POPOL VUH: THE MAYAN BOOK OF THE DAWN OF LIFE
translated by Dennis Tedlock with commentary
based on the ancient
knowledge of the modern Quiche Maya
(C) Copyright 1985, Dennis Tedlock
You cannot erase time.
THE TRANSLATOR of the Popol Vuh, as if possessed by the story the
Popol Vuh tells, must wander in darkness and search long for the clear
light. The task is not a matter of deciphering Maya hieroglyphs, since
the only surviving version of the Popol Vuh is a transcription into
alphabetic writing, but the manuscript nevertheless abounds with
ambiguities and obscurities. My work took me not only into dark
corners of libraries but into the forests and tall cornfields and
smoky houses of highland Guatemala, where the people who speak and
walk and work in the pages of the Popol Vuh, the Quiche Maya, have
hundreds of thousands of descendants. Among them are diviners called
"daykeepers," who know how to interpret illnesses, omens,
messages given by sensations internal to their own bodies, and the
multiple rhythms of time. It is their business to bring what is dark
into "white clarity," just as the gods of the Popol Vuh first
brought the world itself to light.
The Quiche people speak a Mayan language, say prayers to Mayan
mountains and Mayan ancestors, and keep time according to the Mayan
calendar. They are also interested citizens of the larger contemporary
world, but they find themselves surrounded and attacked by those who
have yet to realize they have something to teach the rest of us. For
them it is not that the time of Mayan civilization has passed, to be
followed by the time of European civilization, but that the two have
begun to run alongside one another. A complete return to conditions
that existed before Europeans first arrived is unthinkable, and so
is a complete abandonment of indigenous traditions in favor of
European ones. What most worries daykeepers about people from
Europe, and specifically about missionaries, is that they confuse
the Earth, whose divinity is equal to that of the celestial God,
with the devil. As daykeepers put it, "He who makes an enemy of
Earth makes an enemy of his own body."
In the western part of what was once the Quiche kingdom is a town
called Chuua 4,ak or "Before the Building." It is listed in
Popol Vuh as one of the citadels that were added to the kingdom during
the reign of two great lords named Quicab and Cauizimah. When they
sent "guardians of the land" to occupy newly conquered towns,
the Building was assigned to nobles whose descendants still possess
documents that date from the period of the Popol Vuh manuscript. Among
contemporary Guatemalan towns it is without rival in the degree to
which its ceremonial life is timed according to the Mayan calendar and
mapped according to the relative elevations and directional
positions of outdoor shrines. Once each 260 days, on the day named
Eight Monkey, daykeepers converge from all over the Guatemalan
highlands for the largest of all present-day Mesoamerican ceremonies
that follow the ancient calendar. That Before the Building was already
a religious center before the fall of the Quiche kingdom is
indicated by the Nahua name that Pedro de Alvarado's Mexican-Indian
allies gave it: Momostenango, meaning "Citadel of Shrines."
in this town that I began my search for someone who might be able to
light my way through some of the darker passages of the Popol Vuh.
At the same time I began making sound recordings of contemporary
narratives, speeches, and prayers, looking for passages that might
resemble the Popol Vuh.
For fieldworkers in a Citadel of Shrines, visiting sacred places,
listening to prayers and chants, and learning how to reckon time
according to the continuing rhythms of the Mayan calendar can be a
dangerous business. Barbara Tedlock and I almost came to the point
of giving up our various research projects and leaving town when a
daykeeper named Andres Xiloj divined that we had not only annoyed
people at shrines but had entered the presence of these shrines
without even realizing that we must be ritually clean in order to do
so. But it was this same daykeeper, a man who is also the head of
his patrilineage, who took on the task of answering all our
inquiries about the shrines, the people who went there, the
calendar, and the process by which he had divined the nature of our
offense. One day, when we had come to the point of asking for a
detailed description of the training and initiation of daykeepers,
he dropped what seemed to be a broad hint that the best way to find
out the answer to such questions would be to undertake an actual
apprenticeship. After debating the meaning of his remarks all night,
we asked him the next day whether he had meant that he would in fact
be willing to take us on as apprentices, and he said, "Of course."
There followed four and a half months of formal training, timed
according to the Mayan calendar, that left us much more
knowledgeable than we had ever intended to be.
Diviners are, by profession, interpreters of difficult texts. They
can even start from a nonverbal sign, such as an ominous invasion of
house by a wild animal, and arrive at a "reading," as we would
ubixic, "its saying" or "its announcement," as is
said in Quiche. When
they start from a verbal sign such as the name of a day on the Mayan
calendar, they may treat it as if it were a sign from a writing system
rather than a word in itself, arriving at "its saying" by
different word with similar sounds. It should therefore come as no
surprise that a diviner might be willing to take on the task of
reading the Popol Vuh, whose text presents its own intriguing
difficulties of interpretation.
When Andres Xiloj was given a chance to look at the text of the
Popol Vuh, he produced a pair of spectacles and began reading aloud,
word by word. His previous knowledge of alphabetic reading and writing
was limited to Spanish, but he was able to grasp the orthography of
the Popol Vuh text with very little help. When he was puzzled by
archaic words, I offered definitions drawn from Quiche dictionaries
compiled during the colonial period; in time, of course, he readily
recognized the more frequent archaic forms. He was never content
with merely settling on a Quiche reading of a particular passage and
then offering a simple Spanish translation; instead, he was given to
frequent interpretive asides, some of which took the form of entire
stories. In the present volume the effects of the three-way dialogue
among Andres Xiloj, the Popol Vuh text, and myself are most obvious
the Glossary and the Notes and Comments, but they are also present
in the Introduction and throughout the translation of the Popol Vuh
My work in Guatemala took me not only to the town called Before
the Building (Momostenango), but to the ruins of Rotten Cane
(Utatlan), to the mountain called Patohil, to the pile of broken
stones at Petatayub, and to towns such as Santa Cruz Quiche, Spilt
Water (Zacualpa), Above the Nettles (Chichicastenango), Above the
Hot Springs (Totonicapan), Willow Tree (Santa Maria Chiquimula), and
Under Ten Deer (Quezaltenango). To the patron saints and earthly
spirits of all these places I pay my respects, especially to
Santiago and his scribe, San Felipe, at Momostenango; to San Juan
and to the divine Uhaal and Roz Utz stones at Agua Tibia; and above
all to Uhaal Zabal, 4huti Zabal, and Nima Zabal.
Library pilgrimages have taken me to nearby Cambridge,
Massachusetts, to the Tozzer Library at Harvard; to the National
Anthropological Archives at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington,
D.C.; to the Latin American libraries at Tulane in New Orleans and the
University of Texas in Austin; to the special-collections library at
Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah; to the Museo Nacional de
Antropologia in Mexico City; to the Archivo General de Centroamerica
in Guatemala City; and to the Newberry Library in Chicago, where I
saw, felt, smelled, and heard the rustle of the manuscript of the
Such is the magnitude of the present project that it stretched
over nine years; except for one of these years and part of another,
necessarily took a backseat to the countless complexities of
university life. Most of the Guatemalan fieldwork was carried out
during the summer of 1975 and throughout 1976. Much of my effort to
transform masses of research and multiple trial runs at translation
into a book was made during evenings and weekends at home, and it
was also carried on during all-too-brief retreats to such places as
Tepoztlan, south of Mexico City; Panajachel, on the shore of Lake
Atitlan in Guatemala; and in the woodlands and rocks near Cerrillos,
New Mexico, south of Santa Fe. But even when one is confined to
Massachusetts, there are ways in which the world of the Popol Vuh
makes itself felt. During the months in which I completed the
manuscript for the book you now hold in your hands, I could see
Venus as the morning star if I looked out the window of my study early
Thinking back over my work on the Popol Vuh brings a great many
people to mind; I apologize in advance to those who should have been
remembered here but were not. Having learned my lessons about
ancestors from my Quiche master, I will begin with persons who are now
deceased. Robert Wauchope, when I first began my graduate work at
Tulane in 1961, soon became convinced that I should eventually go to
Guatemala to do archaeological fieldwork; he lived long enough to know
that fourteen years later I finally did get to Guatemala, but as an
ethnologist, linguist, and translator rather than an archaeologist.
first lessons in how to read and interpret manuscript sources from
Spanish America were given to me by France V. Scholes in the
Coronado Library at the University of New Mexico, during the summer
1964. He and Wauchope enjoyed full careers, but the career of Thelma
Sullivan, the finest of all scholars working with texts in the Nahuatl
language, was cut short; she stood out among Americanists in general
as one of those rare individuals who realize and demonstrate that
precision in translation is not to be confused with mechanical
literalness. Also cut short was the career of Fernando Horcasitas, who
gave a splendid lecture on Nahuatl theater one fine warm evening in
Cuernavaca when Barbara Tedlock and I were waiting for the
Guatemalan border to reopen after the great earthquake of 1976.
And then there is Abelino Zapeta y Zapeta, who in 1979 became the
first Quiche to serve as mayor of Santa Cruz Quiche in centuries. He
offered gracious words of greeting to an international conference on
the Popol Vuh that took place in his town. For the time being it
must also be said that he was the last Quiche to serve as mayor. A
year after the conference, while he was riding home from work on his
bicycle, he was assassinated by gunmen who were seen driving away in
an army jeep. The day may come when the Popol Vuh will be entirely
at home in Santa Cruz Quiche, the town where it was written, but
that day may not be soon.
Turning to those who are still living, and beginning with graduate
school, I first think of Munro S. Edmonson. I have come to disagree
with him about a great many matters affecting the Popol Vuh, as he
well knows, but I have not forgotten his seminar on the Maya at
Tulane, which I took more than twenty years ago. When he offered a
list of possible research topics to the students in that seminar, I
was the one who chose to do a class presentation and term paper on the
Popol Vuh. But my first fieldwork in anthropology took me closer to
home in New Mexico: I went to the Zuni, who live on the northern
frontier of Mesoamerica. When it came, at long last, to doing field
research among the people whose ancestors wrote the Popol Vuh, it
was Robert M. Carmack, of the State University of New York at
Albany, who introduced Barbara Tedlock and myself to the western
highlands of Guatemala. He did this with a generosity that is rare
among ethnographers- and with a wisdom, still rarer, that led him to
abandon us to our fate once he had gotten us into the field.
Among the people of Guatemala, I give special thanks to Andres Xiloj
Peruch, who not only traveled with me through the Quiche text of the
Popol Vuh but taught me how to read dreams, omens, and the rhythms
of the Mayan calendar. Thanks also go to his daughter Maria, who has
boundless patience and kindness; to Santiago Guix, who showed the
way down many a path; to Gustavo Lang, who offers a steady hand in any
emergency; to Lucas Pacheco Benitez, who combines a warm heart with
intimate knowledge of the spiritual properties of stones; to Celso
Akabal, who offers genial toasts at his home near the shrine called
the Great Place of Declaration; to Vicente de Leon Abac, who knows how
the ancient customs originated; to Esteban Ajxub, who eloquently prays
and sings for others; and to Flavio Rojas Lima, who knows how to
make foreigners feel welcome at the Seminario de Integracion Social
In matters of Native American linguistics and poetics, I am
especially thankful for more than fifteen years of unceasing
dialogue with Dell Hymes. Others who come to mind here are Allan
Burns, the first to reveal that conversation is the root of all
Mayan discourse; Lyle Campbell, who went beyond his normal duties in
providing myself and others with an introductory course in Quiche at
the State University of New York at Albany in the fall of 1975 and who
taught me the value of Cakchiquel sources; Ives Goddard, who convinced
me that even the most intractable manuscript materials on Native
American languages may conceal moments of great accuracy; T. J.
Knab, who helped me with Nahuatl loanwords in the Popol Vuh and with
Nahuatl metaphors; and James L. Mondloch, who answered some of my
questions about Quiche syntax.
In matters of ethnography, ethnohistory, and archaeology I think
of Duncan Earle, who revealed that the "mushroom head" of
Vuh is in fact an herb; Gary Gossen, who knows that in trying to
comprehend the contemporary highland Maya we are dealing with
nothing less than a civilization; Doris Heyden, the first to reveal
the full meaning of the secret cave at Teotihuacan; Alain Ichon, who
excavated the site called Thorny Place in the Popol Vuh; David H.
Kelley, who personally convinced me in far-off Calgary that classic
Maya vase paintings do indeed illustrate scenes from the Popol Vuh;
Jorge Klor de Alva, who knows that the "spiritual conquest"
Mesoamerica has in fact never taken place; Linda Schele, who brought
the hieroglyphic texts of Palenque closer than ever to the Popol Vuh
at the eighth Workshop on Maya Hieroglyphic Writing in Austin; and
Nathaniel Tarn, who in earlier times played the role of anthropologist
among neighbors of the Quiche and later returned as a poet.
Anthony Aveni, John B. Carlson, and Floyd G. Lounsbury have heard
out my ideas concerning the calendrical and astronomical
interpretation of the Popol Vuh. Michael D. Coe, who well knows what
calabash tree is, not only provided welcome praise for the translation
but generously permitted the use of the vase drawings reproduced here.
Peter T. Furst and Jill Leslie Furst are steady friends who can be
counted upon to do unexpected things, like raising toads, cooking
sharks, and praising the fertility of skeletons. But above all I am
grateful to my wife-colleague Barbara Tedlock, scholar and artist, who
has meanwhile been telling her own story about places and times in
At various times over the years I have discussed portions of this
work with four past and present colleagues in the University
Professors Program at Boston University, all of whom have views on the
subject of translation: William Arrowsmith, Rodolfo Cardona, D. S.
Carne-Ross, and Herbert Mason. Others who have lent patient ears
include the poets Robert Kelly, George Quasha, Jerome Rothenberg,
and Charles Stein, along with the book-rancher Gus Blaisdell and the
apple-farmer Jeff Titon. Thanks also go to Richard Lewis, of the
Touchstone Center in New York, who provided me with the opportunity
do a public performance of parts of the translation at the American
Museum of Natural History.
My fieldwork in Guatemala in 1976 was done with the aid of a
Fellowship for Independent Study and Research from the National
Endowment for the Humanities. Released time for the continuation of
the translation of the Popol Vuh was provided, during the academic
years 1979-80 and 1980-81, by a grant from the Translations Program
the National Endowment for the Humanities, which is ably and
thoughtfully administered by Susan Mango. During 1980-81 I received
additional aid in the form of a sabbatical leave from Boston
From the beginning of our work on the Popol Vuh, Andres Xiloj felt
certain that if one only knew how to read it perfectly, borrowing
the knowledge of the day lords, the moist breezes, and the distant
lightning, it should reveal everything under the sky and on the earth,
all the way out to the four corners. As a help to my own reading and
pondering of the book, he suggested an addition to the prayer that
daykeepers recite when they go to public shrines. It goes like this:
Make my guilt vanish,
Heart of Sky, Heart of Earth;
do me a favor,
give me strength, give me courage
in my heart, in my head,
since you are my mountain and my plain;
may there be no falsehood and no stain,
and may this reading of the Popol Vuh
come out clear as dawn,
and may the sifting of ancient times
be complete in my heart, in my head;
and make my guilt vanish,
my grandmothers, grandfathers,
and however many souls of the dead there may be,
you who speak with the Heart of Sky and Earth,
may all of you together give strength
to the reading I have undertaken.
THE FIRST FOUR HUMANS, the first four earthly beings who were
truly articulate when they moved their feet and hands, their faces and
mouths, and who could speak the very language of the gods, could
also see everything under the sky and on the earth. All they had to
was look around from the spot where they were, all the way to the
limits of space and the limits of time. But then the gods, who had not
intended to make and model beings with the potential of becoming their
own equals, limited human sight to what was obvious and nearby.
Nevertheless, the lords who once ruled a kingdom from a place called
Quiche, in the highlands of Guatemala, once had in their possession
the means for overcoming this nearsightedness, an ilbal, a "seeing
instrument" or a "place to see"; with this they could
or future events. The instrument was not a telescope, not a crystal
for gazing, but a book.
The lords of Quiche consulted their book when they sat in council,
and their name for it was Popol Vuh or "Council Book." Because
book contained an account of how the forefathers of their own lordly
lineages had exiled themselves from a faraway city called Tulan,
they sometimes described it as "the writings about Tulan."
later generation of lords had obtained the book by going on a
pilgrimage that took them across water on a causeway, they titled it
"The Light That Came from Across the Sea." And because the
of events that happened before the first sunrise and of a time when
the forefathers hid themselves and the stones that contained the
spirit familiars of their gods in forests, they also titled it "Our
Place in the Shadows." And finally, because it told of the first
rising of the morning star and the sun and moon, and of the rise and
radiant splendor of the Quiche lords, they titled it "The Dawn
Those who wrote the version of the Popol Vuh that comes down to us
do not give us their personal names but rather call themselves "we"
its opening pages and "we who are the Quiche people" later
contemporary usage "the Quiche people" are an ethnic group
Guatemala, consisting of all those who speak the particular Mayan
language that itself has come to be called Quiche; they presently
number over half a million and occupy most of the former territory
of the kingdom whose development is described in the Popol Vuh. To the
west and northwest of them are other Mayan peoples, speaking other
Mayan languages, who extend across the Mexican border into the
highlands of Chiapas and down into the Gulf coastal plain of
Tabasco. To the east and northeast still other Mayans extend just
across the borders of El Salvador and Honduras, down into the lowlands
of Belize, and across the peninsula of Yucatan. These are the peoples,
with a total population of about four million today, whose ancestors
developed what has become known to the outside world as Maya
The roots of Maya civilization may lie in the prior civilization
of the Olmecs, which reached its peak on the Gulf coastal plain
about three thousand years ago. Maya hieroglyphic writing and
calendrical reckoning probably have antecedents that go back at
least that far, but they did not find expression in the lasting form
of inscriptions on stone monuments until the first century B.C., in
a deep river valley that cuts through the highlands of Chiapas. From
there, the erection of inscribed monuments spread south to the Pacific
and eastward along the Guatemalan coastal plain, then reached back
into the highlands at the site of Kaminaljuyu, on the western edge
of what is now Guatemala City. During the so-called classic period,
beginning about A.D. 300, the center of literate civilization in the
Mayan region shifted northward into the lowland rain forest that
separates the mountain pine forest of Chiapas and Guatemala from the
low and thorny scrub forest of northern Yucatan. Swamps were drained
and trees were cleared to make way for intensive cultivation.
Hieroglyphic texts in great quantity were sculpted in stone and
stucco, painted on pottery and plaster, and inked on long strips of
paper that were folded like screens to make books. This is the
period that accounts for the glories of such sites as Palenque, Tikal,
and Copan, leaving a legacy that has made Maya civilization famous
in the fields of art and architecture. The Mayan languages spoken at
most of these sites probably corresponded to the ones now known as
Cholan, which are still spoken by the Mayan peoples who live at the
extreme eastern and western ends of the old classical heartland.
Near the end of the classic period, the communities that had
carved out a place for themselves in the rain forest were caught in
a deepening vortex of overpopulation, environmental degradation, and
malnutrition. The organizational and technological capacities of
Maya society were strained past the breaking point, and by A.D. 900
much of the region had been abandoned. That left Maya civilization
divided between two areas that had been peripheral during classic
times, one in northern Yucatan and the other in the Guatemalan
highlands. The subsequent history of both these areas was shaped by
invaders from the western end of the old classical heartland, from
Tabasco and neighboring portions of the Gulf coastal plain, who set
militaristic states among the peoples they conquered. The culture they
carried with them has come to be called Toltec; it is thought to
have originated among speakers of Nahua languages, who are presently
concentrated in central Mexico (where they include the descendants
of the Aztecs) and who once extended eastward to Tabasco. In the Mayan
area, Toltec culture was notable for giving mythic prominence to the
god-king named Plumed Serpent, technical prominence to the use of
spear-throwers in warfare, and sacrificial prominence to the human
heart. Those who carried this culture to highland Guatemala brought
many Nahua words with them, but they themselves were probably
Gulf-coast Maya of Cholan descent. Among them were the founders of the
kingdom whose people have come to be known as the Quiche Maya.*
Mayan monuments and buildings no longer featured inscriptions
after the end of the classic period, but scribes went right on
making books for another six centuries, sometimes combining Mayan
texts with Toltecan pictures. Then, in the sixteenth century,
Europeans arrived in Mesoamerica. They forcibly imposed a monopoly
on all major forms of visible expression, whether in drama,
architecture, sculpture, painting, or writing. Hundreds of
hieroglyphic books were tossed into bonfires by ardent missionaries;
between this disaster and the slower perils of decay, only four
books made it through to the present day. Three of them, all thought
to come from the lowlands, found their way to Europe in early colonial
times and eventually turned up in libraries in Madrid, Paris, and
Dresden; a fragment from a fourth book was recovered more recently
from looters who had found it in a dry cave in Chiapas. But the
survival of Mayan literature was not dependent on the survival of
its outward forms. Just as Mayan peoples learned to use the
symbolism of Christian saints as a mask for ancient gods, so they
learned to use the Roman alphabet as a mask for ancient texts.*(2)
SCRIBES WENT RIGHT ON MAKING BOOKS: This is a page from the Maya
hieroglyphic book known as the Dresden Codex, which dates to the
thirteenth century. The left-hand column describes the movements of
Venus during one of five different types of cycles reckoned for that
planet. The right-hand column describes the auguries for the cycle and
gives both pictures and names for the attendant deities. The top
picture, in which the figure at right is seated on two glyphs that
name constellations, may have to do with the position of Venus
relative to the fixed stars during the cycle. In the middle picture
the god who currently accounts for Venus itself, holding a
dart-thrower in his left hand and darts in his right; in the bottom
picture is his victim, with a dart piercing his shield. The Venus gods
of the Popol Vuh are more conservatively Mayan than those of the
Dresden Codex; they are armed with old-fashioned blowguns rather
than Toltecan dart-throwers.)
There was no little justice in the fact that it was the missionaries
themselves, the burners of the ancient books, who worked out the
problems of adapting the alphabet to the sounds of Mayan languages,
and while they were at it they charted grammars and compiled
dictionaries. Their official purpose in doing this linguistic work was
to facilitate the writing and publishing of Christian prayers,
sermons, and catechisms in the native languages. But very little
time passed before some of their native pupils found political and
religious applications for alphabetic writing that were quite
independent of those of Rome. These independent writers have left a
literary legacy that is both more extensive than the surviving
hieroglyphic corpus and more open to understanding. Their most notable
works, created as alphabetic substitutes for hieroglyphic books, are
the Chilam Balam or "Jaguar Priest" books of Yucatan and the
The authors of the alphabetic Popol Vuh were members of the three
lordly lineages that had once ruled the Quiche kingdom: the Cauecs,
the Greathouses, and the Lord Quiches. They worked in the middle of
the sixteenth century, shortly before the end of one of the
fifty-two-year cycles measured out by their own calendar. The scene
their writing was the town of Quiche, northwest of what is now
Guatemala City. The east side of this town, on flat land, was new in
their day, with buildings in files on a grid of streets and the bell
towers of a church at the center. The west side, already in ruins, was
on fortified promontories above deep canyons, with pyramids and
palaces clustered around multiple plazas and courtyards. The buildings
of the east side displayed broad expanses of blank stone and
plaster, but the ruined walls of the west side bore tantalizing traces
of multicolored murals. What concerned the authors of the new
version of the Popol Vuh was to preserve the story that lay behind the
During the early colonial period the town of Quiche was eclipsed, in
both size and prosperity, by the neighboring town of Chuui La or
"Above the Nettles," better known today as Chichicastenango.*(3)
residents of the latter town included members of the Cauec and Lord
Quiche lineages, and at some point a copy of the alphabetic Popol
Vuh found its way there. Between 1701 and 1703, a friar named
Francisco Ximenez happened to get a look at this manuscript while he
was serving as the parish priest for Chichicastenango. He made the
only surviving copy of the Quiche text of the Popol Vuh and added a
Spanish translation. His work remained in the possession of the
Dominican order until after Guatemalan independence, but when
liberal reforms forced the closing of all monasteries in 1830, it
was acquired by the library of the University of San Carlos in
Guatemala City. Carl Scherzer, an Austrian physician, happened to
see it there in 1854, and Charles Etienne Brasseur de Bourbourg, a
French priest, had the same good fortune a few months later.*(4) In
1857 Scherzer published Ximenez' Spanish translation under the
patronage of the Hapsburgs in Vienna,*(5) members of the same royal
lineage that had ruled Spain at the time of the conquest of the Quiche
kingdom, and in 1861 Brasseur published the Quiche text and a French
translation in Paris. The manuscript itself, which Brasseur spirited
out of Guatemala, eventually found its way back across the Atlantic
from Paris, coming to rest in the Newberry Library in 1911. The town
graced by this library, with its magnificent collection of Native
American texts, is not in Mesoamerica, but it does have an Indian
name: Chicago, meaning "Place of Wild Onions."
The manuscript Ximenez copied in the place called "Above the
Nettles" may have included a few illustrations and even an
occasional hieroglyph, but his version contains nothing but solid
columns of alphabetic prose. Mayan authors in general made only
sparing use of graphic elements in their alphabetic works, but
nearly every page of the ancient books combined writing (including
signs meant to be read phonetically) and pictures. In the Mayan
languages, as well as in Nahua, the terms for writing and painting
were and are the same, the same artisans practiced both skills, and
the patron deities of both skills were twin monkey gods born on the
day bearing a name translatable (whether from Mayan or Nahua) as One
Monkey. In the books made under the patronage of these twin gods there
is a dialectical relationship between the writing and the pictures:
the writing not only records words but sometimes has elements that
picture or point to their meaning without the necessity of a detour
through words. As for the pictures, they not only depict what they
mean but have elements that can be read as words. When we say that
Mesoamerican writing is strongly ideographic relative to our own, this
observation should be balanced with the realization that
Mesoamerican painting is more conceptual than our own.
At times the writers of the alphabetic Popol Vuh seem to be
describing pictures, especially when they begin new episodes in
narratives. In passages like the following, the use of sentences
beginning with phrases like "this is" and the use of verbs
Quiche equivalent of the present tense cause the reader to linger, for
a moment, over a lasting image:
This is the great tree of Seven Macaw, a nance, and this is the food
of Seven Macaw. In order to eat the fruit of the nance he goes up
the tree every day. Since Hunahpu and Xbalanque have seen where he
feeds, they are now hiding beneath the tree of Seven Macaw, they are
keeping quiet here, the two boys are in the leaves of the tree.
It must be cautioned, of course, that "word pictures" painted
storytellers, in Quiche or in any other language, need not have
physical counterparts in the world outside the mind's eye. But the
present example has an abruptness that suggests a sudden still picture
from a story already well under way rather than a moving picture
unfolded in the course of the events of that story. The narrators do
not describe how the boys arrived "in the leaves of the tree";
opening scene is already complete, waiting for the blowgun shot that
comes in the next sentence, where the main verb is in the Quiche
equivalent of the past tense and the still picture gives way to a
More than any other Mayan book, whether hieroglyphic or
alphabetic, the Popol Vuh tells us something about the conceptual
place of books in the pre-Columbian world. The writers of the
alphabetic version explain why the hieroglyphic version was among
the most precious possessions of Quiche rulers:
They knew whether war would occur; everything they saw was clear
to them. Whether there would be death, or whether there would be
famine, or whether quarrels would occur, they knew it for certain,
since there was a place to see it, there was a book. "Council Book"
was their name for it.
When "everything they saw was clear to them" the Quiche lords
recovering the vision of the first four humans, who at first "saw
everything under the sky perfectly." That would mean that the Popol
Vuh made it possible, once again, to sight "the four sides, the
corners in the sky, on the earth," the corners and sides that mark
only the earth but are the reference points for the movements of
If the ancient Popol Vuh was like the surviving hieroglyphic
books, it contained systematic accounts of cycles in astronomical
and earthly events that served as a complex navigation system for
those who wished to see and move beyond the present. In the case of
a section dealing with the planet Venus, for example, there would have
been tables of rising and setting dates, pictures of the attendant
gods, and brief texts outlining what these gods did when they
established the pattern for the movements of Venus. When the ancient
reader of the Popol Vuh took the role of a diviner and astronomer,
seeking the proper date for a ceremony or a momentous political act,
we may guess that he looked up a specific passage, pondered its
meaning, and rendered an opinion. But the authors of the alphabetic
Popol Vuh tell us that there were also occasions on which the reader
offered "a long performance and account" whose subject was
emergence of the whole cahuleu or "sky-earth," which is the
of saying "world." If a divinatory reading or pondering was
a way of
recovering the depth of vision enjoyed by the first four humans, a
"long performance," in which the reader may well have covered
major subject in the entire book, was a way of recovering the full
cosmic sweep of that vision.
If the authors of the alphabetic Popol Vuh had transposed the
ancient Popol Vuh directly, on a glyph-by-glyph basis, they might have
produced a text that would have made little sense to anyone but a
fully trained diviner and performer. What they did instead was to
quote what a reader of the ancient book would say when he gave a "long
performance," telling the full story that lay behind the charts,
pictures, and plot outlines of the ancient book. Lest we miss the fact
that they are quoting, they periodically insert such phrases as
"This is the account, here it is," or "as it is said."
At one point
they themselves take the role of a performer, speaking directly to
us as if we were members of a live audience rather than mere
readers. As they introduce the first episode of a long cycle of
stories about the gods who prepared the sky-earth for human life, they
propose that we all drink a toast to the hero.*(7)
At the beginning of their book, the authors delicately describe
the difficult circumstances under which they work. When they tell us
that they are writing "amid the preaching of God, in Christendom
we can catch a plaintive tone only by noticing that they make this
statement immediately after asserting that their own gods "accounted
for everything- and did it, too- as enlightened beings, in enlightened
words." What the authors propose to write down is what Quiches
the Oher Tzih, the "Ancient Word"*(8) or "Prior Word,"
precedence over "the preaching of God." They have chosen to
because "there is no longer" a Popol Vuh, which makes it sound
though they intend to re-create the original book solely on the
basis of their memory of what they have seen in its pages or heard
in the "long performance." But when we remember their complaint
about being "in Christendom," there remains the possibility
they still have the original book but are protecting it from
possible destruction by missionaries. Indeed, their next words make
wonder whether the book might still exist, but they no sooner raise
our hopes on this front than they remove the book's reader from our
grasp: "There is the original book and ancient writing, but he
reads and ponders it hides his face." Here we must remember that
authors of the alphabetic Popol Vuh have chosen to remain anonymous;
in other words, they are hiding their own faces. If they are
protecting anyone with their enigmatic statements about an
inaccessible book or a hidden reader, it could well be themselves.*(9)
The authors begin their narrative in a world that has nothing but an
empty sky above and a calm sea below. The action gets under way when
the gods who reside in the primordial sea, named Maker, Modeler,
Bearer, Begetter, Heart of the Lake, Heart of the Sea, and Sovereign
Plumed Serpent, are joined by gods who come down from the primordial
sky, named Heart of Sky, Heart of Earth, Newborn Thunderbolt, Raw
Thunderbolt, and Hurricane. These two parties engage in a dialogue,
and in the course of it they conceive the emergence of the earth
from the sea and the growth of plants and people on its surface.
They wish to set in motion a process they call the "sowing"
"dawning," by which they mean several different things at
There is the sowing of seeds in the earth, whose sprouting will be
their dawning, and there is the sowing of the sun, moon, and stars,
whose difficult passage beneath the earth will be followed by their
own dawning. Then there is the matter of human beings, whose sowing
the womb will be followed by their emergence into the light at
birth, and whose sowing in the earth at death will be followed by
dawning when their souls become sparks of light in the darkness.
For the gods, the idea of human beings is as old as that of the
earth itself, but they fail in their first three attempts (all in Part
One) to transform this idea into a living reality. What they want is
beings who will walk, work, and talk in an articulate and measured
way, visiting shrines, giving offerings, and calling upon their makers
by name, all according to the rhythms of a calendar. What they get
instead, on the first try, is beings who have no arms to work with and
can only squawk, chatter, and howl, and whose descendants are the
animals of today. On the second try they make a being of mud, but this
one is unable to walk or turn its head or even keep its shape; being
solitary, it cannot reproduce itself, and in the end it dissolves into
Before making a third try the gods decide, in the course of a
further dialogue, to seek the counsel of an elderly husband and wife
named Xpiyacoc and Xmucane. Xpiyacoc is a divine matchmaker and
therefore prior to all marriage, and Xmucane is a divine midwife and
therefore prior to all birth. Like contemporary Quiche matchmakers and
midwives, both of them are ah3ih or "daykeepers," diviners
how to interpret the auguries given by thirteen day numbers and twenty
day names that combine to form a calendrical cycle lasting 260
days.*(10) They are older than all the other gods, who address them
grandparents, and the cycle they divine by is older than the longer
cycles that govern Venus and the sun, which have not yet been
established at this point in the story. The question the younger
gods put to them here is whether human beings should be made out of
wood. Following divinatory methods that are still in use among
Quiche daykeepers, they give their approval. The wooden beings turn
out to look and talk and multiply themselves something like humans,
but they fail to time their actions in an orderly way and forget to
call upon the gods in prayer. Hurricane brings a catastrophe down on
their heads, not only flooding them with a gigantic rainstorm but
sending monstrous animals to attack them. Even their own dogs,
turkeys, and household utensils rise against them, taking vengeance
for past mistreatment. Their only descendants are the monkeys who
inhabit the forests today.
At this point the gods who have been working on the problem of
making human beings will need only one more try before they solve
it, but the authors of the Popol Vuh postpone the telling of this
episode, turning their attention to stories about heroic gods whose
adventures make the sky-earth a safer place for human habitation.
The gods in question are the twin sons of Xpiyacoc and Xmucane,
named One Hunahpu and Seven Hunahpu, and the twin sons of One Hunahpu,
named Hunahpu and Xbalanque. Both sets of twins are players of the
Mesoamerican ball game, in which the rubber ball (an indigenous
American invention) is hit with a yoke that rides on the hips rather
than with the hands. In addition to being ballplayers, One and Seven
Hunahpu occupy themselves by gambling with dice, whereas Hunahpu and
Xbalanque go out hunting with blowguns.*(11)
The adventures of the sons and grandsons of Xpiyacoc and Xmucane are
presented in two different cycles, with the episodes divided between
the cycles more on the basis of where they take place in space than
when they take place in time. The first cycle deals entirely with
adventures on the face of the earth, while the second, though it has
two separate above-ground passages, deals mainly with adventures in
the Mayan underworld, named Xibalba. If the events of these two cycles
were combined in a single chronological sequence, the above-ground
episodes would probably alternate with those below, with the heroes
descending into the underworld, emerging on the earth again, and so
forth. These sowing and dawning movements of the heroes, along with
those of their supporting cast, prefigure the present-day movements
the sun, moon, planets, and stars.
Hunahpu and Xbalanque are the protagonists of the first of the two
hero cycles (corresponding to Part Two in the present translation),
and their enemies are a father and his two sons, all of them
pretenders to lordly power over the affairs of the earth. Hurricane,
or Heart of Sky, is offended by this threesome, and it is he who sends
Hunahpu and Xbalanque against them. The first to get his due is the
father, named Seven Macaw, who claims to be both the sun and moon.
In chronological terms this episode overlaps with the story of the
wooden people (at the end of Part One), since Seven Macaw serves as
their source of celestial light and has his downfall at the same
time they do. The twins shoot him while he is at his meal, high up
in a fruit tree, breaking his jaw and bringing him down to earth.
Later they pose as curers and give him the reverse of a face-lift,
pulling out all his teeth and removing the metal disks from around his
eyes; this puts an end to his career as a lordly being. His earthly
descendants are scarlet macaws, with broken and toothless jaws and
mottled white patches beneath their eyes. He himself remains as the
seven stars of the Big Dipper, and his wife, named Chimalmat,
corresponds to the Little Dipper. The rising of Seven Macaw (in
mid-October) now marks the coming of the dry season, and his fall to
earth and his disappearance (beginning in mid-July) signal the
beginning of the hurricane season. It was his first fall, brought on
by the blowgun shot of Hunahpu and Xbalanque, that opened the way
for the great flood that brought down the wooden people. Just as Seven
Macaw only pretended to be the sun and moon, so the wooden people only
pretended to be human.*(12)
Hunahpu and Xbalanque next take on Zipacna, the elder of Seven
Macaw's two sons, a crocodilian monster who claims to be the maker
of mountains. But first comes an episode in which Zipacna has an
encounter with the gods of alcoholic drinks, the Four Hundred Boys.
Alarmed by Zipacna's great strength, these boys trick him into digging
a deep hole and try to crush him by dropping a great log down behind
him. He survives, but he waits in the hole until they are in the
middle of a drunken victory celebration and then brings their own
house down on top of them. At the celestial level they become the
stars called Motz, the Quiche name for the Pleiades, and their
downfall corresponds to early-evening settings of these stars. At
the earthly level, among contemporary Quiches, the Pleiades
symbolize a handful of seeds, and their disappearance in the west
marks the proper time for the sowing of crops.
Zipacna meets his own downfall when Hunahpu and Xbalanque set out to
avenge the Four Hundred Boys. At a time when Zipacna has gone
without food for several days, they set a trap for him by making a
device that appears to be a living, moving crab. Having placed this
artificial crab in a tight space beneath an overhang at the bottom
of a great mountain, they show him the way there. Zipacna goes after
the crab with great passion, and his struggles to wrestle himself into
the right position to consummate his hunger become a symbolic parody
of sexual intercourse. When the great moment comes the whole
mountain falls on his chest (which is to say he ends up on the
bottom), and when he heaves a sigh he turns to stone.*(13)
Finally there comes the demise of the younger son of Seven Macaw,
named Earthquake, who bills himself as a destroyer of mountains. In
his case the lure devised by Hunahpu and Xbalanque is the irresistibly
delicious aroma given off by the roasting of birds. They cast a
spell on the bird they give him to eat: just as it was cooked inside
coating of earth, so he will end up covered by earth. They leave him
buried in the east, opposite his elder brother, whose killing of the
Four Hundred Boys associates him with the west (where the Pleiades may
be seen to fall beneath the earth). Seven Macaw, as the Big Dipper,
of course in the north. He is near the pivot of the movement of the
night sky, whereas his two sons make the earth move- though they
cannot raise or level whole mountains in a single day as they once
Having accounted for three of the above-ground episodes in the lives
of Hunahpu and Xbalanque, the Popol Vuh next moves back in time to
tell the story of their father, One Hunahpu, and his twin brother,
Seven Hunahpu (at the beginning of Part Three). This is the point at
which the authors treat us as if we were in their very presence,
introducing One Hunahpu with these words: "Let's drink to him,
let's just drink to the telling and accounting of the begetting of
Hunahpu and Xbalanque." The story begins long before One Hunahpu
the woman who will bear Hunahpu and Xbalanque; in the opening episode,
he marries a woman named Xbaquiyalo and they have twin sons named
One Monkey and One Artisan. One Hunahpu and his brother sometimes play
ball with these two boys, and a messenger from Hurricane, a
falcon,*(15) sometimes comes to watch them. The boys become
practitioners of all sorts of arts and crafts, including flute
playing, singing, writing, carving, jewelry making, and
metalworking. At some point Xbaquiyalo dies, but we are not told
how; that leaves Xmucane, the mother of One and Seven Hunahpu, as
the only woman in the household.
