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Gods & Goddesses #5: The Mayan

“There were over 250 deities in the pantheon of the Maya and, owing to the mass burning of their books by Bishop Diego de Landa in 1562, much information about the gods (and Maya culture) was irretrievably lost. The Quiche Mayan religious text, the Popol Vuh, gives one set of names for the gods which the Yucatec Maya knew by other names.

Some gods remain unidentified while others’ provenance is unclear or has become conflated with still other deities or with Christian concepts. Scholars are hardly in agreement over the age and prestige of the `king’ of the gods, Hunab Ku, for example, whom some claim an ancient lineage for while others maintain a post-conquest status. Some scholars adamantly defend their definition of a certain god while other scholars maintain an opposing one and there is strong evidence for the truth of both sides. The following list, then, is by no means comprehensive as far as defining every god the ancient Maya worshipped in every region, village, or city but attempts to be comprehensive in detailing as much as is presently known about the gods and hopes to do so concisely.

A Maya god of death whose name is not yet known. He is depicted ruling a part of the underworld surrounded by the bones of his subjects.  His symbols are a skull and obsidian knife, both related to the practice of human sacrifice. 

The god of intoxication, wine, and the art of brewing Balche (a kind of strong mead). His name means either `belch’ or `groan’ and he is associated with the Lacandon Maya god of drunkenness Bohr (also known as Bol).

The god of the art of tattooing and patron of tattoo artists, Acat is also associated with the growth and development of fetuses. He is further designated by the names Acat-Cib and Ah – Kat.

The leaf-nosed god of agriculture (also known as Ah-Bolon-Dz’acab).



A god of hunting.

A tutelary deity, he provided protection at sunrise and sunset.

A minor god of war whose name means Fire Destroyer.

The god of solar eclipses.

A war god known as the Serpent Charmer.

The god of birth. His name means `Come to Life’ and he was responsible for the safe delivery of babies into the earthly realm, both physically and spiritually. After a birth he would wash his hands and then move on to the next one.

One of two great gods of medicine and healing (with Cit-Bolon-Tun) known as the Lord of the Magic Tooth.

The god of merchants and material wealth often depicted as a member of a triad, with the deities Chac and Hobnil.

A creator god who, according to the Chilam Balam creation story, covered the faces of the thirteen gods of the day and let them be captured by the nine gods of the night. During this captivity, he spread seeds and set boulders across the land which grew out of the darkness. This act of creation was later un-done and re-worked by the Becabs.

A minor god of water.

A deity who is an aspect of the sun god (Kinich Ahau) and controls drought and disease (also known as Ah-Kinchil).

These were minor water gods who attended to Cenotes and pools.

A god of fertility and protection who was also a personification of Maize.

The deities who presided over and cared for bees. They are also associated with air elemental spirits.

These deities were elemental gods of water.  They were the lords of the Eight Day Rain Ceremony during which they were celebrated.

A god of thunder.

A god of death, darkness, and disaster but also of regeneration, child birth, and beginnings. According to the Quiche Maya, he ruled over Metnal (Xibalba) while according to the Yucatec Maya he was one of many of the Lords of Xibalba. He is associated with Cizen, Yom Cimil/Yum Cimil (though Cizen seems to consistently be imagined more darkly).

The god of the hunt and protector of animals.

The goddess of sleep. She was especially helpful in putting men to sleep.

The god of natural healing.

A Chthonic deity.

A nature goddess who protected wild animals, she is associated with deer.

The god of poetry and music, he was an aspect of the sun god Kinich Ahau.

A god of medicine and healing.

An aspect of the sun god also known as Jaguar Lord and Lord of the Underworld.

A god of agriculture and cultivated crops.

A war god associated with archery and known as The Archer.

One of the thirteen gods who assisted in the creation of human beings from Maize following two previous failed attempts.

One of the thirteen gods involved in the attempts to create human beings.

The goddess of childbirth.

A title applied to Akhushtal, among other goddesses, which means `Our Mother’, and was closely associated with those deities concerned with fertility and childbirth.

The goddess of thought and intellect. She was also known as Ixtat-Ix.

One of the thirteen gods who participated in the creation of human beings. After the successful third attempt, he became known as Hunahpu-Guch.

