In the mythology of the Maya of Middle America, Xibalba (place of fright) was an underground realm of the dead. Caves and pools of water served as entry points to the realm. During the later part of its history, the Mayan empire was sometimes called the empire of Xibalba.
A story recorded in the Popol Vuh, the sacred book of the Maya, tells of a visit to Xibalba by the Hero Twins, Hunahpú and Xbalanqúe. Much earlier their father and uncle, also twins, had been summoned by the powerful lords of Xibalba. Disturbed by the brothers' ball playing on earth, the lords had invited them to the underworld for a ball game and then killed them.
Later Hunahpú and Xbalanqúe were also ordered to come to Xibalba. There they passed through a series of trials in various houses, and in each house they faced a test of their wits, strength, and courage. In the Dark House, for example, they had to endure darkness. In the Razor House they "tamed" the blades that were supposed to kill them and persuaded the cutting ants to bring them flowers, which they presented to the lords of Xibalba.
underworld land of the dead
The Hero Twins eventually tricked and killed the lords of Xibalba. The people of the underworld surrendered to the twins, who sentenced them to pass their time making pottery and other humble tools rather than playing ball. The Hero Twins escaped from the underworld through their cleverness and determination, setting an example that the souls of kings and nobles could try to follow.
See also HunahpÚ and XbalanqÚe; Mayan Mythology; Popolvuh.