The ball court of One and Seven Hunahpu lies on the eastern edge
of the earth's surface at a place called Great Abyss at
Carchah.*(16) Their ballplaying offends the lords of Xibalba, who
dislike hearing noises above their subterranean domain. The head lords
are named One Death and Seven Death, and under them are other lords
who specialize in causing such maladies as lesions, jaundice,
emaciation, edema, stabbing pains, and sudden death from vomiting
blood. One and Seven Death decide to challenge One and Seven Hunahpu
to come play ball in the court of Xibalba, which lies at the western
edge of the underworld. They therefore send their messengers, who
are monstrous owls, to the Great Abyss. One and Seven Hunahpu leave
One Monkey and One Artisan behind to keep Xmucane entertained and
follow the owls over the eastern edge of the world. The way is full
traps, but they do well until they come to the Crossroads, where
each of four roads has a different color corresponding to a
different direction. They choose the Black Road, which means, at the
terrestrial level, that their journey through the underworld will take
them from east to west. At the celestial level, it means that they
were last seen in the black cleft of the Milky Way when they descended
below the eastern horizon; to this day the cleft is called the Road
Entering the council place of the lords of Xibalba is a tricky
business, beginning with the fact that the first two figures seated
there are mere manikins, put there as a joke. The next gag that awaits
visitors is a variation on the hot seat, but after that comes a deadly
serious test. One and Seven Hunahpu must face a night in Dark House,
which is totally black inside. They are given a torch and two
cigars, but they are warned to keep these burning all night without
consuming them. They fail this test, so their hosts sacrifice them the
next day instead of playing ball with them. Both of them are buried
the Place of Ball Game Sacrifice, except that the severed head of
One Hunahpu is placed in the fork of a tree that stands by the road
there. Now, for the first time, the tree bears fruit, and it becomes
difficult to tell the head from the fruit. This is the origin of the
calabash tree, whose fruit is the size and shape of a human head.
Blood Woman, the maiden daughter of a Xibalban lord named Blood
Gatherer, goes to marvel at the calabash tree. The head of One
Hunahpu, which is a skull by now, spits in her hand and makes her
pregnant with Hunahpu and Xbalanque. The skull explains to her that
henceforth, a father's face will survive in his son, even after his
own face has rotted away and left nothing but bone. After six
months, when Blood Woman's father notices that she is pregnant, he
demands to know who is responsible. She answers that "there is
man whose face I've known," which is literally true. He orders
messengers of Xibalba to cut her heart out and bring it back in a
bowl; armed with the White Dagger, the instrument of sacrifice, they
take her away.*(17) But she persuades them to spare her, devising a
substitute for her heart in the form of a congealed nodule of sap from
a croton tree. The lords heat the nodule over a fire and are entranced
by the aroma; meanwhile the owls show Blood Woman to the surface of
the earth. As a result of this episode it is destined that the lords
of Xibalba will receive offerings of incense made from croton sap
rather than human blood and hearts. At the astronomical level Blood
Woman corresponds to the moon, which appears in the west at
nightfall when it begins to wax, just as she appeared before the skull
of One Hunahpu at the Place of Ball Game Sacrifice when she became
Once she is out of the underworld, Blood Woman goes to Xmucane and
claims to be her daughter-in-law, but Xmucane resists the idea that
her own son, One Hunahpu, could be responsible for Blood Woman's
pregnancy. She puts Blood Woman to a test, sending her to get a netful
of corn from the garden that One Monkey and One Artisan have been
cultivating. Blood Woman finds only a single clump of corn plants
there, but she produces a whole netful of ears by pulling out the silk
from just one ear. When Xmucane sees the load of corn she goes to
the garden herself, wondering whether Blood Woman has stripped it.
On the ground at the foot of the clump of plants she notices the
imprint of the carrying net, which she reads as a sign that Blood
Woman is indeed pregnant with her own grandchildren.
To understand how Xmucane is able to interpret the sign of the net
we must remember that she knows how to read the auguries of the
Mayan calendar, and that one of the twenty day names that go into
the making of that calendar is "Net." Retold from a calendrical
point of view, the story so far is that Venus rose as the morning star
on a day named Hunahpu, corresponding to the ballplaying of
Xmucane's sons, One and Seven Hunahpu, in the east; then, after
being out of sight in Xibalba, Venus reappeared as the evening star
a day named Death, corresponding to the defeat of her sons by One
and Seven Death and the placement of One Hunahpu's head in a tree in
the west. The event that is due to come next in the story is the
rebirth of Venus as the morning star, which should fall, as she
already knows, on a day named Net. When she sees the imprint of the
net in the field, she takes it as a sign that this event is coming
near, and that the faces of the sons born to Blood Woman will be
reincarnations of the face of One Hunahpu.*(18)
When Hunahpu and Xbalanque are born they are treated cruelly by
their jealous half-brothers, One Monkey and One Artisan, and even by
their grandmother. They never utter a complaint, but keep themselves
happy by going out every day to hunt birds with their blowguns.
Eventually they get the better of their brothers by sending them up
a tree to get birds that failed to fall down when they were shot. They
cause the tree to grow tall enough to maroon their brothers, whom they
transform into monkeys. When Xmucane objects they give her four
chances to see the faces of One Monkey and One Artisan again,
calling them home with music. They warn her not to laugh, but the
monkeys are so ridiculous she cannot contain herself; finally they
swing up and away through the treetops for good. One Monkey and One
Artisan, both of whose names refer to a single day on the divinatory
calendar, correspond to the planet Mars, which thereafter begins its
period of visibility on a day bearing these names, and their temporary
return to the house of Xmucane corresponds to the retrograde motion
Mars. They are also the gods of arts and crafts, and they probably
made their first journey through the sky during the era of the
wooden people, who were the first earthly beings to make and use
artifacts and who themselves ended up as monkeys.
With their half-brothers out of the way, Hunahpu and Xbalanque
decide to clear a garden plot of their own, but when they return to
the chosen spot each morning they find that the forest has reclaimed
it. By hiding themselves at the edge of the plot one night, they
discover that the animals of the forest are restoring the cleared
plants by means of a chant. They try to grab each of these animals
in turn, but they miss the puma and jaguar completely, break the tails
off the rabbit and deer, and finally get their hands on the rat. In
exchange for his future share of stored crops, the rat reveals to them
that their father and uncle, One and Seven Hunahpu, left a set of ball
game equipment tied up under the rafters of their house, and he agrees
to help them get it down. At home the next day, Hunahpu and
Xbalanque get Xmucane out of the house by claiming her chili stew
has made them thirsty; she goes after water but is delayed when her
water jar springs a leak. Then, when Blood Woman goes off to see why
Xmucane has failed to return, the rat cuts the ball game equipment
loose and the twins take possession of it.
When Hunahpu and Xbalanque begin playing ball at the Great Abyss
they disturb the lords of Xibalba, just like their father and uncle
before them. Once again the lords send a summons, but this time the
messengers go to Xmucane, telling her that the twins must present
themselves in seven days. She sends a louse to relay the message to
her grandsons, but the louse is swallowed by a toad, the toad by a
snake, and the snake by a falcon.*(19) The falcon arrives over the
ball court and the twins shoot him in the eye. They cure his eye
with gum from their ball, which is why the laughing falcon now has a
black patch around the eye. The falcon vomits the snake, who vomits
the toad, who still has the louse in his mouth, and the louse
recites the message, quoting what Xmucane told him when she quoted
what the owls told her when they quoted what the lords of Xibalba told
them to say.
Having been summoned to the underworld, Hunahpu and Xbalanque go
to take leave of their grandmother, and in the process they
demonstrate a harvest ritual that Quiches follow to this day. They
"plant" ears of corn in the center of her house, in the attic;
ears are neither to be eaten nor used as seed corn but are to be
kept as a sign that corn remains alive throughout the year, even
between the drying out of the plants at harvest time and the sprouting
of new ones after planting. They tell their grandmother that when a
crop dries out it will be a sign of their death, but that the
sprouting of a new crop will be a sign that they live again.*(20)
The twins play a game with language when they instruct their
grandmother; only now, instead of a quotation swallowed up inside
other quotations we get a word hidden within other words. The secret
word is "Ah," one of the twenty day names; the twins point
to it by
playing on its sounds rather than simply mentioning it. When they tell
their grandmother that they are planting corn ears (ah) in the house
(ha), they are making a pun on Ah in the one case and reversing its
sound in the other. The play between Ah and ha is familiar to
contemporary Quiche daykeepers, who use it when they explain to
clients that the day Ah is portentous in matters affecting households.
If the twins planted their corn ears in the house on the day Ah,
then their expected arrival in Xibalba, seven days later, would fall
on the day named Hunahpu. This fits the Mayan Venus calendar
perfectly: whenever Venus rises as the morning star on a day named
Net, corresponding to the appearance of Hunahpu and Xbalanque on the
earth, its next descent into the underworld will always fall on a
day named Hunahpu.
Following in the footsteps of their father and uncle, Hunahpu and
Xbalanque descend the road to Xibalba, but when they come to the
Crossroads they do things differently. They send a spy ahead of
them, a mosquito, to learn the names of the lords. He bites each one
of them in turn; the first two lords reveal themselves as mere
manikins by their lack of response, but the others, in the process
of complaining about being bitten, address each other by name, all the
way down the line. When the twins themselves arrive before the
lords, they ignore the manikins (unlike their father and uncle) and
address each of the twelve real lords correctly. Not only that, but
they refuse to fall for the hot seat, and when they are given a
torch and two cigars to keep lit all night, they trick the lords by
passing off a macaw's tail as the glow of the torch and putting
fireflies at the tips of their cigars.*(21)
The next day Hunahpu and Xbalanque play ball with the Xibalbans,
something their father and uncle did not survive long enough to do.
The Xibalbans insist on putting their own ball into play first, though
the twins protest that this ball, which is covered with crushed
bone, is nothing but a skull. When Hunahpu hits it back to the
Xibalbans with the yoke that rides on his hips, it falls to the
court and reveals the weapon that was hidden inside it. This is
nothing less than the White Dagger, the same instrument of sacrifice
that the owls were supposed to use on Blood Woman; it twists its way
all over the court, but it fails to kill the twins.
The Xibalbans consent to use the rubber ball belonging to the
twins in a further game; this time four bowls of flowers are bet on
the outcome. After playing well for awhile the twins allow
themselves to lose, and they are given until the next day to come up
with the flowers. This time they must spend the night in Razor
House, which is full of voracious stone blades that are constantly
looking for something to cut. In exchange for a promise that they will
one day have the flesh of animals as their food, the blades stop
moving. This leaves the boys free to attend to the matter of the
flowers; they send leaf-cutting ants to steal them from the very
gardens of the lords of Xibalba. The birds who guard this garden,
poorwills and whippoorwills, are so oblivious that they fail to notice
that their own tails and wings are being trimmed along with the
flowers. The lords, who are aghast when they receive bowls filled with
their own flowers, split the birds' mouths open, giving them the
wide gape that birds of the night-jar family have today.
Next, the hero twins survive stays in Cold House, which is full of
drafts and falling hail; Jaguar House, which is full of hungry,
brawling jaguars; and a house with fire inside. After these horrors
comes Bat House, full of moving, shrieking bats, where they spend
the night squeezed up inside their blowgun.*(22) When the house
grows quiet and Hunahpu peeks out from the muzzle, one of the bats
swoops down and takes his head off. The head ends up rolling on the
ball court of Xibalba, but Xbalanque replaces it with a carved squash.
While he is busy with this head transplant the eastern sky reddens
with the dawn, and a possum, addressed in the story as "old man,"
makes four dark streaks along the horizon. Not only the red dawn but
the possum and his streaks are signs that the time of the sun (which
has never before been seen) is coming nearer. In the future a new
solar year will be brought in by the old man each 365 days; the four
streaks signify that only four of the twenty day names- Deer, Tooth,
Thought, and Wind- will ever correspond to the first day of a solar
year. Contemporary Quiche daykeepers continue to reckon the solar
dimension of the Mayan calendar; in 1986, for example, they will
expect the old man to arrive on February 28, which will be the day
Once Hunahpu has been fitted out with a squash for a head, he and
Xbalanque are ready to play ball with the Xibalbans again. When the
lords send off Hunahpu's original head as the ball, Xbalanque knocks
it out of the court and into a stand of oak trees. A rabbit decoys the
lords, who mistake his hopping for the bouncing of the ball, while
Xbalanque retrieves the head, puts it back on Hunahpu's shoulders, and
then pretends to find the squash among the oaks. Now the squash is put
into play, but it wears out and eventually splatters its seeds on
the court, revealing to the lords of Xibalba that they have been
played for fools. The game played with the squash, like the games
played with the bone-covered ball and with Hunahpu's severed head,
corresponds to an appearance of Venus in the west, the direction of
evening and death. If these events were combined in chronological
order with those that take place entirely above ground, they would
probably alternate with the episodes in which the twins defeat One
Monkey and One Artisan, Seven Macaw, Zipacna, and Earthquake, with
each of these latter episodes corresponding to an appearance of
Venus in the east, the direction of morning and life.*(24)
At this point we are ready for the last of the episodes that
prefigure the cycles of Venus and prepare the way for the first rising
of the sun. Knowing that the lords of Xibalba plan to burn them,
Hunahpu and Xbalanque instruct two seers named Xulu and Pacam as to
what they should say when the lords seek advice as to how to dispose
of their remains. This done, the twins cheerfully accept an invitation
to come see the great stone pit where the Xibalbans are cooking the
ingredients for an alcoholic beverage. The lords challenge them to a
contest in which the object is to leap clear across the pit, but the
boys cut the deadly game short and jump right in. Thinking they have
triumphed, the Xibalbans follow the advice of Xulu and Pacam, grinding
the bones of the boys and spilling the powder into a river.
After five days Hunahpu and Xbalanque reappear as catfish;*(25)
the day after that they take human form again, only now they are
disguised as vagabond dancers and actors. They gain great fame as
illusionists, their most popular acts being the ones in which they set
fire to a house without burning it and perform a sacrifice without
killing the victim. The lords of Xibalba get news of all this and
invite them to show their skills at court; they accept with
pretended reluctance. The climax of their performance comes when
Xbalanque sacrifices Hunahpu, rolling his head out the door,
removing his heart, and then bringing him back to life. One and
Seven Death go wild at the sight of this and demand that they
themselves be sacrificed. The twins oblige- and, as might already be
imagined, these final sacrifices are real ones. Hunahpu and
Xbalanque now reveal their true identities before all the
inhabitants of the underworld. They declare that henceforth, the
offerings received by Xibalbans will be limited to incense made of
croton sap and to animals, and that Xibalbans will limit their attacks
on future human beings to those who have weaknesses or guilt.
At this point the narrative takes us back to the twins' grandmother,
telling us what she has been doing all this time. She cries when the
season comes for corn plants to dry out, signifying the death of her
grandsons, and rejoices when they sprout again, signifying rebirth.
She burns incense in front of ears from the new crop and thus
completes the establishment of the custom whereby humans keep
consecrated ears in the house, at the center of the stored harvest.
Then the scene shifts back to Hunahpu and Xbalanque, who are about
to establish another custom.
Having made their speech to the defeated Xibalbans, the twins go
to the Place of Ball Game Sacrifice with the intention of reviving
Seven Hunahpu, whose head and body still lie buried there. The full
restoration of his face depends on his own ability to pronounce the
names of all the parts it once had, but he gets no further than the
mouth, nose, and eyes, which remain as notable features of skulls.
They leave him there, but they promise that human beings will keep his
day (the one named Hunahpu), coming to pray where his remains are.
To this day, Hunahpu days are set aside for the veneration of the
dead, and graveyards are called by the same word (hom) as the ball
courts of the Popol Vuh.
At the astronomical level the visit of Hunahpu and Xbalanque to
their uncle's grave signals the return of a whole new round of Venus
cycles, starting with a morning star that first appears on a day named
Hunahpu. As for the twins themselves, they rise as the sun and moon.
Contemporary Quiches regard the full moon as a nocturnal equivalent
the sun, pointing out that it has a full disk, is bright enough to
travel by, and goes clear across the sky in the same time it takes the
sun to do the same thing. Most likely the twin who became the moon
is to be understood specifically as the full moon, whereas Blood
Woman, the mother of the twins, would account for the other phases
of the moon.*(26)
With the ascent of Hunahpu and Xbalanque the Popol Vuh returns to
the problem the gods confronted at the beginning: the making of beings
who will walk, work, talk, and pray in an articulate manner. The
account of their fourth and final attempt at a solution is a
flashback, since it takes us to a time when the sun had not yet
appeared. As we have already seen, the gods failed when they tried
using mud and then wood as the materials for the human body, but now
they get news of a mountain filled with yellow corn and white corn,
discovered by the fox, coyote, parrot, and crow (at the beginning of
Part Four). Xmucane grinds the corn from this mountain very finely,
and the flour, mixed with the water she rinses her hands with,
provides the substance for human flesh, just as the ground bone thrown
in the river by the Xibalbans becomes the substance for the rebirth
her grandsons. The first people to be modeled from the corn dough
are four men named Jaguar Quitze, Jaguar Night, Mahucutah, and True
Jaguar. They are the first four heads of Quiche patrilineages; as in
the case of the men who occupy such positions today, they are called
"mother-fathers,"*(27) since in ritual matters they serve
symbolic androgynous parents to everyone in their respective lineages.
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. 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 Quiche lineages. Celebrated
Seahouse becomes the wife of Jaguar Quitze, who founds the Cauec
lineage; Prawn House becomes the wife of Jaguar Night, who founds
the Greathouse lineage; and Hummingbird House becomes the wife of
Mahucutah, who founds the Lord Quiche lineage. True Jaguar is also
given a wife, Macaw House, but they have no male children. Other
lineages and peoples also come into being, and they all begin to
All these early events in human history take place in darkness,
somewhere in the "east," and all the different peoples wander
and grow weary as they go on watching and waiting for the rising of
the morning star and the sun. Jaguar Quitze, Jaguar Night,
Mahucutah, and True Jaguar decide to change their situation by
acquiring patron deities they can burn offerings in front of, and it
is with this purpose in mind that they go to a great eastern city
bearing the names Tulan Zuyua, Seven Caves, Seven Canyons. These are
grand names that call up broad reaches of the Mesoamerican past. Tulan
(or Tollan)*(28) means "Place of Reeds" or more broadly "metropolis"
in Nahua, and it was prefixed to the names of many different towns
during Toltecan times. The particular Tulan called Zuyua was
probably near the Gulf coast in Tabasco or Campeche, "eastern"
it was east of the principal Tulan of the Toltecs, near Mexico City
the site now known as Tula. But in giving Tulan Zuyua the further name
Seven Caves, the Popol Vuh preserves the memory of a metropolis much
older and far grander than any Toltec town. This ultimate Tulan was
the site now known as Teotihuacan, northeast of Mexico City. It was
the greatest city in Mesoamerican history, dating from the same period
as the classic Maya. Only recently it has been discovered that beneath
the Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan lies a natural cave whose main
shaft and side chambers add up to seven.*(29)
Countless lineages and tribes converge on the Tulan Zuyua of the
Popol Vuh, and each of them, starting with the Quiches, is given a
god. The Cauecs receive the god named Tohil, the Greathouses receive
Auilix, and the Lord Quiches receive Hacauitz. Ultimately the
patronage of the first-ranking god, Tohil, extended to all three of
these lineages, and to two other Quiche lineages of lesser rank, the
Tams and Ilocs. The worship of Tohil has recently been traced back
to the classic period; in the inscriptions at Palenque, he bears the
name Tahil, a Cholan word meaning "Obsidian Mirror," and he
with a smoking mirror in his forehead.
The Popol Vuh tells us that although "all the tribes were sown
came to light in unity," their languages differentiated while they
were at Tulan. The cause of this was that some peoples were given
patron deities whose names differed from that of the god of the
Quiches. The language of the Rabinals became only slightly
different, since they were given a god named One Toh rather than
Tohil, but others, who received gods with completely distinctive
names, ended up speaking distinctive languages, including the
Cakchiquels, the Bird House people, and the Yaqui people. Today,
indeed, the Rabinals, who live to the northeast of the Quiche
proper, speak a dialect of Quiche, whereas the Cakchiquels (still
known by this name) and the Bird House people (better known as the
Tzutuhils) speak related but separate languages. What the Popol Vuh
calls the Yaqui people are the speakers of Nahua languages, in Mexico.
Those languages belong to a family that not only stands apart from
Quiche, Cakchiquel, and Tzutuhil, but from Mayan languages in general.
Tohil is the source of the first fires kept by human beings,
making it possible for them to keep warm in the cold of the predawn
world. When a great hailstorm puts all these fires out, Tohil restores
fire to the Quiches by pivoting inside his sandal, which is to say
that he originates the technology whereby fire is started by
rotating a drill in the socket of a wooden platform. The other tribes,
shivering with cold, come to the Quiches to beg for fire, but Tohil
refuses to let them have it unless they promise to embrace him
someday, allowing themselves to be suckled. They agree, not
realizing that when the time comes for the Quiche lords to subjugate
them, being "suckled" by Tohil will mean having their hearts
in sacrifice. Only the Cakchiquels, who get their fire by sneaking
past everyone else in the smoke, escape this fate.
At the suggestion of Tohil the Quiches leave Tulan. They sacrifice
their own blood to him, passing cords through their ears and elbows,
and they sing a song called "The Blame Is Ours," lamenting
that they will not be in Tulan when the time comes for the first dawn.
Packing their gods on their backs and watching continuously for the
appearance of the morning star, they begin a long migration. At a
place called Rock Rows, Furrowed Sands they cross a "sea"*(30)
causeway; this would be somewhere in Tabasco or Campeche, perhaps at
Potonchan or Tixchel, both lowland Maya sites where causeways pass
through flooded areas. They also pass the Great Abyss, the location
the eastern ball court used by the sons and grandsons of Xmucane, a
long way east and a little south of any likely location for Rock Rows,
Furrowed Sands. Next they enter the highlands, turning west and
continuing at a slight southward angle until they reach a mountain
called Place of Advice, not very far short of the site where they will
one day reach their greatest glory. With them at Place of Advice,
having accompanied them ever since they left Tulan, are the
Rabinals, Cakchiquels, and Bird House people.
Jaguar Quitze, Jaguar Night, Mahucutah, and True Jaguar, together
with their wives, observe a great fast at Place of Advice. Tohil,
Auilix, and Hacauitz speak to them, asking to be given hiding places
so that they will not be captured by enemies of the Quiches. After a
search through the forest, each of these gods is hidden at the place
that bears his name today. They are not yet placed in temples atop
pyramids, but merely in arbors decorated with bromelias and hanging
mosses. At the place of Hacauitz, on a mountaintop, the Cauecs,
Greathouses, and Lord Quiches weep while they wait for the dawn; the
Tams and Ilocs wait on nearby mountains, while peoples other than
the Quiches wait at more distant places. When, at last, they all see
the daybringer, the morning star, they give thanks by burning the
incense they have kept for this occasion, ever since they left Tulan.
At this point we reach the moment in the account of human affairs
that corresponds to the final event in the account of the lives of the
gods: the Sun himself rises. On just this one occasion he appears as
an entire person, so hot that he dries out the face of the earth.
His heat turns Tohil, Auilix, and Hacauitz to stone, along with such
pumas, jaguars, and snakes as had existed until now. A diminutive
god called White Sparkstriker*(31) escapes petrifaction by going
into the shade of the trees, becoming the keeper of the stone animals.
He remains to this day as a gamekeeper, with stone fetishes
(volcanic concretions and meteorites) that resemble animals,
together with flesh-and-blood game animals, in his care. He may be
encountered in forests and caves, or on dark nights and in dreams;
he appears in contemporary masked dramas dressed entirely in red,
the color of the dawn.
At first the Quiches rejoice when they see the first sunrise, but
then they remember their "brothers," the tribes who were with
at Tulan, and they sing the song called "The Blame Is Ours"
again. In the words of this song they wonder where their brothers
might be at this very moment. In effect, the coming of the first
sunrise reunites the tribes, despite the fact that they remain
widely separated in space; as the Popol Vuh has it, "there were
countless peoples, but there was just one dawn for all tribes."
orderly movements of the lights of the sky, signs of the deeds of
the gods, enable human beings to coordinate their actions even when
they cannot see one another. In point of fact Mesoamerican peoples
in general shared a common calendar, consisting of the 260-day
cycle, whose auguries were first read by Xpiyacoc and Xmucane, and the
cycles of Mars, Venus, and the sun and moon, as measured off by the
movements of their sons and grandsons and by Blood Woman.*(32)
Having seen the first sunrise from the mountain of Hacauitz, the
Quiches eventually build a citadel there. But at first, even while the
people of other tribes are becoming thickly settled and are seen
traveling the roads in great numbers, the Quiches remain rustic and
rural, gathering the larvae of yellow jackets, wasps, and bees for
food and staying largely out of sight. When they go before the
petrified forms of Tohil, Auilix, and Hacauitz, they burn bits of
pitchy bark and wildflowers as substitutes for refined incense and
offer blood drawn from their own bodies. The three gods are still able
to speak to them, but only by appearing in spirit form. Tohil tells
them to augment their offerings with the blood of deer and birds taken
in the hunt, but they grow dissatisfied with this arrangement and
begin to cast eyes on the people they see walking by in the roads.
From hiding places on mountain peaks, they begin imitating the cries
of the coyote, fox, puma, and jaguar.
Finally Tohil tells the Quiches to go ahead and take human beings
for sacrifice, reminding them that when they were at Tulan the other
tribes promised to allow him to "suckle" them. They begin
people they find out walking alone or in pairs, taking them away to
cut them open before Tohil, Auilix, and Hacauitz and then rolling
their heads out onto the roads. At first the lords who rule the
victimized tribes think these deaths are the work of wild animals, but
then they suspect the worshipers of Tohil, Auilix, and Hacauitz and
attempt to track them down. Again and again they are foiled by rain,
mist, and mud, but they do discover that the three gods, whose
spirit familiars take the form of adolescent boys, have a favorite
bathing place. They send two beautiful maidens, Xtah and Xpuch, to
wash clothes there, instructing them to tempt the boys and then
yield to any advances. They warn the maidens to return with proof of
the success of their mission, which must take the form of presents
from the boys.*(33)
Contrary to plan, the three Quiche gods fail to lust after Xtah
and Xpuch, but they do agree to provide them with presents. They
give them three cloaks with figures on the inside, one painted with
a jaguar by Jaguar Quitze, another painted with an eagle by Jaguar
Night, and the third painted with swarms of yellow jackets and wasps
by Mahucutah. When the maidens return the enemy lords are so pleased
with the cloaks that they cannot resist trying them on. All is well
until the wasps painted on the inside of the third cloak turn into
real ones. Xtah and Xpuch are spurned; despite their failure to
tempt Tohil, Auilix, and Hacauitz they become the first prostitutes,
or what Quiches call "barkers of shins." As for the enemy
they resolve to make war and launch a massive attack on the Quiche
citadel at Hacauitz.
The enemy warriors come at night in order to get as far as
possible without resistance, but they fall into a deep sleep on the
road. The Quiches not only strip them of all the metal ornaments on
their weapons and clothes, but pluck out their eyebrows and beards
as well. Even so the enemy warriors press on the next day,
determined to recover their losses, but the Quiches are well prepared.
What the enemy lookouts see all around the citadel of Hacauitz is a
wooden palisade; visible on the parapet are rows of warriors, decked
out with the very metal objects that were stolen during the night.
What the lookouts do not see is that these warriors are mere wooden
puppets, and that behind the palisade, on each of its four sides, is
large gourd filled with yellow jackets and wasps, put there at the
suggestion of Tohil. As for the Quiches on the inside, what they
see, once the attack begins, is more than twenty-four thousand
warriors converging on them, bristling with weapons and shouting
continuously. But Tohil has made them so confident that they treat the
attack as a great spectacle, bringing their women and children up on
the parapet to see it. When they release the yellow jackets and
wasps their enemies drop their weapons and attempt to flee, so badly
stung they hardly even notice the blows they receive from conventional
Quiche weapons. The survivors become permanent payers of tribute to
the Quiche lords.
After their great victory, Jaguar Quitze, Jaguar Night, Mahucutah,
and True Jaguar begin preparing, with complete contentment, for what
they know to be their approaching death. First they sing "The Blame
Ours," and then they explain to their wives and successors that
time of our Lord Deer" has come around again. This is a reference
the day named Deer, one of the four days on which a new solar year can
begin, and specifically to the first day of a longer period, lasting
fifty-two years, which falls on One Deer.*(34) Such a major temporal
transition is an occasion for rites of renewal; the Quiche forefathers
declare that their time as lords among the living has been completed
and that they intend to return to the place where they came from,
far in the east. Jaguar Quitze leaves a sacred object called the
"Bundle of Flames," a sort of cloth-wrapped ark with mysterious
contents, as a "sign of his being." He and the others "die"
simply departing; they are never seen again, but their descendants
burn incense before the Bundle of Flames in remembrance of them,
just as Xmucane burned incense before the ears of corn in
remembrance of Hunahpu and Xbalanque.
The Quiche lords of the second generation, following the
instructions of their departed fathers, go on a pilgrimage to the east
(at the beginning of Part Five). Unlike their fathers, they do this
with the intention of returning in the flesh. Cocaib, the firstborn
son of Jaguar Quitze, goes on behalf of the Cauec lineage; Coacutec,
the second son of Jaguar Night, represents the Greathouses; and
Coahau, the only son of Mahucutah, represents the Lord Quiches. They
go all the way back down into the lowlands, to the other side of the
same "sea" their fathers once crossed on the way up to the
highlands. If they were retracing their fathers' route in detail, they
must have descended into the lowlands by way of the Great Abyss.
They do not go to Tulan Zuyua, which may have been in ruins by this
time, but they do come before the ruler of a great kingdom. His name
is Nacxit, one of the epithets Nahua speakers give to the god-king
Plumed Serpent. He gives them the emblems that go with the two highest
titles of Mayan nobility, Keeper of the Mat and Keeper of the
Reception House Mat. Both these titles, the one belonging to a head
state and the other to an overseer of tribute collection, go to the
Cauecs. From other sources we know that the Greathouse and Lord Quiche
lineages also receive emblems at this time, with the title of Lord
Minister (ranking third) going to one and that of Crier to the
People (ranking fourth) to the other.*(35)
Cocaib, Coacutec, and Coahau return "from across the sea"
regalia given them by Nacxit, including canopies, thrones, musical
instruments, cosmetics, jewelry, the feet and feathers of various
animals and birds, and "the writings about Tulan." Since one
titles of the Popol Vuh is "The Light That Came from Across the
Sea," we may guess that it was the Popol Vuh they brought back,
that the hieroglyphic version of the book contained not only
writings about the gods whose movements prefigured those of
celestial lights, but about such human affairs as those of Tulan.
The sovereign lordship of the returned pilgrims is recognized not only
by the Quiches themselves, but by the Rabinals, Cakchiquels, and
Bird House people as well. Only now do the Quiche lords begin to
have what the Popol Vuh calls "fiery splendor." It seems likely
their pilgrimage was conceived as a reenactment of the adventures of
Hunahpu and Xbalanque in Xibalba, who had only the planet Venus to
their credit when they first descended in the east at the Great Abyss,
but who eventually returned with the greater splendor of the sun and
Later, after the death of the widows of Jaguar Quitze, Jaguar Night,
and Mahucutah, the Quiches leave Hacauitz and settle at a succession
of other sites. The Popol Vuh mentions only one of these by name,
Thorny Place, settled at some point after the deaths of Cocaib,
Coacutec, and Coahau. The ruins of Thorny Place, which are divided
into four parts just as the Popol Vuh indicates they should be, are
some distance east and a little north of Hacauitz, in the direction
the Great Abyss. This location may have been chosen because it was a
step backward on the Quiche migration route, placing the ruling
lords closer to their forefathers than they were before. But when
the Quiches move again, two generations later, they go west and a
little south again, ending up even farther in that direction than
Hacauitz. This time, with Cotuha as Keeper of the Mat and Iztayul as
Keeper of the Reception House Mat, they found the citadel of Bearded
Place, directly across a canyon to the south from the site of what
will one day be their greatest citadel.*(36)
At Bearded Place there is great harmony among the Cauecs,
Greathouses, and Lord Quiches; these three lineages, each with its own
palace, are tied together through intermarriage. At Thorny Place women
were married off in exchange for modest favors and gifts, but now,
at Bearded Place, wedding arrangements are accompanied by elaborate
feasting and drinking. The only disturbance during this period comes
when the Ilocs not only try to get Iztayul involved in a plot to
assassinate Cotuha, but come to the point of making a military
attack on Bearded Place. They are defeated, and some of their own
number are sacrificed before the gods of their intended victims. The
Cauec, Greathouse, and Lord Quiche lineages now rise to greater and
greater power, defeating some tribes in direct attacks and terrorizing
still others by having them witness the sacrifice of prisoners of war.
In the next generation the Keeper of the Mat bears the divine name
Plumed Serpent, while the Keeper of the Reception House Mat is Cotuha,
named after the previous Keeper of the Mat. They build a new and
larger citadel across the canyon from Bearded Place, at Rotten
Cane.*(37) The three leading lineages, faced with increased numbers
and torn by quarrels over inflation in bride prices, break apart
into smaller groups. The Cauecs divide into nine segments, the
Greathouses into nine, and the Lord Quiches into four, with each of
these segments headed by a titled lord and occupying its own palace.
In addition, the inhabitants of Rotten Cane include the Zaquics, a
lineage not previously mentioned in the Popol Vuh, divided into two
segments but occupying only a single palace, making twenty-three
palaces in all. Along with all these palaces, Rotten Cane is
provided with three pyramids that bear the temples of Tohil, Auilix,
and Hacauitz, ranged around a central plaza; elsewhere is a fourth
pyramid for Corntassel, the god of the Zaquics.
The Popol Vuh identifies Plumed Serpent, who holds the titles of
both Keeper of the Mat and Keeper of the Reception House Mat during
least part of his reign at Rotten Cane, as "a true lord of genius."
has the power to manifest his personal spirit familiars, putting on
performances in which he transforms himself into a snake, an eagle,
a jaguar, or a puddle of blood, climbing to the sky or descending to
Xibalba. As the Popol Vuh explains it, his displays are "just his
way of revealing himself," but they have the effect of terrorizing
lords of other tribes. The next Quiche lords to manifest genius,
coming two generations later, are Quicab, who serves as Keeper of
the Mat, and Cauizimah, who serves as Keeper of the Reception House
Mat. Under their rule the dominion of the Quiches reaches its greatest
extent. Where Plumed Serpent gained power through spectacular displays
of shamanic skill, Quicab now gains it by military force. Not
content with merely overpowering the citadels of surrounding
peoples, he sends out loyal vassals, called "guardians of the land"
"lookout lineages," to serve as forces of occupation. The
of these guardians is conceived as analogous to the construction of
a palisade; they turn the entire Quiche kingdom into one great
During this period the settlement at the center of the Quiche
kingdom embraced a cluster of four citadels, with Rotten Cane at the
focal point. Together with the ordinary houses that occupied the lower
ground around them, these four sites made up a larger town that took
the name Quiche. It was perhaps the most densely built-up area that
had existed in highland Guatemala since early in the classic period,
and it took on the stature of the place where Cocaib, Coacutec, and
Coahau had gone to receive the titles and emblems of truly glorious
lordship. Five generations after their pilgrimage a new conferring
of titles took place, only now it was not Quiches but the heads of the
leading "lookout" lineages who were ennobled, and it happened
under the authority of Nacxit, lord of a domain in the mythic
"east," but under Quicab, who ruled from Quiche.*(38)
The town of Quiche not only took on the status of the place
visited by the pilgrims who saw Nacxit, but of the Tulan visited by
their forefathers as well. When the founders of the ruling Quiche
lineages and their closest allies left Tulan Zuyua before the first
sunrise, they had come away with tribal gods whose names were "meant
to be in agreement," and they were "in unity" when they
Great Abyss and convened at Place of Advice. Now, in this latter
day, "the word came from just one place" again, and the allies
convened in a town and "came away in unity" again, but this
they came away "having heard, there at Quiche, what all of them
do." It was probably during this period that the Quiche lords went
so far as to have a branching tunnel constructed directly beneath
Rotten Cane, a tunnel that brought the Seven Caves of Tulan Zuyua,
or of the ultimate Tulan that was Teotihuacan, to the time and place
of their own greatest glory.
It is in the course of explaining the greatness of lords like Plumed
Serpent and Quicab that the writers of the alphabetic Popol Vuh tell
us how its hieroglyphic predecessor was put to use, serving as a way
of seeing into distant places and times. Greatness also came to the
lords through their participation in religious retreats. For long
periods they would stay in the temples, praying, burning incense,
bleeding themselves, sleeping apart from their wives, and abstaining
not only from meat but from corn products, eating nothing but the
fruits of various trees. The shortest fast lasted 180 days,
corresponding to half the 360-day cycle (separate from the solar year)
that was used in keeping chronologies of historical events, and
another lasted 260 days, or one complete run of the cycle whose days
were counted by Xpiyacoc and Xmucane when they divined for the gods.
The longest fast, 340 days, corresponded to a segment of the Mayan
Venus calendar, beginning with the departure of Venus as the morning
star and continuing through its stay in the underworld and its
period of reappearance as the evening star, leaving just eight days
go before its rebirth as the morning star. This fast probably
commemorated the heroic adventures of Hunahpu and Xbalanque in
Xibalba, the long darkness endured by the first generation of lords
they watched for the appearance of the morning star, and the lowland
pilgrimage undertaken by Cocaib, Coacutec, and Coahau.