The four gods of the winds and the directions who hold up the four corners of the world. In Yucatec Maya they are known as Muluc (of the east) Kan (of the south) Ix (of the north) and Cauac (of the west). Muluc and Kan generated positive energies while Ix and Cauac brought negative forces.  This confluence of negative and positive energy enabled the early gods to create human beings and the physical and non-physical worlds. They are associated with the deities Acat, Akna, Backlum Chamm, and Chin.

Backlum Chaam
One of the Bacabs or an aspect of the Bacabs, he is the god of male sexuality.

The Jaguar deities who protect individual communities against external threat. They also guard and protect people in daily life.

The B’alams
In the Quiche Maya tradition the Balams were the four gods who made possible the creation of man after two previous failed attempts. They were known as B’alam Agab (Night Jaguar) B’alam Quitze (Smiling Jaguar) Iqi B’alam (Dark Jaguar) and Mahucatah (Not Right Now).  According to one myth, their fellow gods grew jealous of their abilities and so clouded their sight, rendering them mortal.

One of the thirteen gods who participated in the creation of human beings. After the successful third attempt, he became known as Ixmacane (he is the early version of Ixmacane, a later god).

The lightning god and patron of the harvest.

A group of nine chthonic beings of the underworld, they were associated with regeneration.

Also known as `God F’, this deity is the god of war, violence and death to whom human beings were sacrificed regularly. In the Dresden Codices he is depicted as being eaten by maggots. He is further depicted setting homes on fire, killing people, and roasting them on skewers over a fire.

One of the thirteen gods who assisted in the creation of human beings. His name means `Heart of the Sky’.

Also known as Caprakan, he was the god of earthquakes and mountains. He was the son of the gods Vucub Caquix and Chimalmat and plays a significant role early in the Popol Vuh where he is defeated by the Hero Twins as is his brother Zipacna.

A creator god who presides over creativity and communication (especially relating to divine communications).

A lesser god of lightning bolts who, with his brother Coyopa, assist the supreme god of lightning, Yaluk, in creating the storms sent by the rain god Chac.

The servant of Alom who, after the second attempt at creation, beheaded most of the people in the world in order that the gods could begin again. His name means `Sudden Blood-letter’.

The bat god of Xibalba who feeds on blood. In the Popol Vuh he tears off the head of one of the Hero Twins, Hun Hunahpu, who is then revived by his brother. Camazotz was then defeated and cast out of creation.

The Maya god of fate who was known to the Aztecs as Mixcoatl or Mixcoatl-Camaxtli. He was associated with war, hunting, and creation and was credited with bringing fire to earth.

See Cabrakan

One of the four Bacabs, Cauac controls the westerly direction and the west wind. Also known as Zac-Cimi.

The supreme god of storms and rain and associated with agriculture and fertility. He was known as the Lord of the Rains and Winds and maintained important water sources such as cenotes, wells, streams, and springs. He was widely popular and prayers and sacrifices were frequently offered to court his favor and that of the four, lesser, chacs. A lord of the sky, he was the sworn enemy of Camazotz of Xibalba and was thought of as a caring, if unpredictable, deity.

These were four weather spirits, located at each of the corners of the world, who were under the command of the great god Chac and did his bidding.

The protector of fish and patron of fisherman.

One of the gods of death and regeneration of Xibalba.

Also known as Chin, she was the goddess of maize, magic, and a councilor to the kings. She was also closely associated with homo-erotic relationships and homosexuality. According to the priest Las Cassas, she introduced homosexuality to the Maya nobles who encouraged their children to enter into homosexual marriages. She is associated with the moon and, sometimes, is depicted as a male deity.

These were four rain gods, from the four corners of the world, who were associated with the Bacabs.

Widely known as the Maya goddess of homosexuality. See Chen.       

A creator goddess who was formed out of four earlier creators and listed among the thirteen divinities who first engaged in the creation of human beings.

One of two great healer gods (with Ahau-Chamahez).

Also known as, or associated with, the names Kisen, Yom Cimil, Yum Cimil, and Ah Puch, he was a god of death who lived in Xibalba (Metnal to the Quiche Maya) and is often pictured as a dancing human skeleton smoking a cigarette. He is further identified by his `death collar’ of human eyes dangling from nerve endings. Cizin came upon one suddenly and without warning but was accompanied by a foul smell and so was called `The Stinking One’. Unlike the other death god aspects with whom he is associated, Cizin is not associated with regeneration or re-birth. He keeps the souls of evil people in the underworld where they are subjected to his torments and trickery. Post-conquest, he became closely identified with the Christian devil.

