In The Cavity of a Rock

In The Cavity of a Rock
Father Lehi

Monday, October 8, 2012

Ancient Hebrew Ceremonies in Mesoamerica

Tabernacle (Sukkot)
Back in April of last year I did  a blog post on the ties between King Benjamin's address to his people when coronating his son Mosiah to take his reign as the new king and compared it to the Hebrew practice known as Sukkot or the Feast of the Tabernacles.  This comparison was triggered by an article I had stumbled across a few years ago by John A. Tvedtnes that found over 20 similarities between these two ceremonies.  Today I will attempt to add the third piece to the puzzle with insights given by Diane Wirth in her book, "Decoding Ancient America, A Guide to the Archaeology of the Book of Mormon". In her book Diane presents the corolations between the Mayan Cha-Cha'ac ceremony and that of the Feast of the Tabernacles (Sukkot).  The Cha-Cha'ac ceremony is a Mesoamerican ceremony still practiced today in the Yukatan, Mexico just as the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot or Feast of Booths) is still practices in Israel and all over the world today.

The Feast of the Tabernacles was to take place on the fifteenth to the twenty-second of the seventh month. At this time the Israelites were to construct rough temporary living quarters, called sukkot (singular sukkah), or “booths”, in order “that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt” (Leviticus 23:43). The booths (Sukkah) were structures that were made strictly for this festival after the harvest.  The roofs were made by weaving green branches with leaves and represented the temporary dwellings made by their ancestors in the desert after being led out of Egypt by Moses. Much like the Sukkah the Maya build an altar/table and it to is composed of young leafy branches that were hung over the table and have gourds of water hanging from the sides.  Both the Sukkah and the Mayan altar/table have open roofs that were used to open communication between God and man.

Artists depiction of Mayan Cha-Cha'ac
Both the Israelites and the Mayan's made sacrifices to their Gods at these festivals.  Today the Maya sacrifice chickens during the Cha-Cha'ac ceremony. Once the ceremonial sacrifice is completed like Sukkot both the Maya and the Israelites then partake in a feast.  Another similarity is fire (or light) used in both the old world (Israel) and new world (Mesoamerica).  The Maya use candles and the Israelites use oil lamps and men dance carrying torches.  Another tie between the two and that is the use of bread.  The Israelites baked bread for the feast with a braid on the top of the bread that represented a latter to heaven and the Maya instead baked bread in many layers which represented the layers of heaven or the cosmos.  As a side note the Hebrews also believed that there were many layers to heaven. 

As can be seen there are many similarities between the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot) and the Cha-Cha'ac ceremony.  How could the Mayan's have such a similar ceremony to that of the Israelites?  It has been supposed that father Lehi and his family (in the Book of Mormon) who was from Jerusalem and was lead by the Lord to the new world (Mesoamerica) would have been the one who introduced these ancient practices to the Mayans.  We know that Nephi the son of Lehi followed the law of Moses because he stated in 2 Nephi 5:10 that "And we did observe to keep the judgments, and the statutes, and the commandments of the Lord in all things, according to the law of Moses".  As the father of the Nephites in the new world Nephi's handing down of the ancient Jewish traditions would have included the Feast of the Tabernacles and would explain why such an event seems to be present in the coronation of Mosiah as the king years later and again with the Maya centuries later.  All the above similarities and many more make a great case for these ceremonies being from the same ancient roots. Either way both of these ceremonies are still practiced to this day. I have included the link to the previous post where I discuss the similarities between the Feast of the Tabernacles and the coronation of King Mosiah from his father King Benjamin. Along with with a youtube video of a modern day practice in Yukatan of the Cha-Cha'ac.

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