The Quiche lords sought identification with the very gods, not
only in their pilgrimages, shamanic feats, limitless vision, and
long fasts, but in the requirements they set for their subjects.
Just as the gods needed human beings to nurture them with offerings,
so human lords required subjects to bring them tribute. As the Popol
Vuh points out, the "nurture" required by the Quiche lords
not only of the food and drink that were prepared for them, but of
turquoise, jade, and the iridescent blue-green feathers of the quetzal
bird. Apparently such precious objects as these were considered the
ultimate fruits of the earth and sky, which were themselves
described as the "blue-green plate" and "blue-green bowl."
Near the end, the Popol Vuh lists all the noble titles held by the
various segments of the Cauec, Greathouse, and Lord Quiche lineages
(in rank order), and it gives the names of those who held the
highest titles (in the order of their succession). In the case of
the two leading segments of the Cauec lineage, those whose heads
held the titles of Keeper of the Mat and Keeper of the Reception House
Mat, the text lists four generations after Quicab and Cauizimah, who
were in the seventh generation, without comment. Then, in the
twelfth generation, the names Three Deer and Nine Dog are followed
by two sentences whose combination of gravity and brevity gives the
reader a chill. The first is, "And they were ruling when Tonatiuh
arrived," Tonatiuh or "Sun" being the name given by the
Pedro de Alvarado, the man whose forces destroyed Rotten Cane in 1524.
And the second sentence about Three Deer and Nine Dog is simply, "They
were hanged by the Castilian people."*(39)
In the thirteenth generation of Cauecs the Popol Vuh lists Tecum and
Tepepul, who were "tributary to the Castilian people." Then,
end of the list of Cauec generations, come the first lords who adopted
Spanish names, Juan de Rojas and Juan Cortes, the living holders of
the titles of Keeper of the Mat and Keeper of the Reception House
Mat when the alphabetic Popol Vuh was written. Today Quiches ideally
list either nine or thirteen generations when they invoke their
ancestors in prayer; from this we can see that the thirteen
generations of lords named as preceding Juan de Rojas and Juan
Cortes need not be taken as constituting an exhaustive genealogy but
may simply be a list of the names these two men used in their own
By giving us the names of Quiche lords who were alive while they
were writing, the authors of the alphabetic Popol Vuh also give us the
means for dating their work. They could not have finished it any later
than 1558, since by that year the name of Juan de Rojas is missing
from documents he would have signed had he still been among the
living. And since they mention Pedro de Robles of the Greathouse
lineage as the current Lord Minister, they could not have finished any
earlier than 1554, at which time his predecessor was still in
office. This places the writing of the Popol Vuh during the very
same decade as the writing of the majority of the native titulos
that exist for colonial Guatemala, documents that were composed by
indigenous authors for the express purpose of reasserting the rights
formerly enjoyed by specific lordly lineages living in specific
places. The version of the Popol Vuh that comes down to us does not
include a copy of the original title page or of whatever explicitly
legal statements might have been appended to the original alphabetic
manuscript, but it makes the lineage and place names plain enough, and
it contains two different lists of towns that had once been
tributary to Quiche.*(40)
It may be that the indigenous lords of highland Guatemala chose
the 1550s to make their claims because they thought they saw an
opening in Spanish policy, but they may also have been preparing for
the major temporal transition that Jaguar Quitze, Jaguar Night,
Mahucutah, and True Jaguar had once called "the time of our Lord
Deer." A new fifty-two-year cycle, with the first day of its first
year falling on One Deer, was due to begin on June 2, 1558 (on the
Julian calendar). Juan Cortes, whose duties as Keeper of the Reception
House Mat would have included tribute collection had he served
before the coming of Alvarado, worked constantly to restore tribute
rights to the lordly lineages of the town of Quiche. In 1557 he went
all the way to Spain to press his case, and it may well be that he
took a copy of the alphabetic Popol Vuh with him. He continued to make
claims when he returned to Guatemala in 1558, prompting a missionary
to warn Philip II that "this land is new and not confirmed in the
faith," and that Cortes, "son of idolatrous parents, would
do very little to restore their ceremonies and attract their former
subjects to himself."*(41) Quiche rights to collect tribute never
restored, but over the next thirty years Juan Cortes did take a
considerable role in appointing and installing the leaders of
various towns that had once been under Quiche rule.*(42)
By the time the authors of the Popol Vuh have finished giving the
rank order of noble titles and the names of the individuals who held
the highest titles, they are only a few sentences away from
finishing their work. At this point they single out one of the
lesser titles for further discussion, a move that seems
anticlimactic until we realize that they are giving us a clue to their
own identity. Without naming any individuals, they point out that each
of the three leading lineages included one lord bearing the title of
Great Toastmaster,*(43) also translatable as Great Convener of
Banquets. Here we may recall that when the authors introduced the
story of One Hunahpu, they themselves proposed a toast to the
reader. If we look for a convener of banquets and maker of toasts
among the contemporary Quiche, we find the professional matchmaker,
who serves as an eloquent master of ceremonies at the feasts where
marriage arrangements are completed. If our mysterious authors were
themselves the three Great Toastmasters, and if their duties
included the convening of wedding banquets, that would help explain
why they took a special interest in marriage customs when they
recounted the life and times of successive Quiche citadels. Indeed,
they specifically noted the point at which feasting and drinking first
became a part of the negotiations for a bride.
The authors give us one final clue to their identity when they
tell us that the three Great Toastmasters are "Mothers of the Word"
and "Fathers of the Word." The combination of "Mother"
suggests the contemporary daykeepers called mother-fathers, who
serve as the ritual heads of patrilineages; it is from their ranks
that matchmakers are drawn. The focus on "the Word," coming
as it does
near the very end of a work whose opening line promised to give us the
"Ancient Word," suggests that the Word parented by the Great
Toastmasters and the Word written down in the alphabetic Popol Vuh are
one and the same. If so, we know the name of at least one of the
writers: when Juan de Rojas and Juan Cortes signed a document known
the "Title of the Lords of Totonicapan" in 1554, a man named
Velasco*(44) signed himself as Great Toastmaster of the Cauecs.
At the end of their work the authors repeat the enigma they
presented near the beginning, allowing us to wonder whether the
hieroglyphic Popol Vuh might still exist somewhere, only now they
say it has been "lost" instead of telling us that the reader
his face. They close on a note of reassurance, asking us, in effect,
to accept what they have written without demanding a closer look at
their sources, since "everything has been completed here concerning
Quiche," meaning the place named Quiche. Then, lest we forget their
difficult circumstances, they add the phrase, "which is now named
Santa Cruz," or "Holy Cross." Here again they take us
back to the
beginning, where they told us, "We shall write about this now amid
preaching of God, in Christendom now."
Today, even when Quiche daykeepers go to a remote mountaintop
shrine, sending up great clouds of incense for multitudes of deities
and ancestors, they sometimes begin and end by running through an "Our
Father" and a "Hail Mary" and crossing themselves. It
is as if the
alien eye and ear of the conqueror were present even under
conditions of solitude and required the recitation of two spells,
one to ward them off for awhile and the other to readmit their
existence. Between these protective spells daykeepers are left to
enter, in peace, a world whose obligations they know to be older
than those of Christianity, obligations to the mountains and plains
where they continue to live and to all those who have ever lived there
before them. So it is with the authors of the Popol Vuh, who mention
Christendom on the first page, Holy Cross on the last page, and open
up the whole sky-earth, vast and deep, within.
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the Popol Vuh, considered in
its entirety, is the vast temporal sweep of its narrative. It begins
in darkness, with a world inhabited only by gods, and continues all
the way past the dawn into the time of the humans who wrote it. The
surviving Maya hieroglyphic books abound with gods, but they seem to
stop short of dealing directly with the acts of mortals. The Dresden
book does have one page that shifts the action to the human sphere,
but the following pages were torn off at some time in the past. If
we wish to find hieroglyphic texts that have the same proportion
between divine and human affairs as the alphabetic Popol Vuh, we
must leave the time and place in which it was written and go a
thousand years back and hundreds of miles away to the classic Maya
site of Palenque, in the Gulf-coast lowlands.*(45)
At Palenque, in the sanctuary of each temple in what is now known as
the Cross Group, is a stone tablet bearing a hieroglyphic narrative.
In each case the text is divided into two panels, one of which
begins with the deeds of gods who include the classic equivalents of
Hunahpu and Xbalanque, and the other of which ends with the deeds of
human lords whose own scribes were the authors of the inscriptions.
the middle of this narrative, where the reader passes from one panel
to the other, are characters who are neither fully divine nor quite
human. So also with the Popol Vuh: about halfway through, the reader
comes to a transition between what might be called "myth"
"history" (at the end of Part Three). The characters in the
narrative are still divine at this point, but they are described as
performing rituals for the veneration of ripened corn and deceased
relatives, rituals that are meant to be followed by future humans
rather than by ancient gods. After this episode, in which the gods act
like people, comes another in which people act like gods (at the
beginning of Part Four). The people in question are the first four
humans, the ones who saw and understood everything in the sky-earth.
Once their perfect vision has been taken away the narrative begins
to sound more like history as it moves along, though human
characters continue to aspire to deeds of divine proportions.*(46)
We tend to think of myth and history as being in conflict with one
another, but the authors of the inscriptions at Palenque and the
alphabetic text of the Popol Vuh treated the mythic and historical
parts of their narratives as belonging to a single, balanced whole.
their sense of proportion, the Egyptian Book of the Dead would need
a second half devoted to human deeds in the land of the living, and
the Hebrew Testament would need a first half devoted to events that
took place before the fall of Adam and Eve. In the case of ancient
Chinese literature the Book of Changes, which is like the Popol Vuh
being subject to divinatory interpretation, would have to be
combined with the Book of History in a single volume.
To this day the Quiche Maya think of dualities in general as
complementary rather than opposed, interpenetrating rather than
mutually exclusive. Instead of being in logical opposition to one
another, the realms of divine and human actions are joined by a mutual
attraction. If we had an English word that fully expressed the Mayan
sense of narrative time, it would have to embrace the duality of the
divine and the human in the same way the Quiche term cahuleu or
"sky-earth" preserves the duality of what we call the "world."
we already have a word that comes close to doing the job:
mythistory, taken into English from Greek by way of Latin. For the
ancient Greeks, who set about driving a wedge between the divine and
the human, this term became a negative one, designating narratives
that should have been properly historical but contained mythic
impurities. For Mayans, the presence of a divine dimension in
narratives of human affairs is not an imperfection but a necessity,
and it is balanced by a necessary human dimension in narratives of
divine affairs. At one end of the Popol Vuh the gods are preoccupied
with the difficult task of making humans, and at the other humans
are preoccupied with the equally difficult task of finding the
traces of divine movements in their own deeds.
The difference between a fully mythistorical sense of narrative time
and the European quest for pure history is not reducible to a simple
contrast between cyclical and linear time. Mayans are always alert
to the reassertion of the patterns of the past in present events,
but they do not expect the past to repeat itself exactly. Each time
the gods of the Popol Vuh attempt to make human beings they get a
different result, and except for the solitary person made of mud, each
attempt has a lasting result rather than completely disappearing
into the folds of cyclical time. Later, when members of the second
generation of Quiche lords go on a pilgrimage that takes them into the
lowlands, their journey is not described as a literal repetition of
the journey of Hunahpu and Xbalanque to Xibalba, nor even as a
retracing of the journey of the human founders of the ruling Quiche
lineages, but is allowed its own character as a unique event, an event
that nevertheless carries echoes of the past. The effect of these
events, like others, is cumulative, and it is a specifically human
capacity to take each of them into account separately while at the
same time recognizing that they double back on one another.*(47)
In theory, if we who presently claim to be human were to forget
our efforts to find the traces of divine movements in our own actions,
our fate should be something like that of the wooden people in the
Popol Vuh. For them, the forgotten force of divinity reasserted itself
by inhabiting their own tools and utensils, which rose up against them
and drove them from their homes. Today they are swinging through the
On the holy day Eight Monkey
in the year Eleven Thought,
June 22, 1984,
PRONOUNCING QUICHE WORDS
a Like a in English "father," or Spanish a.
e Like ai in English "wait," or Spanish e.
i Like ee in English "seed," or Spanish i.
o Like o in English "bone," or Spanish o.
u Like oo in English "hoot," or Spanish u.
aa, ee, ii, The doubling of a vowel normally indicates that it
oo, uu is followed by a glottal stop, which is like tt in
the Scottish pronunciation of "bottle"; when uu
begins a word or follows another vowel it is
pronounced like English "woo."
b Like English b, but pronounced together with a
c, qu Pronounced without the puff of air that follows c in
ch Like English ch.
h Pronounced deeper in the throat than English h, like
Spanish j or German ch.
k Pronounced with the tongue farther back in the mouth
than for c or qu, like the Hebrew letter qoph.
l Pronounced with the tongue moved forward from the
position of English l so as to touch the teeth, as
in the ll of Welsh "Lloyd."
m Like English m.
n Like English n.
p Pronounced without the puff of air that follows p in
r Pronounced with a flap if between two vowels, like
Spanish r, otherwise trilled like Spanish rr.
t Pronounced without the puff of air that follows t in
tt Like t, but pronounced together with a glottal stop.
tz Like ts in English "mats."
x Like English sh.
y Like English y.
z Like English s.
3 Like k, but pronounced together with a glottal
4 Like c or qu, but pronounced together with a glottal
4h Like ch, but pronounced together with a glottal
4, Like tz, but pronounced together with a glottal
Stress is always on the final syllable of a word.
THIS IS THE BEGINNING*(48) OF THE ANCIENT WORD, here in this place
called Quiche.*(49) Here we shall inscribe, we shall implant the
Ancient Word, the potential and source for everything done in the
citadel of Quiche, in the nation of Quiche people.
And here*(50) we shall take up the demonstration, revelation, and
account of how things were put in shadow and brought to light*(51)
by the Maker, Modeler, named Bearer, Begetter,
Hunahpu Possum, Hunahpu Coyote,
Great White Peccary, Tapir,
Sovereign Plumed Serpent,
Heart of the Lake, Heart of the Sea,
Maker of the Blue-Green Plate,
Maker of the Blue-Green Bowl,
as they are called, also named, also described as
the midwife, matchmaker*(52)
named Xpiyacoc, Xmucane,
twice a midwife, twice a matchmaker,
as is said in the words of Quiche. They accounted for everything-
and did it, too- as enlightened beings, in enlightened words.*(54)
We shall write about this now amid the preaching of God, in
Christendom now.*(55) We shall bring it out because there is no longer
a place to see it,*(56) a Council Book,
a place to see "The Light That Came from
Across the Sea,"
the account of "Our Place in the Shadows,"
a place to see "The Dawn of Life,"
as it is called. There is the original book and ancient writing, but
he who reads and ponders it hides his face.*(57) It takes a long
performance*(58) and account to complete the emergence of all the
the fourfold siding, fourfold cornering,
measuring, fourfold staking,
halving the cord, stretching the cord
in the sky, on the earth,
the four sides, the four corners,*(59)
as it is said,
by the Maker, Modeler,
mother-father of life, of humankind,
giver of breath, giver of heart,
bearer, upbringer*(60) in the light that lasts*(61)
of those born in the light, begotten in the light;
worrier, knower of everything, whatever there is:
THIS IS THE ACCOUNT, here it is:
Now it still ripples, now it still murmurs, ripples, it still sighs,
still hums, and it is empty*(62) under the sky.
Here follow the first words, the first eloquence:*(63)
There is not yet one person, one animal, bird, fish, crab, tree,
rock, hollow, canyon, meadow, forest. Only the sky alone is there; the
face of the earth is not clear. Only the sea alone is pooled under all
the sky; there is nothing whatever gathered together. It is at rest;
not a single thing stirs.*(64) It is held back,*(65) kept at rest
under the sky.
Whatever there is that might be is simply not there: only the pooled
water, only the calm sea, only it alone is pooled.
Whatever might be is simply not there: only murmurs, ripples, in the
dark, in the night. Only the Maker, Modeler alone, Sovereign Plumed
Serpent, the Bearers, Begetters are in the water, a glittering
light.*(66) They are there, they are enclosed in quetzal feathers,
Thus the name, "Plumed Serpent." They are great knowers, great
thinkers in their very being.*(67)
And of course there is the sky, and there is also the Heart of
Sky. This is the name of the god,*(68) as it is spoken.
And then came his word, he came here to the Sovereign Plumed
Serpent, here in the blackness, in the early dawn.*(69) He spoke
with the Sovereign Plumed Serpent, and they talked, then they thought,
then they worried. They agreed with each other, they joined their
words, their thoughts.*(70) Then it was clear, then they reached
accord in the light, and then humanity was clear, when they
conceived the growth, the generation*(71) of trees, of bushes, and the
growth of life, of humankind, in the blackness, in the early dawn, all
because of the Heart of Sky, named Hurricane. Thunderbolt Hurricane
comes first, the second is Newborn Thunderbolt, and the third is Raw
So there were three of them, as Heart of Sky, who came to the
Sovereign Plumed Serpent, when the dawn of life was conceived:
"How should it be sown, how should it dawn?*(73) Who is to be the
"Let it be this way, think about it: this water should be removed,
emptied out for the formation of the earth's own plate and platform,
then comes the sowing, the dawning of the sky-earth. But there will
no high days and no bright praise*(75) for our work, our design, until
the rise of the human work, the human design," they said.
And then the earth arose because of them, it was simply their word
that brought it forth. For the forming of the earth they said "Earth."
It arose suddenly, just like a cloud, like a mist, now forming,
unfolding. Then the mountains were separated from the water,*(76)
all at once the great mountains came forth. By their genius alone,
by their cutting edge alone*(77) they carried out the conception of
the mountain-plain, whose face grew instant groves of cypress and
And the Plumed Serpent was pleased with this:
"It was good that you came, Heart of Sky, Hurricane, and Newborn
Thunderbolt, Raw Thunderbolt. Our work, our design will turn out
well," they said.
And the earth was formed first, the mountain-plain. The channels
of water were separated; their branches wound their ways among the
mountains. The waters were divided when the great mountains appeared.
Such was the formation of the earth when it was brought forth by the
Heart of Sky, Heart of Earth, as they are called, since they were
the first to think of it.*(78) The sky was set apart, and the earth
was set apart in the midst of the waters.
Such was their plan when they thought, when they worried about the
completion of their work.
NOW THEY PLANNED THE ANIMALS OF THE MOUNTAINS, all the guardians
of the forests,*(79) creatures of the mountains: the deer, birds,
pumas, jaguars, serpents, rattlesnakes, yellowbites,*(80) guardians
A Bearer, Begetter speaks:
"Why this pointless humming?*(81) Why should there merely be
rustling beneath the trees and bushes?"
"Indeed- they had better have guardians," the others replied.
soon as they thought it and said it, deer and birds came forth.
And then they gave out homes to the deer and birds:
"You, the deer: sleep along the rivers, in the canyons. Be here
the meadows, in the thickets, in the forests, multiply yourselves. You
will stand and walk on all fours," they were told.
So then they established the nests of the birds, small and great:
"You, precious birds:*(82) your nests, your houses are in the trees,
in the bushes. Multiply there, scatter there, in the branches of
trees, the branches of bushes," the deer and birds were told.
When this deed had been done, all of them had received a place to
sleep*(83) and a place to stay. So it is that the nests of the animals
are on the earth, given by the Bearer, Begetter. Now the arrangement
of the deer and birds was complete.
AND THEN THE DEER AND BIRDS WERE TOLD by the Maker, Modeler, Bearer,
"Talk, speak out. Don't moan, don't cry out.*(84) Please talk,
each to each, within each kind, within each group," they were told-
the deer, birds, puma, jaguar, serpent.
"Name now our names, praise us. We are your mother, we are your
father. Speak now:
Newborn Thunderbolt, Raw Thunderbolt,
Heart of Sky, Heart of Earth,
speak, pray to us, keep our days," they were told. But it didn't
turn out that they spoke like people: they just squawked, they just
chattered, they just howled.*(85) It wasn't apparent what language
they spoke;*(86) each one gave a different cry. When the Maker,
Modeler heard this:
"It hasn't turned out well, they haven't spoken," they said
themselves. "It hasn't turned out that our names have been named.
Since we are their mason and sculptor, this will not do," the
Bearers and Begetters said among themselves. So they told them:
"You will simply have to be transformed. Since it hasn't turned
out well and you haven't spoken, we have changed our word:
"What you feed on, what you eat, the places where you sleep, the
places where you stay, whatever is yours will remain in the canyons,
the forests. Although it turned out that our days were not kept, nor
did you pray to us, there may yet be strength in the keeper of days,
the giver of praise whom we have yet to make. Just accept your
service, just let your flesh be eaten.
"So be it, this must be your service," they were told when
instructed- the animals, small and great, on the face of the earth.
And then they wanted to test their timing again, they wanted to
experiment again, and they wanted to prepare for the keeping of days
again. They had not heard their speech among the animals; it did not
come to fruition and it was not complete.
And so their flesh was brought low: they served, they were eaten,
they were killed- the animals on the face of the earth.
AGAIN THERE COMES AN EXPERIMENT WITH THE HUMAN WORK, the human
design, by the Maker, Modeler, Bearer, Begetter:
"It must simply be tried again. The time for the planting and
dawning is nearing. For this we must make a provider and nurturer. 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.
"So now let's try to make a giver of praise, giver of respect,
provider, nurturer," they said.
So then comes the building and working with earth and mud. They made
a body, but it didn't look good to them. It was just separating,
just crumbling, just loosening, just softening, just disintegrating,
and just dissolving. Its head wouldn't turn, either. Its face was just
lopsided, its face was just twisted. It couldn't look around. It
talked at first, but senselessly.*(87) It was quickly dissolving in
"It won't last," the mason and sculptor said then. "It
seems to be
dwindling away, so let it just dwindle. It can't walk and it can't
multiply, so let it be merely a thought," they said.
So then they dismantled, again they brought down their work and
design. Again they talked:
"What is there for us to make that would turn out well, that would
succeed in keeping our days and praying to us?" they said. Then
"We'll just tell Xpiyacoc, Xmucane, Hunahpu Possum, Hunahpu
Coyote, to try a counting of days, a counting of lots,"*(88) the
and sculptor said to themselves. Then they invoked Xpiyacoc, Xmucane.
THEN COMES THE NAMING OF THOSE WHO ARE THE MIDMOST SEERS: the
"Grandmother of Day, Grandmother of Light," as the Maker,
called them. These are names of Xpiyacoc and Xmucane.
When Hurricane had spoken with the Sovereign Plumed Serpent, they
invoked the daykeepers, diviners, the midmost seers:
"There is yet to find, yet to discover how we are to model a person,
construct a person again, a provider, nurturer, so that we are
called upon and we are recognized: our recompense is in words.
our grandmother, our grandfather,
let there be planting, let there be the dawning
of our invocation, our sustenance, our recognition
by the human work, the human design,
the human figure, the human mass.*(89)
So be it, fulfill your names:
Hunahpu Possum, Hunahpu Coyote,
Bearer twice over, Begetter twice over,
Great Peccary, Great Tapir,
Maker of the Blue-Green Plate,
Maker of the Blue-Green Bowl,
incense maker, master craftsman,*(90)
Grandmother of Day, Grandmother of Light.
You have been called upon because of our work, our design. Run your
hands over the kernels of corn, over the seeds of the coral tree,*(91)
just get it done, just let it come out whether we should carve and
gouge a mouth, a face in wood," they told the daykeepers.
And then comes the borrowing,*(92) the counting of days; the hand is
moved over the corn kernels, over the coral seeds, the days, the
Then they spoke to them, one of them a grandmother, the other a
This is the grandfather, this is the master of the coral seeds:
Xpiyacoc is his name.
And this is the grandmother, the daykeeper, diviner who stands
behind others:*(94) Xmucane is her name.
And they said, as they set out the days:
"Just let it be found, just let it be discovered,
say it, our ear is listening,
may you talk, may you speak,
just find the wood for the carving and sculpting
by the builder, sculptor.
Is this to be the provider, the nurturer
when it comes to the planting, the dawning?
You corn kernels, you coral seeds,
you days, you lots:
may you succeed, may you be accurate,"*(95)
they said to the corn kernels, coral seeds, days, lots. "Have shame,
you up there, Heart of Sky: attempt no deception*(96) before the mouth
and face of Sovereign Plumed Serpent," they said. Then they spoke
straight to the point:
"It is well that there be your manikins, woodcarvings,*(97) talking,
speaking, there on the face of the earth."
"So be it," they replied. The moment they spoke it was done:
manikins, woodcarvings, human in looks and human in speech.
This was the peopling of the face of the earth:
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.*(98) Now they
did not remember the Heart of Sky.
And so they fell, just an experiment and just a cutout for
humankind. They were talking at first but their faces were dry. They
were not yet developed in the legs and arms. They had no blood, no
lymph. They had no sweat, no fat. Their complexions were dry, their
faces were crusty. They flailed their legs and arms, their bodies were
And so they accomplished nothing before the Maker, Modeler who
gave them birth, gave them heart. They became the first numerous
people here on the face of the earth.
AGAIN THERE COMES A HUMILIATION, destruction, and demolition. The
manikins, woodcarvings were killed when the Heart of Sky devised a
flood for them. A great flood was made; it came down on the heads of
the manikins, woodcarvings.
The man's body was carved from the wood of the coral tree*(99) by
the Maker, Modeler. And as for the woman, the Maker, Modeler needed
the pith of reeds*(100) for the woman's body. They were not competent,
nor did they speak before the builder and sculptor who made them and
brought them forth, and so they were killed, done in by a flood:
There came a rain of resin*(101) from the sky.
There came the one named Gouger of Faces: he gouged out their
There came Sudden Bloodletter: he snapped off their heads.
There came Crunching Jaguar: he ate their flesh.
There came Tearing Jaguar: he tore them open.
They were pounded down to the bones and tendons, smashed and
pulverized even to the bones. Their faces were smashed because they
were incompetent before their mother and their father, the Heart of
Sky, named Hurricane. The earth was blackened because of this; the
black rainstorm*(102) began, rain all day and rain all night. Into
their houses came*(103) the animals, small and great. Their faces were
crushed by things of wood and stone. Everything spoke: their water
jars, their tortilla griddles, their plates, their cooking pots, their
dogs, their grinding stones, each and every thing crushed their faces.
Their dogs and turkeys*(104) told them:
"You caused us pain, you ate us, but now it is you whom we shall
eat." And this is the grinding stone:
"We were undone because of you.
Every day, every day,
in the dark, in the dawn, forever,
right in our faces, because of you.
This was the service we gave you at first, when you were still people,
but today you will learn of our power. We shall pound and we shall
grind your flesh," their grinding stones told them.
And this is what their dogs said, when they spoke in their turn:
"Why is it you can't seem to give us our food? We just watch and
just keep us down, and you throw us around. You keep a stick ready
when you eat, just so you can hit us. We don't talk, so we've received
nothing from you. How could you not have known? You did know that we
were wasting away there, behind you.
"So, this very day you will taste the teeth in our mouths. We
shall eat you," their dogs told them, and their faces were crushed.
And then their tortilla griddles and cooking pots spoke to them in
"Pain! That's all you've done for us. Our mouths are sooty, our
faces are sooty. By setting us on the fire all the time, you burn
us. Since we felt no pain, you try it. We shall burn you," all
cooking pots said, crushing their faces.
The stones, their hearthstones were shooting out,*(106) coming right
out of the fire, going for their heads, causing them pain. Now they
run for it, helter-skelter.
They want to climb up on the houses, but they fall as the houses
They want to climb the trees; they're thrown off by the trees.
They want to get inside caves, but the caves slam shut in their
Such was the scattering of the human work, the human design. The
people were ground down, overthrown. The mouths and faces of all of
them were destroyed and crushed. And it used to be said that the
monkeys in the forests today are a sign of this. They were left as a
sign because wood alone was used for their flesh*(107) by the
builder and sculptor.
So this is why monkeys look like people: they are a sign of a
previous human work, human design- mere manikins, mere woodcarvings.
THIS WAS WHEN THERE WAS JUST A TRACE OF EARLY DAWN on the face of
the earth, there was no sun. But there was one who magnified
himself; Seven Macaw is his name. The sky-earth was already there, but
the face of the sun-moon was clouded over. Even so, it is said that
his light provided a sign for the people who were flooded. He was like
a person of genius in his being.
"I am great. My place is now higher than that of the human work,
human design. I am their sun and I am their light, and I am also their
"So be it: my light is great. I am the walkway and I am the foothold
of the people,*(109) because my eyes are of metal. My teeth just
glitter with jewels, and turquoise as well; they stand out*(110)
blue with stones like the face of the sky.
"And this nose of mine shines white into the distance like the
Since my nest is metal, it lights up the face of the earth. When I
come forth before my nest, I am like the sun and moon for those who
are born in the light, begotten in the light. It must be so, because
my face reaches into the distance," says Seven Macaw.
It is not true that he is the sun, this Seven Macaw, yet he
magnifies himself, his wings, his metal. But the scope of his face
lies right around his own perch;*(111) his face does not reach
everywhere beneath the sky. The faces of the sun, moon, and stars
are not yet visible, it has not yet dawned.
And so Seven Macaw puffs himself up as the days and the months,
though the light of the sun and moon has not yet clarified. He only
wished for surpassing greatness. This was when the flood was worked
upon the manikins, woodcarvings.
And now we shall explain how Seven Macaw died, when the people
were vanquished, done in by the mason and sculptor.
THE FIRST NAMED HUNAHPU AND THE SECOND NAMED XBALANQUE: These are
the portrait glyphs for the classic Maya equivalents of Hunahpu (left)
and Xbalanque (right) at Palenque.)
HERE IS THE BEGINNING OF THE DEFEAT AND DESTRUCTION OF THE DAY OF
SEVEN MACAW by the two boys, the first named Hunahpu and the second
named Xbalanque. Being gods, the two of them saw evil in his attempt
at self-magnification before the Heart of Sky. So the boys talked:
"It's no good without life, without people here on the face of
"Well then, let's try a shot. We could shoot him while he's at
meal. We could make him ill, then put an end to his riches, his
jade, his metal, his jewels, his gems, the source of his brilliance.
Everyone might do as he does, but it should not come to be that
fiery splendor is merely a matter of metal. So be it," said the
boys, each one with a blowgun on his shoulder, the two of them
And this Seven Macaw has two sons: the first of these is Zipacna,
and the second is the Earthquake. And Chimalmat is the name of their
mother, the wife of Seven Macaw.
And this is Zipacna, this is the one to build up the great
mountains: Fire Mouth, Hunahpu, Cave by the Water, Xcanul, Macamob,
Huliznab, as the names of the mountains that were there at the dawn
are spoken. They were brought forth by Zipacna in a single night.
And now this is the Earthquake. The mountains are moved by him;
the mountains, small and great, are softened by him.*(112) The sons
Seven Macaw did this just as a means of self-magnification.
"Here am I: I am the sun," said Seven Macaw.
"Here am I: I am the maker of the earth," said Zipacna.
"As for me, I bring down the sky, I make an avalanche of all the
earth," said Earthquake. The sons of Seven Macaw are alike, and
him: they got their greatness from their father.
And the two boys saw evil in this, since our first mother and father
could not yet be made. Therefore deaths and disappearances were
planned by the two boys.
AND HERE IS THE SHOOTING OF SEVEN MACAW BY THE TWO BOYS. We shall
explain the defeat of each one of those who engaged in
This is the great tree of Seven Macaw, a nance, and this is the food
of Seven Macaw. In order to eat the fruit of the nance he goes up
the tree every day. Since Hunahpu and Xbalanque have seen where he
feeds, they are now hiding beneath the tree of Seven Macaw, they are
keeping quiet here, the two boys are in the leaves of the tree.
THEY ARE NOW HIDING BENEATH THE TREE OF SEVEN MACAW: In this classic
Maya vase painting from the lowlands, Seven Macaw is shown perched
in the top of a fruit tree. The tree itself is portrayed as animate,
with a face and ears at its base. Hidden behind the tree is Xbalanque,
whose pawlike hand protrudes above the tree's left ear. Crouching at
the right is Hunahpu, in the act of shooting Seven Macaw with his
blowgun. The presence of a scorpion beneath the tree remains
And when Seven Macaw arrived, perching over his meal, the nance,
it was then that he was shot by Hunahpu. The blowgun shot went right
to his jaw, breaking his mouth. Then he went up over the tree and fell
flat on the ground.*(113) Suddenly Hunahpu appeared, running. He set
out to grab him, but actually it was the arm of Hunahpu that was
seized by Seven Macaw. He yanked it straight back, he bent it back
at the shoulder. Then Seven Macaw tore it right out of Hunahpu. Even
so, the boys did well: the first round was not their defeat by Seven
And when Seven Macaw had taken the arm of Hunahpu, he went home.
Holding his jaw very carefully, he arrived:
"What have you got there?" said Chimalmat, the wife of Seven
"What is it but those two tricksters!*(114) They've shot me, they've
dislocated my jaw.*(115) All my teeth are just loose,*(116) now they
ache. But once what I've got is over the fire- hanging there, dangling
over the fire- then they can just come and get it. They're real
tricksters!" said Seven Macaw, then he hung up the arm of Hunahpu.
Meanwhile Hunahpu and Xbalanque were thinking. And then they invoked
a grandfather, a truly white-haired grandfather, and a grandmother,
a truly humble grandmother- just bent-over, elderly people. Great
White Peccary is the name of the grandfather, and Great White Tapir
the name of the grandmother. The boys said to the grandmother and
"Please travel with us when we go to get our arm from Seven Macaw;
we'll just follow right behind you. You'll tell him:
'Do forgive us*(117) our grandchildren, who travel with us. Their
mother and father are dead, and so they follow along there, behind us.
Perhaps we should give them away, since all we do is pull worms out
teeth.' So we'll seem like children to Seven Macaw, even though
we're giving you the instructions," the two boys told them.
"Very well," they replied.
After that they approached the place where Seven Macaw was in
front of his home. When the grandmother and grandfather passed by, the
two boys were romping along behind them. When they passed below the
lord's house, Seven Macaw was yelling his mouth off because of his
teeth. And when Seven Macaw saw the grandfather and grandmother
traveling with them:
"Where are you headed, our grandfather?" said the lord.
"We're just making our living, your lordship," they replied.
"Why are you working for a living? Aren't those your children
traveling with you?"
"No, they're not, your lordship. They're our grandchildren, our
descendants, but it is nevertheless we who take pity on them. The
bit of food they get is the portion we give them, your lordship,"
replied the grandmother and grandfather. Since the lord is getting
done in by the pain in his teeth, it is only with great effort*(118)
that he speaks again:
"I implore you, please take pity on me! What sweets can you make,
what poisons can you cure?"*(119) said the lord.
"We just pull the worms out of teeth,*(120) and we just cure
eyes.*(121) We just set bones, your lordship," they replied.
"Very well, please cure my teeth. They really ache, every day.
It's insufferable! I get no sleep because of them- and my eyes. They
just shot me, those two tricksters! Ever since it started I haven't
eaten because of it. Therefore take pity on me! Perhaps it's because
my teeth are loose now."
"Very well, your lordship. It's a worm, gnawing at the bone.*(122)
It's merely a matter of putting in a replacement and taking the
teeth out, sir."
"But perhaps it's not good for my teeth to come out- since I am,
after all, a lord. My finery is in my teeth- and my eyes."
"But then we'll put in a replacement. Ground bone will be put back
in." And this is the "ground bone": it's only white corn.
"Very well. Yank them out! Give me some help here!" he replied.
And when the teeth of Seven Macaw came out, it was only white corn
that went in as a replacement for his teeth- just a coating*(123)
shining white, that corn in his mouth. His face fell at once, he no
longer looked like a lord. The last of his teeth came out, the
jewels that had stood out blue from his mouth.
And then the eyes of Seven Macaw were cured. When his eyes were
trimmed back*(124) the last of his metal came out. Still he felt no
pain; he just looked on while the last of his greatness left him. It
was just as Hunahpu and Xbalanque had intended.
And when Seven Macaw died, Hunahpu got back his arm. And
Chimalmat, the wife of Seven Macaw, also died.
Such was the loss of the riches of Seven Macaw: only the doctors got
the jewels and gems that had made him arrogant, here on the face of
the earth. The genius of the grandmother, the genius of the
grandfather did its work when they took back their arm: it was
implanted and the break got well again. Just as they had wished the
death of Seven Macaw, so they brought it about. They had seen evil
in his self-magnification.
After this the two boys went on again. What they did was simply
the word of the Heart of Sky.*(125)
AND HERE ARE THE DEEDS OF ZIPACNA, the first son of Seven Macaw.
"I am the maker of mountains," says Zipacna.
And this is Zipacna, bathing on the shore. Then the Four Hundred
Boys passed by dragging a log, a post for their hut. The Four
Hundred Boys were walking along, having cut a great tree for the
lintel of their hut.*(126)
And then Zipacna went there, he arrived where the Four Hundred
"What are you doing, boys?"
"It's just this log. We can't lift it up to carry it."
"I'll carry it. Where does it go? What do you intend to use it
"It's just a lintel for our hut."
"Very well," he replied.
And then he pulled it, or rather carried it, right on up to the
entrance of the hut of the Four Hundred Boys.
"You could just stay with us, boy. Do you have a mother and father?"
"Not so," he replied.
"We'd like some help*(127) tomorrow in cutting another one of our
logs, a post for our hut."
"Good," he replied.
After that the Four Hundred Boys shared their thoughts:
"About this boy: what should we do with him?"
"We should kill him, because what he does is no good. He lifted
log all by himself. Let's dig a big hole for him, and then we'll throw
him down*(128) in the hole. We'll say to him:
'Why are you spilling dirt in the hole?'*(129) And when he's
wedged*(130) down in the hole we'll wham a big log*(131) down behind
him. Then he should die in the hole," said the Four Hundred Boys.
And when they had dug a hole, one that went deep, they called for
"We're asking you to please go on digging out the dirt. We can't
go on," he was told.
"Very well," he replied.
After that he went down in the hole.
"Call out when enough dirt has been dug, when you're getting down
deep," he was told.
"Yes," he replied, then he began digging the hole. But the
he dug was for his own salvation. He realized that he was to be
killed, so he dug a separate hole to one side,*(132) he dug a second
hole for safety.