Colel Cab
An earth goddess who cares especially for the bees. She is still invoked by modern-day Maya Daykeepers in chants to ward off attacks on nests, remedy nest problems, and aid hive keepers with their bees.

God of the sky and particularly of eclipses.

A servant of Alom who followed after Camalotz after the failed second attempt at creation and devoured the bodies of the people who were beheaded. His name means`Crunching Jaguar’.

A lesser god of sound and of thunder who works with his brother Cakulha under the guidance of the supreme god lightning, Yaluk, to create the storms sent by the rain god Chac.

A lord of Xibalba whose name means `Blood Gatherer’. He is the father of the goddess Xquic and grandfather of the Hero Twins, Hunahpu and Xbalanque.

Cum Hau
A god of death and regeneration who lived in Xibalba.

An agricultural god whose name is not yet known.

A god also known as Ek Ahau and, earlier, as only `God M’. He presides over and protects travelers, merchants, and warriors and is depicted as a dark-skinned male carrying a bag over his shoulder. He is also recognized as the patron and protector of cacao and cacao products.

El Gran Dios
`The Great God’ who was the god of the Christians and dwelled in the seventh level above the earth. In some stories he is associated with Hunab Ku. This figure is a late, post-conquest, addition to the Maya pantheon

A god of war associated with human sacrifice and repeated victories over Ekchuah. He is also known as Buluc-Chabtan. See Buluc-Chabtan.

Four Hundred Boys
Considered to be patron deities of alcohol and, later, the Pleiades. In the Popol Vuh, the Four Hundred Boys were youths who wished to build a hut on the beach but could not lift the massive tree they had cut down to use as the main support column. They asked the giant Zipacna, who was reclining nearby, for help. Zipacna agreed to use his great strength to move the tree but mocked the boys for their weakness and their inability to do so themselves. The boys agreed together that Zipacna should be killed but he overheard their plan, tricked them into thinking he was dead, and killed them. They ascended into the heavens and may be seen today as the star cluster known as the Pleiades. Zipacna was later killed by the Hero Twins.

This god is one of the most important, if not the most important, in the pantheon of the Maya. The name Gucumatz (also Gukumatz) is the Quiche Maya designation for the god known to the Yucatec Maya as Kukulcan and most famously, in the Nahuatl language, as Quetzalcoatl (`the plumed serpent’ or `the quetzal-featherd serpent’) who was worshipped as early as the first century BCE at the great city of Teotihuacan. Gucumatz is identified as one of thirteen deities who shaped the world and created human beings. From Gucumatz, humans learned the rules of law, agriculture, literacy, the arts, medicine, architecture, construction, hunting, fishing, and all other aspects of civilization. He is said to have come from the sea, conveyed to the people his gifts and ruled wisely over them, and then returned to the sea, promising to come back one day. The god of all four elements, he was also the representation of the co-mingling of good and evil, light and darkness, and so became a central figure in many of the myths of the Maya and popularly depicted, in various forms, in virtually every city-state. As Kukulcan, he is the great plumed serpent who glides down the steps of El Castillo at Chichen Itza on the spring and autumn equinoxes and is thought to bring positive energy to the earth and to those present at his descent.

Gucup Cakix
This deity, also known as Vucub-Caquix (which means `Seven Macaw’)  is depicted in the Popol Vuh as an arrogant bird demon who pretended to be both the sun and the moon and thus threw life out of balance until he was defeated by Hunahpu and Xbalanque, the Hero Twins. He was the father of Cabrakan and Zipacna who were also overthrown by the famous twins.

An astral god who created the stars by scattering sand into the sky. He was the patron deity of the Lacandon Maya.

An adversarial deity, Hapikern is the world-girdling serpent who is perpetually at war with his brother, Nohochacyum, the great god of creation and protection, and is fated to be destroyed by that god in a final battle. His other brothers are Usukun, Uyitzin, and Yantho,   all three of whom are haters of humanity, and also the brother of Xamaniqinqu, the god of merchants and travelers.

