The Significance of the Sacred Ceiba Tree

Posted By on May 18, 2016

One of the many special aspects of living in Playa del Carmen is learning about the culture, specifically the Maya culture. With a heavy influence throughout the region’s language, food and clothing are also influences in local beliefs.


It’s fascinating to learn what a specific symbol or plant that would easily be overlooked means to the Maya people. A prime example of such an oversight is the common ceiba tree. You’ve likely seen it around because let’s face it, due to it’s thick thorny trunk, it’s pretty hard to miss.

The Maya have a special place for this ancient tree in that they believe it is sacred and acts as a connection between worlds. For them, the tree Yaax-ché in their language, is the center, the point of beginning where the world came into being. It passes through each layer of existence, the heaven, the earth and the underworld.


The ceiba tree is revered by modern Mayans as a manifestation of the world tree. Many villages have this tree in their central plaza, marking their homeland as the center place of the world. The Maya also believe that many mythological characters that went to the underworld did so through the trunk and long roots of the tree.

The souls of the dead follow its roots into the underworld and ancestors return the same way to visit the living. The tree symbolizes the underworld, which for the Mayans, is more like modern day heaven.