"How far is it?" the Four Hundred Boys called down to him.
"I'm digging fast. When I call up to you, the digging will be
finished," said Zipacna, from down in the hole. But he's not digging
at the bottom of the hole, in his own grave; rather, the hole he's
digging is for his own salvation.
After that, when Zipacna called out, he had gone to safety in his
own hole. Then he called out:
"Come here, take the dirt, the fill from the hole. It's been dug.
I've really gone down deep! Can't you hear my call? As for your
call, it just echoes down here, it sounds to me as if you were on
another level, or two levels away,"*(133) said Zipacna from his
hole. He's hidden in there, he calls out from down in the hole.
Meanwhile, a big log is being dragged along by the boys.
And then they threw the log down in the hole.
"Isn't he there? He doesn't speak."
"Let's keep on listening. He should cry out when he dies,"
among themselves. They're just whispering, and they've hidden
themselves, each one of them, after throwing down the log.
And then he did speak, now he gave a single cry. He called out
when the log fell to the bottom.
"Right on! He's been finished!"
"Very good! We've done him in, he's dead."
"What if he had gone on with his deeds, his works? He would've
made himself first among us and taken our place- we, the Four
Hundred Boys!" they said. Now they enjoyed themselves:
"On to the making of our sweet drink! Three days will pass, and
after three days let's drink to dedicate*(134) our hut- we, the Four
Hundred Boys!" they said. "And tomorrow we'll see, and on
after tomorrow we'll see whether or not ants come from the ground when
he's stinking and rotting. After that our hearts will be content
when we drink our sweet drink," they said. But Zipacna was listening
from the hole when the boys specified "the day after tomorrow."
And on the second day, when the ants collected, they were running,
swarming. Having taken their pickings*(135) under the log, they were
everywhere, carrying hair in their mouths and carrying the nails of
Zipacna. When the boys saw this:
"He's finished, that trickster! Look here how the ants have stripped
him, how they've swarmed. Everywhere they carry hair in their
mouths. It's his nails you can see. We've done it!" they said among
But this Zipacna is still alive. He just cuts the hair off his
head and chews off his nails to give them to the ants.
And so the Four Hundred Boys thought he had died.
After that, their sweet drink was ready on the third day, and then
all the boys got drunk, and once they were drunk, all four hundred
of those boys, they weren't feeling a thing.
After that the hut was brought down on top of them by Zipacna. All
of them were completely flattened. Not even one or two were saved from
among all the Four Hundred Boys. They were killed by Zipacna, the
son of Seven Macaw.
Such was the death of those Four Hundred Boys. And it used to be
said that they entered a constellation, named Hundrath after them,
though perhaps this is just a play on words.*(136)
And this is where we shall explain the defeat of Zipacna by the
two boys, Hunahpu and Xbalanque.
NOW THIS IS THE DEFEAT AND DEATH OF ZIPACNA, when he was beaten by
the two boys, Hunahpu and Xbalanque.
What now weighed heavily on the hearts of the two boys was that
the Four Hundred Boys had been killed by Zipacna.
It's mere fish and crabs that Zipacna looks for in the waters, but
he's eating every day, going around looking for his food by day and
lifting up mountains by night.
Next comes the counterfeiting*(137) of a great crab by Hunahpu and
And they used bromelia flowers, picked from the bromelias of the
forests. These became the forearms*(138) of the crab, and where they
opened*(139) were the claws.*(140) They used a flagstone for the
back of the crab, which clattered.*(141)
After that they put the shell beneath an overhang,*(142) at the foot
of a great mountain. Meauan is the name of the mountain where the
defeat took place.
After that, when the boys came along, they found Zipacna by the
"Where are you going, boy?" Zipacna was asked.
"I'm not going anywhere. I'm just looking for my food, boys,"
"What's your food?"
"Just fish and crabs, but there aren't any that I can find. It's
been two days since I stopped getting meals. By now I can't stand
the hunger,"*(143) Zipacna told Hunahpu and Xbalanque.
"There is that crab that's down in the canyon. A really big crab!
Perhaps you might manage to eat her. We were just getting bitten. We
wanted to catch her, but we got scared by her. If she hasn't gone away
you could catch her," said Hunahpu and Xbalanque.
"Take pity on me, please come point her out, boys,"*(144)
"We don't want to, but you go ahead. You can't miss her. Just follow
the river, and you go straight on over there below a great mountain.
She's clattering there at the bottom of the canyon. Just head on
over there," said Hunahpu and Xbalanque.
"But won't you please*(145) take pity on me? What if she can't
found, boys? If you come along I'll show you a place where there are
plenty of birds.*(146) Please come shoot them, I know where they are,"
Zipacna replied. They consented. He went ahead of the boys.
"What if you can't catch the crab? Just as we had to turn back,
will you. Not only didn't we eat her, but all at once she was biting
us. We were entering*(147) face down, but when she got scared we
were entering on our back.*(148) We just barely missed reaching her
then, so you'd better enter on your back," he was told.
"Very well," Zipacna replied, and then they went on. Now Zipacna
company as he went. They arrived at the bottom of the canyon.
The crab is on her side, her shell is gleaming red there.*(149) In
under the canyon wall is their contrivance.
"Very good!" Zipacna is happy now. He wishes she were already
mouth, so she could really cure his hunger. He wanted to eat her, he
just wanted it face down, he wanted to enter, but since the crab got
on top of him with her back down, he came back out.
"You didn't reach her?" he was asked.
"No indeed- she was just getting on top with her back down. I just
barely missed her on the first try, so perhaps I'd better enter on
my back,"*(150) he replied.
After that he entered again, on his back. He entered all the way-
only his kneecaps were showing now!*(151) He gave a last sigh and
was calm.*(152) The great mountain rested on his chest. He couldn't
turn over now, and so Zipacna turned to stone.
Such, in its turn, was the defeat of Zipacna by the two boys,
Hunahpu and Xbalanque. He was "the maker of mountains," as
previous pronouncements had it, the first son of Seven Macaw. He was
defeated beneath the great mountain called Meauan, defeated by
genius alone. He was the second to magnify himself, and now we shall
speak what is spoken of another.
AND THE THIRD TO MAGNIFY HIMSELF IS THE SECOND SON OF SEVEN MACAW,
"I am the breaker of mountains," he said. But even so, Hunahpu
Xbalanque defeated the Earthquake. Then Hurricane spoke, Newborn
Thunderbolt, Raw Thunderbolt; he spoke to Hunahpu and Xbalanque:
"The second son of Seven Macaw is another one, another who should
defeated. This is my word, because what they do on the face of the
earth is no good. They are surpassing the sun in size, in weight,
and it should not be that way. Lure this Earthquake into settling
down*(153) over there in the east," Hurricane told the two boys.
"Very well, your lordship. There is more to be done. What we see
is no good. Isn't it a question of your position and your eminence,
sir, Heart of Sky?" the two boys said when they responded to the
word of Hurricane.
Meanwhile he presses on, this Earthquake, breaker of mountains. Just
by lightly tapping his foot on the ground he instantly demolishes
the mountains, great and small. When he met up with the two boys:
"Where are you going, boy?" they asked Earthquake.
"I'm not going anywhere. I just scatter the mountains, and I'm
one who breaks them, in the course of the days, in the course of the
light,"*(154) he said when he answered. Then the Earthquake asked
Hunahpu and Xbalanque:
"Where did you come from? I don't know your faces. What are your
names?" said Earthquake.
"We have no names. We just hunt and trap in the mountains. We're
just orphans, we have nothing to call our own, boy. We're just
making our way among the mountains, small and great, boy. And
there's one great mountain we saw that's just growing right along.
It's rising really high! It's just swelling up, rising above all the
other mountains. And there weren't even one or two birds to be
found, boy. So how could it be that you destroy all mountains, boy?"
Hunahpu and Xbalanque said to Earthquake.
"It can't be true you saw the mountain you're talking about. Where
is it? You'll see me knock it down yet. Where did you see it?"
"Well, it's over there in the east," said Hunahpu and Xbalanque.
"Good. Lead the way,"*(155) the two boys were told.
"Not so. You take the middle. Stay here between us- one of us at
your left, the other at your right hand- because of our blowguns. If
there are birds, we'll shoot," they said. They enjoy practicing
And this is the way they shoot: the shot of their blowguns isn't
made of earth- they just blow at the birds when they shoot,*(156) to
the amazement of the Earthquake.
And then the boys made fire with a drill*(157) and roasted the birds
over the fire. And they coated one of the birds with plaster, they put
gypsum on it.
Hillel Burger (C) 1984 by the President and Fellows of Harvard
AND THEN THE BOYS MADE FIRE WITH A DRILL: In this illustration
from the lowland Maya hieroglyphic book now known as the Madrid Codex,
two figures turn a fire drill while sparks fly up from the wooden
platform where the point of the drill is inserted. They are seated
on or beside a road, marked by footprints.)
"So this is the one we'll give him when he's hungry, and when he
savors the aroma of our birds. That will be victory, since we've
covered his bird with baked earth. In earth we must cook it, and in
earth must be his grave- if the great knower, the one to be made and
modeled,*(158) is to have a sowing and dawning," said the boys.
"Because of this, the human heart*(159) will desire a bite of
meat, a meal of flesh,*(160) just as the heart of the Earthquake
will desire it," Hunahpu and Xbalanque said to one another. Then
they roasted the birds and cooked them until they were brown, dripping
with fat that oozed from the backs of the birds, with an
overwhelmingly fragrant aroma.
And this Earthquake wants to be fed, his mouth just waters, he gulps
and slurps with spittle and saliva because of the fragrance of the
birds. So then he asked:
"What are you eating? I smell a truly delicious aroma! Please give
me a little bit," he said. And when they gave a bird to Earthquake,
was as good as defeated.
After he had finished off the bird, they went on until they
arrived in the east, where the great mountain was.
Meanwhile, Earthquake had lost the strength in his legs and arms. He
couldn't go on because of the earth that coated the bird he'd eaten.
So now there was nothing he could do to the mountain. He never
recovered; he was destroyed. So then he was bound by the two boys; his
hands were bound behind him. When his hands had been secured by the
boys, his ankles were bound to his wrists.*(161)
After that they threw him down, they buried him in the earth.
Such is the defeat of Earthquake. It's Hunahpu and Xbalanque yet
again. Their deeds on the face of the earth are countless.
And now we shall explain the birth of Hunahpu and Xbalanque,
having first explained the defeat of Seven Macaw, along with Zipacna
and Earthquake, here on the face of the earth.
AND NOW WE SHALL NAME THE NAME OF THE FATHER OF HUNAHPU AND
XBALANQUE. Let's drink to him, and let's just drink to the
telling*(162) and accounting of the begetting of Hunahpu and
Xbalanque. We shall tell just half of it, just a part of the account
of their father. Here follows the account.
These are the names: One Hunahpu and Seven Hunahpu, as they are
And these are their parents: Xpiyacoc, Xmucane. In the blackness, in
the night, One Hunahpu and Seven Hunahpu were born to Xpiyacoc and
And this One Hunahpu had two children, and the two were sons, the
firstborn named One Monkey and the second named One Artisan.
And this is the name of their mother: she is called Xbaquiyalo,
the wife of One Hunahpu. As for Seven Hunahpu, he has no wife. He's
just a partner*(164) and just secondary; he just remains a boy.
They are great thinkers and great is their knowledge. They are the
midmost seers, here on the face of the earth. There is only good in
their being and their birthright. They taught skills to One Monkey and
One Artisan, the sons of One Hunahpu. One Monkey and One Artisan
became flautists, singers, and writers; carvers, jewelers,
metalworkers*(165) as well.
ONE MONKEY AND ONE ARTISAN BECAME FLAUTISTS, SINGERS, AND WRITERS:
In this classic Maya funerary vase painting from northern Guatemala,
the twin monkey gods are shown seated in a cross-legged position,
pointing to screen-folded books while speaking or singing. The books
they hold in their hands have jaguar-skin covers; other books are
piled up at their feet. [Vase in the New Orleans Museum of Art.])
And as for One and Seven Hunahpu, all they did was throw dice and
play ball, every day. They would play each other in pairs, the four
them together. When they gathered in the ball court for
entertainment a falcon would come to watch them, the messenger of
Hurricane, Newborn Thunderbolt, Raw Thunderbolt. And for this falcon
it wasn't far to the earth here, nor was it far to Xibalba; he could
get back to the sky, to Hurricane, in an instant.
The four ballplayers*(166) remained here on the face of the earth
after the mother of One Monkey and One Artisan had died. Since it
was on the road to Xibalba that they played, they were heard by One
Death and Seven Death, the lords of Xibalba:
"What's happening on the face of the earth? They're just stomping
and shouting. They should be summoned to come play ball here. We'll
defeat them, since we simply get no deference from them. They show
no respect, nor do they have any shame. They're really determined to
run right over us!"*(167) said all of Xibalba, when they all shared
their thoughts, the ones named One and Seven Death. They are great
AND THESE ARE THE LORDS OVER EVERYTHING, each lord with a commission
and a domain assigned by One and Seven Death:
There are the lords named House Corner and Blood Gatherer. And
this is their commission: to draw blood from people.*(168)
Next are the lordships of Pus Master and Jaundice Master. And this
is their domain: to make people swell up, to make pus come out of
their legs, to make their faces yellow, to cause jaundice,*(169) as
is called. Such is the domain of Pus Master and Jaundice Master.
Next are the lords Bone Scepter and Skull Scepter, the staff bearers
of Xibalba; their staffs are just bones. And this is their
staff-bearing: to reduce people to bones, right down to the bones
and skulls, until they die from emaciation and edema.*(170) This is
the commission of the ones named Bone Scepter and Skull Scepter.
Next are the lords named Trash Master and Stab Master. This is their
commission: just to catch up with people*(171) whenever they have
filth or grime in the doorway of the house,*(172) the patio of the
house.*(173) Then they're struck, they're just punctured until they
crawl on the ground, then die. And this is the domain of Trash
Master and Stab Master, as they are called.
Next are the lords named Wing and Packstrap. This is their domain:
that people should die in the road, just "sudden death,"*(174)
is called. Blood comes to the mouth, then there is death from vomiting
blood. So to each of them his burden, the load on his shoulders:
just to strike people on the neck and chest. Then there is death in
the road, and then they just go on causing suffering, whether one is
coming or going. And this is the domain of Wing and Packstrap.
Such are those who shared their thoughts*(175) when they were piqued
and driven*(176) by One and Seven Hunahpu. What Xibalba desired was
the gaming equipment of One and Seven Hunahpu: their kilts, their
yokes, their arm guards, their panaches and headbands, the costumes
One and Seven Hunahpu.
And this is where we shall continue telling of their trip to
Xibalba. One Monkey and One Artisan, the sons of One Hunahpu, stayed
behind. Their mother died- and, what is more, they were to be defeated
by Hunahpu and Xbalanque.
Coe and the Grolier Club.
AND THESE ARE THE LORDS OVER EVERYTHING: This late classic Maya
funerary vase painting from northern Guatemala shows seven lords of
Xibalba, with the head lord, corresponding to One Death of the Popol
Vuh, smoking a cigar and sitting on a jaguar skin at right. The two
lords immediately to his left may be Bone Scepter (in the bottom
row) and Skull Scepter (in the top row), one with a staff that looks
like a spinal column in front of him and the other with a rounded
bundle that could contain a skull. All seven lords wear ball game
yokes on their hips. The Popol Vuh mentions fourteen lords, counting
two manikins that are meant to be mistaken for lords. Perhaps each
pair of names mentioned in the Popol Vuh originally belonged to a
single lord, or perhaps each of the lords shown here is understood
to have another seated at his side.)
AND NOW FOR THE MESSENGERS OF ONE AND SEVEN DEATH: "You're going,
you Military Keepers of the Mat, to summon One and Seven Hunahpu.
You'll tell them, when you arrive:
'"They must come," the lords say to you. "Would that
they might come
to play ball with us here. Then we could have some excitement with
them. We are truly amazed at them. Therefore they should come,"
the lords, "and they should bring their playthings, their yokes
arm guards should come, along with their rubber ball," say the
you will say when you arrive," the messengers were told.
And these messengers of theirs are owls:*(177) Shooting Owl,
One-legged Owl, Macaw Owl, Skull Owl, as the messengers of Xibalba are
There is Shooting Owl, like a point, just piercing.
And there is One-legged Owl, with just one leg; he has wings.
And there is Macaw Owl, with a red back; he has wings.
And there is also Skull Owl, with only a head alone; he has no legs,
but he does have wings.
There are four messengers, Military Keepers of the Mat in rank.
And when they came out of Xibalba they arrived quickly, alighting
above the ball court where One and Seven Hunahpu were playing, at
the ball court called Great Abyss at Carchah. The owls, arriving in
a flurry over the ball court, now repeated their words, reciting the
exact words*(178) of One Death, Seven Death, Pus Master, Jaundice
Master, Bone Scepter, Skull Scepter, House Corner, Blood Gatherer,
Trash Master, Stab Master, Wing, Packstrap, as all the lords are
named. Their words were repeated by the owls.
"Don't the lords One and Seven Death speak truly?"*(179)
"Truly indeed," the owls replied. "We'll accompany you.
'They're to bring along all their gaming equipment,' say the lords."
"Very well, but wait for us while we notify our mother," they
And when they went to their house, they spoke to their mother; their
father had died:
"We're going, our dear mother, even though we've just arrived.*(180)
The messengers of the lord have come to get us:
'"They should come," he says,' they say, giving us orders.
leave our rubber ball behind here," they said, then they went to
it up under the roof of the house. "Until we return- then we'll
in play again."
They told One Monkey and One Artisan:
"As for you, just play and just sing,*(181) write and carve to
warm our house and to warm the heart of your grandmother." When
had been given their instructions, their grandmother Xmucane sobbed,
she had to weep.
"We're going, we're not dying. Don't be sad," said One and
Hunahpu, then they left.
AFTER THAT ONE AND SEVEN HUNAHPU LEFT, guided down the road by the
And then they descended the road to Xibalba, going down a steep
cliff, and they descended until they came out where the rapids cut
through,*(182) the roaring canyon narrows named Neck Canyon. They
passed through there, then they passed on into the River of Churning
Spikes. They passed through countless spikes but they were not
And then they came to water again, to blood: Blood River. They
crossed but did not drink. They came to a river, but a river filled
with pus. Still they were not defeated, but passed through again.
And then they came to the Crossroads, but here they were defeated,
at the Crossroads:
Red Road was one and Black Road another.
White Road was one and Yellow Road another.
There were four roads, and Black Road spoke:
"I am the one you are taking. I am the lord's road," said
road. And they were defeated there: this was the Road of Xibalba.
And then they came to the council place of the lords of Xibalba, and
they were defeated again there. The ones seated first there are just
manikins, just woodcarvings dressed up by Xibalba. And they greeted
the first ones:
"Morning,*(183) One Death," they said to the manikin. "Morning,
Seven Death," they said to the woodcarving in turn.
So they did not win out, and the lords of Xibalba shouted out with
laughter over this. All the lords just shouted with laughter because
they had triumphed; in their hearts they had beaten One and Seven
Hunahpu. They laughed on until One and Seven Death spoke:
"It's good that you've come. Tomorrow you must put your yokes and
arm guards into action," they were told.
"Sit here on our bench," they were told, but the only bench
were offered was a burning-hot rock.
So now they were burned on the bench; they really jumped around on
the bench now, but they got no relief.*(184) They really got up
fast, having burned their butts. At this the Xibalbans laughed
again, they began to shriek with laughter, the laughter rose up like
serpent in their very cores,*(185) all the lords of Xibalba laughed
themselves down to their blood and bones.*(186)
"Just go in the house. Your torch and cigars will be brought to
sleeping quarters," the boys were told.
After that they came to the Dark House, a house with darkness
alone inside. Meanwhile the Xibalbans shared their thoughts:
"Let's just sacrifice them tomorrow. It can only turn out to be
quick; they'll die quickly because of our playing equipment, our
gaming things," the Xibalbans are saying among themselves.
This ball of theirs is just a spherical knife.*(187) White Dagger is
the name of the ball, the ball of Xibalba. Their ball is just ground
down to make it smooth; the ball of Xibalba is just surfaced with
crushed bone to make it firm.
AND ONE AND SEVEN HUNAHPU WENT INSIDE DARK HOUSE.
And then their torch was brought,*(188) only one torch, already lit,
sent by One and Seven Death, along with a cigar for each of them, also
already lit, sent by the lords. When these were brought to One and
Seven Hunahpu they were cowering,*(189) here in the dark. When the
bearer of their torch and cigars arrived, the torch was bright as it
entered; their torch and both of their cigars were burning. The bearer
"'They must be sure to return them in the morning- not finished,
just as they look now. They must return them intact,' the lords say
you," they were told, and they were defeated. They finished the
torch and they finished the cigars that had been brought to them.
And Xibalba is packed with tests, heaps and piles of tests.
This is the first one: the Dark House, with darkness alone inside.
And the second is named Rattling House, heavy with cold inside,
whistling with drafts, clattering with hail.*(190) A deep chill
comes inside here.
And the third is named Jaguar House, with jaguars alone inside,
jostling one another, crowding together, with gnashing teeth.
They're scratching around; these jaguars are shut inside the house.
Bat House is the name of the fourth test, with bats alone inside the
house, squeaking, shrieking, darting through the house. The bats are
shut inside; they can't get out.
And the fifth is named Razor House, with blades alone inside. The
blades are moving back and forth,*(191) ripping, slashing through
These are the first tests of Xibalba, but One and Seven Hunahpu
never entered into them, except for the one named earlier, the
specified test house.
And when One and Seven Hunahpu went back before One and Seven Death,
they were asked:
"Where are my cigars? What of my torch? They were brought to you
"We finished them, your lordship."
"Very well. This very day, your day is finished, you will die,
will disappear, and we shall break you off. Here you will hide your
faces: you are to be sacrificed!" said One and Seven Death.
And then they were sacrificed and buried. They were buried at the
Place of Ball Game Sacrifice, as it is called. The head of One Hunahpu
was cut off; only his body was buried with his younger brother.
"Put his head in the fork of the tree that stands by the
road,"*(192) said One and Seven Death.
And when his head was put in the fork of the tree, the tree bore
fruit. It would not have had any fruit, had not the head of One
Hunahpu been put in the fork of the tree.
This is the calabash tree, as we call it today, or "the head of
One Hunahpu," as it is said.
And then One and Seven Death were amazed at the fruit of the tree.
The fruit grows out everywhere, and it isn't clear where the head of
One Hunahpu is; now it looks just the way the calabashes look. All the
Xibalbans see this, when they come to look.
The state of the tree loomed large in their thoughts, because it
came about at the same time the head of One Hunahpu was put in the
fork. The Xibalbans said among themselves:
"No one is to pick the fruit, nor is anyone to go beneath the tree,"
they said. They restricted themselves; all of Xibalba held back.
It isn't clear which is the head of One Hunahpu; now it's exactly
the same as the fruit of the tree. Calabash tree came to be its
name, and much was said about it. A maiden heard about it, and here
shall tell of her arrival.
AND HERE IS THE ACCOUNT OF A MAIDEN, the daughter of a lord named
And this is when a maiden heard of it, the daughter of a lord. Blood
Gatherer is the name of her father, and Blood Woman is the name of the
And when he heard the account of the fruit of the tree, her father
retold it. And she was amazed at the account:
"I'm not acquainted with that tree they talk about. '"Its
truly sweet!" they say,' I hear,"*(193) she said.
Next, she went all alone and arrived where the tree stood. It
stood at the Place of Ball Game Sacrifice:
"What? Well! What's the fruit of this tree? Shouldn't this tree
something sweet? They shouldn't die, they shouldn't be wasted.
Should I pick one?" said the maiden.
And then the bone spoke; it was here in the fork of the tree:
"Why do you want a mere bone, a round thing in the branches of
tree?" said the head of One Hunahpu when it spoke to the maiden.
"You don't want it," she was told.
"I do want it," said the maiden.
"Very well. Stretch out your right hand here,*(194) so I can see
it," said the bone.
"Yes," said the maiden. She stretched out her right hand,
in front of the bone.
And then the bone spit out its saliva, which landed squarely in
the hand of the maiden.
And then she looked in her hand, she inspected it right away, but
the bone's saliva wasn't in her hand.
"It is just a sign I have given you, my saliva, my spittle.*(195)
This, my head, has nothing on it- just bone, nothing of meat. It's
just the same with the head of a great lord: it's just the flesh
that makes his face look good. And when he dies, people get frightened
by his bones. After that, his son is like his saliva, his spittle,
in his being, whether it be the son of a lord or the son of a
craftsman, an orator. The father does not disappear, but goes on being
fulfilled. Neither dimmed nor destroyed is the face of a lord, a
warrior, craftsman, orator. Rather, he will leave his daughters and
sons. So it is that I have done likewise through you. Now go up
there on the face of the earth; you will not die. Keep the word.*(196)
So be it," said the head of One and Seven Hunahpu- they were of
mind*(197) when they did it.
This was the word Hurricane, Newborn Thunderbolt, Raw Thunderbolt
had given them. In the same way, by the time the maiden returned to
her home, she had been given many instructions. Right away something
was generated in her belly, from the saliva alone, and this was the
generation of Hunahpu and Xbalanque.
And when the maiden got home and six months had passed, she was
found out by her father. Blood Gatherer is the name of her father.
AND AFTER THE MAIDEN WAS NOTICED BY HER FATHER, when he saw that she
was now with child, all the lords then shared their thoughts- One
and Seven Death, along with Blood Gatherer:
"This daughter of mine is with child, lords. It's just a
bastard,"*(198) Blood Gatherer said when he joined the lords.
"Very well. Get her to open her mouth.*(199) If she doesn't tell,
then sacrifice her. Go far away and sacrifice her."
"Very well, your lordships," he replied. After that, he questioned
"Who is responsible for the child in your belly, my daughter?"
"There is no child, my father, sir; there is no man whose face
I've known,"*(200) she replied.
"Very well. It really is a bastard you carry! Take her away for
sacrifice, you Military Keepers of the Mat. Bring back her heart in
a bowl, so the lords can take it in their hands*(201) this very
day," the owls were told, the four of them.
Then they left, carrying the bowl. When they left they took the
maiden by the hand, bringing along the White Dagger, the instrument
"It would not turn out well if you sacrificed me, messengers,
because it is not a bastard that's in my belly. What's in my belly
generated all by itself when I went to marvel at the head of One
Hunahpu, which is there at the Place of Ball Game Sacrifice. So please
stop:*(202) don't do your sacrifice, messengers," said the maiden.
Then they talked:
"What are we going to use in place of her heart? We were told by
'Bring back her heart. The lords will take it in their hands, they
will satisfy themselves, they will make themselves familiar with its
composition.*(203) Hurry, bring it back in a bowl, put her heart in
the bowl.' Isn't that what we've been told? What shall we deliver in
the bowl? What we want above all is that you should not die," said
"Very well. My heart must not be theirs, nor will your homes be
here.*(204) Nor will you simply force people to die, but hereafter,
what will be truly yours will be the true bearers of bastards. And
hereafter, as for One and Seven Death, only blood,*(205) only
nodules of sap, will be theirs. So be it that these things are
presented before them, and not that hearts are burned before them.
So be it: use the fruit of a tree,"*(206) said the maiden. And
was red tree sap she went out to gather in the bowl.
After it congealed, the substitute for her heart became round.
When the sap of the croton tree was tapped, tree sap like blood, it
became the substitute for her blood. When she rolled the blood
around inside there, the sap of the croton tree, it formed a surface
like blood,*(207) glistening red now, round inside the bowl. When
the tree was cut open by the maiden, the so-called cochineal croton,
the sap is what she called blood, and so there is talk of "nodules
"So you have been blessed with the face of the earth. It shall
yours," she told the owls.
"Very well, maiden. We'll show you the way up there. You just walk
on ahead; we have yet to deliver this apparent duplicate of your heart
before the lords," said the messengers.
And when they came before the lords, they were all watching closely:
"Hasn't it turned out well?" said One Death.
"It has turned out well, your lordships, and this is her heart.
in the bowl."
"Very well. So I'll look," said One Death, and when he lifted
up with his fingers,*(209) its surface was soaked with gore, its
surface glistened red with blood.
"Good. Stir up the fire, put it over the fire," said One Death.
After that they dried it over the fire, and the Xibalbans savored
the aroma. They all ended up standing here, they leaned over it
intently.*(210) They found the smoke of the blood to be truly sweet!
And while they stayed at their cooking, the owls went to show the
maiden the way out. They sent her up through a hole onto the earth,
and then the guides returned below.
In this way the lords of Xibalba were defeated by a maiden; all of
them were blinded.
And here, where the mother of One Monkey and One Artisan*(211)
lived, was where the woman named Blood Woman arrived.
AND WHEN THE BLOOD WOMAN CAME TO THE MOTHER OF ONE MONKEY AND ONE
ARTISAN, her children were still in her belly, but it wasn't very long
before the birth of Hunahpu and Xbalanque, as they are called.
And when the woman came to the grandmother, the woman said to the
"I've come, mother, madam.*(212) I'm your daughter-in-law and I'm
your child,*(213) mother, madam," she said when she came here to
"Where do you come from? As for my lastborn children,*(214) didn't
they die in Xibalba? And these two remain as their sign and their
word: One Monkey and One Artisan are their names. So if you've come
see my children, get out of here!" the maiden was told by the
"Even so, I really am your daughter-in-law. I am already his, I
belong to One Hunahpu. What I carry is his. One Hunahpu and Seven
Hunahpu are alive, they are not dead. They have merely made a way
for the light to show itself,*(215) madam mother-in-law, as you will
see when you look at the faces of what I carry," the grandmother
And One Monkey and One Artisan have been keeping their grandmother
entertained: all they do is play and sing, all they work at is writing
and carving, every day, and this cheers the heart of their
And then the grandmother said:
"I don't want you, no thanks, my daughter-in-law. It's just a
bastard in your belly, you trickster! These children of mine who are
named by you are dead," said the grandmother.
"Truly, what I say to you is so!"*(216)
"Very well, my daughter-in-law, I hear you. So get going, get
their food so they can eat. Go pick a big netful of corn, then come
back- since you are already my daughter-in-law,*(217) as I
understand it," the maiden was told.
"Very well," she replied.
After that, she went to the garden;*(218) One Monkey and One Artisan
had a garden. The maiden followed the path they had cleared and
arrived there in the garden, but there was only one clump,*(219) there
was no other plant, no second or third. That one clump had borne its
ears. So then the maiden's heart stopped:
"It looks like I'm a sinner, a debtor! Where will I get the netful
of food she asked for?" she said. And then the guardians of food
were called upon by her:
"Come thou, rise up, come thou, stand up:*(220)
Generous Woman, Harvest Woman,
Cacao Woman, Cornmeal Woman,
thou guardian of the food of One Monkey, One Artisan,"
said the maiden.
And then she took hold of the silk, the bunch of silk at the top
of the ear. She pulled it straight out, she didn't pick the ear, and
the ear reproduced itself to make food for the net. It filled the
And then the maiden came back, but animals carried her net. When she
got back she went to put the pack frame in the corner of the house,
it would look to the grandmother as if she had arrived with a load.
And then, when the grandmother saw the food, a big netful:
"Where did that food of yours come from? You've leveled the place!
I'm going to see if you've brought back our whole garden!" said
And then she went off, she went to look at the garden, but the one
clump was still there, and the place where the net had been put at the
foot of it was still obvious.
And the grandmother came back in a hurry, and she got back home, and
she said to the maiden:
"The sign is still there. You really are my daughter-in-law! I'll
have to keep watching what you do. These grandchildren of mine are
already showing genius," the maiden was told.
Now this is where we shall speak of the birth of Hunahpu and
AND THIS IS THEIR BIRTH; WE SHALL TELL OF IT HERE.
Then it came to the day of their birth, and the maiden named Blood
Woman gave birth. The grandmother was not present when they were born;
they were born suddenly. Two of them were born, named Hunahpu and
Xbalanque. They were born in the mountains, and then they came into
the house. Since they weren't sleeping:
"Throw them out of here! They're really loudmouths!" said
After that, when they put them on an anthill, they slept soundly
there. And when they removed them from there, they put them in
And this is what One Monkey and One Artisan wanted: that they should
die on the anthill and die in the brambles. One Monkey and One Artisan
wanted this because they were rowdyish and flushed with
jealousy.*(221) They didn't allow their younger brothers in the
house at first, as if they didn't even know them, but even so they
flourished in the mountains.
And One Monkey and One Artisan were great flautists and singers, and
as they grew up they went through great suffering and pain. It had
cost them suffering to become great knowers. Through it all they
became flautists, singers, and writers, carvers. They did everything
well. They simply knew it when they were born, they simply had genius.
And they were the successors*(222) of their fathers who had gone to
Xibalba, their dead fathers.
Since One Monkey and One Artisan were great knowers, in their hearts
they already realized everything when their younger brothers came into
being, but they didn't reveal their insight because of their jealousy.
The anger in their hearts came down on their own heads;*(223) no great
harm was done. They were decoyed*(224) by Hunahpu and Xbalanque, who
merely went out shooting every day. These two got no love from the
grandmother, or from One Monkey and One Artisan. They weren't given
their meals; the meals had been prepared and One Monkey and One
Artisan had already eaten them before they got there.
But Hunahpu and Xbalanque aren't turning red with anger; rather,
they just let it go, even though they know their proper place, which
they see as clear as day. So they bring birds when they arrive each
day, and One Monkey and One Artisan eat them. Nothing whatsoever is
given to Hunahpu and Xbalanque, either one of them. All One Monkey and
One Artisan do is play and sing.
And then Hunahpu and Xbalanque arrived again, but now they came in
here without bringing their birds, so the grandmother turned red:
"What's your reason for not bringing birds?" Hunahpu and Xbalanque
"There are some, our dear grandmother, but our birds just got hung
up in a tree,"*(225) they said, "and there's no way to get
up the tree
after them, our dear grandmother, and so we'd like our elder
brothers to please go with us, to please go get the birds down,"
"Very well. We'll go with you at dawn," the elder brothers
Now they had won, and they gathered their thoughts, the two of them,
about the fall of One Monkey and One Artisan:
"We'll just turn their very being around*(226) with our words.
it, since they have caused us great suffering. They wished that we
might die and disappear- we, their younger brothers. Just as they
wished us to be slaves here,*(227) so we shall defeat them there. We
shall simply make a sign of it," they said to one another.
And then they went there beneath a tree, the kind named
yellowwood, together with the elder brothers. When they got there they
started shooting. There were countless birds up in the tree,
chittering, and the elder brothers were amazed when they saw the
birds. And not one of these birds fell down beneath the tree:
"Those birds of ours don't fall down; just go throw them down,"
told their elder brothers.
"Very well," they replied.
And then they climbed up the tree, and the tree began to grow, its
trunk got thicker.
After that, they wanted to get down, but now One Monkey and One
Artisan couldn't make it down from the tree. So they said, from up
in the tree:
"How can we grab hold?*(228) You, our younger brothers, take pity
us! Now this tree looks frightening to us, dear younger brothers,"
they said from up in the tree. Then Hunahpu and Xbalanque told them:
"Undo your pants, tie them around your hips, with the long end
trailing like a tail behind you, and then you'll be better able to
move," they were told by their younger brothers.
"All right," they said.
And then they left the ends of their loincloths trailing, and all at
once these became tails. Now they looked like mere monkeys.
After that they went along in the trees of the mountains, small
and great. They went through the forests, now howling, now keeping
quiet in the branches of trees.
Such was the defeat of One Monkey and One Artisan by Hunahpu and
Xbalanque. They did it by means of their genius alone.
And when they got home they said, when they came to their
grandmother and mother:
"Our dear grandmother, something has happened to our elder brothers.
They've become simply shameless,*(229) they're like animals now,"
"If you've done something to your elder brothers, you've knocked
me down and stood me on my head. Please don't do anything to your
elder brothers, my dear grandchildren," the grandmother said to
Hunahpu and Xbalanque. And they told their grandmother:
"Don't be sad, our dear grandmother. You will see the faces of
elder brothers again. They'll come, but this will be a test for you,
our dear grandmother. Will you please not laugh*(230) while we test
their destiny?" they said.
And then they began playing. They played "Hunahpu Monkey."
AND THEN THEY SANG, THEY PLAYED, THEY DRUMMED. When they took up
their flutes and drums, their grandmother sat down with them, then
they played, they sounded out the tune, the song that got its name
then. "Hunahpu Monkey" is the name of the tune.
And then One Monkey and One Artisan came back, dancing when they
And then, when the grandmother looked, it was their ugly faces the
grandmother saw. Then she laughed, the grandmother could not hold back
her laughter, so they just left right away, out of her sight again,
they went up and away in the forest.
"Why are you doing that, our dear grandmother? We'll only try four
times; only three times are left. We'll call them with the flute, with
song. Please hold back your laughter. We'll try again," said Hunahpu
Next they played again, then they came back, dancing again, they
arrived again, in the middle of the patio of the house.*(231) As
before, what they did was delightful; as before, they tempted their
grandmother to laugh. Their grandmother laughed at them soon enough.
The monkeys looked truly ridiculous, with the skinny little things
below their bellies*(232) and their tails wiggling in front of their
breasts.*(233) When they came back the grandmother had to laugh at
them, and they went back into the mountains.
"Please, why are you doing that, our dear grandmother? Even so,
we'll try it a third time now," said Hunahpu and Xbalanque.
Again they played, again they came dancing, but their grandmother
held back her laughter. Then they climbed up here, cutting right
across the building, with thin red lips,*(234) with faces blank,*(235)
puckering their lips,*(236) wiping their mouths and faces,*(237)
suddenly scratching themselves.*(238) And when the grandmother saw
them again, the grandmother burst out laughing again, and again they
went out of sight because of the grandmother's laughter.
"Even so, our dear grandmother, we'll get their attention."
So for the fourth time they called on the flute, but they didn't
come back again. The fourth time they went straight into the forest.
So they told their grandmother:
"Well, we've tried, our dear grandmother. They came at first, and
we've tried calling them again. So don't be sad. We're here- we,
your grandchildren. Just love our mother, dear grandmother. Our
elder brothers will be remembered. So be it: they have lived here
and they have been named; they are to be called One Monkey and One
Artisan," said Hunahpu and Xbalanque.