Hero Twins
Hunahpu and Xbalanque (also given as Ixbalanque) are the two great mythical heroes of the Maya whose story is preserved in the Quiche Maya work `The Popol Vuh’. They were born of the virgin goddess Xquic after the severed head of their father, Hun Hunahpu, spit into her hand from a calabash tree in the underworld of Xibalba. Raised by their mother and grandmother the twins became great ball players, excelling at `the game of the gods’, Poc-a-Toc. Once attaining manhood, they avenged themselves on the Lords of Xibalba, who had murdered their father and uncle, by accepting their invitation to the underworld where a series of traps and tests awaited them. They escaped the traps and snares set for them and defeated the forces of chaos and darkness. They then attempted to bring Hun Hunahpu back to life and, though they succeeded in putting his body back together and reanimating him, he could not return to the earth above. The twins promised him, however, that humans would pray to him for hope and comfort and he would be remembered and honored. The promise was kept as Hun Hunahpu became the Maize god, a dying-and-reviving god figure, who appears on earth as corn. Ascending from Xibalba, they meant to stop in the middle world of the earth but continued climbing up the World Tree and into paradise where, even then, they desired to climb higher and so became the sun and the moon (in another version the gods reward them for their victory by turning them into the sun and the moon). The Hero Twins have been thought to represent the legitimacy of the Maya ruling class, though this theory has been disputed. There is no doubt that their story was very popular among the Maya as the twins are depicted in art work throughout the region, often playing their famous game. Based upon these paintings, it seems clear there were many tales concerning the hero twins which have been lost and the Popol Vuh is the only surviving text of their story.

A god of agriculture and prosperity and a member of a triad with the deities Ahluic and Chac.  

A god of the south, associated with the Bacab Cauac and the color yellow. He is a son of the
great couple Itzamna and Ixchel. 

One of the two stepbrothers of the Hero Twins (the other being Hun-Chowen) also known as `One Howler Monkey’ and depicted as a howler monkey. Along with his brother, he is the patron god of artists and writers.

Also known as Hun-Cane, he is a lord of the underworld who, along with Gucup Cakix, kill Hun Hunahpu, the father of the Hero Twins. He is later killed by them.

One of the two stepbrothers of the Hero Twins (the other being Hun-Batz) he is depicted as a howler monkey. Along with his brother, he is the patron god of artists and writers.

While Gucumatz was the most popular god, Hunab-Ku is considered the supreme deity of the pantheon of the Maya, known as `Sole God’. While some scholars have asserted his antiquity, he seems most likely a concept which arose following the Christianization of the Maya during the Spanish Conquest and closely resembles the Christian god. He is invisible and without form but can be apprehended through his aspect in the god Itzamna, referred to as his son. Hunab-Ku is the husband of Ixazalvoh, the divine mother, associated with water, life, and weaving. Some inscriptions refer to him as `The Eyes and Ears of the Sun’ in substantiating the claim that, like the Christian god, he is ubiquitous and knows all.

Also known as The Maize God, Huh Hunahpu died but was regenerated by his sons, and returns to life as maize (corn) and so is identified as a dying-and-reviving god figure. The father of the great Hero Twins Hunahpu and Xbalanque. Hun-Hunahpu and his twin brother, Vucub Hunahpu, were demi-gods who, after the creation of the world, became proficient in the `ball game of the gods’, Poc-a-Toc.  The lords of Xibalba, beneath the earth, became enraged by the noise of the twins and so devised a plan to get rid of them. They invited the young men to the underworld to play a game of Poc-a Toc. Before the game could begin, however, the twins were tricked by the Xibalbans and killed. Hun-Hunahpu’s head was placed in the axis of a calabash tree which grew heavy with strange fruit. The young virgin Xquiq came upon the tree and, reaching for the fruit, was asked by the head to open her palm. Hun Hunahpu’s head spat into the maiden’s hand and she became pregnant with  Hunahpu and Xbalanque. The head then sent the girl to live with his mother, Xumucane.

One of the great Hero Twins who feature prominently in the myths of the Maya and in the text of the Quiche work, the Popol Vuh. Son of Hun Hunahpu amd Xquiq, Hunahpu is the god of the evening who restores the stars to the sky and, with his brother, Xbalanque, defeated the lords of Xibalba and created order on the earth. He is associated with the sun and, in some myths, is the sun himself.

The name which the god Alom took after the successful third attempt at creating human beings.

A deity among the original thirteen who assisted in the creation of human beings.

A god of salt water and the sea who was the patron of sharks. 

