The Maya myth of creation

The Maya myth of creation

(Read the article on one page)

The Maya civilization flourished in South America at approximately 2000BC. They developed a unique style of arts and architecture, astronomy, even a written language. Though their writing—and even the famous Mayan calendar—were not of their own invention (but from the Olmecs), they developed them further.

Popol Vuh , or Book of the People , is a collection of narratives containing the myths and historical facts of the Maya, and is based on the manuscript of the Dominican priest Francisco Ximenez . Unfortunately, most of their literature and writings were destroyed during the invasion of the Spanish in the 18 th century, making Popol Vuh a valuable piece of work.

It is important to clarify here that the word ‘myth’ does not exist in Mayan. Popol Vuh, according to the Maya, contains their history.

In this book, the creation myth plays a prominent role. The gods first created the earth and the sky, then continued with the animals and living creatures, as well as birds and other flying life forms. The gods wanted to be invoked, worshipped, and remembered, but the animals were unable talk. Thus the gods failed with their first effort.

How else can we be invoked and remembered on the face of the earth? We have already made our first try at our work and design, but it turned out that they didn’t keep our days, nor did they glorify us.

As a result, they developed the human experiment. They worked with earth and mud to make a body. Again, their first efforts failed as the body would simply dissolve and disintegrate. Their next effort incorporated wood, and while the previous two efforts failed, this one succeeded. Thus the first man was created.

They came into being, they multiplied, they had daughters, they had sons, these manikins, woodcarvings. But there was nothing in their hearts and nothing in their minds, no memory of their mason and builder. They just went and walked wherever they wanted. Now they did not remember the Heart of Sky.

The gods were still discontent because they wanted to be worshipped, and so they destroyed humanity with a great flood. A very vivid description of the destruction is presented in Popol Vuh. Another interesting point mentioned in the book is that monkeys are the only descendants of this third effort to create men.

The fourth and final effort gets even more interesting. Corn mixed with water was recorded to be the ingredients used to create the human flesh. The first four people are the first four men of this fourth creation era.

This time the beings shaped by the gods are everything they hoped for and more: not only do the first four men pray to their makers, but they have perfect vision and therefore perfect knowledge.

This perfection alarmed the gods. It is obvious from the writings in Popol Vuh that the gods did not want these creations to have the ability to become like gods themselves, but simply wanted to limit the capacity of humans to mere worship. According to Popol Vuh, that is what they achieved in that fourth and last experiment of men creation.

 The gods are alarmed that beings who were merely manufactured by them should have divine powers, so they decide, after their usual dialogue, to put a fog on human eyes. Next they make four wives for the four men, and from these couples come the leading Quiché lineages.

Please note that an unmistakable parallel must be drawn to the behaviour of the gods of Christianity and Islam when they denied man the fruit from the two forbidden trees.

Note: Translations of Popol Vuh were taken from the book of Tedlock Dennis , Popol Vuh.

By April Holloway

Related inks

Mayan Mythology

Popol Vuh

The Popol Vuh

Maya Civilization

Related Books

     

 

Register to become part of our active community, get updates, receive a monthly newsletter, and enjoy the benefits and rewards of our member point system OR just post your comment below as a Guest.

Top New Stories

Ancient Egyptian relief. Design by Anand Balaji.
At first glance it appears as though Pharaoh Akhenaten is someone whom one would describe as a textbook monotheist, but are we missing the plot? Apart from Amun (and later, Osiris) the king doesn’t seem to have come down heavily on other deities in the pantheon. Though not banned outright, their worship was not encouraged either—or perhaps there was an uneasy accommodation.

Myths & Legends

The Smelliest Women of Ancient Greece: Jason and the Argonauts Get Fragrant
We all know Aphrodite, Greek goddess of love and beauty, made sure that she was worshipped by punishing those who ignored her altars. One brief appearance of this wrath in the tale of Jason and the Argonauts turned into a particularly fragrant episode.

Ancient Places

Our Mission

At Ancient Origins, we believe that one of the most important fields of knowledge we can pursue as human beings is our beginnings. And while some people may seem content with the story as it stands, our view is that there exists countless mysteries, scientific anomalies and surprising artifacts that have yet to be discovered and explained.

The goal of Ancient Origins is to highlight recent archaeological discoveries, peer-reviewed academic research and evidence, as well as offering alternative viewpoints and explanations of science, archaeology, mythology, religion and history around the globe.

We’re the only Pop Archaeology site combining scientific research with out-of-the-box perspectives.

By bringing together top experts and authors, this archaeology website explores lost civilizations, examines sacred writings, tours ancient places, investigates ancient discoveries and questions mysterious happenings. Our open community is dedicated to digging into the origins of our species on planet earth, and question wherever the discoveries might take us. We seek to retell the story of our beginnings. 

Ancient Image Galleries

View from the Castle Gate (Burgtor). (Public Domain)
Door surrounded by roots of Tetrameles nudiflora in the Khmer temple of Ta Phrom, Angkor temple complex, located today in Cambodia. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Cable car in the Xihai (West Sea) Grand Canyon (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Next article