Levels Of Society
Each Mayan city had its own monarch, which caused a lot of turmoil in the region as all wanted the land of their neighbour. War between monarchs was also a way to demonstrate their martial power and extend their prestige. However, these monarchs were not the most powerful in the realm and they were controlled by the priests.
The priests were the most powerful in the Mayan times, they had influence over the king’s decisions and the most respect from the Mayan people. It was believed that they spoke to the gods, which they did through the use of hallucinogens. They also dictated how many people were sacrificed for appease the gods for certain rituals.
Warriors were not a part of the middle class because they are considered a separate entity altogether. These men were well respected and honoured by the Mayan people. The leaders of the army were ordained from noble families, but many were peasants conscripted in times of hardship. Military families were given rights of rank over first time military initiates.
Merchants And Crafts Men
There was no true middle class in the Mayan times, it was only that their lives were a step up from peasantry. Though, to the upper class they were thought of as peasants. These merchants and craftsmen ran businesses and generated a slightly better income, and indeed some may have been quite rich. However, as they were not of noble blood they could not act or dress that way for threat of death.
Peasants And Slaves
These people made up the largest part of society. These included the farmers or seamstresses or cooks and they lead a very minimal existence. They had to work hard for what they had, meaning very early days and late nights.
Slaves are included in this group as taking slaves was a large part of the profit empire for the Mayans. In war, it was not the killing of opposition in war that was sought after, but the prestige of taking many captives. If you didn’t take at least one prisoner home after a battle by your third time out in the field you were utterly shamed by the rest of the warriors. That is why there are many slaves in Mayan society. Also, people who racked up high gambling or other debts could sell themselves as slaves until their debt was repaid- this was a common thing to do.
Despite their perk of the caste system rules being bent sometimes for the luckiest of women, it was not the same for all as most were forced to marry within their own social status. Like many women from all over the world at this time, marriage was arranged by the parents and the bride would subsequently live with the groom and his parents until she had their first child. It was the norm for the woman to be treated as a slave for her mother-in-law, she would do the cooking and cleaning for every member of the household. After the first child was born, their family unit would be given a home by the village.
However, if the wife’s family had a son, she and her husband would stay with her family and the same would be done to the groom who would have to work with her father. If he didn’t work hard enough, the father had the right to break the marriage.
Women were allowed to divorce their husbands in this time and it was quite often done, but cast shame upon them. The woman would be able to go back to her natural family, if they would take her back which sometimes was not the case. A women of childbearing years was never allowed to stay single and would have another marriage arranged by her family.
Women could not inherit and therefore, it was encouraged to have at least one boy.
In the ancient Mayan times, children had to grow up quickly especially if they were in the lower caste’s and those of the upper levels of society were given some leeway. From the earliest days of their childhood, Mayan children were groomed for adulthood. The boys worked with their father on the farm or in the workshop and the girls worked with their mother in the home or in her area of work.
There were “schools” at that time, but only the wealthy people such as the rich merchants and the nobles who had priests tutor their children. The peasants did not really go to school because they were required to work with their parents to earn money.
Mayan children reached adulthood when they were fifteen years old. They had to go through a Coming of Age ceremony to officially be an adult, which mean that they could get married. The ceremony meant that a priest would declare to the village that the child was now an adult and then there would be a feast at the parents’ house for invited guests.
Day To Day Activities
The day started early and what you did throughout the day depended on your status. For those of the middle or lower caste you would do your daily religious rituals and go straight to work with your family be that in the farm or workshop or market. Those of the higher levels of society who did not possess the job of military leader or state official didn’t really have much to do in their day apart from their religious dedications and had a lot of free time to go hunting or fighting or go to school.
This is only the first snapshot into my series into the life of the Mayan people. I will be doing more research into their religion and cultural practices as well as the importance of warfare. I could give it to you all now, but it would be too huge for a blog post! I hope you find this interesting, I myself love learning about other cultures especially the Mayan’s as I am descendant from them. For fiction authors, it is pivotal that you have this kind of information about different areas of the world for your writing. You never know when another culture will impact your writing or give you inspiration. It is imperative that you learnt as much as you can about the world and I aim to help you in doing so by helping you do your research.