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The Mayan Bloodletting Smoke Serpent Ritual

Updated on October 20, 2013

The ancient Mayans had a very interesting and rather painful way of contacting the gods and their royal ancestors. They invented a ritual that used bloodletting, fasting, and smoking of tobacco as a means to induce hallucinations, allowing them to commune with their gods and ancestors.

The serpent was an important figure among the ancient Mayans. They believed that the serpent, with the ability to shed its skin, was a symbol of renewal and birth and fertility. The ancient Mayans also believed that the sun and stars moved across the heavens by hopping aboard a serpent and riding across the heavens. Their supreme god, Quetzalcoatl, is commonly depicted as a feathered, or bearded serpent, as well as many other ancient Mayan deities.

The ancient Mayan smoke serpent ritual would begin with a few days of fasting. Then the participants would prepare a fire in a ceremonial pot. Then they would light the ceremonial pipe and take a few puffs of tobacco. Then the bloodletting would begin. The participants would pierce various parts of their body, some of the most common were the tongue and an important part of the male anatomy. They would allow the blood to soak into ceremonial papers, which they would then burn as an offering to the gods. This would raise a pillar of smoke through which the vision serpent could appear. If they were successful, they would envision a serpent, which would open its mouth, and through the serpent, the gods and ancestors would speak to them.

And there you have it. A painful but effective way to induce hallucinations, and possibly contact an ancestor or a god or two. Personally, I'd rather pay a professional psychic, or utter a prayer, but there's just nothing like a good ritual to appease the gods.

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    • Jeff May profile image

      Jeffrey Penn May 

      7 years ago from St. Louis

      I think just passing around a pipe would be enough for me. Depending on what was in it, you might be able to get a similar effect. The Aztec also worshiped Quetzalcoatl, and use Aztec themes and symbology in my novel "Where the River Splits."

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