So they were prayed to by the flautists and singers among the
ancient people, and the writers and carvers prayed to them. In ancient
times they turned into animals, they became monkeys, because they just
magnified themselves, they abused their younger brothers. Just as they
wished them to be slaves, so they themselves were brought low. One
Monkey and One Artisan were lost then, they became animals, and this
is now their place forever.
Even so, they were flautists and singers; they did great things
while they lived with their grandmother and mother.
SUDDENLY SCRATCHING THEMSELVES: This spider monkey was painted on
a classic Maya funerary vase from northern Guatemala. Note the
dangling genitals, or what the Popol Vuh calls "the skinny little
things below their bellies." [The vase is in the collection of
AND NOW THEY BEGAN TO ACT OUT THEIR SELF-REVELATION before their
grandmother and mother. First they made a garden:
"We'll just do some gardening, our dear grandmother and mother,"
they said. "Don't worry. We're here, we're your grandchildren,
the successors of our elder brothers," said Hunahpu and Xbalanque.
And then they took up their axe, their mattock, their hoe;*(239)
each of them went off with a blowgun on his shoulder. They left the
house having instructed their grandmother to give them their food:
"At midday bring our food, dear grandmother," they said.
"Very well, my dear grandchildren," said their grandmother.
After that, they went to their gardening. They simply stuck their
mattock in the ground, and the mattock simply cultivated the ground.
And it wasn't only the mattock that cultivated, but also the axe. In
the same way, they stuck it in the trunk of a tree; in the same way,
it cut into the tree by itself, felling, scattering, felling all the
trees and bushes, now leveling, mowing down the trees.*(240)
Just the one axe did it, and the mattock, breaking up thick
masses, countless stalks and brambles.*(241) Just one mattock was
doing it, breaking up countless things, just clearing off whole
mountains, small and great.
And then they gave instructions to that creature named the
mourning dove. They sat up on a big stump, and Hunahpu and Xbalanque
"Just watch for our grandmother, bringing our food. Cry out right
away when she comes, and then we'll grab the mattock and axe."
"Very well," said the mourning dove.
This is because all they're doing is shooting; they're not really
doing any gardening.
And as soon as the dove cries out they come running, one of them
grabbing the mattock and the other grabbing the hoe, and they're tying
up their hair.
One of them deliberately rubs dirt on his hands; he dirties his face
as well, so he's just like a real gardener.
And as for the other one, he deliberately dumps wood chips on his
head,*(242) so he's like a real woodcutter.
Once their grandmother has seen them they eat, but they aren't
really doing their gardening; she brings their food for nothing. And
when they get home:
"We're really ready for bed, our dear grandmother," they say
they arrive. Deliberately they massage, they stretch their legs, their
arms*(243) in front of their grandmother.
And when they went on the second day and arrived at the garden, it
had all grown up high again. Every tree and bush, every stalk and
bramble had put itself back together again when they arrived.
"Who's been picking us clean?" they said.
And these are the ones who are doing it, all the animals, small
and great: puma, jaguar, deer, rabbit, fox, coyote,*(244) peccary,
coati, small birds, great birds. They are the ones who did it; they
did it in just one night.
After that, they started the garden all over again. Just as
before, the ground worked itself, along with the woodcutting.
And then they shared their thoughts, there on the cleared and broken
"We'll simply have to keep watch over our garden. Then, whatever
be happening here, we'll find out about it," they said when they
shared their thoughts. And when they arrived at the house:
"How could we get picked clean, our dear grandmother? Our garden
tall thickets and groves all over again when we got there awhile
ago, our dear grandmother," they said to their grandmother and
"So we'll go keep watch, because what's happening to us is no good,"
After that, they wound everything up, and then they went back to the
And there they took cover, and when they were well hidden there, all
the animals gathered together, each one sat on its haunches, all the
animals, small and great.
And this was the middle of the night when they came. They all
spoke when they came. This is what they said:
"Arise, conjoin, you trees!
Arise, conjoin, you bushes!"*(245)
they said. Then they made a great stir beneath the trees and bushes,
then they came nearer, and then they showed their faces.
The first of these were the puma and jaguar. The boys tried to
grab them, but they did not give themselves up. When the deer and
rabbit came near they only got them by the tail, which just broke off:
the deer left its tail in their hands. When they grabbed the tail of
the deer, along with the tail of the rabbit, the tails were shortened.
But the fox, coyote, and peccary, coati did not give themselves up.
All the animals went by in front of Hunahpu and Xbalanque.
SO NOW THERE WAS FIRE IN THEIR HEARTS, because they didn't catch
them. And one more came, the last one now, jumping as he came, then
they cut him off. In their net they caught the rat.
And then they grabbed him and squeezed him behind the head. They
tried to choke him; they burned his tail over a fire. Ever since the
rat's tail got caught, there's been no hair on his tail, and his
eyes have been the way they are since the boys tried to choke him,
Hunahpu and Xbalanque.
"I will not die by your hand! Gardening is not your job, but there
is something that is," said the rat.
"Where is what is ours? Go ahead and name it," the boys told
"Will you let me go then? My word is in my belly,*(246) and after
I name it for you, you'll give me my morsel of food," said the
"We'll give you your food, so name it," he was told.
"Very well. It's something that belonged to your fathers, named
One Hunahpu and Seven Hunahpu, who died in Xibalba. What remains is
their gaming equipment. They left it up under the roof of the
house:*(247) their kilts, their arm guards, their rubber ball. But
your grandmother doesn't take these down in front of you, because this
is how your fathers died."
"You know the truth, don't you!" the boys told the rat.
There was great joy in their hearts when they got word of the rubber
ball. When the rat had named it they gave the rat his food, and this
is his food: corn kernels, squash seeds, chili, beans, pataxte, cacao.
These are his.
"If anything of yours is stored or gets wasted, then gnaw away,"
rat was told by Hunahpu and Xbalanque.
"Very well, boys. But what will your grandmother say if she sees
me?"*(248) he said.
"Don't be fainthearted. We're here. We know what our grandmother
needs to be told. We'll set you up under the corner of the roof
right away. When that's taken care of you'll go straight to where
the things were left, and we'll look up there under the roof, but it's
our stew we'll be looking at," they told the rat when they gave
Hunahpu and Xbalanque made their plans overnight and arrived right
at noon, and it wasn't obvious that they had a rat with them when they
arrived. One of them went right inside the house when he reached it,
while the other went to the corner of the house, quickly setting up
the rat. And then they asked their grandmother for their meal:
"Just grind something for our stew, we want chili sauce, our dear
grandmother," they said.
After that, she ground chili for their stew. A bowl of broth was set
out in front of them, but they were just fooling*(249) their
grandmother and mother. They had emptied the water jar:
"We're really parched! Bring us a drink," they told their
"Yes," she said, then she went, and they kept on eating. They
weren't really hungry; they just put on false appearances.
And then they saw the rat reflected in their chili sauce: here was
the rat loosening the ball*(250) that had been left in the peak of the
roof. When they saw him in the chili sauce they sent a mosquito,
that creature the mosquito, similar to a gnat. He went to the water,
then he punctured the side of the grandmother's jar. The water just
gushed out from the side of her jar. She tried, but she could not stop
up the side of her jar.
"What has our grandmother done? We're choking for lack of water,
parched throats will do us in," they told their mother, then they
After that, the rat cut the ball loose. It dropped from beneath
the roof, along with the yokes, arm guards, kilts. These were taken
away*(251) then; they went to hide them on the road, the road to the
After that, they went to join their grandmother at the water, and
their grandmother and mother were unable to stop up the side of the
jar, either one of them.
After that, the boys arrived, each with his blowgun. When they
arrived at the water:
"What have you done? We got weary at heart, so we came," they
"Look at the side of my jar! It cannot be stopped," said their
grandmother, and they quickly stopped it up.
And they came back together, the two of them ahead of their
In this way, the matter of the rubber ball was arranged.
HAPPY NOW, THEY WENT TO PLAY BALL AT THE COURT. So they played
ball at a distance, all by themselves. They swept out the court of
And then it came into the hearing of the lords of Xibalba:
"Who's begun a game again up there, over our heads? Don't they
have any shame, stomping around this way? Didn't One and Seven Hunahpu
die trying to magnify themselves in front of us? So, you must
deliver another summons," they said as before, One and Seven Death,
all the lords.
"They are hereby summoned," they told their messengers. "You
to say, on reaching them:
'"They must come," say the lords. "We would play ball
here. In seven days we'll have a game," say the lords,' you will
when you arrive," the messengers were told.
And then they came along a wide roadway, the road to the house of
the boys, which actually ended at their house, so that the
messengers came directly to their grandmother. As for the boys, they
were away playing ball when the messengers of Xibalba got there.
"'Truly, they are to come,' say the lords," said the messengers
Xibalba. So then and there the day was specified by the messengers
"'In seven days our game will take place,'" Xmucane was told
"Very well. They'll go when the day comes, messengers," said
grandmother, and the messengers left. They went back.
So now the grandmother's heart was broken:
"How can I send for my grandchildren? Isn't it really Xibalba,
just as it was when the messengers came long ago, when their fathers
went to die?" said the grandmother, sobbing, at home by herself.
After that, a louse fell on her elbow,*(252) and then she picked
it up and put it in her hand, and the louse moved around with fits and
"My grandchild, perhaps you might like to take my message, to go
where my grandchildren are, at the ball court," the louse was told,
then he went as a message bearer:
"'A messenger has come to your grandmother,' you will say. '"You
'In seven days they are to come,' say the messengers of Xibalba,"
says your grandmother,' you will say," the louse was told.
Then he went off, and he went in fits and starts, and sitting in the
road was a boy named Tamazul, the toad.
"Where are you going?" said the toad to the louse.
"My word is contained*(253) in my belly. I'm going to the two boys,"
said the louse to Tamazul.
"Very well. But I notice you're not very fast," the louse
by the toad. "Wouldn't you like me to swallow you? You'll see,
run bent over*(254) this way, we'll arrive in a hurry."
"Very well," said the louse to the toad.
After that, when he had been united with the toad,*(255) the toad
hopped. He went along now, but he didn't run.
After that, the toad met a big snake named Zaquicaz:
"Where are you going, Tamazul boy?" the toad was asked next
"I'm a messenger. My word is in my belly," the toad next said
"But I notice you're not fast. Listen to me, I'll get there in
hurry," said the snake to the toad.
"Get going," he was told, so then the toad was next swallowed
Zaquicaz. When snakes get their food today they swallow toads.
So the snake was running as he went, then the snake was met from
overhead by a laughing falcon, a large bird. The snake was swallowed
up by the falcon, and then he arrived above the court. When hawks
get their food, they eat snakes in the mountains.
And when the falcon arrived he alighted on the rim of the ball
court.*(256) Hunahpu and Xbalanque were happy then, they were
playing ball when the falcon arrived.
So then the falcon cried out:
said the falcon as he cried.
"Who's crying out there? Come on! Our blowguns!" they said.
shot the falcon, landing their blowgun shot*(258) right in his eye.
Wobbling, he fell down and they went right there to grab him, then
they asked him:
"What are you after?" they said to the falcon.
"My word is contained in my belly.*(259) But heal my eye first,
I'll name it," said the falcon.
"Very well," they said.
Next they took a bit of gum off the surface of the ball, then they
put it on the eye of the falcon. "Sorrel gum" was their name
As soon as it was treated by them, the vision of the falcon became
"So name it," they said to the falcon, and then he vomited
"Speak up," they said next to the snake.
"Yes," he said next, then he vomited the toad.
"What's your errand? Tell it," the toad was told next.
"My word is contained in my belly," the toad said next, and
he tried to throw up, but there was no vomit, he just sort of
drooled.*(260) He was trying, but there was no vomit.
After that, he had to be kicked by the boys.
"You trickster!" he was told, then they kicked him*(261) in
rear, and they crushed the bones*(262) of his rear end with their
feet. When he tried again, he just sort of spit.
And then they pried the toad's mouth open, it was opened by the
boys. They searched his mouth, and the louse had simply stuck in the
toad's teeth, it was right there in his mouth.*(263) He hadn't
swallowed it, but had only seemed to swallow.
And such was the defeat of the toad. It's not clear what kind of
food they gave him, and because he didn't run he became mere meat
"Tell it," the louse was told next, so then he named his word:
"Boys, your grandmother says:
'Summon them. A message came for them:
"From Xibalba comes the messenger of One and Seven Death:
'"In seven days they are to come here. We'll play ball. Their gaming
equipment must come along: rubber ball, yokes, arm guards, kilts. This
will make for some excitement here," say the lords,' is the word
that came from them,"' says your grandmother. So your grandmother
you must come. Truly your grandmother cries, she calls out to you to
"Isn't it the truth!" the boys said in their thoughts. When
heard it they left at once and got to their grandmother, but they went
there only to give their grandmother instructions:
"We're on our way, dear grandmother. We're just giving you
instructions. So here is the sign of our word. We'll leave it with
you. Each of us will plant an ear of corn.*(264) We'll plant them in
the center of our house. When the corn dries up,*(265) this will be
a sign of our death:
'Perhaps they died,' you'll say, when it dries up. And when the
'Perhaps they live,' you'll say, our dear grandmother and mother.
From now on, this is the sign of our word. We're leaving it with you,"
they said, then they left.
Hunahpu planted one and Xbalanque planted another.*(267) They were
planted right there in the house: neither in the mountains nor where
the earth is damp,*(268) but where the earth is dry, in the middle
of the inside of their house.*(269) They left them planted there, then
went off, each with his own blowgun.
THEY WENT DOWN TO XIBALBA, quickly going down the face of a cliff,
and they crossed over the bottom of a canyon with rapids. They
passed right through the birds- the ones called throng birds- and then
they crossed Pus River and Blood River, intended as traps by
Xibalba. They did not step in, but simply crossed over on their
blowguns, and then they went on over to the Crossroads. But they
knew about the roads of Xibalba:*(270) Black Road, White Road, Red
Road, Green Road.
And there they summoned that creature named the mosquito. Having
heard that he's a spy, they sent him ahead:
"Bite them one by one. First bite the first one seated there, then
bite every last one of them, and it will be yours alone to suck the
blood of people in the roads," the mosquito was told.
"Very well," replied the mosquito, then he took Black Road
stopped at the two manikins, the woodcarvings, that were seated first.
They were all dressed up, and he bit the first of them. It didn't
speak, so he bit again. When he bit the one seated second, again it
didn't speak, and then he bit the third one, the one seated third
actually being One Death.
"Yeow!" each one said as he was bitten.
"What?" each one replied.
"Ouch!" said One Death.
"What is it, One Death?"
"Something's bitten me."
"It's- ouch! There's something that's bitten me," the one
fourth said next.
"What is it, Seven Death?"
"Something's bitten me." The one seated fifth spoke next:
"Ow! Ow!" he said.
"What, House Corner?" Seven Death said to him.
"Something's bitten me," he said next. The one seated sixth
"What is it, Blood Gatherer?" House Corner said to him.
"Something's bitten me," he said next. Then the one seated
"Ouch!" he said next.
"What is it, Pus Master?" Blood Gatherer said to him.
"Something's bitten me," he said next. The one seated eighth
"Ouch!" he said next.
"What is it, Jaundice Master?" Pus Master said to him next.
"Something's bitten me," he said next. Then the one seated
"Ouch!" he said.
"What is it, Bone Scepter?" Jaundice Master said to him.
"Something's bitten me," he said next. Then the one seated
in order was bitten next:
"What is it, Skull Scepter?" said Bone Scepter.
"Something's bitten me," he said next. Then the one seated
eleventh was bitten next:
"Ouch!" he said next.
"What is it, Wing?"*(271) Skull Scepter said to him next.
"Something's bitten me," he said next. Then the one seated
was bitten next:
"Ouch!" he said next.
"What, Packstrap?" he was asked next.
"Something's bitten me," he said next. Then the one seated
thirteenth was bitten next:
"What is it, Bloody Teeth?" Packstrap said to him.
"Something's bitten me," he said next. Then the one seated
fourteenth was bitten next:
"Ouch! Something's bitten me," he said next.
"Bloody Claws?" Bloody Teeth said to him next.
And such was the naming of their names, they named them all among
themselves. They showed their faces and named their names, each one
named by the one ranking above him, and naming in turn the name of the
one seated next to him.*(272) There wasn't a single name they
missed, naming every last one of their names when they were bitten
by the hair that Hunahpu had plucked from his own shin. It wasn't
really a mosquito that bit them. It went to hear all their names for
Hunahpu and Xbalanque.
After that Hunahpu and Xbalanque went on, and then they came to
where the Xibalbans were:
"Bid the lords good day," said someone who was seated there.
was a deceiver who spoke.
"These aren't lords! These are manikins, woodcarvings!"*(273)
said as they came up.
And after that, they bid them good morning:
"Morning, One Death. Morning, Seven Death.
Morning, House Corner. Morning, Blood Gatherer.
Morning, Pus Master. Morning, Jaundice Master.
Morning, Bone Scepter. Morning, Skull Scepter.
Morning, Wing. Morning, Packstrap.
Morning, Bloody Teeth. Morning, Bloody Claws,"
they said when they arrived, and all of their identities were
accounted for. They named every one of their names; there wasn't a
single name they missed. When this was required of them, no name was
omitted by them.
"Sit here," they were told. They were wanted on the bench,
they didn't want it:
"This bench isn't for us! It's just a stone slab for cooking,"
said Hunahpu and Xbalanque. They were not defeated.
"Very well. Just get in the house," they were told.
And after that, they entered Dark House. They were not defeated
there. This was the first test they entered in Xibalba, and as far
as the Xibalbans were concerned they were as good as defeated.
FIRST THEY ENTERED DARK HOUSE.
And after that, the messenger of One Death brought their torch,
burning when it arrived, along with one cigar apiece.
"'Here is their torch,' says the lord. 'They must return the torch
in the morning, along with the cigars. They must return them
intact,' say the lords," the messenger said when he arrived.
"Very well," they said, but they didn't burn the torch- instead,
something that looked like fire was substituted. This was the tail
of the macaw, which looked like a torch to the sentries. And as for
the cigars, they just put fireflies at the tips of those cigars, which
they kept lit all night.
"We've defeated them," said the sentries, but the torch was
consumed- it just looked that way. And as for the cigars, there wasn't
anything burning there- it just looked that way. When these things
were taken back to the lords:
"What's happening? Where did they come from? Who begot them and
them? Our hearts are really hurting, because what they're doing to
us is no good. They're different in looks and different in their
very being," they said among themselves. And when they had summoned
all the lords:
"Let's play ball, boys," the boys were told. And then they
asked by One and Seven Death:
"Where might you have come from? Please name it," Xibalba
"Well, wherever did we come from? We don't know," was all
They didn't name it.
"Very well then, we'll just go play ball, boys," Xibalba told
"Good," they said.
"Well, this is the one we should put in play, here's our rubber
ball," said the Xibalbans.*(274)
"No thanks. This is the one to put in, here's ours," said
"No it's not. This is the one we should put in," the Xibalbans
"Very well," said the boys.
"After all, it's just a decorated one,"*(275) said the Xibalbans.
"Oh no it's not, it's just a skull!*(276) We've said
enough,"*(277) said the boys.
"No it's not," said the Xibalbans.
"Very well," said Hunahpu. When it was sent off by Xibalba,
was stopped by Hunahpu's yoke.
And then, while Xibalba watched, the White Dagger came out from
inside the ball. It went clattering, twisting all over the floor of
"What's that!" said Hunahpu and Xbalanque. "Death is
thing you want for us! Wasn't it you who sent a summons to us,*(278)
and wasn't it your messenger who went? Truly, take pity on us, or else
we'll just leave," the boys told them.
And this is what had been ordained for the boys: that they should
have died right away, right there, defeated by that knife. But it
wasn't like that. Instead, Xibalba was again defeated by the boys.
"Well, don't go, boys. We can still play ball, but we'll put yours
into play," the boys were told.
"Very well," they said, and this was the time for their rubber
so the ball was dropped in.
And after that, they specified the prize:
"What should our prize be?" asked the Xibalbans.
"It's yours for the asking," was all the boys said.
"We'll just win four bowls of flowers," said the Xibalbans.
"Very well. What kinds of flowers?" the boys asked Xibalba.
"One bowl of red petals,*(279) one bowl of white petals, one bowl
yellow petals, and one bowl of whole ones," said the Xibalbans.
"Very well," said the boys, and then their ball was dropped
The boys were their equals in strength and made many plays, since they
only had very good thoughts. Then the boys gave themselves up in
defeat, and the Xibalbans were glad when they were defeated:
"We've done well. We've beaten them on the first try," said
Xibalbans. "Where will they go to get the flowers?" they said
"Truly, before the night is over, you must hand over our flowers
our prize," the boys, Hunahpu and Xbalanque, were told by Xibalba.
"Very well. So we're also playing ball at night," they said
they accepted their charge.
Its Cenote of Sacrifice: photo by Hillel Burger (C) 1984 by the
President and Fellows of Harvard College.
"IT'S JUST A SKULL": In this section from the relief panels
ball court at Chichen Itza, the ball (at center) bears a skull
motif. Like One and Seven Hunahpu and their sons in the Popol Vuh, the
players in this scene wear kilts, yokes (the belts with objects
protruding upward from them at an angle), arm guards, panaches, and
headbands. From the mouths of the two players at left and the one at
extreme right comes speech (resembling curling smoke), probably in the
form of taunts like those the lords of Xibalba hurl at Hunahpu and
Xbalanque in a later Popol Vuh episode. The kneeling player to the
right of the ball has been decapitated; from his neck emerge
serpents and a vine with flowers and fruits. This may be a squash
vine, corresponding to the squash that was substituted for Hunahpu's
head when he lost his own to a snatch-bat.)
AND AFTER THAT, THE BOYS NEXT ENTERED RAZOR HOUSE, the second test
And this is when it was ordained that they be cut clear through with
knives. It was intended to be quick, intended that they should die,
but they did not die. They spoke to the knives then, they instructed
"This is yours: the flesh of all the animals," they told the
and they no longer moved- rather, each and every knife put down its
And this is how they stayed there overnight, in Razor House. Now
they summoned all the ants:
"Cutting ants, conquering ants, come now,
all of you fetch all of them for us:
flowers in bloom, prizes for lords."
"Very well," they replied. Then all the ants went to get the
flowers, the plantings of One and Seven Death, who had already given
instructions to the guardians of the flowers of Xibalba:
"Would you please watch our flowers? Don't let them get stolen.
We've defeated these boys, so won't they come looking for the prize
they owe us? Don't sleep tonight."
"Very well," they replied, but the guardians of the plants
knew a thing. Their only inclination was to stretch their mouths
wide open, going from one perch to another in the trees and plants,
repeating the same song:
one of them says as he cries.
says the other as he cries, the one named poorwill.
The two of them are the guards of the garden, the garden of One
and Seven Death, but they don't notice the ants stealing what's
under their guard, swarming, carrying away loads of flowers, coming
cut down the flowers in the trees, gathering these together with the
flowers beneath the trees, while the guards just stretch their
mouths wide open, not noticing the nibbling at their own tails, the
nibbling at their own wings.*(281) The severed flowers rain down
into the gathering and bunching here below, so that four bowls of
flowers are easily filled, an acrobatic performance*(282) that lasts
After that the messengers, the pages, arrive:
"'They are to come,' says the lord. 'They must bring our prizes
right away,'" the boys were told.
"Very well," they said. Having loaded up the flowers, four
of them, they left and came before the lord, or lords, who received
the flowers with pained looks.
With this, the Xibalbans were defeated. The boys had sent mere ants;
in just one night the ants had taken the flowers and put them in the
With this, all the Xibalbans looked sick, they paled*(283) at the
sight of the flowers.
After that, they summoned the flower guards:
"How did you allow our flowers to get stolen? These are our flowers!
Here! Look!" the guards were told.
"We took no notice, your lordship, though our tails are the worse
for it," they said.
And then their mouths were split wide,*(284) their payment for the
theft of what was under their guard.
Such was the defeat of One and Seven Death by Hunahpu and Xbalanque,
on account of which the whippoorwills got gaping mouths. Their
mouths gape to this day.
Now after that, when the ball was dropped in, they just played to
a tie. When they finished the game they made an arrangement with
"At dawn again," said Xibalba.
"Very well," said the boys, then they were finished.
AND NOW THEY ENTERED COLD HOUSE. There are countless drafts,
thick-falling hail*(285) inside the house, the home of cold. They
diminished the cold right away by shutting it out. The cold dissipated
because of the boys. They did not die, but were alive when it dawned.
So, although Xibalba had wanted them to die there, they did not, but
were alive when it dawned. They came out when the pages arrived and
the guards left.
"Why haven't they died?" said the rulers of Xibalba. Again
amazed at the feats of the boys, Hunahpu and Xbalanque.
SO NEXT THEY ENTERED JAGUAR HOUSE, the jaguar-packed home of
"Don't eat us. There is something that should be yours," the
With that, they scattered bones before the animals.
After that, the jaguars were wrestling around there, over the bones.
"So they've made good work of them, they've eaten their very hearts.
Now that the boys have given themselves up, they've already been
transformed into skeletons," said the sentries, all of them finding
sweet. But they hadn't died; they were well. They came out of Jaguar
"What sort of people are they? Where did they come from?"
SO NEXT THEY ENTERED THE MIDST OF THE FIRE, a house of fire*(286)
with only fire alone inside. They weren't burned by it, just
toasted, just simmered, so they were well when it dawned. Although
it had been ordained that they be quickly killed in there, overcome,
they weren't, and instead it was the Xibalbans who lost heart over
NOW THEY WERE PUT INSIDE BAT HOUSE, with bats alone inside the
house, a house of snatch-bats, monstrous beasts, their snouts like
knives, the instruments of death. To come before these is to be
finished off at once.
When they were inside they just slept in their blowgun; they were
not bitten by the members of the household. But this is where they
gave one of themselves up because of a snatch-bat that came down, he
came along just as one of them showed himself. They did it because
it was actually what they were asking for, what they had in mind.
And all night the bats are making noise:
they say, and they say it all night.
SNATCH-BATS, MONSTROUS BEASTS: The bats of Xibalba were frequently
painted on classic Maya funerary vases of the Chama style, from
sites in the same region as the Great Abyss where Hunahpu and
Xbalanque descended into the underworld. The designs on the present
bat's wings represent plucked-out eyes, and he wears two eyes on his
collar; the scroll-like forms issuing from his mouth, with ragged
upper edges, may represent his shrieks. [The vase is in the collection
of Edwin Pearlman.])
Then it let up a little. The bats were no longer moving around. So
there, one of the boys crawled to the end of the blowgun, since
"Hunahpu? Can you see how long it is till dawn?"*(287)
"Well, perhaps I should look to see how long it is," he replied.
So he kept trying to look out the muzzle of the blowgun, he tried to
see the dawn.
And then his head was taken off by a snatch-bat, leaving Hunahpu's
body still stuffed inside.
"What's going on?*(288) Hasn't it dawned?" said Xbalanque.
is there any movement from Hunahpu. "What's this? Hunahpu hasn't
has he? What have you done?" He no longer moves; now there is only
After that, Xbalanque despaired:*(289)
"Alas!*(290) We've given it all up!" he said. And elsewhere,
head meanwhile went rolling onto the court, in accordance with the
word of One and Seven Death, and all the Xibalbans were happy over the
head of Hunahpu.
After that, Xbalanque summoned all the animals: coati, peccary,
all the animals, small and great. It was at night, still night-time
when he asked them for their food:
"Whatever your foods are, each one of you: that's what I summoned
you for, to bring your food here," Xbalanque told them.
"Very well," they replied, then they went to get what's theirs,
indeed they all came back.
There's the one who only brought his rotten wood.
There's the one who only brought leaves.
There's the one who only brought stones.
There's the one who only brought earth, on through the varied
foods of the animals, small and great, until the very last one
remained: the coati. He brought a squash,*(291) bumping it along
with his snout as he came.
And this became a simulated head for Hunahpu. His eyes were carved
right away, then brains came from the thinker, from the sky.*(292)
This was the Heart of Sky, Hurricane, who came down, came on down into
Bat House. The face wasn't finished any too quickly; it came out well.
His strength was just the same,*(293) he looked handsome, he spoke
just the same.
And this is when it was trying to dawn, reddening along the horizon:
"Now make the streaks, man," the possum was told.
"Yes," said the old man. When he made the streaks he made
again; the old man made four streaks.
THE OLD MAN MADE FOUR STREAKS: In these drawings from the Dresden
Codex, the possum deity is shown bringing in each of the four types
solar years. The repeated glyphs in the column to the left of each
figure give the names of the four year-beginning day names; in
Quiche the names are E or "Tooth" (upper left), Naoh or "Thought"
(upper right), I3 or "Wind" (lower left), and Queh or "Deer."
figure bears the patron deity of a given type of year on his back.)
"Possum is making streaks,"*(294) people say today, ever since
made the early dawn red and blue, establishing its very being.
"Isn't it good?" Hunahpu was asked.
"Good indeed," he replied. His head was as if it had every
it had become like his real head.
After that, they had a talk, they made arrangements with each other:
"How about not playing ball yourself? You should just make lots
threats,*(295) while I should be the one to take all the action,"
Xbalanque told him. After that, he gave instructions to a rabbit:
"Your place is there above the court, on top. Stay there in the
oaks,"*(296) the rabbit was told by Xbalanque, "until the
to you, then take off while I get to work," the rabbit was told.
got his instructions while it was still dark.
After that, when it dawned, both of them were just as well as ever.
And when the ball was dropped in again, it was the head of Hunahpu
that rolled over the court:
"We've won! You're done!
Give up! You lost!"
they were told. But even so Hunahpu was shouting:
"Punt the head as a ball!" he told them.
"Well, we're not going to do them any more harm with threats,"
with this the lords of Xibalba sent off the ball and Xbalanque
received it, the ball was stopped by his yoke, then he hit it hard and
it took off, the ball passed straight out of the court, bouncing
just once, just twice, and stopping among the oaks. Then the rabbit
took off hopping, then they went off in pursuit, then all the
Xibalbans went off, shouting, shrieking, they went after the rabbit,
off went the whole of Xibalba.
After that, the boys got Hunahpu's head back. Then Xbalanque planted
the squash; this is when he went to set the squash above the court.
So the head of Hunahpu was really a head again, and the two of
them were happy again. And the others, those Xibalbans, were still
going on in search of the ball.
After that, having recovered the ball from among the oaks,*(297) the
boys cried out to them:
"Come back! Here's the ball! We've found it!" they said, so
stopped. When the Xibalbans got back:
"Have we been seeing things?" they said. Then they began their
ball game again, and they made equal plays on both sides again.
After that, the squash was punted by Xbalanque. The squash was
wearing out;*(298) it fell on the court, bringing to light its
light-colored seeds, as plain as day*(299) right in front of them.
"How did you get ahold of that? Where did it come from?" said
With this, the masters of Xibalba were defeated by Hunahpu and
Xbalanque. There was great danger there, but they did not die from all
the things that were done to them.
AND HERE IT IS: THE EPITAPH, THE DEATH OF HUNAHPU AND XBALANQUE.
Here it is: now we shall name their epitaph, their death. They did
whatever they were instructed to do, going through all the dangers,
the troubles that were made for them, but they did not die from the
tests of Xibalba, nor were they defeated by all the voracious
animals that inhabit Xibalba.
After that, they summoned two midmost seers, similar to readers.
Here are their names: Xulu, Pacam, both knowers.
"Perhaps there will be questions from the lords of Xibalba about
death. They are thinking about how to overcome us because we haven't
died, nor have we been defeated. We've exhausted all their tests.
Not even the animals got us. So this is the sign, here in our
hearts: their instrument for our death will be a stone oven. All the
Xibalbans have gathered together. Isn't our death inevitable? So
this is your plan, here we shall name it: if you come to be questioned
by them about our death, once we've been burned, what will you say,
Xulu and Pacam? If they ask you:
'Wouldn't it be good if we dumped their bones in the canyon?'*(300)
'Perhaps it wouldn't be good, since they would only come back to
life again,' you will say.
'Perhaps this would be good: we'll just hang them up in a tree,'
they'll say to you next.
'Certainly that's no good, since you would see their faces,'*(301)
you will say, and then they'll speak to you for the third time:
'Well, here's the only good thing: we'll just dump their bones in
the river.' If that's what they ask you next:
'This is a good death for them, and it would also be good to grind
their bones on a stone, just as corn is refined into flour, and refine
each of them separately, and then:
Spill them into the river,
sprinkle them*(302) on the water's way,
among the mountains, small and great,'
you will say, and then you will have carried out the instructions
we've named for you," said Hunahpu and Xbalanque. When they gave
instructions they already knew they would die.
THIS IS THE MAKING OF THE OVEN, the great stone oven. The
Xibalbans made it like the places where the sweet drink is cooked,
they opened it to a great width.
After that, messengers came to get the boys, the messengers of One
and Seven Death:
"'They must come. We'll go with the boys, to see the treat we've
cooked up for them,' say the lords, you boys," they were told.
"Very well," they replied. They went running and arrived at
mouth of the oven.
And there they tried to force them into a game:
"Here, let's jump over our drink four times, clear across, one
after the other, boys," they were told by One Death.
"You'll never put that one over on us.*(303) Don't we know what
our death is, you lords? Watch!" they said, then they faced each
other. They grabbed each other by the arms and went head first into
And there they died, together, and now all the Xibalbans were happy,
raising their shouts, raising their cheers:*(305)
"We've really beaten them! They didn't give up easily," they
After that they summoned Xulu and Pacam, who kept their word: the
bones went just where the boys had wanted them. Once the Xibalbans had
done the divination, the bones were ground and spilled in the river,
but they didn't go far- they just sank to the bottom of the water.
They became handsome boys; they looked just the same as before when
AND ON THE FIFTH DAY THEY REAPPEARED. They were seen in the water by
the people. The two of them looked like channel catfish*(306) when
their faces were seen by Xibalba. And having germinated in the waters,
they appeared the day after that as two vagabonds,*(307) with rags
before and rags behind, and rags all over too. They seemed
unrefined*(308) when they were examined by Xibalba; they acted
It was only the Dance of the Poorwill, the Dance of the Weasel, only
Armadillos they danced.
Only Swallowing Swords, only Walking on Stilts now they danced.
They performed many miracles now. They would set fire to a house, as
if they were really burning it, and suddenly bring it back again.
Now Xibalba was full of admiration.*(309)
Next they would sacrifice themselves, one of them dying for the
other,*(310) stretched out as if in death. First they would kill
themselves, but then they would suddenly look alive again. The
Xibalbans could only admire what they did. Everything they did now was
already the groundwork for their defeat of Xibalba.
ONLY ARMADILLOS THEY DANCED: This dancer, who wears an armadillo
mask, plays a flute, and shakes a rattle, was painted on a classic
Maya funerary vase of the Chama style, which pertains to sites in
the same general region as the Great Abyss where Hunahpu and Xbalanque
descended into the underworld. The cross-hatching represents the
scales of an armadillo.)
And after that, news of their dances came to the ears of the
lords, One and Seven Death. When they heard it they said:
"Who are these two vagabonds? Are they really such a delight? And
their dancing really that pretty? They do everything!" they said.
account of them had reached the lords. It sounded delightful, so
then they entreated their messengers to notify them that they must
"'"If only they'd come make a show for us, we'd wonder at
marvel at them," say the lords,' you will say," the messengers
told. So they came to the dancers, then spoke the words of the lords
"But we don't want to, because we're really ashamed. Just plain
no. Wouldn't we be afraid to go inside there, into a lordly house?
Because we'd really look bad. Wouldn't we just be wide-eyed? Take pity
on us! Wouldn't we look like mere dancers to them? What would we say
to our fellow vagabonds? There are others who also want us to dance
today, to liven things up with us, so we can't do likewise for the
lords, and likewise is not what we want, messengers," said Hunahpu
Even so, they were prevailed upon: through troubles, through
torments, they went on their tortuous way. They didn't want to walk
fast. Many times they had to be forced; the messengers went ahead of
them as guides but had to keep coming back.*(311) And so they went
to the lord.
AND THEY CAME TO THE LORDS. Feigning great humility,*(312) they
bowed their heads all the way to the ground*(313) when they arrived.
They brought themselves low, doubled over, flattened out, down to
the rags, to the tatters.*(314) They really looked like vagabonds when
So then they were asked what their mountain*(315) and tribe were,
and they were also asked about their mother and father:
"Where do you come from?" they were asked.
"We've never known, lord. We don't know the identity of our mother
and father. We must've been small when they died," was all they
said. They didn't give any names.
"Very well. Please entertain us, then. What do you want us to give
you in payment?" they were asked.
"Well, we don't want anything. To tell the truth, we're afraid,"
they told the lord.
"Don't be afraid. Don't be ashamed. Just dance this way: first
you'll dance to sacrifice yourselves, you'll set fire to my house
after that, you'll act out all the things you know. We want to be
entertained. This is our heart's desire, the reason you had to be sent
for, dear vagabonds. We'll give you payment," they were told.
So then they began their songs and dances, and then all the
Xibalbans arrived, the spectators crowded the floor, and they danced
everything: they danced the Weasel, they danced the Poorwill, they
danced the Armadillo. Then the lord said to them:
"Sacrifice my dog, then bring him back to life again," they
"Yes," they said.
When they sacrificed the dog
he then came back to life.
And that dog was really happy
when he came back to life.
Back and forth he wagged his tail
when he came back to life.
And the lord said to them:
"Well, you have yet to set my home on fire," they were told
then they set fire to the home of the lord. The house was packed
with all the lords, but they were not burned. They quickly fixed it
back again, lest the house of One Death be consumed all at once, and
all the lords were amazed, and they went on dancing this way. They
And then they were asked by the lord:
"You have yet to kill a person! Make a sacrifice without death!"
they were told.
"Very well," they said.
And then they took hold of a human sacrifice.
And they held up a human heart on high.
And they showed its roundness*(316) to the lords.
Coe and the Grolier Club.
AND THEN THEY TOOK HOLD OF A HUMAN SACRIFICE: In this classic Maya
funerary vase painting from northern Guatemala, the head lord of
Xibalba, One Death, is seated on his throne at right; perched on his
hat is one of the messengers of Xibalba, Macaw Owl, who is like an owl
except in having the tail of a macaw. In front of One Death are
Hunahpu (left) and Xbalanque (right), acting out the roles of
sacrificial priests; Xbalanque's identity is marked by the jaguar
paw on the nose of his mask. The women around the platform are all
of noble rank; the one at extreme left is tapping the foot of the
one who faces One Death, calling her attention to the sacrificial
performance. [The vase is in the Princeton University Art Museum.])