Also known as `Heart of the Sky’ and `One-Leg’, Huracan is a storm god. In the Popol Vuh he is the supreme creator of earth who thinks existence into being, participates in the creation of human beings, and sends the great flood to destroy his inferior creations. He is further referred to as Lord of the Whirlwind and credited as one of the gods (sometimes the sole god) to give fire to humans.  

An early goddess of water presiding over the sea, springs, and wells whose name is unknown but is thought possibly to be `Ixik’.

Considered the founder of the Maya culture, patron and protector of priests and scribes, Itzamna is an extremely important and popular god. Like Gucumatz, he taught the people the arts of literacy, medicine, science, art, sculpture, and agriculture. He created and ordered the calendar and instructed humans in the proper cultivation of maize and cacao. He is a creator and healer who can resurrect the dead. In later, post-Colombian writings, he is referred to as the son of Hunab-Ku and takes on many of the characteristics associated with the Christ figure. He is associated with the prophet Zamna, who brought the sacred writings to the city of Izamal on the command of the great goddess and also with Kinich Ahau, the sun god. In one myth he is the father of the Bacabs.

Also known as Itzam-Yeh, The Serpent Bird, The Celestial Bird, and The Way of Itzamna, Itzam-Ye was a deity in bird form which nested in the axis of the great Ceiba tree, the World Tree, which connected the underworld with the middle world (earth) and upper world. From its perch, Itzam-Ye could see all of creation and knew all the secrets of all three planes of existence. Images of the bird god in the sacred tree have been found throughout many Maya sites and, usually, engraved on temples and shrines where the Daykeepers would chant and cast the spells which protected the world from chaos and maintained order. Itzam-Ye was considered a master of the spiritual world and well versed in what, today, would be considered sorcery and magical arts.

A goddess associated with water and weaving.

The Divine mother and consort of Hunab-Ku, Ixazalvoh is the goddess of water, life, and weaving. She also presides over female sexuality and childbirth and is known for her powers in healing. Her oracles were considered important conduits for divine messages for the people.

One of the great Hero Twins whose adventures are told in the Popol Vuh. See Xbalanque.

Known popularly today as `the rainbow goddess’ because her name could be translated as `Lady Rainbow’, Ixchel is associated with many different aspects of life and cosmology. Although images of her in modern times almost universally depict her as an attractive young woman with long, dark hair seated on, or near, a rainbow, ancient Maya images consistently portray her as an old, plump woman with sharp features and jaguar ears, often wearing a headpiece with a live serpent springing forth and carrying a water jug. Ixchel has been associated with the so-called `goddess O’ of the Dresden Codex, obviously a rain deity, and so is thought to be a goddess of the rain, perhaps a consort of Chac. She is, however, also associated with war as she is sometimes depicted in ancient images with claws and surrounded by or adorned with bones. Diego de Landa reported that she was the “goddess of making children” and also of medicine. Evidence suggests that Daykeepers and physicians consulted with Ixchel in their arts but, at the same time, she is associated through other evidence with the moon and mutability and, further, with weaving and the arts. According to a Verapaz myth, she was the consort of Itzamna and bore him thirteen sons. Whatever her main provenance was, it is certain that she was greatly venerated by women and, especially, those who were pregnant or wished to become so. Her shrine on the island of Cozumel was extremely popular and became one of the most important pilgrimage sites for the ancient Maya. The island which Cortez named the Isla Mujeres (Island of women) was so designated because of the number of goddess statues found there, Ixchel among them. Shrines to Ixchel may still be seen throughout the Yucatan today, especially on Cozumel, where her image has become conflated with that of the Virgin Mary and the two now share the veneration and prayers of the women who continue to make the pilgrimage to the island.

The goddess of the four ages of womankind (though whether this means four time periods in which women have existed or the four stages in a woman’s life of child, maiden, mother, crone is unclear). Her name is interpreted as `Four Sisters’ or `Four Faces’. She has been associated with the four creator gods Alom, Bitol, Qaholom, and Tzacol and, through this relationship, became known as Chirakan-Ixmucane, one of the thirteen deities who created human beings.

One of the thirteen gods who participated in the creation of human beings, his name is the final form of the deity originally called Bitol (although the same name has been applied to other gods in their `final form’ following creation).

