The ancient Mayans worshipped different kinds of gods. These deities, the people believed, had both good and bad sides. Izamna, known as a creator and god of both fire and earth, was the most popular god of the people. Kukulcan, which is portrayed as a serpent with feathers in many temples, is also a major god, just as is Chac, the god of lightning and rain. Bolon Tzauab was a god with significant relevance only to the royals, who were the only set of people that were able to communicate with it.
As would be expected, the Mayans had priests who served as links between them and their gods. But aside priests, different leaders also performed role similar to that of a preacher or pastor and were able to make contact to the gods on behalf of the people. At their deaths, these Mayan leaders were laid in large and luxurious tombs for their final resting place. They were buried with many generous gifts by the people in appreciation of the functions they performed while alive.
The Mayans believed in life after death. They believed that when someone died physically, the soul was not affected but traveled on in the afterlife on a journey fraught with hazards. The olden people also believed in the existence of a heaven. However, they were of the opinion that the heaven was only for humans that died at childbirth as well as people who were sacrificed to their gods.
The ancient Mayans sacrificed human beings to their gods. To them, this was the only effective way of making contact with the deities. They thought human sacrifice would be pleasing to the gods, which would bless them in return. They also feared that failure to sacrifice men and women to the gods at the right time would bring doom upon them all from these gods. The heart of the individual to be sacrificed would be ripped out and then burned during a special ceremony. To the Mayans, this is the perfect way of showing total respect to the gods.
Among the Mayans, it was also believed that each individual was born with the spirit of an animal, which could either be small or big in size. It was believed that animals, at their birth, had souls similar to those of human beings. At the same time, the people believed that a person could turn into the animal that he or she shared his or her spirit with. It was also part of the ancient Mayans' beliefs that people could not make a choice of the type of animals they would love to share their spirit with. However, they thought it was possible only for their kings to select the animals to share their spirits with. The animal normally chosen by the kings was the jaguar -- an animal highly loved and revered by the olden people. Images of Mayan kings putting on well-decorated jaguar helmets can be seen in many of the people's art work.
Bloodletting was also a common practice among the Mayans. While this may seem rather unusual for most people today, the ancient people saw this as a very good means of connecting with the animals they shared their spirit with. It was a regular feature of their daily worship. The individual undergoing the bloodletting ceremony would cut himself or herself and allow blood to flow freely. This is not only seen as a way of connecting to the animals that shared spirit with them, but also to worship and contact the gods they hold in high esteem.