Xibalba and the Entrance to Hell | Yucatan

Xibalba, god of the underworld

Xibalba is the Mayan god of the underworld, or what the Mayans called Metnal (a place of fright). The Mayans believed the entrance to hell was a physical place. A place you and I could find and enter. Today, I went to hell and back, literally.

The Mayans believed that Xibalba was able to go in and out through a Cenote, cause destruction and mayhem and retreat to where he lay. To keep Xibalba happy, the Mayans sacrificed their best men as offerings and blessings. They believed he would stay happy and let the kingdom reign in peace. There are several Cenotes in the Yucatan that are covered in human skulls and bones at the bottom. There are also alters in these Cenotes, with skeletons and what appear to be offerings, strategically placed.

What’s a Cenote and how was it formed?

When the meteor that destroyed the dinosaurs landed, it hit the water near Yucatan. At that point the Yucatan peninsula was entirely submerged underwater. However the impact of the meteor made the sand and rock underneath very porous. Basically the sand had petrified, turning most of it into thick rock but also giving it the ability to waste away with time and form sink-holes.

There are about 2 thousand sink holes, registered and discovered. They estimate about 8 thousand are undiscovered. The jungle is so dense, you literally cannot walk through the trees. It’s just not possible.

Today, I went to two of them.

Cenote in a cave
Cenote cave walls

They say Cenotes have 4 phases. The cavernous Cenote is one where you enter through a cave or a hole in the rock. As you climb down, you find fresh water, fish and animals that dwell in the dark. It can be a little scary if you’re there by yourself. It’s no wonder they called it ā€œa place of fright.ā€

The second phase is a half cave. This is when part of the cave has collapsed on itself, exposing the water.

The third phase is a completely open Cenote. Its big and round and beautiful. These are the popular ones you see in magazines and movies.

The fourth phase is the widening of a Cenote. It widens as it deepens. They say each Cenote is connected to each other via underwater tunnels. They are also all connected to the sea. Here you will find water as clear as pool water, fish from the sea, birds up above and perhaps bats sleeping.

Cenote Xbatun was amazingly beautiful

Today I went to two amazing Cenotes. I went to a phase one and phase three Cenote. The first one I had to climb down a set of stairs in order to get to the water. As you would imagine, it was big and, yes, cavernous. Many birds chirping and flying above me while I swam in crystal clear waters. I was surrounded by rocks on all sides and as I floated in that water I began to recall the gods of the Mayan and how they thought the god of the underworld would crawl up from one of these. It made my skin crawl actually. When you’re inside one of these, dark cavernous one, its easy to imagine.

We later went to another famous one. A lever three Cenote. It was completely exposed. The cave formation had completely collapsed exposing the roots of the Alamo trees. They were long and stretched to quench their thirst for water. It was beautiful and not at all scary. Thats until I found the cave portion. Ekkkkk!

Cenotes are beautiful. The water is cold. If this is what hell is, it’s not a bad place. Gotta love my heritage.

Let me break it down for you:

If you ever get a chance to go to a Cenote in the Yucatan! GO! Dont pass this up.


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