culture.
- Death in childbirth
- Death in combat
- Death on the ball court – The Mayan game Pok-a-tok was a sacred ritual that represented the struggle between life and death. The winning team had the privilege of being sacrificed to the gods, granting them direct access to paradise in Tamoanchan.
Tamoanchan: Fact or Fiction?
There are some who believe Tamoanchan isn’t merely a myth but an actual place. This draws back to the idea that Tamoanchan was located on Earth rather than in the heavens.
Researcher Alfredo López Austin claims Tamoanchan could have been located in several places, including Cuernavaca and near Iztactepetl and Popocatepetl. Other historians allege the mystical place was near the Gulf Coast.
Despite the many theories of Tamoanchan’s location, no one can be certain of its existence. There are many books out there about Mesoamerican mythology and history that can serve as resources, should you decide to conduct your own research on this fascinating topic.
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Exploring the Ancient Pyramids of the World
If there is one structure that still gives rise to great amounts of interest, speculation and awe, it’s the ancient pyramids.
Oftentimes when we think of the pyramids, we concentrate our attention on the most famous –– the Egyptian pyramids so often featured in movies and travel magazines.
But there are actually many more pyramid locations other than Egypt, including Central America, China and beyond. You may be surprised by the varied places you can find pyramids across the world –– including underwater.
By delving into more pyramid facts, we can unlock more information and understanding about these sizable structures, their prominence throughout the world, and even their relevance for those throughout the world.
What Exactly is a Pyramid?
While you may have initially learned about the pyramid shape in geometry class, architectural pyramids are a bit more complex.
Generally the shape of pyramids include at least three outer triangular surfaces which join together at a point at the top, with the base being any number of shapes with multiple sides. This means that the base of a pyramid could be a square or other polygon.
Pyramids were generally built this way in order to distribute the majority of the weight closer to the ground, meaning less pressure coming from the top. This also allowed the builders of the pyramid to more easily constrict the structures using dry stone construction.
Pyramids in Ancient Civilizations
While the general pyramid structure generally remains the same, each civilization that constructed pyramids did so in a slightly different way. Let’s take a look at a few of the civilizations that lay claim to impressive ancient pyramids, and why each one is worth a closer look.
The three famous ancient pyramids found in Egypt are what most people think of when they think of the pyramids. Current Egyptologists believe the Great Pyramid was constructed for Pharaoh Khufu, and is situated the furthest north.
Said to have been constructed in 2551 B.C., it used to measure about 147 meters, it now stands at around 137 meters, and contains more than 2 million blocks. The Great Pyramid was deemed one of the Seven Wonders of the World by the Greeks, and is the only one that has survived to the present day.
Another one of the over 100 pyramids in Egypt is the Pyramid of Djoser, built for his namesake the Pharaoh as a mausoleum. This pyramid is more of a step pyramid design, which involved six successively smaller layers and a flat top.