And now One and Seven Death admired it, and now that person was
brought right back to life. His heart was overjoyed when he came
back to life, and the lords were amazed:
"Sacrifice yet again, even do it to yourselves! Let's see it! At
heart, that's the dance we really want from you," the lords said
"Very well, lord," they replied, and then they sacrificed
AND THIS IS THE SACRIFICE OF HUNAHPU BY XBALANQUE. One by one his
legs, his arms were spread wide.*(317) His head came off, rolled far
away outside. His heart, dug out, was smothered in a leaf,*(318) and
all the Xibalbans went crazy at the sight.
So now, only one of them was dancing there: Xbalanque.
"Get up!" he said, and Hunahpu came back to life. The two
were overjoyed at this- and likewise the lords rejoiced, as if they
were doing it themselves. One and Seven Death were as glad at heart
if they themselves were actually doing the dance.
Coe and the Grolier Club.
"SACRIFICE YET AGAIN, EVEN DO IT TO YOURSELVES!": This classic
Maya funerary vase painting from the lowlands shows Hunahpu (at
extreme left) about to swing the stone axe in his right hand and
decapitate his brother Xbalanque, while an ecstatic lord of Xibalba
(in skeletal form) looks on. The dog at right is doubtless the one
already sacrificed and brought back to life earlier in this same
episode. The insect above the dog holds a torch and may be one of
the fireflies with which Hunahpu and Xbalanque made their cigars
appear to be burning while they spent the night in Dark House, in an
earlier episode. In the present scene Hunahpu is identifiable, in
part, by the catfish barbel that emerges just behind his nostril; he
acquired this attribute in a previous episode, when he and Xbalanque
appeared as channel catfish after their ground bones had been thrown
in water. Xbalanque, whose name is partly derived from balam or
"jaguar," is identifiable from his jaguar ears, paws, feet,
tail. [This vase can be seen at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.])
And then the hearts of the lords were filled with longing, with
yearning for the dance of Hunahpu and Xbalanque, so then came these
words from One and Seven Death:
"Do it to us! Sacrifice us!"*(319) they said. "Sacrifice
us!" said One and Seven Death to Hunahpu and Xbalanque.
"Very well. You ought to come back to life. After all, aren't you
Death?*(320) And aren't we making you happy, along with the vassals
your domain?" they told the lords.
And this one was the first to be sacrificed: the lord at the very
top, the one whose name is One Death, the ruler of Xibalba.
And with One Death dead, the next to be taken was Seven Death.
They did not come back to life.
And then the Xibalbans were getting up to leave, those who had
seen the lords die. They underwent heart sacrifice*(321) there, and
the heart sacrifice was performed on the two lords only for the
purpose of destroying them.
As soon as they had killed the one lord without bringing him back to
life, the other lord had been meek and tearful before the dancers.
He didn't consent, he didn't accept it:
"Take pity on me!" he said when he realized. All their vassals
took the road to the great canyon, in one single mass they filled up
the deep abyss. So they piled up there and gathered together,
countless ants,*(322) tumbling down into the canyon, as if they were
being herded there. And when they arrived, they all bent low in
surrender, they arrived meek and tearful.
Such was the defeat of the rulers of Xibalba. The boys
accomplished it only through wonders, only through
AND THEN THEY NAMED THEIR NAMES, they gave themselves names before
all of Xibalba:
"Listen: we shall name our names, and we shall also name the names
of our fathers for you. Here we are: we are Hunahpu and Xbalanque by
name. And these are our fathers, the ones you killed: One Hunahpu
and Seven Hunahpu by name. And we are here to clear the road of the
torments and troubles of our fathers. And so we have suffered all
the troubles you've caused us. And so we are putting an end to all
of you. We're going to kill you. No one can save you now," they
told. And then all the Xibalbans got down on the ground and cried out:
"Take pity on us, Hunahpu and Xbalanque! It is true that we
wronged your fathers, the ones you name. Those two are buried at the
Place of Ball Game Sacrifice," they replied.
"Very well. Now this is our word, we shall name it for you. All
you listen, you Xibalbans: because of this, your day and your
descendants will not be great. Moreover, the gifts you receive will
longer be great, but reduced to scabrous nodules of sap. There will
no cleanly blotted blood for you,*(323) just griddles, just gourds,
just brittle things broken to pieces.*(324) Further, you will only
feed on creatures of the meadows and clearings. None of those who
are born in the light, begotten in the light*(325) will be yours. Only
the worthless will yield themselves up before you. These will be the
guilty, the violent, the wretched, the afflicted. Wherever the blame
is clear,*(326) that is where you will come in, rather than just
making sudden attacks on people in general. And you will hear
petitions over headed-up sap,"*(327) all the Xibalbans were told.
Such was the beginning of their disappearance and the denial of
Their ancient day was not a great one,
these ancient people only wanted conflict,
their ancient names are not really divine,
but fearful is the ancient evil of their faces.
They are makers of enemies, users of owls,
they are inciters to wrongs and violence,*(328)
they are masters of hidden intentions as well,
they are black and white,
masters of stupidity, masters of perplexity,*(329)
as it is said. By putting on appearances they cause dismay.
Such was the loss of their greatness and brilliance. Their domain
did not return to greatness. This was accomplished by Hunahpu and
AND THIS IS THEIR GRANDMOTHER, CRYING AND CALLING OUT*(330) IN FRONT
OF THE CORN EARS they left planted.*(331) Corn plants grew, then dried
And this was when they were burned in the oven; then the corn plants
And this was when their grandmother burned something,*(332) she
burned copal before the corn as a memorial to them. There was
happiness in their grandmother's heart the second time the corn plants
sprouted. Then the ears were deified by their grandmother,*(333) and
she gave them names: Middle of the House, Middle of the Harvest,
Living Corn, Earthen Floor became their names.
And she named the ears Middle of the House, Middle of the Harvest,
because they had planted them right in the middle of the inside of
And she further named them Earthen Floor, Living Corn, since the
corn ears had been placed up above an earthen floor.*(334)
And she also named them Living Corn, because the corn plants had
grown again. So they were named by Xmucane. They had been left behind,
planted by Hunahpu and Xbalanque, simply as a way for their
grandmother to remember them.
And the first to die, a long time before, had been their fathers,
One Hunahpu and Seven Hunahpu. And they saw the face of their
father*(335) again, there in Xibalba. Their father spoke to them again
when they had defeated Xibalba.
AND HERE THEIR FATHER IS PUT BACK TOGETHER BY THEM. They put Seven
Hunahpu back together; they went to the Place of Ball Game Sacrifice
to put him together. He had wanted his face to become just as it
was, but when he was asked to name everything,*(336) and once he had
found the name of the mouth, the nose, the eyes of his face, there was
very little else to be said. Although his mouth could not name the
names of each of his former parts,*(337) he had at least spoken again.
And so it remained that they were respectful of their father's
heart, even though they left him at the Place of Ball Game Sacrifice:
"You will be prayed to here,"*(338) his sons told him, and
was comforted. "You will be the first resort, and you will be the
first to have your day kept*(339) by those who will be born in the
light, begotten in the light. Your name will not be lost.*(340) So
be it," they told their father when they comforted his heart.
"We merely cleared the road of your death, your loss, the pain,
the suffering that were inflicted upon you."
And such was the instruction they gave when all the Xibalbans had
been finally defeated. And then the two boys ascended this way, here
into the middle of the light, and they ascended straight on into the
sky, and the sun belongs to one and the moon to the other.*(341)
When it became light within the sky, on the face of the earth, they
were there in the sky.
And this was also the ascent of the Four Hundred Boys killed by
And these came to accompany the two of them. They became the sky's
AND HERE IS THE BEGINNING OF THE CONCEPTION OF HUMANS, and of the
search for the ingredients of the human body. So they spoke, the
Bearer, Begetter, the Makers, Modelers named Sovereign Plumed Serpent:
"The dawn has approached, preparations have been made, and morning
has come for the provider, nurturer, born in the light, begotten in
the light. Morning has come for humankind, for the people of the
face of the earth," they said. It all came together as they went
thinking in the darkness, in the night, as they searched and they
sifted, they thought and they wondered.
And here their thoughts came out in clear light. They sought and
discovered*(343) what was needed for human flesh. It was only a
short while before the sun, moon, and stars were to appear above the
Makers and Modelers. Broken Place, Bitter Water Place is the name: the
yellow corn, white corn came from there.
And these are the names of the animals who brought the food:*(344)
fox, coyote, parrot, crow. There were four animals who brought the
news of the ears of yellow corn and white corn. They were coming
from over there at Broken Place, they showed the way to the break.
And this was when they found the staple foods.
And these were the ingredients for the flesh of the human work,
the human design, and the water was for the blood. It became human
blood, and corn was also used by the Bearer, Begetter.
And so they were happy over the provisions of the good mountain,
filled with sweet things, thick with yellow corn, white corn, and
thick with pataxte and cacao, countless zapotes, anonas, jocotes,
nances, matasanos, sweets- the rich foods filling up the citadel named
Broken Place, Bitter Water Place. All the edible fruits were there:
small staples, great staples, small plants, great plants. The way
was shown by the animals.
And then the yellow corn and white corn were ground, and Xmucane did
the grinding nine times.*(345) Corn was used, along with the water she
rinsed her hands with,*(346) for the creation of grease; it became
human fat when it was worked by the Bearer, Begetter, Sovereign Plumed
Serpent, as they are called.
After that, they put it into words:
the making, the modeling of our first mother-father,
with yellow corn, white corn alone for the flesh,*(347)
food alone for the human legs and arms,
for our first fathers, the four human works.
It was staples alone that made up their flesh.
THESE ARE THE NAMES OF THE FIRST PEOPLE WHO WERE MADE AND MODELED.
This is the first person: Jaguar Quitze.
And now the second: Jaguar Night.
And now the third: Mahucutah.
And the fourth: True Jaguar.
And these are the names of our first mother-fathers. They were
simply made and modeled, it is said; they had no mother and no father.
We have named the men by themselves. No woman gave birth to them,
nor were they begotten by the builder, sculptor, Bearer, Begetter.
By sacrifice alone, by genius alone they were made, they were
modeled by the Maker, Modeler, Bearer, Begetter, Sovereign Plumed
Serpent. And when they came to fruition, they came out human:
They talked and they made words.
They looked and they listened.
They walked, they worked.*(348)
They were good people, handsome, with looks of the male kind.
Thoughts came into existence and they gazed; their vision came all
at once. Perfectly they saw, perfectly they knew everything under
the sky, whenever they looked. The moment they turned around and
looked around in the sky, on the earth, everything was seen without
any obstruction. They didn't have to walk around before they could see
what was under the sky; they just stayed where they were.
As they looked, their knowledge became intense. Their sight passed
through trees, through rocks, through lakes, through seas, through
mountains, through plains. Jaguar Quitze, Jaguar Night, Mahucutah, and
True Jaguar were truly gifted people.
And then they were asked by the builder and mason:
"What do you know about your being? Don't you look, don't you
listen? Isn't your speech good, and your walk? So you must look, to
see out under the sky. Don't you see the mountain-plain clearly? So
try it," they were told.
And then they saw everything under the sky perfectly. After that,
they thanked the Maker, Modeler:
double thanks, triple thanks
that we've been formed, we've been given
our mouths, our faces,
we speak, we listen,
we wonder, we move,
our knowledge is good, we've understood
what is far and near,
and we've seen what is great and small
under the sky, on the earth.
Thanks to you we've been formed,
we've come to be made and modeled,
our grandmother, our grandfather,"
they said when they gave thanks for having been made and modeled. They
understood everything perfectly, they sighted the four sides, the four
corners in the sky, on the earth, and this didn't sound good to the
builder and sculptor:
"What our works and designs have said is no good:
'We have understood everything, great and small,' they say." And
so the Bearer, Begetter took back their knowledge:
"What should we do with them now? Their vision should at least
nearby, they should see at least a small part of the face of the
earth, but what they're saying isn't good. Aren't they merely
'works' and 'designs' in their very names? Yet they'll become as great
as gods, unless they procreate, proliferate at the sowing, the
dawning, unless they increase."
"Let it be this way: now we'll take them apart just a little, that's
what we need. What we've found out isn't good. Their deeds would
become equal to ours, just because their knowledge reaches so far.
They see everything," so said
the Heart of Sky, Hurricane,
Newborn Thunderbolt, Raw Thunderbolt,
Sovereign Plumed Serpent,
as they are called. And when they changed the nature of their works,
their designs, it was enough that the eyes be marred by the Heart of
Sky. They were blinded as the face of a mirror is breathed upon. Their
eyes were weakened. Now it was only when they looked nearby that
things were clear.
And such was the loss of the means of understanding, along with
the means of knowing everything, by the four humans. The root was
And such was the making, modeling of our first grandfather, our
father, by the Heart of Sky, Heart of Earth.
AND THEN THEIR WIVES AND WOMEN CAME INTO BEING. Again, the same gods
thought of it. It was as if they were asleep*(349) when they
received them, truly beautiful women were there with Jaguar Quitze,
Jaguar Night, Mahucutah, and True Jaguar. With their women there
they became wider awake. Right away they were happy at heart again,
because of their wives.
Celebrated Seahouse is the name of the wife of Jaguar Quitze.
Prawn House is the name of the wife of Jaguar Night.
Hummingbird House is the name of the wife of Mahucutah.
Macaw House is the name of the wife of True Jaguar.
So these are the names of their wives, who became ladies of
rank,*(350) giving birth to the people of the tribes, small and great.
AND THIS IS OUR ROOT, WE WHO ARE THE QUICHE PEOPLE. And there came
to be a crowd of penitents and sacrificers.*(351) It wasn't only
four who came into being then, but there were four mothers for us, the
Quiche people. There were different names for each of the peoples when
they multiplied, there in the east. Their names became numerous:
Sovereign Oloman, Cohah, Quenech Ahau, as the names of the people
who were there in the east are spoken. They multiplied, and it is
known that the Tams and Ilocs began then. They came from the same
place, there in the east.
Jaguar Quitze was the grandfather and father of the nine great
houses of the Cauecs.
Jaguar Night was the grandfather and father of the nine great houses
of the Greathouses.
Mahucutah was the grandfather and father of the four great houses of
the Lord Quiches.
There were three separate lineages. The names of the grandfathers
and fathers are not forgotten. These multiplied and flowered there
in the east, but the Tams and Ilocs also came forth, along with
thirteen allied tribes, thirteen principalities,*(352) including:
The Rabinals, Cakchiquels, those of the Bird House.
And the White Cornmeals.
And also the Lamacs, Serpents, Sweatbath House, Talk House, those of
the Star House.
And those of the Quiba House, those of the Yokes House, Acul people,
Jaguar House, Guardians of the Spoils, Jaguar Ropes.
It is sufficient that we speak only of the largest tribes from among
the allied tribes; we have only noted the largest. Many more came
out afterward, each one a division of that citadel.*(353) We haven't
written their names, but they multiplied there, from out of the
east. There came to be many peoples in the blackness; they began to
abound even before the birth of the sun and the light. When they began
to abound they were all there together; they stood and walked in
crowds, there in the east.
There was nothing they could offer for sustenance, but even so
they lifted their faces to the sky. They didn't know where they were
going. They did this for a long time, when they were there in the
grasslands: black people, white people, people of many faces, people
of many languages, uncertain, there at the edge of the sky.
And there were mountain people.*(354) They didn't show their
faces, they had no homes. They just traveled the mountains, small
and great. "It's as if they were crazy," they used to say.
derided the mountain people, it was said. There they watched for the
sunrise, and for all the mountain people there was just one
language.*(355) They did not yet pray to wood and stone.*(356)
These are the words with which they remembered the Maker, Modeler,
Heart of Sky, Heart of Earth. It was said that these were enough to
keep them mindful of what was in shadow and what was dawning. All they
did was ask; they had reverent words. They were reverent, they were
givers of praise, givers of respect, lifting their faces to the
sky*(357) when they made requests for their daughters and sons:
thou Maker, thou Modeler,
look at us, listen to us,
don't let us fall, don't leave us aside,
thou god in the sky, on the earth,
Heart of Sky, Heart of Earth,
give us our sign, our word,
as long as there is day, as long as there is light.*(358)
When it comes to the sowing, the dawning,
will it be*(359) a greening road, a greening path?
Give us a steady light, a level place,
a good light, a good place,
a good life and beginning.*(360)
Give us all of this, thou Hurricane,
Newborn Thunderbolt, Raw Thunderbolt,
Newborn Nanahuac, Raw Nanahuac,
Sovereign Plumed Serpent,
Grandmother of Day, Grandmother of Light,
when it comes to the sowing, the dawning,"
they said when they made their fasts*(361) and prayers, just
watching intently*(362) for the dawn. There, too, they looked toward
the east, watching closely for the daybringer, the great star at the
birth of the sun, of the heat for what is under the sky, on the earth,
the guide for the human work, the human design.
They spoke, those who are Jaguar Quitze, Jaguar Night, Mahucutah,
and True Jaguar:
"We're still waiting for the dawning," they said, these great
knowers, great thinkers, penitents, praisers, as they are called.
And there was nothing of wood and stone in the keeping of our first
mother-fathers, and they were weary at heart there, waiting for the
sun. Already there were many of them, all the tribes, including the
Yaqui people, all penitents and sacrificers.
"Let's just go. We'll look and see whether there is something to
keep as our sign. We'll find out what we should burn in front of it.
The way we are right now, we have nothing to keep as our own,"
Jaguar Quitze, Jaguar Night, Mahucutah, and True Jaguar. They got word
of a citadel. They went there.
AND THIS IS THE NAME OF THE MOUNTAIN WHERE THEY WENT, Jaguar Quitze,
Jaguar Night, Mahucutah, True Jaguar, and the Tams and Ilocs: Tulan
Zuyua, Seven Caves, Seven Canyons is the name of the citadel. Those
who were to receive the gods arrived there.
And they arrived there at Tulan, all of them, countless people
arrived, walking in crowds, and their gods were given out in order,
the first being those of Jaguar Quitze, Jaguar Night, Mahucutah, and
True Jaguar. They were happy:
"We have found what we were looking for," they said. And this
was the first to come out:
Tohil is the name of the god loaded in the backpack borne by
Jaguar Quitze. And the others came out in turn:
Auilix is the name of the god that Jaguar Night carried.
Hacauitz, in turn, is the name of the god received by Mahucutah.
Middle of the Plain is the name of the god received by True Jaguar.
And there were still other Quiche people, since the Tams also
received theirs, but it was the same Tohil for the Tams, that's the
name received by the grandfather and father of the Tam lords, as
they are known today.
And third were the Ilocs: again, Tohil is the name of the god
received by the grandfather and father of those lords, the same ones
And such was the naming of the three Quiches. They have never let go
of each other because the god has just one name: Tohil for the
Quiche proper, and Tohil for the Tams and Ilocs. There is just one
name for their god, and so the Quiche threesome has not come apart,
those three. Tohil, Auilix, and Hacauitz are truly great in their very
And then all the tribes came in: Rabinals, Cakchiquels, those of the
Bird House, along with the Yaqui people, as the names are today. And
the languages of the tribes changed there; their languages became
differentiated. They could no longer understand one another clearly
when they came away from Tulan.
And there they broke apart. There were those who went eastward and
many who came here, but they were all alike in dressing with hides.
There were no clothes of the better kinds. They were in patches,
they were adorned with mere animal hides. They were poor. They had
nothing of their own. But they were people of genius in their very
being when they came away from Tulan Zuyua, Seven Caves, Seven
Canyons, so says the Ancient Word.
THEY WALKED IN CROWDS WHEN THEY ARRIVED AT TULAN, AND THERE WAS NO
FIRE. Only those with Tohil had it: this was the tribe whose god was
first to generate fire. How it was generated is not clear. Their
fire was already burning when Jaguar Quitze and Jaguar Night first saw
"Alas! Fire has not yet become ours. We'll die from the cold,"
they said. And then Tohil spoke:
"Do not grieve. You will have your own even when the fire you're
talking about has been lost," Tohil told them.
"Aren't you a true god!
Our sustenance and our support!
they said when they gave thanks for what Tohil had said.
"Very well, in truth,
I am your god: so be it.
I am your lord: so be it,"
the penitents and sacrificers were told by Tohil.
And this was the warming of the tribes. They were pleased by their
After that a great downpour began, which cut short the fire of the
tribes. And hail fell thickly on all the tribes, and their fires
were put out by the hail. Their fires didn't start up again. So then
Jaguar Quitze and Jaguar Night asked for their fire again:
"Tohil, we'll be finished off by the cold," they told Tohil.
"Well, do not grieve," said Tohil. Then he started a fire.
pivoted inside his sandal.*(363)
After that, Jaguar Quitze, Jaguar Night, Mahucutah, and True
Jaguar were pleased.
After they had been warmed, the fires of the other tribes were still
out. Now they were being finished off by the cold, so they came back
to ask for their fire from Jaguar Quitze, Jaguar Night, Mahucutah, and
True Jaguar. They could bear the cold and hail no longer. By now
they were chattering and shivering. There was no life left in them.
Their legs and arms kept shaking. Their hands were stiff when they
"Perhaps we wouldn't make ourselves ashamed in front of you if
asked to remove a little something from your fire?" they said when
they arrived, but they got no response.*(364) And then the tribes
cursed in their thoughts. Already their language had become
different from that of Jaguar Quitze, Jaguar Night, Mahucutah, and
"Alas! We left our language behind. How did we do it? We're lost!
Where were we deceived? We had only one language when we came to
Tulan, and we had only one place of emergence*(365) and origin. We
haven't done well," said all the tribes beneath the trees and bushes.
And then a person showed himself*(366) before Jaguar Quitze,
Jaguar Night, Mahucutah, and True Jaguar, and he spoke as a
messenger of Xibalba:
"Truly, since you have your god, your nurturer, and he is the
representation,*(367) the commemoration of your Maker and your
Modeler, don't give the tribes their fire until they give something
Tohil. You don't want them to give anything to you. You must ask for
what belongs to Tohil; to him must come what they give in order to get
fire," said the Xibalban. He had wings like the wings of a bat.
"I am a messenger of those who made you and modeled you,"
Xibalban. So now they were happy; now they thought all the more of
Tohil, Auilix, and Hacauitz. When the Xibalban had spoken he made
himself vanish right in front of them, without delay.
And so again the tribes arrived, again done in by the cold. Thick
were the white hail, the blackening storm, and the white crystals. The
cold was incalculable. They were simply overwhelmed.*(368) Because
of the cold all the tribes were going along doubled over, groping
along*(369) when they arrived in the presence of Jaguar Quitze, Jaguar
Night, Mahucutah, and True Jaguar. There was great pain in their
hearts; they had covetous mouths and covetous faces.*(370)
And now they were coming as thieves before Jaguar Quitze, Jaguar
Night, Mahucutah, and True Jaguar:
"Wouldn't you take pity on us if we asked to remove a little
something from your fire? Wasn't it found and wasn't it revealed*(371)
that we had just one home and just one mountain when you were made,
when you were modeled? So please take pity on us," they said.
"And what would you give us for taking pity on you?" they
"Well, we'd give you metal," said the tribes.
"We don't want metal," said Jaguar Quitze and Jaguar Night.
"Whatever might you want, if we may ask?" the tribes said
"Very well. First we must ask Tohil, and then we'll tell you,"
they were told next. And then they asked Tohil:
"What should the tribes give you, Tohil? They've come to ask for
your fire," said Jaguar Quitze, Jaguar Night, Mahucutah, and True
"Very well. You will tell them:
'"Don't they want to be suckled*(372) on their sides and under
arms? Isn't it their heart's desire to embrace me? I, who am Tohil?
But if there is no desire, then I'll not give them their fire,"
Tohil. "When the time comes, not right now, they'll be suckled
their sides, under their arms," he says to you,' you will say,"
were told, Jaguar Quitze, Jaguar Night, Mahucutah, and True Jaguar,
and then they spoke the word of Tohil.
"Very well. Let him suckle. And very well, we shall embrace him,"
said the tribes, when they answered and agreed to the word of Tohil.
They made no delay*(373) but said "very well" right away,
they received their fire.
After that they got warm, but there was one group that simply
stole the fire, there in the smoke. This was the Bat House. Calm Snake
is the name of the god of the Cakchiquels, but it looks like a bat.
They went right past in the smoke then, they sneaked past when they
came to get fire. The Cakchiquels didn't ask for their fire. They
didn't give themselves up in defeat, but all the other tribes were
defeated when they gave themselves up to being suckled on their sides,
under their arms.
And this is what Tohil meant by being "suckled": that all
be cut open before him, and that their hearts be removed "through
their sides, under their arms." This deed had not yet been
attempted*(374) when Tohil saw into the middle of it, nor had Jaguar
Quitze, Jaguar Night, Mahucutah, and True Jaguar received fiery
splendor and majesty.
"THEY'VE COME TO ASK FOR YOUR FIRE": This is a scepter held
ruler, one of the forms taken by Tahil, the classic Maya antecedent
Tohil. On his forehead he wears an obsidian mirror with a burning
torch emerging from it. Sometimes he is shown with a body of human
form, except that one leg is a serpent; only his head and the
serpent leg are shown here. The drawing is reconstructed from
several stucco reliefs at Palenque.)
WHEN THEY CAME AWAY FROM TULAN ZUYUA, they weren't eating. They
observed a continuous fast. It was enough that they watch intently for
the dawning, that they watch closely for the rising of the sun, taking
turns at watching for the great star named daybringer. This one came
first before the sun when the sun was born, the new daybringer.*(375)
And there, always, they were facing the east, when they were there
in the place named Tulan Zuyua. Their gods came from there. It
wasn't really here that they received their fiery splendor and their
dominion, but rather there that the tribes, great and small, were
subjugated and humiliated. When they were cut open before Tohil, all
the peoples gave their blood, their gore, their sides, their
underarms. Fiery splendor came to them all at once at Tulan, along
with great knowledge, and they achieved this in the darkness, in the
And now they came away, they tore themselves away from there. Now
they left the east:*(376)
"Our home is not here. Let's go on until we see where we
belong,"*(377) said Tohil. He actually spoke to them, to Jaguar
Quitze, Jaguar Night, Mahucutah, and True Jaguar.
"It remains for you to give thanks, since you have yet to take
care of bleeding your ears and passing a cord through your
elbows.*(378) You must worship. This is your way of giving thanks
before your god."
"Very well," they replied, then they bled their ears. They
in their song about coming from Tulan. They cried in their hearts when
they came away, when they made their departure from Tulan:
"Alas! We won't be here when we see the dawn,
when the sun is born, when the face of the earth is lit,"
AND THEN THEY CAME AWAY, JUST CAMPING ON THE ROAD.*(379) People were
just camping there, each tribe slept and then got up again. And they
were always watching for the star, the sign of the day. They kept this
sign of the dawn in their hearts when they came away from the east.
unity*(380) they passed beyond the place named Great Abyss today.
And then they arrived on top of a mountain there. All the Quiche
people got together there, along with the other tribes, and all of
them held council there. The name the mountain has today is from
when they took counsel together: Place of Advice is the name of the
mountain. They got together and identified themselves there:
"Here am I: I am a Quiche person, and you there, you are Tams,
this will be your name," the Tams were told. And then the Ilocs
"You are the Ilocs, this will be your name. The three Quiches must
not be lost. We are united in our word," they said when they fixed
And then the Cakchiquels were named: their name became
Cakchiquels. So, too, with the Rabinals; this became their name. It
hasn't been lost today.
And then there are those of the Bird House, as they are named today.
These are the names they named for each other. When they held
council there, they were still waiting for the dawning, watching for
the appearance of the rising star, the one that came before the sun
when it was born.
"When we came away from Tulan, we broke ourselves apart,"
told each other.
This is what kept weighing on their hearts, the great pain they went
through: there was nothing to eat, nothing to feed on. They were
just smelling the tips of their staffs*(381) as if they were
thinking of eating them, but they weren't eating at all as they came.
And it isn't clear how they crossed over the sea. They crossed
over as if there were no sea. They just crossed over on some stones,
stones piled up in the sand. And they gave it a name: Rock Rows,
Furrowed Sands was their name for the place where they crossed through
the midst of the sea. Where the waters divided, they crossed over.
And this is what weighed on their hearts when they took counsel:
that they had nothing to eat. They had one beverage to drink, just one
atole, which they brought up on the mountain named Place of Advice.
And they also brought Tohil, Auilix, and Hacauitz.
Observing a great fast was Jaguar Quitze, with his wife; Great
Seahouse is his wife's name.
Likewise doing it was Jaguar Night, with his wife, named Prawn
And Mahucutah was also there at the great fast, with his wife, named
Hummingbird House, along with True Jaguar, whose wife's name is
So these were the ones who fasted, there in the blackness, in the
early dawn. Their sadness was great when they were there on the
mountain named Place of Advice today. And their gods spoke there.
AND THEN TOHIL, ALONG WITH AUILIX AND HACAUITZ, SPOKE TO THEM, to
Jaguar Quitze, Jaguar Night, Mahucutah, and True Jaguar:
"Let's just go, let's just get up, let's not stay here. Please
give us places to hide. It's nearly dawn. Wouldn't you look pitiful
we became plunder for warriors? Construct places where we can remain
yours, you penitents and sacrificers, and give one place to each of
us," they said when they spoke.
"Very well. Let's get out and search the forests," they all
After that they packed each one of the gods on their backs.*(382)
And then Auilix went into the canyon named Concealment Canyon, as
they called it, into the great canyon in the forest. Pauilix is the
name of the place today. He was left there, placed in the canyon by
Jaguar Night, coming first in the sequence of placements.
And then Hacauitz was placed above a great red river.*(383) Hacauitz
is the name of the mountain today, and it became their citadel. So the
god Hacauitz remained there, and Mahucutah stayed with his god. This
was the second god to be hidden by them. Hacauitz didn't stay in the
forest. It was on a bare mountain*(384) that Hacauitz was hidden.
And then came Jaguar Quitze. He arrived in the great forest there.
Tohil was put into hiding by Jaguar Quitze; the mountain is called
Patohil today. Then they gave Concealment Canyon an epithet: Tohil
Medicine. Masses of serpents and masses of jaguars, rattlesnakes,
yellowbites were there in the forest where he was hidden*(385) by
the penitents and sacrificers.
So they were there in unity: Jaguar Quitze, Jaguar Night, Mahucutah,
and True Jaguar. In unity they waited for the dawn, there on top of
the mountain named Hacauitz.
Also, a short distance away, was the god of the Tams, together
with the Ilocs. Tam Tribe is the name of the place where the god of
the Tams was, there at the dawn. Net Weave Tribe is the name of the
place where dawn came for the Ilocs. The god of the Ilocs was just a
short distance away.
Also there were all the Rabinals, Cakchiquels, those of the Bird
House, all the tribes, small and great. In unity they stopped
there,*(386) and in unity they had their dawning there. In unity
they waited there for the rising of the great star named daybringer.
"It will rise before the sun when the dawn comes," they said,
they were in unity there: Jaguar Quitze, Jaguar Night, Mahucutah,
and True Jaguar. There was no sleep, no rest for them. They cried
their hearts and their guts out,*(387) there at the dawning and
clearing, and so they looked terrible. Great sorrow, great anguish
came over them; they were marked by their pain. They just stayed
"Coming here hasn't been sweet for us. Alas! If we could only see
the birth of the sun! What have we done? We all had one identity,
one mountain, but we sent ourselves into exile," they said when
talked among themselves. They talked about sorrow, about anguish,
about crying and wailing, since their hearts had not yet been set to
rest by the dawn.
And these are the ones who did feel settled there: the gods who were
in the canyons, in the forests, just out in the bromelias, in the
hanging mosses, not yet set on pedestals.*(388) At first, Tohil,
Auilix, and Hacauitz actually spoke. The greatness of their day and
the greatness of their breath of spirit set them above all the other
tribal gods. Their genius was manifold and their ways were manifold,
their strategies.*(389) They were chilling, they were frightening in
their very being and in the hearts of the tribes, whose thoughts
were calmed by Jaguar Quitze, Jaguar Night, Mahucutah, and True
Jaguar. Their hearts did not yet harbor ill will*(390) toward the gods
who had been taken up and carried away when they all came from Tulan
Zuyua, there in the east, and who were now in the forest.
These were the dawning places: Patohil, Pauilix, and Hacauitz, as
they are called today. And this is where our grandfathers, our fathers
had their sowing, their dawning.
This is what we shall explain next: the dawning and showing of the
sun, moon, and stars.
AND HERE IS THE DAWNING AND SHOWING OF THE SUN, MOON, AND STARS. And
Jaguar Quitze, Jaguar Night, Mahucutah, and True Jaguar were overjoyed
when they saw the daybringer. It came up first. It looked brilliant
when it came up, since it was ahead of the sun.
After that they unwrapped their copal incense, which came from the
east, and there was triumph in their hearts when they unwrapped it.
They gave their heartfelt thanks with three kinds at once:
Mixtam Copal is the name of the copal brought by Jaguar Quitze.
Cauiztan Copal, next, is the name of the copal brought by Jaguar
Godly Copal, as the next one is called, was brought by Mahucutah.
The three of them had their copal, and this is what they burned as
they incensed*(391) the direction of the rising sun. They were
crying sweetly as they shook their burning copal, the precious copal.
After that they cried because they had yet to see and yet to witness
the birth of the sun.
And then, when the sun came up, the animals, small and great, were
happy. They all came up from the rivers and canyons; they waited on
all the mountain peaks. Together they looked toward the place where
the sun came out.
So then the puma and jaguar cried out, but the first to cry out
was a bird, the parrot by name. All the animals were truly happy.
The eagle, the white vulture, small birds, great birds spread their
wings, and the penitents and sacrificers knelt down. They were
overjoyed, together with the penitents and sacrificers of the Tams,
And the Rabinals, Cakchiquels, those of the Bird House.
And the Sweatbath House, Talk House, Quiba House, those of the
And the Yaqui Sovereign- however many tribes there may be today.
There were countless peoples, but there was just one dawn for all
And then the face of the earth was dried out by the sun. The sun was
like a person when he revealed himself. His face was hot, so he
dried out the face of the earth. Before the sun came up it was
soggy, and the face of the earth was muddy before the sun came up. And
when the sun had risen just a short distance he was like a person, and
his heat was unbearable. Since he revealed himself only when he was
born, it is only his reflection that now remains.*(392) As they put
in their own words:
"The sun that shows itself is not the real sun."
And then, all at once, Tohil, Auilix, and Hacauitz were turned to
stone, along with the idols of the puma, jaguar, rattlesnake,
yellowbite, which the White Sparkstriker took with him into the
trees.*(393) Everywhere, all of them became stone when the sun,
moon, and stars appeared. Perhaps we would have no relief from the
voracious animals today- the puma, jaguar, rattlesnake, yellowbite-
and perhaps it wouldn't even be our day today, if the original animals
hadn't been turned to stone*(394) by the sun when he came up.
There was great happiness in the hearts of Jaguar Quitze, Jaguar
Night, Mahucutah, and True Jaguar. They were overjoyed when it dawned.
The people on the mountain of Hacauitz were not yet numerous; just a
few were there. Their dawning was there and they burned copal there,
incensing the direction of the rising sun. They came from there: it
their own mountain, their own plain. Those named Jaguar Quitze, Jaguar
Night, Mahucutah, and True Jaguar came from there, and they began
their increase on that mountain.
And that became their citadel, since they were there when the sun,
moon, and stars appeared, when it dawned and cleared on the face of
the earth, over everything under the sky.
AND THERE BEGAN THEIR SONG NAMED "THE BLAME IS OURS." They
out the lament of their very hearts and guts. In their song they
We were lost at Tulan!
We shattered ourselves!
We left our elder brothers behind!
Our younger brothers!
Where did they see the sun?
Where must they be staying,
now that the dawn has come?"
They were speaking of the penitents and sacrificers who were the Yaqui
"Even though Tohil is his name, he is the same as the god of the
Yaqui people, who is named Yolcuat and Quitzalcuat. When we divided,
there at Tulan, at Zuyua, they left with us, and they shared our
identity when we came away," they said among themselves when they
remembered their faraway brothers, elder and younger, the Yaqui people
whose dawn was there in the place named Mexico today.
And again, there were also the Fishkeeper people. They stayed
there in the east; Sovereign Oloman is their name.
"We left them behind," they said. It was a great weight on
hearts, up there on Hacauitz. The Tams and Ilocs did likewise,
except that they were in the forest. Tam Tribe is the name of the
place where it dawned for the penitents and sacrificers of the Tams,
with their god, the same Tohil. There was just one name for the god
all three divisions of the Quiche people.
And again, the name of the god of the Rabinals was the same. His
name was only slightly changed; "One Toh" is the way the name
god of the Rabinals is spoken. They say it that way, but it is meant
to be in agreement with the Quiches and with their language.
And the language has differentiated in the case of the
Cakchiquels,*(395) since their god had a different name when they came
away from Tulan Zuyua. Calm Snake is the name of the god of the Bat
House, and they speak a different language today. Along with their
god, the lineages took their names; they are called Keeper of the
Bat Mat and Keeper of the Dancer Mat. Like their god, their language
was differentiated on account of a stone, when they came from Tulan
the darkness. All the tribes were sown and came to light in unity, and
each division was allocated a name for its god.
And now we shall tell about their stay*(396) and their sojourn there
on the mountain. The four were there together, the ones named Jaguar
Quitze, Jaguar Night, Mahucutah, and True Jaguar. Their hearts cried
out to Tohil, Auilix, and Hacauitz, who were now amid the bromelias
and hanging mosses.