One of the thirteen gods who participated in the creation of human beings according to one version of the myth. Also a version of the name Xumucane, the grandmother of the famous hero twins, who, with her husband, Xpiayoc, created humans from maize and are considered the oldest and wisest deities in the Maya pantheon.

The name of the creator god  Tzacol who, after the successful third attempt at creating human beings split into two separate entities and became both Tzacol and Ixpiyacoc. Also a variant spelling of Xpiayoc, the husband of Xumucane, who helped in creating humans from maize.

Also known as `Rope Woman’, Ixtab was the goddess of suicides and, particularly, those who died by hanging. She is depicted as the rotting corpse of a woman hanging from a noose in the heavens which appears in the Dresden Codex. As suicide was considered an honorable alternative to living among the Maya, self-inflicted death guaranteed one an instant passage to paradise, by-passing the dark and dangerous underworld of Xibalba. Ixtab would escort the souls of suicides to paradise where they would enjoy eternal pleasure surrounded by other blessed souls such as those who died in battle, in childbirth, as sacrificial victims, or on the ball court playing Poc-a-Toc. 

A serpent deity who spits precious stones and is associated with rain.

The name by which the god K’awi (or K’awiil) was formerly known. K’awai is the patron god of royalty, kingship, and the nobility.

One of the principal Becabs, Kan known as the Upholder of the South.

A patron god of cities, guardian of urban communities.

One of the creator gods who is sometimes mentioned as one of the original thirteen who created human beings. Probably originally a local fertility deity who was included as a creator-god, he does not appear on all lists of the thirteen.

Also known as Kiant, he is the god of unwelcome influences which were designated primarily as disease and foreigners.

In the  Quiche Maya tradition, Kichigonai is the creator of day and the god of light.

Kinich Ahau
The sun god known as `Face of the Sun’ and sometimes referred to as Kinich Ajaw. He was a god of healing and medicine. The later god, Hunab Ku is thought to be a conflation of Kinich Ahau and the Christian God. In some early myths, Kinich Ahau is the consort of the goddess Ixazalvoh whereas post-conquest stories place the divine mother with Hunab Ku. 

Kinich Kakmo
The patron god of the city of Izamal, a solar deity who was represented by a macaw.

Another name for Cisin, the most commonly depicted god of death, but also the name of an earthquake god associated with the ongoing enmity between Nohochacyum and Hapikern and  the Yantho Triad.

See Gucamatz

A god of the evening, of darkness and night whose name is not yet known.

Maize God
A dying-and-reviving god figure in the form of Hun Hunahpu who was killed by the Lords of Xibalba, brought back to life by his sons, the Hero Twins, and emerges from the underworld as corn. The “Tonsured” Maize god or “Foliated” Maize god are common images found throughout the region. He is always pictured as eternally young and handsome with an elongated head like a corncob, long, flowing hair like corn silk, and ornamented with jade to symbolize the corn stalk.

A title of respect meaning `Grandfather’ and applied to a number of different Maya deities including earth spirits, mountain spirits, and the four Bacabs. The god known as Mam Maximon is a post-conquest god of travelers, merchants, witchcraft, and bad luck that was conflated with the Christian figure of Judas and in modern times is part of the celebrations surrounding Holy Week.

The god of sacrifice, of sacrificial victims, and of purifying suffering.

Also known as `Metnal’ , this is the Quiche Maya word for the Underworld and corresponds with the Yucatec Maya vision known as Xibalba. According to the Popl Vuh, Mitnal was a dark land flowing with rivers of blood.”

Source: https://www.ancient.eu/article/415/the-mayan-pantheon-the-many-gods-of-the-maya/


“The word, “occult,” is difficult to define. The reason for this is that almost everyone has a different view of what the word means. To some, it represents a fascinating sphere of paranormal activity and mystery. To others, it implies sorcery and dark intentions. Very few people call themselves occultists, yet many are, perhaps without knowing it. Those who do know it, rarely use the term due to an abundance of negativity surrounding the whole concept.

It’s unfortunate that occultism has come to be cast in such dark shadows, because it truly is a place of wonder and offers opportunities to enrich and embrace life in many ways. The key to understanding the realm of the occult is to approach it without fear, bias or a desire to use it for unscrupulous reasons. It is a world of multi-faceted possibilities, like a beautiful gemstone that reveals a different view of the world at every angle.

