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  • Writer's pictureGeorge Samuels

Chichén Itzá, Astronomy & The "Water Magicians"

This weekend was my partner's birthday, so I decided to surprise her with a weekend getaway to Chichén Itzá.

We were lucky enough to have a local tour guide who was well-versed in the the history, cosmology, astronomy, and archaeology of Chichén Itzá, one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

What was fascinating to learn was why it exists, from an indigenous perspective, and how the West made errors in interpretation that has unfortunately persisted.

Chichén Itzá isn't a pyramid

Firstly, Chichén Itzá is not [technically] a pyramid. At least not in the same way other pyramids around the world have been built or used.

Just go ahead and look up "Chichén Itzá" on Google, and see if you can find anything talking about how it's not a pyramid.

Interesting, right? As I often say, what's popular isn't always what's true.

Chichén Itzá (c.600AD) is actually the name of the Mayan city where the "Castle of Kukulkán" (pictured above) is located. This main building of the city boasts wisdom on astronomy, mathematics, geometry, and acoustics, in addition to paying honor to the god Kukulkán (also known as Quetzalcoatl, whom I've written about before).

Secondly, according to our guide, the upper class of those times (known primarily as the Itzá family) used all the symbolism, gods, etc. as a way to interpret their scientific knowledge to the lower classes.

This was pretty surprising to learn, but also made a lot of sense.

Our guide said that a lot of what occurred back then, is no different to what we see today. Just different ways of "manipulating the masses." Sad, but true.

Knowledge and the "Water Magicians"

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”. ~Arthur C. Clarke

Our local tour guide described ways in which the Itzá family, and others in the upper class, used their knowledge to fool the lower classes into believing that they were "communing with the gods" - by doing things like: timing their ceremonies and architecture with the rising of the sun; creating illusions of a snake coming down the temple at equinoxes, knowing when it was going to rain based on their astronomical knowledge and then pretending like the gods spoke to them; and so on.

It is believed that "Itza" derives its meaning from the Maya itz, meaning "magic", meaning "water;" Itza means: "Water Magicians." As such, the Itzá family were considered "great magicians" due to their ability to take advanced scientific knowledge, and use it in a way that looked like magic to common folk.

Now, all knowledge we have today is filtered through time. So, regardless if the knowledge is shared by an indigenous person or not, it's interesting to get this type of information and then try to balance with other "facts" from across the web.

The trouble with history

I think this is what makes history so difficult at times. Because discovering something isn't always enough - context matters. We can deduce as much as we want, but oral traditions (from groups like the indigenous) help fill in some gaps.

Also, whatever's written or recorded is done so through the filter of someone else. Pulling all those different accounts together, helps provide a more holistic view - with the real truth being somewhere in the middle.

History is often the remnants of the past, meaning there may always be something lost or forgotten. And so we can make educated guesses, but we can't always take our interpretations of such records as the whole truth.

Power is power

My main takeaway was this: power is power.

The "upper classes" (or elites) - throughout humanity's history - seem to always find ways to take knowledge, use it for their own advantage, and then manipulate the masses with it.

Based on what I learned, this type of manipulation from the Mayan elites of those times is no different to what came next: Christianity.

Since a majority of the lower classes were already trained in believing that gods existed that manipulated material matter (e.g. weather, crop timings, etc.), it was easy enough for the colonizing Spaniards to implement a new belief system and manipulate the people, yet again.

And if we think about modern times, it's easy to see how this same type of manipulation has made its way into our own bubbles, but through different mediums - through advertising, social media, conspiracy theories, etc.

Scientism (not to be confused with being scientific) and "trusting the experts" is just a new type of authority that replaces Catholicism and clergymen, or Mayan animism and its priests of the time.