AND HERE THEY BURN THEIR COPAL, and here also is the origin of the
masking of Tohil.*(397)
And when they went before Tohil and Auilix, they went to visit
them and keep their day. Now they gave thanks before them for the
dawning, and now they bowed down*(398) before their stones, there in
the forest. Now it was only a manifestation of his genius that spoke
when the penitents and sacrificers came before Tohil,*(399) and what
they brought and burned was not great. All they burned before their
gods was resin, just bits of pitchy bark, along with marigolds.*(400)
And when Tohil spoke now it was only his genius. When the gods
taught procedures to the penitents and sacrificers, they said this
when they spoke:
"This very place has become our mountain, our plain. Now that we
yours, our day and our birth have become great, because all the
peoples are yours, all the tribes. And since we are still your
companions, even in your citadel, we shall give you procedures:
"Do not reveal us to the tribes*(401) when they search for us.*(402)
They are truly numerous now, so don't you let us be hunted down,*(403)
but rather give the creatures of the grasses and grains to us, such
the female deer and female birds.*(404) Please come give us a little
of their blood, take pity on us. And leave the pelts of the deer
apart, save them. These are for disguises, for deception. They will
become deer costumes,*(405) and so also they will serve as our
surrogates before the tribes. When you are asked:
'Where is Tohil?' then you will display the deer costumes before
them, and without revealing yourselves. And there is still more for
you to do. You will become great in your very being. Defeat all the
tribes. They must bring blood and lymph before us, they must come to
embrace us. They belong to us already,"*(406) said Tohil, Auilix,
and Hacauitz. They had a youthful appearance when they saw them,
when they came to burn offerings before them.
So then began the hunting of the young of all the birds and deer;
they were taken in the hunt by the penitents and sacrificers.
And when they got hold of the birds and fawns, they would then go to
anoint the mouth of the stone of Tohil or Auilix with the blood of the
deer or bird.*(407) And the bloody drink was drunk by the gods. The
stone would speak at once when the penitents and sacrificers
arrived, when they went to make their burnt offerings.
They did the very same thing before the deerskins: they burned
resin, and they also burned marigolds and yarrow. There was a deerskin
for each one of the gods, which was displayed there on the mountain.
They didn't occupy their houses during the day, but just walked in
the mountains. And this was their food: just the larva of the yellow
jacket, the larva of the wasp, and the larva of the bee,*(408) which
they hunted. As yet there wasn't anything good to eat or good to
drink. Also, it wasn't obvious how to get to their houses, nor was
it obvious where their wives stayed.
And the tribes were already densely packed, settling down one by
one, with each division of a tribe gathering itself together. Now they
were crowding the roads; already their roadways were obvious.
As for Jaguar Quitze, Jaguar Night, Mahucutah, and True Jaguar, it
wasn't obvious where they were. When they saw the people of the tribes
passing by on the roads, that was when they would get up on the
mountain peaks, just crying out with the cry of the coyote and the cry
of the fox. And they would make the cries of the puma and jaguar,
whenever they saw the tribes out walking in numbers. The tribes were
"It's just a coyote crying out," and "Just a fox."
"Just a puma. Just a jaguar."
In the minds of all the tribes, it was as if humans weren't
involved. They did it just as a way of decoying the tribes; that was
what their hearts desired. They did it so that the tribes wouldn't get
really frightened just yet; that was what they intended when they
cried out with the cry of the puma and the cry of the jaguar. And
then, when they saw just one or two people out walking, they
intended to overwhelm them.
Each day, when they came back to their houses and wives, they
brought just the same things- yellow-jacket larvae, wasp larvae, and
bee larvae- and gave them to their wives, each day. And when they went
before Tohil, Auilix, and Hacauitz, they thought to themselves:
"They are Tohil, Auilix, and Hacauitz, yet we only give them the
blood of deer and birds, we only draw cords through our ears and
elbows when we ask for our strength and our manhood from Tohil,
Auilix, and Hacauitz. Who will take care of the death of the tribes?
Should we just kill them one by one?" they said among themselves.
And when they went before Tohil, Auilix, and Hacauitz, they drew
cords through their ears and elbows in front of the gods. They spilled
their blood, they poured gourdfuls into the mouths of the stones.
But these weren't really stones: each one became like a boy when
they arrived, happy once again over the blood.
And then came a further sign as to what the penitents and
sacrificers should do:
"You must win a great many victories. Your right*(409) to do this
came from over there at Tulan, when you brought us here," they
told. Then the matter of the suckling*(410) was set forth, at the
place called Staggering, and the blood that would result from it,
the rainstorm of blood, also became a gift for Tohil, along with
Auilix and Hacauitz.
Now here begins the abduction of the people of the tribes by
Jaguar Quitze, Jaguar Night, Mahucutah, and True Jaguar.
AND THEN COMES THE KILLING OF THE TRIBES. This is how they died:
when there was just one person out walking, or just two were out
walking, it wasn't obvious when they took them away.
After that they went to cut them open before Tohil and Auilix.
After that, when they had offered the blood, the skull would be
placed in the road. They would roll it onto the road. So the tribes
"A jaguar has been eating," was all that was said, because
tracks were like a jaguar's tracks when they did their deed. They
did not reveal themselves. Many people were abducted.
It was actually a long time before the tribes came to their senses:
"If it's Tohil and Auilix who are after us, we have only to search
for the penitents and sacrificers. We'll follow their tracks to
wherever their houses are," said all those of the tribes, when
shared their thoughts among themselves.
After that, they began following the tracks of the penitents and
sacrificers, but they weren't clear. They only saw the tracks of the
deer, the tracks of the jaguar. The tracks weren't clear, nothing
was clear. Where they began the tracks were merely those of
animals.*(411) It was as if the tracks were there for the sole purpose
of leading them astray. The way was not clear:
It would get cloudy.
It would get dark and rainy.*(412)
It would get muddy, too.
It would get misty and drizzly.*(413)
That was all the tribes could see in front of them, and their search
would simply make them weary at heart. Then they would give up.
Because Tohil, Auilix, and Hacauitz were great in their very
being, they did this for a long time, there on the mountain. They
did their killing on the frontiers of the tribes when the abductions
began; they singled them out and cut them down.*(414) They would seize
the people of the tribes in the roads, cutting them open before Tohil,
Auilix, and Hacauitz.
And the boys hid there on the mountain. Tohil, Auilix, and
Hacauitz had the appearance of three boys when they went out
walking; these were simply the spirit familiars of the stones. There
was a river. They would bathe there on the bank, just as a way of
revealing themselves, and this gave the place its name. The name of
the river came to be Tohil's Bath, and the tribes saw them there
many times. They would vanish the moment they were seen by the tribes.
Then the news spread as to the whereabouts of Jaguar Quitze,
Jaguar Night, Mahucutah, and True Jaguar, and this is when the
tribes realized how they were being killed.
FIRST THE TRIBES TRIED TO PLAN THE DEFEAT OF TOHIL, AUILIX, AND
HACAUITZ. All the penitents and sacrificers of the tribes spoke to the
others. They roused and summoned one another, all of them. Not even
one or two divisions were left out. All of them converged and
presented themselves, then they shared their thoughts. And they
said, as they questioned one another:
"What would assure the defeat of the Cauecs, the Quiche people?
Our vassals have met their ends because of them. Isn't it clear that
our people have been lost because of them? What if they finish us
off with these abductions?"
"Let it be this way: if the fiery splendor of Tohil, Auilix, and
Hacauitz is so great, then let this Tohil become our god! Let him be
captured! Don't let them defeat us completely! Don't we constitute a
multitude of people? And as for the Cauecs, there aren't as many of
them," they said when all of them had assembled. Then the
Fishkeepers spoke to the tribes, saying:
"Who could be bathing every day at the river bank? If it's Tohil,
Auilix, and Hacauitz, then we can defeat them ahead of time. Let the
defeat of the penitents and sacrificers begin right there!" said
Fishkeepers, and then they spoke further:
"How shall we defeat them?" And then they said:
"Let this be our means for defeating them: since they present the
appearance of adolescent boys at the river, let two maidens go
there. Let them be in full blossom,*(415) maidens who radiate
preciousness,*(416) so that when they go they'll be desirable,"
"Very well. So we'll just search for two perfect maidens,"
others replied. And then they searched among their daughters for those
who were truly radiant maidens. Then they gave the maidens
"You must go, our dear daughters. Go wash clothes at the river,
and if you should see three boys, undress yourselves in front of them.
And if their hearts should desire you, you will titillate them. When
they say to you:
'We're coming after you,' then you are to say:
'Yes.' And then you will be asked:
'Where do you come from? Whose daughters are you?' When they say
that, you are to answer them:
'We are the daughters of lords, so let a sign be forthcoming from
you.' Then they should give you something. If they like your faces you
must really give yourselves up to them. And if you do not give
yourselves up, then we shall kill you. We'll feel satisfied when you
bring back a sign, since we'll think of it as proof that they came
after you," said the lords, instructing the two maidens.
Here are their names: Xtah is the name of the one maiden, and
Xpuch is the name of the other.
AND THEY SENT THE TWO OF THEM, NAMED XTAH AND XPUCH, over to the
place where Tohil, Auilix, and Hacauitz bathed. All the tribes knew
And then they went off. They were dressed up, looking truly
beautiful, when they went to the place where Tohil bathed. They were
carrying what looked like their wash when they went off. Now the lords
were pleased over having sent their two daughters there.
And when they arrived at the river, they began to wash. They
undressed themselves, both of them. They were on the rocks, on their
hands and knees,*(417) when Tohil, Auilix, and Hacauitz came along.
They got to the bank of the river and just barely glanced at the two
maidens washing there, and the maidens got a sudden scare when Tohil
and the others*(418) arrived. They did not go lusting after the two
maidens. Then came the questioning:
"Where do you come from?" the two maidens were asked. "What
intend by coming here, to the bank of our river?" they were also
"We were sent here by the lords, so we came. The lords told us:
'Go see the faces of Tohil and the others, and speak to them,' the
lords told us, 'and also, there must come a sign as to whether you
really saw their faces.*(419) Go!' is what we were told," said
maidens, explaining their errand.
But this is what the tribes had intended: that the maidens should be
violated by the spirit familiars of Tohil and the others. Then
Tohil, Auilix, and Hacauitz spoke, answering the two maidens named
Xtah and Xpuch:
"Good. Let a sign of our word go with you. But you must wait for
then give it directly to the lords," they were told.
And then Tohil and the others plotted with the penitents and
sacrificers. Jaguar Quitze, Jaguar Night, and Mahucutah were told:
"You must draw figures on three cloaks. Inscribe them with the
of our being. They're for the tribes; they'll go back with the maidens
who are washing. Give them to the maidens," Jaguar Quitze, Jaguar
Night, and Mahucutah were told.
After that, they drew figures for all three of them. Jaguar Quitze
drew first: his image was that of the jaguar. He drew it on his cloak.
And as for Jaguar Night, he drew the image of an eagle on his cloak.
And the one who drew next was Mahucutah, who drew the images, the
figures of swarms of yellow jackets, swarms of wasps on his cloak.
Then the figures were complete; they had drawn all three of them,
the threefold figures.
After that, when Jaguar Quitze, Jaguar Night, and Mahucutah went
to give the cloaks to those who were named Xtah and Xpuch, they
spoke to them:
"Here is the proof of your word. When you come before the lords
you will say:
'Tohil really spoke to us, and here is the sign we've brought back,'
you'll tell them, and give them the cloaks to try on," the maidens
were told when they were given their instructions.
So then they went back, taking the figured cloaks.
And when they arrived, the lords were happy the moment they
spotted*(420) what they had asked for, hanging from the arms of the
"Didn't you see the face of Tohil?" they were asked.
"See it we did," said Xtah and Xpuch.
"Very good. You've brought back some sort of sign. Isn't that so?"
said the lords, since there seemed to be signs of their sin- or so
thought the lords. So then they were shown the figured cloaks by the
maidens: one with a jaguar, one with an eagle, and one with yellow
jackets and wasps drawn on the inside, on a smooth surface.*(421)
And they loved the way the cloaks looked. They costumed
themselves. The jaguar didn't do anything; it was the first figure
to be tried on by a lord.
And when another lord costumed himself with the second figured
cloak, with the drawing of the eagle, the inside of it just felt
good to him. He turned around*(422) in front of them, unfurling
it*(423) in front of all of them.
And then came the third figured cloak to be tried on by a lord; he
costumed himself with the one that had yellow jackets and wasps
And then he started getting stung by the yellow jackets and wasps.
He couldn't endure it, he couldn't stand the stings of the insects.
That lord yelled his mouth off over the insects. Mahucutah's figures
inside the cloak looked like a mere drawing. It was the third
drawing that defeated them.
And then the maidens named Xtah and Xpuch were reprimanded by the
"How did you get these things you brought back? Where did you go
to get them, you tricksters!" the maidens were told when they were
Again, all the tribes were defeated because of Tohil. This is what
they had intended: that Tohil would be tempted to go after the
maidens. It then became the profession of Xtah and Xpuch to bark
shins;*(424) the tribes continued to think of them as temptresses.
So the defeat of Jaguar Quitze, Jaguar Night, and Mahucutah was
not brought about, since they were people of genius.
And then all the tribes plotted again:
"How are we going to beat them? They are truly great in their very
being," they said when they shared their thoughts.
"Even so, we'll invade them and kill them. Let's fit ourselves
with weapons and shields. Aren't we a multitude? There won't even be
one or two of them left," they said when they shared their thoughts.
All the tribes fitted themselves out. There were masses of killers,
once the killers of all the tribes had joined together.
And as for Jaguar Quitze, Jaguar Night, Mahucutah, and True
Jaguar, they were there on the mountain. Hacauitz is the name of the
mountain where they were, and those spirit boys*(425) of theirs were
hidden there on the mountain. They were not a numerous people then;
their numbers were not equal to the numbers of the tribes. There
were just a few of them on the mountain, their fortress,*(426) so when
it was said that the tribes had planned death for them, all of them
gathered together. They held a council; they all sent for one another.
AND HERE IS THE JOINING TOGETHER OF ALL THE TRIBES, all decked out
now with weapons and shields. Their metal ornaments were countless,
they looked beautiful, all the lords, the men. In truth, they were
just making talk, all of them. In truth, they would become our
"Since there is a Tohil, and since he is a god, let's celebrate
his day- or let's make him our prize!" they said among themselves.
Tohil already knew about it, and Jaguar Quitze, Jaguar Night, and
Mahucutah also knew about it. They had heard about it while it was
being plotted, since they were neither asleep nor at rest.
So then all the lance-bearing warriors of the tribes were armed.
After that, all the warriors got up during the night, in order to
enter our very midst. They set off, but they never arrived. They
just fell asleep on the way, all those warriors.
And then they were defeated again by Jaguar Quitze, Jaguar Night,
and Mahucutah, since every last one of them fell asleep in the road.
Now they couldn't feel a thing. A multitude slept, all of them, and
that's when things got started. Their eyebrows were plucked out, along
with their beards.*(427)
And then the metal was undone from their cloaks, along with their
And their necklaces came off too, and then the necks of their
staffs. Their metal was taken just to cause them a loss of face, and
the plucking was done just to signify the greatness of the Quiche.
After that, they woke up. Right away they reached for their
headdresses, along with the necks of their staffs. There was no
metal on their cloaks and headdresses.
"How could it have been taken from us? Who could have plucked us?
Where did they come from? Our metal has been stolen!" said all
"Perhaps it's those tricksters who've been abducting people! But
it's not over with. Let's not get frightened by them. Let's enter
their very citadel! That's the only way we'll ever see our metal and
make it ours again!" said all the tribes, but even so, they were
just making talk, all of them.
The hearts of the penitents and sacrificers were content, there on
the mountain, but even so, Jaguar Quitze, Jaguar Night, Mahucutah, and
True Jaguar were making great plans.
AND THEN JAGUAR QUITZE, JAGUAR NIGHT, MAHUCUTAH, AND TRUE JAGUAR HAD
A PLAN. They made a fence*(428) at the edge of their citadel. They
just made a palisade of planks and stakes*(429) around their
Next they made manikins; it was as if they had made people. Next
they lined them up on the parapet. They were even equipped with
weapons and shields. Headdresses were included, with metal on top, and
cloaks were included. But they were mere manikins, mere
woodcarvings. They used the metal that belonged to the tribes, which
they had gone to get in the road. This is what they used to decorate
the manikins. They surrounded the citadel.*(431)
And then they asked Tohil about their plan:
"What if we die, and what if we're defeated?" They spoke straight
from their hearts before Tohil.
"Do not grieve. I am here. And here is what you will use on them.
not be afraid," Jaguar Quitze, Jaguar Night, Mahucutah, and True
Jaguar were told, and then the matter of the yellow jackets and
wasps was set out.
And when they had gone to get these insects and come back with them,
they put them inside four large gourds, which were placed all around
the citadel. The yellow jackets and wasps were shut inside the gourds.
These were their weapons against the tribes.
And they were spied upon and watched from hiding; their citadel
was studied by the messengers of the tribes.
"There aren't many of them," they said, but when they came
it was only the manikins, the woodcarvings, that were moving, with
weapons and shields in their hands. They looked like real people, they
looked like real killers when the tribes saw them.
And all the tribes were happy when they saw there weren't many of
them. The tribes themselves were in crowds; there were countless
people, warriors and killers, the assassins of Jaguar Quitze, Jaguar
Night, and Mahucutah, who were there on the mountain called
Hacauitz. This is where they were when they were invaded. Here we
shall tell about it.
AND THESE ARE THE ONES WHO WERE THERE: JAGUAR QUITZE, JAGUAR
NIGHT, MAHUCUTAH, AND TRUE JAGUAR. They were in unity on the
mountain with their wives and children.
And then all the warriors came, the killers, and it was nothing less
than eight hundred score, or even thirty times eight hundred*(432)
people who surrounded the citadel. They were bellowing, bristling with
weapons and shields, rending their mouths with howling and growling,
bellowing, yelling, whistling through their hands when they came up
below the citadel. But the penitents and sacrificers had no fear; they
just enjoyed the spectacle*(433) from the parapet of the stockade.
They were lined up with their wives and children. Their hearts were
content, since the tribes were merely making talk.
And then they climbed up the mountainside, and now they were just
a little short of the edge of the citadel.
And then the gourds were opened up- there were four of them around
the citadel- and the yellow jackets and wasps were like a cloud of
smoke when they poured out of each of the gourds. And the warriors
were done in, with the insects landing on their eyes and landing on
their noses, on their mouths, their legs, their arms.*(434) The
insects went after them wherever they were, they overtook them
wherever they were. There were yellow jackets and wasps everywhere,
landing to sting their eyes. They had to watch out for whole swarms
them, there were insects going after every single person. They were
dazed by the yellow jackets and wasps. No longer able to hold onto
their weapons and shields, they were doubling over*(435) and falling
to the ground, stumbling.*(436) They fell down the mountainside.
And now they couldn't feel a thing when they were hit*(437) with
arrows and cut with axes. Now Jaguar Quitze and Jaguar Night could
even use sticks; even their wives became killers.
Then the Fishkeepers turned away, and all the other tribes just took
off running. The first to be overtaken were finished off, killed,
and it wasn't just a few people who died. For those who didn't die the
chase was carried into their very midst when the insects caught up
with them. There were no manly deeds for them to do, since they no
longer carried weapons and shields.
Then all the tribes were conquered. Now the tribes humbled
themselves before Jaguar Quitze, Jaguar Night, and Mahucutah:
"Take pity on us! Don't kill us!" they said.
"Very well. Although you were destined to join the dead, you will
payers of tribute for as long as there are days and as long as there
is light," they were told.
Such was the defeat of all the tribes by our first mother-fathers.
It was done there on the mountain named Hacauitz today. This is
where they first began. They grew, they multiplied, they had
daughters, they had sons on Hacauitz. They were happy, once they had
beaten all the tribes, who were defeated there on the mountain.
In this way they accomplished the defeat of the tribes, all the
After that, their hearts were content. They informed their sons that
their death was approaching. They very much intended to be taken by
NOW THIS IS WHERE WE SHALL TELL ABOUT THE DEATH OF JAGUAR QUITZE,
JAGUAR NIGHT, MAHUCUTAH, AND TRUE JAGUAR, as they are named. Since
they knew about their death and disappearance, they left
instructions with their sons. They weren't sickly yet, they weren't
gasping for breath*(438) when they left their word with their sons.
These are the names of their sons:
Jaguar Quitze begot these two: Cocaib was the name of the
firstborn and Cocauib was the name of the second of the sons of Jaguar
Quitze, the grandfather and father of the Cauecs.
And again, Jaguar Night begot two. These are their names: Coacul was
the name of his first son, and the other was called Coacutec, the
second son of Jaguar Night, of the Greathouses.
And Mahucutah begot just one son, named Coahau.
These three had sons, but True Jaguar had no son. They were all true
penitents and sacrificers, and these are the names of their sons, with
whom they left instructions. They were united, the four of them
together. They sang of the pain in their hearts, they cried their
hearts out in their singing. "The Blame Is Ours" is the name
song they sang.
And then they advised their sons:
"Our dear sons: we are leaving. We are going back. We have
enlightened words, enlightened advice to leave with you- and with
you who have come from faraway mountains, our dear wives," they
their wives. They advised each one of them:
"We are going back to our own tribal place.*(439) Again it is the
time of our Lord Deer,*(440) as is reflected in the sky. We have
only to make our return. Our work has been done, our day has been
completed. Since you know this, neither forget us nor put us aside.
You have yet to see your own home and mountain, the place of your
"Let it be this way: you must go. Go see the place where we came
from,"*(441) were the words they spoke when they gave their advice.
And then Jaguar Quitze left a sign of his being:
"This is for making requests*(442) of me. I shall leave it with
Here is your fiery splendor.*(443) I have completed my instructions,
my counsel," he said when he left the sign of his being, the Bundle
Flames, as it is called. It wasn't clear just what it was; it was
wound about with coverings. It was never unwrapped. Its sewing
wasn't clear because no one looked on while it was being wrapped.
In this way they left instructions, and then they disappeared from
there on the mountain of Hacauitz. Their wives and children never
saw them again. The nature of their disappearance was not clear. But
whatever the case with their disappearance, their instructions were
clear, and the bundle became precious to those who remained. It was
a memorial to their fathers. Immediately they burned offerings
before this memorial to their fathers.
When the lords began their generation of the people, the Cauecs took
their start from Jaguar Quitze, the grandfather and father; his
sons, named Cocaib and Cocauib, were not lost.
Such was the death of all four of our first grandfathers and
fathers. When they disappeared their sons remained there on the
mountain of Hacauitz; their sons stayed there for awhile. As for all
the tribes, it was now their day to be broken and downtrodden.*(444)
They no longer had any splendor to them, though they were still
All those on Hacauitz*(445) gathered on each day that was for the
remembrance of their fathers. For them, the day of the bundle*(446)
was a great one. They could not unwrap it; for them it stayed bundled-
the Bundle of Flames, as they called it. It was given this epithet,
this name when it was left in their keeping by their fathers, who made
it just as a sign of their being.
Such was the disappearance and loss of Jaguar Quitze, Jaguar
Night, Mahucutah, and True Jaguar, the first people to come across the
sea, from the east. They came here in ancient times. When they died
they were already old. They had a reputation for penitence and
AND THEN THEY REMEMBERED WHAT HAD BEEN SAID ABOUT THE EAST. This
is when they remembered the instructions of their fathers. The ancient
things received from their fathers were not lost. The tribes gave them
their wives, becoming their fathers-in-law as they took wives. And
there were three of them who said, as they were about to go away:
"We are going to the east, where our fathers came from," they
said, then they followed their road. The three of them were
Cocaib was the name of the son of Jaguar Quitze who represented
all the Cauecs.*(447)
Coacutec was the name of the son of Jaguar Night who served as the
sole representative of the Greathouses.
Coahau was the name of the only son of Mahucutah, representing the
So these are the names of those who went across the sea. There
were only three who went, but they had skill and knowledge. Their
being was not quite that of mere humans. They advised all their
brothers, elder and younger, who were left behind. They were glad to
"We're not dying. We're coming back," they said when they
yet it was these same three who went clear across the sea.
And then they arrived in the east; they went there to receive
lordship. Next comes the name of the lord with dominion over those
of the east, where they arrived.
AND THEN THEY CAME BEFORE THE LORD NAMED NACXIT, the great lord
and sole judge*(448) over a populous domain.
And he was the one who gave out the signs of lordship, all the
emblems; the signs of the Keeper of the Mat and the Keeper of the
Reception House Mat were set forth.
And when the signs of the splendor and lordship of the Keeper of the
Mat and Keeper of the Reception House Mat were set forth, Nacxit
gave a complete set of the emblems of lordship. Here are their names:
Bone flute, bird whistle.
Paint of powdered yellow stone.
Puma's paw, jaguar's paw.
Head and hoof of deer.
Bracelet of rattling snail shells.
Gourd of tobacco.
Parrot feathers, heron feathers.
They brought all of these when they came away. From across the
sea, they brought back the writings about Tulan. In the writings, in
their words, they spoke of having cried.*(449)
And then, when they got back up in their citadel, named Hacauitz,
all the Tams and Ilocs gathered there. All the tribes gathered
themselves together; they were happy. When Cocaib, Coacutec, and
Coahau came back, they resumed their lordship over the tribes. The
Rabinals, the Cakchiquels, and those of the Bird House were happy.
Only the signs of the greatness of lordship were revealed before them.
Now the lords became great in their very being; when they had
displayed their lordship previously, it was incomplete.
This was when they were at Hacauitz. The only ones with them were
all those who had originally come from the east. And they spent a long
time there on that mountain. Now they were all numerous.
And the wives of Jaguar Quitze, Jaguar Night, and Mahucutah died
there. Then they came away, they left their mountain place behind.
They sought another mountain where they could settle. They settled
countless mountains, giving them epithets and names. Our first mothers
and our first fathers multiplied and gained strength at those
places, according to what the people of ancient times said when they
told about the abandonment of their first citadel, named Hacauitz.
AND THEN THEY CAME TO A PLACE WHERE THEY FOUNDED A CITADEL NAMED
THORNY PLACE. They spent a long time there in that one citadel. They
had daughters and sons while they were there. There were actually four
mountains,*(450) but there came to be a single name for the whole
town. Their daughters and sons got married. They just gave them
away. They accepted mere favors and gifts as sufficient payment for
their daughters. They did only what was good.
Then they examined*(451) each division of the citadel. Here are
the names of the divisions of Thorny Place: Dry Place, Bark House,
Culba, Cauinal are the names of the mountains where they stayed.
And this is when they looked out over the mountains of their
citadel. They were seeking a further mountain, since all the divisions
had become more numerous. But those who had brought lordship from
the east had died by now; they had become old in the process of
going from one citadel to another. But their faces did not
die;*(452) they passed them on.
They went through a great deal of pain and affliction;*(453) it
was a long time before the grandfathers and fathers found their
citadel. Here is the name of the citadel where they arrived.
AND BEARDED PLACE IS THE NAME OF THE MOUNTAIN OF THEIR CITADEL. They
stayed there and they settled down there.
And they tested their fiery splendor there. They ground their gypsum
their plaster,*(454) in the fourth generation of lords. It was said
that Conache ruled when Nine Deer was the Lord Minister, and then
the lords named Cotuha and Iztayul reigned as Keeper of the Mat and
Keeper of the Reception House Mat. They reigned there at Bearded
Place. It was through their works that it became an excellent citadel.
The number of great houses only reached three, there at Bearded
Place. There were not yet a score and four great houses, but only
three of them:
Just one Cauec great house.
And just one great house for the Greathouses.
And finally, just one for the Lord Quiches.
But the three were housed in just two buildings, one in each*(455)
of the two divisions of the citadel.
This is the way it was when they were at Bearded Place:
They were of just one mind: there was no evil for them, nor were
Their reign was all in calm: there were no quarrels for them, and no
Their hearts were filled with a steady light: there was nothing of
stupidity and nothing of envy in what they did.
Their splendor was modest: they caused no amazement, nor had they
And then they tested themselves. They excelled in the Shield
Dance, there at Bearded Place. They did it as a sign of their
sovereignty. It was a sign of their fiery splendor and a sign of their
When it was seen by the Ilocs, the Ilocs began to foment war. It was
their desire that the Lord Cotuha be murdered, and that the other lord
be allied with them.*(456) It was the Lord Iztayul they wanted to
persuade; the Ilocs wanted him as their disciple*(457) in committing
murder. But their jealous plotting behind the back of the Lord
Cotuha failed to work out. They just wanted it over with, but the lord
wasn't killed by the Ilocs on the first try.
Such were the roots of disturbances, of tumult and war. First they
invaded the citadel,*(458) the killers were on the move. What they
wanted was to obliterate the very identity of the Quiches. Only
then, they thought, could they alone have sovereignty, and it was
for this alone that they came to kill. They were captured and they
were made prisoners. Not many of them ever got their freedom again.
And then began the cutting of flesh. They cut the Ilocs open
before the gods. This was in payment*(459) for their wrongs against
Lord Cotuha. And many others went into bondage; they were made into
slaves and serfs. They had simply given themselves up in defeat by
fomenting war against the lord and against the canyon and the
citadel.*(460) What their hearts had desired was the destruction and
disintegration of the very identity of the Quiche lord, but it did not
come to pass.
In this way it came about that people were cut open before the gods.
The shields of war were made then; it was the very beginning of the
fortification of the citadel at Bearded Place. The root of fiery
splendor was implanted there, and because of it the reign of the
Quiche lords was truly great. They were lords of singular
genius.*(461) There was nothing to humble them; nothing happened to
make fools of them*(462) or to ruin the greatness*(463) of their
reign, which took root there at Bearded Place.
The penance done for the gods increased there, striking terror
again, and all the tribes were terrified, small tribes and great
tribes. They witnessed the arrival of people captured in war, who were
cut open and killed for the splendor and majesty of Lord Cotuha and
Lord Iztayul, along with the Greathouses and the Lord Quiches. There
were only three branches of kin there at the citadel named Bearded
And it was also there that they began feasting and drinking over the
blossoming of their daughters.*(464) This was the way those who were
called the "Three Great Houses" stayed together. They drank
drinks there and ate their corn*(465) there, the payment for their
sisters, payment for their daughters. There was only happiness in
their hearts when they did it. They ate, they feasted inside their
"This is just our way of being thankful and grateful*(466) that
have good news and good tidings. It is the sign of our agreements
about the daughters and sons born to our women," they said.
Epithets were bestowed there, and the lineages, the allied tribes,
the principalities*(467) gave themselves names there.
"We are intermarried: we Cauecs, we Greathouses, and we Lord
Quiches," said those of the three lineages and the three great
They spent a long time there at Bearded Place, and then they sought
again and saw another citadel. They left Bearded Place behind.
AND THEN THEY GOT UP AND CAME TO THE CITADEL OF ROTTEN CANE, as
the name is spoken by the Quiches. The Lords Cotuha and Plumed
Serpent*(468) came along, together with all the other lords. There had
been five changes and five generations*(469) of people since the
origin of light, the origin of continuity, the origin of life and of
And they built many houses there.
And they also built houses for the gods, putting these in the center
of the highest part of the citadel. They came and they stayed.
After that their domain grew larger; they were more numerous and
more crowded. Again they planned their great houses, which had to be
regrouped and sorted out because of their growing quarrels. They
were jealous of one another over the prices of their sisters and
daughters, which were no longer a matter of mere food and drink.
So this was the origin of their separation, when they quarreled
among themselves, disturbing the bones and skulls of the dead.*(470)
Then they broke apart into nine lineages, putting an end to quarrels
over sisters and daughters. When the planning of the lordships was
done, the result was a score and four great houses.
It was a long time ago when they all came up onto their citadel,
building a score and four palaces there in the citadel of Rotten Cane.
That was the citadel blessed by the lord bishop*(471) after it had
They achieved glory there. Their marvelous seats and cushions were
arranged; the varieties of splendor were sorted out for each one of
the lords of the nine lineages. One by one they took their places:
The nine lords of the Cauecs.
The nine lords of the Greathouses.
The four lords of the Lord Quiches.
The two lords of the Zaquics.
They became numerous. Those who were in the following of a given
lord were also numerous, but the lord came first, at the head of his
vassals. There were masses, masses of lineages for each of the
lords. We shall name the titles of the lords one by one, for each of
the great houses.
AND HERE ARE THE TITLES OF THE LORDS WHO LED THE CAUECS, beginning
with the first in rank:
Keeper of the Mat.
Keeper of the Reception House Mat.
Keeper of Tohil.
Keeper of the Plumed Serpent.
Great Toastmaster of the Cauecs.
Councilor of the Stores.
Councilor of the Ball Court.
Mother of the Reception House.
So these are the lords who led the Cauecs, nine lords with their
palaces ranged around, one for each of them. And now to show their
AND NOW THESE ARE THE LORDS WHO LED THE GREATHOUSES, beginning
with the first lord:
Lord Crier to the People.
Minister of the Reception House.
Great Reception House.
Mother of the Reception House.
Great Toastmaster of the Greathouses.
Yacolatam, or Edge of the Zaclatol Mat.
Great Lolmet Yeoltux.
So there were nine lords who led the Greathouses.
AND NOW THESE ARE THE LORD QUICHES. Here are the titles of the
Crier to the People.
Lord Great Toastmaster of the Lord Quiches.
Four lords led the Lord Quiches, with their palaces ranged around.
AND THERE WERE ALSO TWO LINEAGES OF ZAQUIC LORDS:
Lord Corntassel House.
Minister for the Zaquics.
There was just one palace for these two lords.
Such was the arrangement of the score and four lords, and there came
to be a score and four great houses as well.
THEN SPLENDOR AND MAJESTY GREW AMONG THE QUICHE. The greatness and
weight of the Quiche reached its full splendor and majesty with the
surfacing and plastering of the canyon and citadel. The tribes came,
whether small or great and whatever the titles of their lords,
adding to the greatness of the Quiche. As splendor and majesty grew,
so grew the houses of gods and the houses of lords.
But the lords could not have accomplished it, they could not have
done the work of building their houses or the houses of the gods, were
it not for the fact that their vassals had become numerous. They
neither had to lure them nor did they kidnap them or take them away
force, because each one of them rightfully belonged to the lords.
And the elder and younger brothers of the lords also became populous.
Each lord led a crowded life, crowded with petitions.*(473) The
lords were truly valued and had truly great respect. The
birthdays*(474) of the lords were made great and held high by their
vassals. Those who lived in the canyons and those who lived in the
citadels multiplied then. Even so they would not have been numerous,
had not all the tribes arrived to give themselves up.
And when war befell their canyons and citadels, it was by means of
their genius that the Lord Plumed Serpent and the Lord Cotuha blazed
with power. Plumed Serpent became a true lord of genius:
On one occasion*(475) he would climb up to the sky; on another he
would go down the road to Xibalba.
On another occasion he would be serpentine, becoming an actual
On yet another occasion he would make himself aquiline, and on
another feline;*(476) he would become like an actual eagle or a jaguar
in his appearance.
On another occasion it would be a pool of blood; he would become
nothing but a pool of blood.
Truly his being was that of a lord of genius. All the other lords
were fearful before him. The news spread;*(477) all the tribal lords
heard about the existence of this lord of genius.
And this was the beginning and growth of the Quiche, when the Lord
Plumed Serpent made the signs of greatness. His face was not forgotten
by his grandsons and sons. He didn't do these things just so there
would be one single lord, a being of genius, but they had the effect
of humbling all the tribes when he did them. It was just his way of
revealing himself, but because of it he became the sole head*(478)
of the tribes.
This lord of genius named Plumed Serpent was in the fourth
generation of lords; he was both Keeper of the Mat and Keeper of the
Reception House Mat.
And so he left signs and sayings for the next generation. They
achieved splendor and majesty, and they, too, begot sons, making the
sons still more populous. Tepepul and Iztayul were begotten; they
merely served out their reign, becoming the fifth generation of lords.
They begot another generation of lords.
AND HERE ARE THE NAMES OF THE SIXTH GENERATION OF LORDS. There
were two great lords; they were fiery. Quicab was the name of one
lord; Cauizimah was the name of the other.
And Quicab and Cauizimah did a great deal in their turn. They
added to the greatness of the Quiche because they truly had genius.
They crushed and they shattered the canyons and citadels of the
tribes, small and great- the ones that had citadels among them in
ancient times, nearby:
There was a mountain place of the Cakchiquels, called Above the
And also a mountain place of the Rabinals, Place of Spilt Water.
And a mountain of the Caoques, Plaster House.
And then a citadel of the White Earths, Above the Hot Springs.
Under Ten, Before the Building, and Willow Tree.
They all hated Quicab. They made war, but in fact they were
brought down, they were shattered, these canyons, these citadels of
the Rabinals, Cakchiquels, White Earths. All the tribes went down on
their faces or flat on their backs.*(479) The warriors of Quicab
kept up the killing for a long time, until there were only one or
two groups, from among all the enemies, who hadn't brought tribute.
Their citadels fell and they brought tribute to Quicab and
Cauizimah. Their lineages came to be bled, shot full of arrows at
the stake.*(480) Their day came to nothing, their heritage came to
Projectiles alone were the means for breaking the citadels.*(481)
All at once the earth itself would crack open; it was as if a
lightning bolt had shattered the stones. In fear, the members of one
tribe after another*(482) went before the gum tree,*(483) carrying
in their hands*(484) the signs of the citadels, with the result that
mountain of stones is there today. Only a few of these aren't cut
stones;*(485) the rest look as though they had been split with an axe.
The result is there on the flat*(486) named Petatayub; it is obvious
to this day. Everyone who passes by can see it as a sign of the
manhood of Quicab. He could not be killed, nor could he be
conquered. He was truly a man, and all the tribes brought tribute.
And then all the lords made plans; they moved to cordon off the
canyons and citadels, the fallen citadels of all the tribes.
AFTER THAT CAME THE SENTRIES, to watch for the makers of war. Now
lookout lineages were established to occupy the conquered mountains:
"Otherwise the tribes would return to inhabit their citadels,"
the lords said when they had all shared their thoughts. Then the
assignments were given out:
"Let them be like a palisade to us, and like doubles for our own
lineages,*(487) and like a stockade, a fortress to us. Let them now
become our anger, our manliness," said all the lords. The
assignments were given to each of the lineages that were to provide
opposition to the makers of war.
And then they were notified, and then they went to their posts,
occupying the mountain places of the tribes:
"Go, because these are now our mountains. Do not be afraid. The
moment there are makers of war again, coming back among you as your
murderers, send for us to come and kill them,"*(488) Quicab and
Minister and the Crier to the People told them, notifying all of them.
Then they went off, those who are called the Point of the Arrow,
Angle of the Bowstring. Their grandfathers and fathers split up
then; they were on each of the mountains. They went just as guards
of the mountains, and as arrowhead and bowstring guards, and as guards
against the makers of war as well. None of them had been there at
the dawning nor did any of them have his own god;*(489) they just
blocked the way to the citadel. They all went out:
Keepers of Above the Nettles, Keepers of Chulimal, White River, Deer
Dance Plaza, Plank Place, Eighteen.