What Does “Occult” Mean?
In decades past, the word occult dealt with anything that was outside of “natural” thinking. It was a generic term that incorporated almost everything that we now view to be part of the nontraditional spiritual frontier. When I was a kid, my first stop in our public library was always to the books shelved in the 130 section, as defined by the Dewey Decimal System. It was the paranormal and occult category.

130 Section: Paranormal and Occult
There were books on astrology, divination, which included Tarot, the I Ching, cartomancy, or telling fortunes with regular playing cards, palmistry, numerology, phrenology, crystal gazing, clairvoyance, clairaudience, automatic writing and tea leaf reading. Also in the occult section were books on séances, astral projection, Ouija boards, mind-reading, auras, ghosts, haunted houses, vampirism, lycanthropy, fairies, brownies and sprites, herbalism, numerology, communicating with elemental forces, reincarnation, past lives, trances, spirit boxes, witchcraft, sorcerers and their familiars, and ritual magic. In addition, there were books on demonology, angelic communication, the dark arts, mind control, ESP for fun and profit and a personal favorite of mine, a book on how to hypnotize chickens. Every single one of these books was in the occult section.

A Shadow is Cast
Exactly when the word “occult” began to connote something dark and sinister is a mystery to me. I noticed the beginnings of it in the mid-1970s, when the whole spiritual movement seemed to take on a different tone, one of the necessity of having to choose sides. This may have, in part, arisen due to the rise in popularity of Satanic organizations, as well as the rapid growth of new religions and cults that spread like wildfire across the culture. Many of these were established religions, commonly worshiped in other nations, some were new religious groups, while others were revivals of ancient religions, long thought to be dormant.

Hidden Magic: What it the Purpose of Occultism?
People began to view many of the tools of divination with an almost religious fervor, attributing a sacredness to Tarot, or other tools of the trade. This is a trend that still exists today. These people are missing the point that the magic is within us and that the tools are simply a means to an end.

As time progressed, factions splintered, many trying to abandon uncomfortable thoughts, embracing only love and light and thus negating reality. In the beginning, some called them “La La’s,” but eventually, these gentle souls became more the norm than the exception. I was once kicked out of a bookstore filled with statues of angels because I asked for a copy of the Aleister Crowley Tarot. I was sternly informed, “We don’t carry that type of filth here.”

So why does the word occult carry such weight? Why was the word ever used at all?

The word simply means hidden. Astronomers use the word, occult, to describe what happens when an object, such as the Moon or Venus, crosses in front of another object in the sky.

Occultations caused by the Moon passing in front of stars are common. If you’ve never seen Jupiter or Venus blot out a bright star in the night sky, you should seek it out.

Focusing on the concept of one thing hiding another, we gain a glimpse into the metaphysical meaning of the word occult. At one time, those who thought in ways that ran contrary to the norm were held in contempt, suspicion, were imprisoned, or worse. There was little tolerance for freedom of thought and even less for freedom of speech, or religion. Conformity and unity were the ideal and anyone who dared to present an ulterior philosophy, endangered themselves and their families. Galileo got off comparatively light, with house arrest, for teaching his heretical belief that the earth was not the center of the solar system. Hundreds of thousands of others were not as fortunate and found themselves the victims of inquisitional punishment, mob justice and torture.

As human beings, we’re designed to think and look below the surface. We are meant to question the nature of deity and attempt to discover why terrible things happen to good people, and why brutal individuals thrive. Our natural tendencies are to question authority and to entertain the prospects of the illegitimacy of claims to power. These sorts of thoughts gave rise to rebellion, sometimes leading to a new world order, other times to despotic tyranny. The key throughout it all, is that a certain level of secrecy was necessary in order to organize, mobilize and maintain the movements of change.

Protection for the Open Minded
The same desire to remain safe and to survive gave rise to the idea of the occult as we know it today. The wish to think freely and to practice arts that were claimed to foretell the future, communicate with those from the past, or find the truth in any situation, were considered heretical, blasphemous and had to be practiced in secrecy. These included alternative religious thoughts, such as Wicca, Voodoo, Santeria and even such religions as Buddhism and Hinduism. In order to remain safe, it was necessary to go underground and stay hidden, thus one of the meanings and purposes of the occult.

