The House of Darkness & Secret Caverns—The legendary Yucatan Hall of Records found at Yaxchilan? Part II
Far from the crowds of Palenque and other Maya sites, the ruins of Yaxchilan are found today still very much in the same conditions as they were first described by Maudslay and Maler in the early 20th century, at the peak of the “Golden Age” of exploration.
The concept of an ancient, possibly “Atlantean” Hall of Records serving as a repository of occult knowledge, was first popularized by the famous American psychic and clairvoyant Edgar Cayce in the 1930s. In several of his readings, he spoke of the deliberate burial of the records of Atlantean civilization in the Yucatan or Central America.
The ceremonial center at Yaxchilan is one of the largest Maya sites of the Classic period. (Photo: ©Marco M. Vigato)
Whatever the origin of Cayce’s information, there is indeed reference in the ancient Maya writings to a hidden repository of knowledge located somewhere along the Usumacinta River. In the 17th century, the then bishop of Chiapas, Francisco Nuñez de la Vega received a mysterious manuscript in the Tzeltal language. This now lost manuscript or codex, known as the Probanza de Votan (The “ Trial of Votan ”) tells the story of the arrival of a foreign race on the coast of Yucatan from a mysterious island kingdom to the East. The leader of this race was a demi-god or prophet called Votan, of the lineage of the Chanes or “Snakes”.
A glyph for the third day (Ak'b'al) in the Maya tzolk'in calendar, which among the Tzeltal and some other highland Chiapas groups was known/identified as Votan. ( CC BY 2.5 )
This Votan was considered a great legislator, a civilizing and cultural hero, who established a great empire of the Tzeltal people called Xibalba. According to the early Mayanist Abbé Brasseur de Bourbourg, this ancient empire once covered all of Mexico and Guatemala and had Palenque as its capital (In the Tzeltal version of the story, the city is called Nachan, " City of the Snakes "). Many have seen in these legends a variation of the familiar story of Quetzalcoatl and Kukulkan, as the hero was known to the Aztec and Yucatec Mayas. Votan, like Quetzalcoatl, was said to have come from a mysterious island kingdom, located beyond the sea, to the East, known as Valum Votan . The name of the Mexican colony of this great maritime empire was Valum Chivim .
Lintel 15, now in the British Museum, depicting one of the wives of Bird Jaguar IV invoking the Vision Serpent in a bloodletting rite. Maya site of Yaxchilan, Mexico. (Michel Wal/ CC BY-SA 3.0 )
A “House of Darkness” on the Usumacinta River
According to the original manuscript in the possession of Bishop Nuñez de la Vega, the kingdom of Nachan was one of four tributary monarchies of Valum Votan that together formed the empire of Xibalba or Valum Chivim . To the capitals of the other three kingdoms the same manuscript assigns the names of Tulan (Tula?), Mayapan and Chiquimala (near Copán). Various voyages are mentioned between Valum Votan and its colony of Valum Chivim , each under the guidance of a different Votan. After his final voyage, Votan was said to have built a " House of Darkness " on the Huehuetan or Usumacinta River, where he deposited in subterranean chambers all the sacred records of its race, under the charge of holy priests and priestesses.
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It is worth noting that the ancient kings of Palenque similarly bolstered a divine origin dating back to remote prehistory, and to a mysterious land called Matwiil, symbolized by a cormorant bird.
Matwiil was symbolized by a cormorant bird. (JJ Harrison/ CC BY-SA 3.0 )
According to hieroglyphic inscriptions, the first divine ruler of Palenque was the God “G1 the Elder" or Muwaan Mat , which ascended to the throne in the year 3,309 BC (two centuries before the beginning of the present world age, in 3114 BC, a date that also coincides with the beginning of the Maya calendar). A second divine dynasty began in 2360 BC and comprised three more kings (known as the God G1 the Younger, God G2 and God G3). In honor of their ancestral homeland, the rulers of Palenque of the historical period still boasted in their titles that of " Divine Matwiil Lord ". Nothing of this prehistoric homeland is known, but it is possible that another enigmatic place name, Tokhtan (meaning " Mist Center ”), similarly occurring in hieroglyphic inscriptions, may as well be associated with it.