Dissemination of Knowledge
There is also a natural layering of information in anything that exists. For example, let’s say you go to the store to buy a deck of cards with which to play Cribbage. Directly behind you is a person also buying a deck of cards. You probably wouldn’t question how those cards were going to be used. You will go home, open the pack and play your game. The person in back of you will go home, open the deck, peer into the future and uncover secrets of the past. It doesn’t mean that the person involved has special powers; it implies that they know how to read the cards. You can do it, too; all you have to do is learn the meanings. Once upon a time, that was the issue. The dissemination of knowledge was kept secret as part of a greater tradition that needed to be maintained as pure, sometimes out of habit, sometimes because of very real dangers. Occultists became masters of hiding powerful knowledge in plain sight.

Remembering that Tarot started as a game, it’s easy to see that a lot of meaning got stuffed into the card images as time progressed. I’m fascinated by the fact that the hidden meanings of the cards have become commonly known, whereas some of the actual meanings of the iconography, as designed by the original Tarot designers, have now become occult, hidden, more by atrophy than by design. Just because something is concealed, it doesn’t mean that it has a good reason for being so.

Occultism: A Path to Your Own Worldview
In college, I became good friends with astronomy grad students. They liked me fine, but thought that my interest in astrology was an exercise in complete idiocy. Their disdain for the subject became more pronounced after a few beers and I felt the sting of being ridiculed for something I believed strongly in. I learned to keep my mouth shut about my interests, at least for a while, and adhered to the precepts of the occult, the hidden. It simply made things easier. Eventually, however, I became annoyed and turned against that mindset, daring anyone and everyone to challenge my point of view. In the beginning, I was adamantly argumentative, but thankfully, over the years, I’ve learned to shrug it off and realize that my worldview fits me, even if it doesn’t fit others.

I find it completely ironic that we live in a society where we are expected to accept the religious views of others, as long as they are traditionally held, regardless of how unusual their dogma may seem to us and how blatantly steeped in controversy their history may be. Yet, if I discuss a conversation I had with a Holly bush, or Spruce tree in my front yard, I’m considered to be on the fringe and a devotee of the occult. So be it.

Have there been abuses in the occult? Of course. Such actions skulk in every nook and cranny of humanity.

I call myself an occultist and have for a long time. I’ve owned a Tarot deck since I was 10 years old. I’ve been studying it all my life and have developed my own theories and techniques, both for understanding and reading the cards. I have forged new pathways into the study of Elemental Forces and have connected them to my work in Tarot. I have studied Vedic Astrology and have worked with it for decades. I’ve counseled thousands of people over the years, many of them keeping me a secret from the world around them, for fear of ridicule. It’s quite possible that you are an occultist as well. It doesn’t mean that you practice dangerous rituals, portend doom or delve into the belly of the beast. It simply means the you are practicing or experimenting with something that doesn’t jive with the norm. Whatever you call yourself is irrelevant and completely up to you.

There is one more reason why the term occult makes sense. Our predecessors understood that as human beings, we have a tendency to abuse power and advantage. There is no doubt that there is power to be had and numerous advantages in the arts we practice. Even the simple act of casting an astrological chart can give a leg up to anyone seeking to understand how a situation will unfold. Likewise, in the right hands, a deck of cards can be remarkably accurate in laying out an exact sequence of events, and ways of preventing them from occurring. There are numerous stories about men and women who discovered hidden rules and regulations about playing the stock market, using astrology, or other means. They always kept them closely to themselves, sometimes in order to keep others from abusing this knowledge, or sometimes in order to sell it to the highest bidder. Whatever the case, whether it be a Grove of Druids or a lodge of Freemasons, they all have symbols that you will not understand and are not meant to be intuitive. Within those symbols are hidden greater meanings that eventually will be passed on to others. Yes, they’re delving into the occult, such as it is.

Occultism is nothing more than a belief (or experimentation) in alternative ways of viewing the world, views that may not necessarily be welcomed, nor understood, by the culture in which an individual lives. The occult is a pliable, ever-changing philosophy. By delving into the occult, we learn truths and discover lies. We find lines of thought and methods of illuminating the darkness that are as personal as our DNA. Just as it’s unusual for people to define the word occult in the same way, so no two individuals can ever experience it exactly alike. The occult is a personal and unique experience well worth the adventure. Don’t fear it; embrace the mystery.

Until next time, I wish you all peace and love.”

Source: https://www.gaia.com/article/what-is-occultism