Also, Keepers of Earthquake, Meteor, Hunahpu Place.
And Keepers of Spilt Water, Keepers of Cut Rock, Keepers of
Plaster House, Keepers of Ziya House, Keepers of Hot Springs,
Keepers of Under Ten, of the plains, of the mountains.
The war sentries, the guardians of the land, went out, they went
on behalf of Quicab and Cauizimah, Keeper of the Mat and Keeper of the
Reception House Mat, and on behalf of the Minister and the Crier to
the People. There were four lords who posted messengers and sentries
against the makers of war:
Quicab and Cauizimah are the names of the two lords who led the
Quema is the name of the lord who led the Greathouses.
And Armadillo Dung is the name of the lord who led the Lord Quiches.
So these are the names of the lords who posted messengers and
couriers. Their own vassals went to the mountains, to each one of
the mountains, and as soon as they had gone, spoils kept coming
back, and prisoners of war kept coming back to Quicab and Cauizimah,
to the Minister and the Crier to the People. The Points of the
Arrows and Angles of the Bowstrings made war. They took spoils and
prisoners again. There came to be heroes again, among those who were
sentries. They were given seats and honored; they were generously
remembered by the lords when they came to turn over all their spoils
and their prisoners.
After that, when the Lords Keeper of the Mat, Keeper of the
Reception House Mat, Minister, and Crier to the People had shared
their thoughts, their decision came out:
"When it comes to the ennobling of the lookout lineages,*(490)
induct*(491) only those who are first in rank. I am Keeper of the
"And I am Keeper of the Reception House Mat."
"The nobility of Keeper of the Mat, which is mine- and that which
yours,*(492) Lord Minister- should enter into this. Ministers will
be ennobled." And all the lords spoke as they gathered their thoughts.
The Tams and Ilocs did just the same; the three divisions of the
Quiche were in concord*(493) when they carried out the investiture.
They titled those of the first rank among their vassals.
In this way the decision was reached. But they weren't inducted at
Quiche. The mountain where the first-ranking vassals were inducted has
a name; all of them were summoned, from each of the mountains where
they were, and they gathered in just one place. Under the Twine, Under
the Cord is the name of the mountain where they were inducted, where
they entered into nobility. It was done there in Chulimal.
And here are their titles, their honors, and their marks: a score of
Ministers and a score of Keepers of the Mat were created by the Keeper
of the Mat and the Keeper of the Reception House Mat, and by the
Minister and the Crier to the People.
All of these entered the nobility: Ministers, Keepers of the Mat,
eleven Great Toastmasters, Minister for the Lords, Minister for the
Zaquics, Military Minister, Military Keeper of the Mat, Military
Walls, and Military Corners are the titles that came in when the
soldiers were titled and named to their seats, their cushions.
These were the first-ranking vassals, watchers and listeners for the
Quiche people, Points of the Arrows, Angles of the Bowstrings, a
palisade, an enclosure, a wall, a fortress around Quiche.*(494)
And the Tams and Ilocs did the same thing; they inducted and
titled the first-ranking vassals for each mountain.
So this was the origin of the noble Ministers and Keepers of the Mat
that exist for each of the mountains today. The sequence was such that
they came out later than the Keeper of the Mat proper and the Keeper
of the Reception House Mat, and later than the Minister and the
Crier to the People.
AND NOW WE SHALL NAME THE NAMES OF THE HOUSES OF THE GODS,
although the houses have the same names as the gods:
Great Monument of Tohil is the name of the building that housed
Tohil of the Cauecs.
Auilix, next, is the name of the building that housed Auilix of
Hacauitz is the name, then, of the building that housed the god of
the Lord Quiches.
Corntassel, whose house of sacrifice*(495) can still be seen, is the
name of another great monument.
These were the locations of the stones whose days were kept by the
Quiche lords. Their days were also kept by all the tribes. When the
tribes burned offerings, they came before Tohil first.
After that, they greeted the Keeper of the Mat and Keeper of the
Reception House Mat next, then they handed over their quetzal feathers
and their tribute to the lords, these same lords.
And so they nurtured and provided for the Keeper of the Mat and
Keeper of the Reception House Mat,*(496) who had been victorious
over their citadels.
They were great lords, they were people of genius. Plumed Serpent
and Cotuha were lords of genius, and Quicab and Cauizimah were lords
of genius. They knew whether war would occur; everything they saw
was clear to them.*(497) Whether there would be death, or whether
there would be famine, or whether quarrels would occur, they knew it
for certain, since there was a place to see it, there was a
book.*(498) Council Book was their name for it.
But it wasn't only in this way that they were lords. They were great
in their own being and observed great fasts. As a way of
cherishing*(499) their buildings and cherishing their lordship, they
fasted for long periods, they did penance before their gods.
And here is their way of fasting:
For nine score days they would fast,*(500) and for nine they would
do penance and burn offerings.
Thirteen score was another of their fasts, and for thirteen they
would do penance and burn offerings before Tohil and their other gods.
They would only eat zapotes, matasanos,*(501) jocotes; there was
nothing made of corn for their meals.
Even if they did penance for seventeen score, then for seventeen
they fasted, they did not eat. They achieved truly great
This was a sign that they had the being of true lords. And there
weren't any women with them when they slept;*(503) they kept
themselves apart when they fasted. They just stayed in the houses of
the gods, each day. All they did was keep the days, burn offerings,
and do penance. They were there whether it was dark or dawn; they just
cried their hearts and their guts out when they asked for light and
life for their vassals and their domain. They lifted their faces to
the sky, and here is their prayer before their gods, when they made
AND THIS IS THE CRY OF THEIR HEARTS, here it is:
"Wait! On this blessed day,*(504)
thou Hurricane, thou Heart of the Sky-Earth,
thou giver of ripeness and freshness,*(505)
and thou giver of daughters and sons,
spread thy stain, spill thy drops
of green and yellow;*(506)
give life and beginning
to those I bear and beget,
that they might multiply*(507) and grow,
nurturing and providing for thee,
calling to thee along the roads and paths,
on rivers, in canyons,
beneath the trees and bushes;
give them their daughters and sons.
"May there be no blame, obstacle, want or misery;
let no deceiver come behind or before them,
may they neither be snared nor wounded,
nor seduced, nor burned,
nor diverted below the road nor above it;*(508)
may they neither fall over backward nor stumble;
keep them on the Green Road, the Green Path.
"May there be no blame or barrier for them
through any secrets or sorcery of thine;*(509)
may thy nurturers and providers be good
before thy mouth and thy face,*(510)
thou, Heart of Sky; thou, Heart of Earth;
thou, Bundle of Flames;
and thou, Tohil, Auilix, Hacauitz,
under the sky, on the earth,
the four sides, the four corners;
may there be only light, only continuity within,
before thy mouth and thy face, thou god."
So it was with the lords when they fasted during nine score,
thirteen score, or seventeen score days; their days of fasting were
many. They cried their hearts out over their vassals and over all
their wives and children. Each and every lord did service, as a way
cherishing the light of life and of cherishing lordship.
Such were the lordships of the Keeper of the Mat, Keeper of the
Reception House Mat, Minister, and Crier to the People. They went into
fasting two by two, taking turns at carrying the tribes and all the
Quiche people on their shoulders.*(511)
At its root the word came from just one place, and the root of
nurturing and providing was the same as the root of the word. The Tams
and Ilocs did likewise, along with the Rabinals, Cakchiquels, those
the Bird House, Sweatbath House, Talk House. They came away in
unity, having heard, there at Quiche, what all of them should do.
It wasn't merely that they became lords;*(512) it wasn't just that
they gathered in gifts*(513) from nurturers and providers who merely
made food and drink*(514) for them. Nor did they wantonly
falsify*(515) or steal their lordship, their splendor, their
majesty. And it wasn't merely that they crushed the canyons and
citadels of the tribes, whether small or great, but that the tribes
paid a great price:
There came turquoise, there came metal.
And there came drops of jade and other gems that measured the
width of four fingers or a full fist across.*(516)
And there came green and red featherwork,*(517) the tribute of all
the tribes. It came to the lords of genius Plumed Serpent and
Cotuha, and to Quicab and Cauizimah as well, to the Keeper of the Mat,
Keeper of the Reception House Mat, Minister, and Crier to the People.
What they did was no small feat, and the tribes they conquered
were not few in number. The tribute of Quiche came from many tribal
And the lords had undergone pain and withstood it; their rise to
splendor had not been sudden. Actually it was Plumed Serpent who was
the root of the greatness of the lordship.
Such was the beginning of the rise and growth*(518) of Quiche.
And now we shall list the generations of lords, and we shall also
name the names of all these lords.
AND HERE ARE THE GENERATIONS, THE SEQUENCES OF LORDSHIPS, so that
all of them will be clear.
Jaguar Quitze, Jaguar Night, Mahucutah, and True Jaguar were our
first grandfathers, our first fathers when the sun appeared, when
the moon and stars appeared.
And here are the generations, the sequences, of lordships. We
shall begin from here, at their very root. The lords will come up
two by two,*(519) as each generation of lords enters and
succeeds*(520) the previous grandfathers and lords of the citadel,
going on through each and every one of the lords.
And here shall appear the faces of each one of the lords.
AND HERE SHALL APPEAR THE FACES, ONE BY ONE, OF EACH OF THE QUICHE
Jaguar Quitze, origin of the Cauecs.
Cocauib, in the second generation after Jaguar Quitze.
Jaguar Conache, who began the office of Keeper of the Mat, was in
the third generation.
Cotuha and Iztayul, in the fourth generation.
Plumed Serpent and Cotuha, at the root of the lords of genius,
were in the fifth generation.
Tepepul and Iztayul next, sixth in the sequence.
Quicab and Cauizimah, in the seventh change of lordship, were the
culmination of genius.
Tepepul and Xtayub, in the eighth generation.
Tecum and Tepepul, in the ninth generation.
Eight Cords, with Quicab, in the tenth generation of lords.
Seven Thought and Cauatepech next, eleventh in the sequence of
Three Deer and Nine Dog, in the twelfth generation of lords. And
they were ruling when Tonatiuh arrived. They were hanged by the
Tecum and Tepepul were tributary to the Castilian people. They had
already been begotten as the thirteenth generation of lords.
Don Juan de Rojas and don Juan Cortes, in the fourteenth
generation of lords. They are the sons of Tecum and Tepepul.
So these are the generations, the sequences of lordships for the
Keeper of the Mat and Keeper of the Reception House Mat, the lords who
have led the Cauecs of Quiche. Next we shall name the lineages.
And here are the great houses of each one of the lords in the
following of the Keeper of the Mat and Keeper of the Reception House
Mat. These are the names of the nine lineages of the Cauecs, nine
great houses. Here are the titles of the rulers of each one of the
Lord Keeper of the Mat, with one great house. Granary is the name of
Lord Keeper of the Reception House Mat. Bird House is the name of
Great Toastmaster of the Cauecs, with one great house.
Lord Keeper of Tohil, with one great house.
Lord Keeper of the Plumed Serpent, with one great house.
Councilor of the Stores, with one great house.
Lolmet Quehnay, with one great house.
Councilor of the Ball Court, Xcuxeba, with one great house.
Sovereign Yaqui, with one great house.
So these are the nine lineages of the Cauecs. Many vassals are
counted in the following of these nine great houses.
AND HERE ARE THOSE OF THE GREATHOUSES, with nine more great
houses. First we shall name the genealogy of the lordship. It began,
from just one root, at the origin of the root of the day and the
Jaguar Night, first grandfather and father.
Coacul and Coacutec, in the second generation.
Cochahuh and Cotzibaha, in the third generation.
Nine Deer next, in the fourth generation.
Cotuha, in the fifth generation of lords.
And Monkey House next, in the sixth generation.
And Iztayul, in the seventh generation of lords.
Cotuha then, eighth in the sequence of lordships.
Nine Deer, ninth in the sequence.
Quema, as the next one was called, in the tenth generation.
Lord Cotuha, in the eleventh generation.
Don Cristobal, as he was called, became lord in the presence of
the Castilian people.
Don Pedro de Robles is Lord Minister today.
And these are all the lords who come in the following of the Lord
Minister. Now we shall give the title of the ruler of each one of
the great houses:
Lord Minister, the first-ranking lord at the head of the
Greathouses, with one great house.
Lord Crier to the People, with one great house.
Lord Minister of the Reception House, with one great house.
Great Reception House,*(522) with one great house.
Mother of the Reception House, with one great house.
Great Toastmaster of the Greathouses, with one great house.
Lord Auilix, with one great house.
Yacolatam, with one great house.
So these are the great houses at the head of the Greathouses;
these are the names of the nine lineages of the Greathouses, as they
are called. There are many branch lineages in the following of each
one of these lords; we have named only the first-ranking titles.
AND NOW THESE ARE FOR THE LORD QUICHES. Here are their
grandfathers and fathers:
Mahucutah, the first person.
Coahau is the name of the lord of the second generation.
Person of Bam.
So these are the lords at the head of the Lord Quiches; these are
their generations and sequences.
And here are the lords within the palaces, with just four great
Crier to the People for the Lords is the title of the first lord,
with one great house.
Lolmet of the Lords, the second lord, with one great house.
Great Toastmaster of the Lords, the third lord, with one great
And Hacauitz, the fourth lord, with one great house.
And so these are the four great houses at the head of the Lord
AND THERE ARE THREE GREAT TOASTMASTERS IN ALL. They are like fathers
to all the Quiche lords. They come together in unity, these three
Toastmasters. They are givers of birth, they are Mothers of the
Word, they are Fathers of the Word, great in being few,*(523) these
Great Toastmaster for the Cauecs, first.
And Great Toastmaster for the Greathouses, second.
Great Toastmaster Lord for the Lord Quiches, third of the Great
And so there are three Toastmasters, one representing each of
THIS IS ENOUGH ABOUT THE BEING OF QUICHE, given that there is no
longer a place to see it. There is the original book and ancient
writing*(524) owned by the lords, now lost, but even so, everything
has been completed here concerning Quiche, which is now named Santa
NOTES AND COMMENTS
Quiche words in brackets are corrections of the spellings in the
Popol Vuh manuscript. Popol Vuh is abbreviated P.V. throughout.
Sources for the meanings of words, here and in the Glossary, are cited
by the following letter code
The morning-star and evening-star episodes should total five each,
corresponding to the five types of Venus cycles. The morning-star
episodes are brought up to five if we count the period when One and
Seven Hunahpu were on the surface of the earth as the first episode,
with the four above-ground adventures of Hunahpu and Xbalanque
following. The first evening-star episode is of course the one in
which One Hunahpu's head is placed in the tree at the Place of Ball
Game Sacrifice, followed by the three ball games with literal or
figurative heads; the fifth head will be Hunahpu's again, when he
loses it in a future episode.
*(25) The appearance of Hunahpu and Xbalanque as catfish recalls
that the purported equivalent of Hunahpu among the classic Maya, the
god designated G-I in the epigraphic literature on Palenque, has
cheeks with appendages that sometimes look like catfish barbels and
sometimes like spiny fins [see Floyd G. Lounsbury, "The Identities
of the Mythological Figures in the 'Cross Group' Inscriptions at
Palenque," and notes *(306)-*(307)]. The appearance of the twins
vagabond actors is a further sign, beyond the earlier appearance of
the "old man" or possum, that the sun will soon rise. Among
roles of classic Maya year-bearers was that of wandering actors
(Thompson, Maya History and Religion, p. 277).
*(26) The similarities between the sun and full moon were also
pointed out by the Aztecs (Bernardino de Sahagun, Florentine Codex,
Book 7, p. 3).
*(27) Contemporary Quiche mother-fathers are discussed in B.
Tedlock, Time and the Highland Maya, pp. 74-85.
*(28) For a general discussion of the subject of Tollan, see Nigel
Davies, The Toltecs, chap. 2. Tulan (Tulapan in Yucatec sources) and
Zuyua (often Holtun Zuyua in Yucatec sources) are mentioned in various
Mayan alphabetic writings, including Recinos et al., The Annals of the
Cakchiquels, pp. 44-53; Ralph L. Roys, The Book of Chilam Balam of
Chumayel, pp. 74, 132, 139, 153; and Eugene R. Craine and Reginald
C. Reindorp, The Codex Perez and the Book of Chilam Balam of Mani, pp.
80, 138, 166, 167.
From a Yucatec point of view
do it to yourselves!"). The scene depicted takes place not far
beyond the one in the present passage [see notes *(317)-*(321)]. It
should be noted that among the Pokomchi Maya Xbalanque gave his name
to a fish of the perch and bass family
"Sacrifice yet again, even do it to yourselves!"). In terms
consistency within the P.V. the former arrangement makes more sense,
since the sacrifice includes decapitation and since it is otherwise
Hunahpu who gets dismembered; by this time he has already suffered a
decapitation by a snatch-bat, having previously lost his arm to
*(311) had to keep coming back: The verb stem here is machcay,
translated on the basis of machcai3, "to come and go repeatedly"
*(312) Feigning great humility: This is quemochochic; B. gives
mochochic as "to humble oneself hypocritically."
*(313) they bowed their heads all the way to the ground: This is
chiquixulela quiuach, in which the second word is "their faces";
gives xulela as "throwing the face on the ground."
*(314) down to the rags, to the tatters: The "rags" are mayoquih,
translated on the basis of maquih, "to throw out"; the "tatters"
atziac [a4,iak], which carries this meaning in both classical and
*(315) their mountain: This is quihuyubal, "their-mountain-place."
Huyubal is a metonym for almost any settlement, but especially a
fortified town or "citadel" (tinamit), located on a defensible
*(316) And they showed its roundness: This is xquicoloba cut
[xqui4oloba 4ut] chiquiuach, "they-positioned-round-thing then
*(317) his legs, his arms were spread wide: The verb here is
xperepoxic, apparently a complete (x-), passive (-xic), and
reduplicated form of pere-, "to put a wide thing somewhere"
has an entry for perrepic, "wide." The limbs of Mesoamerican
victims were indeed spread wide.
*(318) was smothered in a leaf: This is xcheque [xcheke] chuuach
tzalic [4,alic], "stanched in-face-of leaf-wrapping." X. gives
4hekelic as "stop the flow of" and 4,alic as "leaves
This line has caused much confusion, but Andres Xiloj found it crystal
clear. He commented that 4,alic refers to any leaves used to wrap
tamales, of which there are several different kinds.
*(319) "Do it to us! Sacrifice us!": Here Andres Xiloj remarked,
didn't please them that they were perfectly well; what pleased them
was to be butchered."
*(320) "After all, aren't you Death?": Edmonson has pointed
the irony of this statement (The Book of Counsel, p. 138). "Death"
is cam here, lacking any suffixes, which leaves it open to various
interpretations: caminak, "dead person"; camical, the ordinary
for "death"; or came, "Death" as the proper name
of a day on the
calendar and of the two highest lords of Xibalba, One and Seven Death.
Hunahpu and Xbalanque also played on the name came in an earlier
passage [see note *(278)].
*(321) heart sacrifice: The stem here is xaraxo-; B. gives xaraxoh
as "cut or open the chest and take out the heart."
*(322) countless ants: This may or may not be metaphorical; if
not, it may be that the fate of the vassals of the lords of Xibalba
was to become the ants of today. In any case it is very unusual for
"vassals" to come downward to get to where their lords are;
seem that the domain of Xibalba is the reverse of earthly domains,
where lords are situated in citadels rather than at the bottoms of
*(323) no cleanly blotted blood for you: This is chahom quic [4hahom
qui4], literally "washed blood." I take this to be a reference
autosacrifice, in which the blood that flowed from self-inflicted
pricks and wounds was blotted up with paper or leaves. This is no
longer done today, but Andres Xiloj pointed out that it is still
said of the Xibalbans that they collect blood that is spilled on the
ground- that is, dirty blood.
*(324) just griddles, just gourds, just brittle things broken to
pieces: The "griddles" are xot, for toasting tortillas; the
are acam, translated on the basis of akem, "gourd" (V.); the
"brittle things" are chuch, which B. glosses as "delicate,
and "broken to pieces" is xheraxic, translated on the basis
hera-, "crumble" (V.). This list suggests the contemporary
the days Seven 4,ii and Eight Ba4, (Seven Dog and Eight Monkey) at
Momostenango, in which novice daykeepers are initiated. On the eve
of Eight Monkey, the novice is visited at home by his or her
teacher, who breaks a large and previously unused jar and burns
copal incense in the shards; the ashes of the copal are put in a small
gourd. The next day the shards and the gourd are taken to a shrine
called 4huti Zabal or "Little Place of Declaration" and deposited
to ask for your fire"). In this form he is like Tezcatlipoca in
only one leg (the other "leg," when present, takes the form
serpent). This suggests that Tohil may be a manifestation of Hurricane
or Hurakan (literally "One leg"); see also note *(516).
*(364) they got no response: The verb here is xeculaxic, "they
were [not] answered"; B. glosses cula as "respond."
*(365) place of emergence: This is tzuquibal [4,uquibal], in which
-bal is "place of"; V. glosses 4,uc as "spring forth,
*(366) And then a person showed himself: At this point in the MS.
Ximenez, who otherwise confines his own parenthetical remarks to the
Spanish translation in the right-hand column of each page, inserts a
remark into the left-hand column, otherwise reserved for the Quiche
text. As if avoiding an impropriety, he uses Latin, writing "Demonio
loquens eis." The writers of the P.V. probably intended their own
allusion to Christian demonology in this passage, since they
describe the person under discussion as having the wings of a bat
and as coming from Xibalba (the underworld), but note that they make
this allusion at the expense of the Cakchiquels, the principal
rivals of the Quiches, whose god, they say, "looks like a bat."
this day a great many Cakchiquel men wear jackets with a bat motif
on the back.
*(367) the representation: This is quexuach [4exuach], literally
"substitute-face," which B. glosses as "resemblance"
entry for quexel); Andres Xiloj offered the same reading.
*(368) They were simply overwhelmed: This is xa quiculu, in which xa
is "just" and qui- is "they"; culu is translated
on the basis of culum
[4ulum], "dismay" (B.).
*(369) groping along: The verb stem here is chacchot, translated
on the basis of chacacha, "to go like a blind person" (B.).
*(370) they had covetous mouths and covetous faces: This is
chiquimah quichi [chii] chiquimah quiuach. The combination of mah
("rob") with chii ("mouth") and uach ("face")
is an idiom meaning
"to be pained by not having something to trade with or something
has need of" (under mah in V.). A more literal translation of the
present example would be something like "They had thieving mouths
and thieving faces."
*(371) "Wasn't it found and wasn't it revealed": This is a
divinatory phrase, much like the one used by Xpiyacoc and Xmucane at
the beginning of their divinatory question concerning the making of
humans from wood. The verb stems in both cases are culu [4ulu] and
rico [riko], "encounter" and "find." In the present
implication is that those who want fire claim a kinship with those who
already have it on the basis of some past divinatory reading rather
than on the basis of a clear genealogy. This is what anthropologists
call "fictive kinship"; it may have been standard practice
Guatemala to include divinatory readings in the negotiation of such
*(372) "Don't they want to be suckled?": Throughout this passage
follow Edmonson in translating tunic [tuunic] as having to do with
suckling (The Book of Counsel, p. 168), a meaning found in both
classical and modern Quiche. In the present context the suckling is
a metaphor for sacrifice by removal of the heart. It may be the horror
of this metaphor that has caused translators to pass over it
heedlessly; even Edmonson's note on the subject suggests that mere
sacrifice by self-bleeding is meant. The place where Tohil desires
to do his suckling is "on their sides and under their arms,"
fits with what is known about Mesoamerican heart sacrifice: the
incision ran all the way to the sides of the chest (Francis Robicsek
and Donald Hales, "Maya Heart Sacrifice"). The next sentence,
it their heart's desire to embrace me?" is not only a statement
about motivation but a further reference to heart sacrifice. Tohil
is no mere suckler of breasts; what he wants from those who embrace
him is deep inside the breast, and he wants the whole thing.
*(373) They made no delay: The text has maui xquiquiyaluh, in
which I take the second word to be an error for xquiyaluh; yaluh is
"to delay oneself" (B.), giving "not complete-they-delay"
*(374) This deed had not yet been attempted: The verb stem here is
tihou, translated on the basis of tihouic, "try, practice"
*(375) the new daybringer: "New" is my translation of raxa,
could also be "raw"; I assume that the reference is to the
appearance of Venus as morning star after a period of invisibility.
*(376) they left the east: The verb stem here is canah, "to leave"
*(377) "where we belong": This is cohtique ui, "incomplete-we-stop";
B. glosses tequeic as "to stop."
*(378) "bleeding your ears and passing a cord through your
elbows": The verbs here are hutic, "to let blood" (B.),
translated on the basis of tzizo, "to sew a seam, to string [like
beads]; formerly, to let blood for sacrifice to idols" (B.). The
"ears" and "elbows" are xiquin and chuc [4huc].
Ears are well attested
throughout Mesoamerica as sites for the drawing of blood in rites of
self-sacrifice, but elbows are mentioned only for the Quiche, in
both the P.V. and in B. (under the entry for tzizo). Michael D. Coe
has pointed out to me that the penis was a primary site for the
drawing of blood among the classic Maya. In the present passage chuc
(if it is not 4huc) could conceivably be related to chu3a or chu3ab,
"strength, energy, vigor" (V. and X.), and thus allude to
but this seems unlikely, given that B. confirms the elbow as a site
for drawing blood.
*(379) camping on the road: This is xucanahibeh ri pa be,
literally "it was left in the road."
*(380) In unity: This is chiquihunam uach, "in-their-one face,"
idiom given in X. as hunam quiuach, "in agreement," and in
hunamah uach, "to make friends."
*(381) They were just smelling the tips of their staffs: Andres
Xiloj commented: "Perhaps these staffs had some secret. Perhaps
were of a wood like cherry, which has the odor of the fruit."
*(382) packed ... on their backs: The verb stem here is eca [eka],
"to carry on the shoulders or back" (B.).
*(383) above a great red river: This is chuui hun nima ca3ha
[cakhaa], "on-top one great red-river." Given that the writers
the P.V. usually transcribe both "house" (ha) and "water
(haa) as ha, this could also be "great red house." Red was
commonest color for the stuccoed exteriors of Mayan public
buildings, going all the way back to the pre-classic.
*(384) on a bare mountain: This is zaqui [zaki] huyub, literally
"white mountain," but zaki is sometimes used to mean "plain"
sense of unadorned). I take it that the writers mean to contrast the
situation of Hacauitz with that of Auilix and Tohil, both of whom seem
to be "in a great forest" even though the latter, like Hacauitz,
*(385) Masses of serpents ... jaguars, rattlesnakes, yellowbites
were there in the forest where he was hidden: Today in Momostenango
the shrines on the high mountains that bound the community, together
with the shrine (atop a very high waterfall) used by those who
organize and play parts in the Monkey Dance, are all said to be
haunted by dangerous animals. Such animals appear to those whose
ritual office does not entitle them to visit a particular shrine; they
also appear to those who have a right to visit but have failed to
abstain from sexual or violent acts (whether verbal or physical) on
the day of their arrival at the shrine.
*(386) they stopped there: The verb stem here is tacotob, translated
on the basis of ta3atobic, "to stop and not move forward"
ta3aba in B.).
*(387) They cried their hearts and their guts out: Asked why, Andres
Xiloj said, "They were sad in the darkness, there was no light,
day, no night, all the time it was dark." The Quiche do not think
night as simply "dark" as opposed to "light" [see
in the early dawn in
note *(69)]. The conditions before the first dawn of the P.V. were
so bad that one could not even speak properly of night, with its
moon and stars and even a faint trace of dawn, to say nothing of the
full light of day.
*(388) the gods who were ... just out in the bromelias, in the
hanging mosses, not yet set on pedestals: Today bromelias and
hanging mosses (see Glossary) are standard materials in the
construction of temporary outdoor arbors or archways for saints; the
present passage would seem to mean that the gods were put beneath such
arbors, not that they were put up in the trees where bromelias and
hanging mosses actually grow. Only later were the gods "set on
pedestals," presumably in the "houses" at the tops of
*(389) their strategies: This is quichacabal [qui4hacabal],
*(390) Their hearts did not yet harbor ill will: This is mana chilic
cayal ta qui4ux, in which mana is "not yet," ta is a further
the negative, and qui4ux is "their hearts." B. glosses both
cayal as "ill will, anger."
*(391) they incensed: The verb stem here is zacbiza, translated on
the basis of za3bizah, "to incense" and "to wag [a tail]"
(B.). In the
next sentence I have translated the same verb as "they shook."
pottery censer of the kind used in Mesoamerica must be shaken or
swayed back and forth to keep the incense burning.
*(392) it is only his reflection that now remains: What might lie
behind this statement is revealed by a contemporary Mopan Maya tale
which Lord Kin (the sun) goes from his home in the east to the
center of the sky and then back to the east again; it appears that
he goes clear across the sky because he has placed a mirror at its
center (Thompson, Ethnology of the Mayas of Southern and Central
British Honduras, p. 132). To interpret the movements of the sun in
this manner is to model it on Venus as morning star, which both
rises and sets in the east.
*(393) Tohil, Auilix, and Hacauitz were turned to stone, along
with the idols of the puma, jaguar, rattlesnake, yellowbite, which the
White Sparkstriker took with him into the trees: The "idols"
are ucabauilal [u4abauilal], "its-god-own," 4abauil being
elsewhere as "god." The White Sparkstriker is named immediately
after the yellowbite and could be included in the list of beings who
are turned to stone, but in terms of what is known about him (or
her) today (B. Tedlock, "El C'oxol: un simbolo de la resistencia
quiche") it makes much more sense to treat the name as the subject
of the sentence that follows it, xa xuchap chi uca [u4ah] rib pa che
[chee], "just he/she took that to-accompany him/herself into trees."
Today the White Sparkstriker is the keeper of volcanic concretions and
ancient artifacts that resemble animals; these objects, which are said
to have been petrified when the sun first rose, are called mebil
(the same as the name of the shrine in which they are kept) in
Momostenango and 4amauil in the eastern Quiche area.
Andres Xiloj commented on the passage at hand as follows: "When
all the birds, animals were converted into stone, they remained as
mebil. When the moment comes and one is able to acquire one of
these, this is the mebil. Birds, rabbits, in sum, all the different
kinds of stones. Now the 4oxol [Sparkstriker], this one, yes, he has
money, 'tis said. When one has luck, the 4oxol presents himself. If
takes off his shoe and leaves it thrown away, then there is the money;
or his little bag- because he has a little bag, and if he leaves it
thrown away, there is the money. This is the mebil of a person; it
is the luck." Lucas Pacheco said that the 4oxol lost his/her shoe
the sun first rose; the 4oxol escaped petrifaction by running into the
trees, but the shoe did not.
*(394) Perhaps we would have no relief from the voracious animals
today- the puma, jaguar, rattlesnake, yellowbite-... if the original
animals hadn't been turned to stone: "Voracious animals" is
chicop, "biting (or meat-eating) animals." The MS. erroneously
the White Sparkstriker to the list of animals in this sentence;
apparently Ximenez (or a copyist) interpreted the previous naming of
the White Sparkstriker (see above) as part of a list of animals and
then assumed that the name must be missing from the present list.
Andres Xiloj commented: "The 4oxol [Sparkstriker] has to take care
of the animals; he doesn't allow them to go out, because they are
harmful. He keeps them, he has them in a corral." This is the
Sparkstriker in his role as gamekeeper (see B. Tedlock, Time and the
Highland Maya, pp. 181-87); today the dangerous animals only attack
people who have failed in their ritual duties. According to Lucas
Pacheco, the corral where the Sparkstriker keeps his animals is
located deep within a branch of the cave beneath the ruins of Rotten
Cane; in that context they take the form of small stones. The
fortunate may be allowed to take some of these; the unfortunate fall
into a great, wide mouth.
*(395) And the language has differentiated in the case of the
Cakchiquels: In this passage the P.V. presents a theory that
linguistic differentiation correlates with differences in the names
originally assigned to tribal gods. The linguistic observations are
themselves quite accurate (see the Introduction).
*(396) their stay: This is quiabulic, translated on the basis of
yabulic, "to stop" (B.).
*(397) the masking of Tohil: The "masking" is cohbal,
"mask-instrument," apparently referring to the deer costumes
*(398) they bowed down: The verb here is uonouoh, "contract, as
joining the chin with the knees" (B.).
*(399) Now it was only a manifestation of his genius that spoke when
the penitents and sacrificers came before Tohil: That is to say, the
words came not from the stone itself but from an apparition of its
spirit familiar, which in this case would be a youth.
*(400) All they burned before their gods was resin, just bits of
pitchy bark, along with marigolds: That is to say, they burned
things gathered in nature rather than proper copal (see Glossary). The
resin is 3ol, which may be gathered in gummy nodules from the trunks
of various trees. The bits of pitchy bark are rachak nooh, literally
"leavings of pine resin," pieces of bark on which a hard red
been formed as a result of the holes bored by worms. The species of
marigold in question is a common roadside herb (see Glossary).
According to Andres Xiloj, all of these things are burned as offerings
today in Momostenango, but they constitute a poorer offering than
copal. Earle reports the use of marigolds in the eastern Quiche area
as well ("La etnoecologia quiche"), and I have seen the unburned
remains of bits of bark at a shrine near Chichicastenango.
*(401) Do not reveal us to the tribes: Andres Xiloj compared this
hiding of the gods (or the stones that contain their geniuses) to
the proper treatment of the valuable objects that are called mebil
in the Quiche dialect of Momostenango: "These stones are like mebil.
When one finds one, one must not show it to another person, because
it's for oneself directly. There are persons who find some little
things; they may show them to others, but this mebil won't allow it,
now it won't give good fortune to the person who found it. It
withdraws. If there is some little thing, an ancient coin found in the
woods, or a stone, then one must guard it." See also note *(68).
*(402) "they search for us": This is coh3a3anih rumal,
"us-watch-closely by-them"; the verb stem is translated on
of 3a3alinic, "ambushed, surveyed closely" (Q.).
*(403) "don't you let us be hunted down": This is maui
cohiralahobizah, "not incomplete-us-you-hunt (or trap)-cause."
*(404) "female deer and female birds": "Female"
is xnam here; V.
gives xnam as "female deer," but in the present passage xnam
as an adjective with both "deer" and "birds": xnam
queh xnam 4,iquin.
*(405) "deer costumes": These are u queh at the first mention
queh thereafter. B. gives cuu as "clothing"; it should probably
on the basis of its resemblance to 4ul, which several other sources
gloss as "clothing."
*(406) "They belong to us already": This is a reference to
long-standing promise the tribes made in order to get fire, namely,
that they would allow themselves to be "suckled"- that is,
their hearts cut out.
*(407) they would then go to anoint the mouth of the stone of
Tohil or Auilix with the blood of the deer or bird: In the eastern
Quiche area today, the mouths of stones (now called 4amauil rather
than 4abauil as here) are more commonly given drinks of distilled
liquor than of blood, but the blood of sacrificed chickens is
sometimes given in the area of Chichicastenango. Drinks of liquor
are also put into the mouths of saints. Ideally the liquid offered
should quickly disappear, as if actually swallowed by the stone or
saint; in the words of the P.V., "And the bloody drink was drunk
*(408) just the larva of the yellow jacket, the larva of the wasp,
and the larva of the bee: Andres Xiloj described these insects, the
uonon, zital, and akah, as follows: "The uonon is large and striped
yellow and black; there is honey in its hive, and it stings. The zital
is bigger and has red stripes. Its bite is more serious than that of
the uonon; it causes a large swelling and one could even die. It, too,
has honey. The akah is small, a little bigger than a fly, and
stings. It makes a nest, with thousands of akah. If one can get it
down with a stick the akah stay up there, then one can get whatever
pieces of honey there are." At present the larvae are eaten only
the case of the akah.
*(409) "Your right": This is icolbal iuib, in which i- is
and iuib is yourselves" (both plural familiar); B. gives colbalib
"liberty." This is a reference to the agreement the tribes
allow themselves to be sacrificed (see the next note).
*(410) the suckling: This is ri 4,um; some have taken it to be
"pelt," but I translate it on the basis of tzumah [4,umah],
suckle" (B.), and take it to be a further reference to the
"suckling" (heart sacrifice) pledged by the tribes (see the
*(411) the tracks were merely those of animals: This is cacan
[cakan] ri xa quipich, "their tracks that just their feet,"
"feet" (pich) is specifically "the feet of quadrupeds"
*(412) dark and rainy: This is quecal [3ekal] hab, literally
"black rain," but referring (according to Andres Xiloj) to
that is so intense that the sky gets very dark. This supports the
notion that Tohil is an aspect of Hurricane [see note *(363)], who
caused a "black rain" when he destroyed the wooden people.
In the view
of Lounsbury (personal communication), Tahil, the classic equivalent
of Tohil at Palenque, was also a rain god.
*(413) misty and drizzly: This is muzmul hab, "misty rain."
Xiloj explained: "These are days when it doesn't rain strongly;
instead the drops are small, little bits of water fall. It is muzmul."
*(414) they singled them out and cut them down: The MS. has
echalamicat, in which the only certainty is e, "they." My
based on chala "to pick out among many" (B.), and (following
The Book of Counsel, p. 192) 4at, "cut" (in the sense of "reap").
*(415) "in full blossom": This is chaom, "blossom,"
meaning beauty" according to B.
*(416) "radiate preciousness": This is zaclocoh [zaklo3oh],
combination of "light" (zak) and "valuable" or "precious"
Andres Xiloj pictured the maidens as twelve to fifteen years old.
*(417) on their hands and knees: This is chacachaxinac
[chacachaxinak], with passive and perfect suffixes (-xinak), which I
translate on the basis of chacachotic, "go on all fours" (B.).
*(418) Tohil and the others: Here and elsewhere in this story I have
supplied "and the others"; the name Tohil is often used to
three gods and may be combined with a plural verb prefix.
*(419) there must come a sign as to whether you really saw their
faces: Note that when Blood Woman went before the head of One Hunahpu,
he gave her a "sign" by spitting in her hand, which made her
in this case the signs will be quite different, intended not for the
women but for their fathers.
*(420) they spotted: This is xil quiuach, in which x- is complete
and qui- is "they," translated on the basis of ilauachih,
with attention" (B.).
*(421) on a smooth surface: This is chiyulinic uuach, "on-smooth
its-face"; B. gives yulunic as "a smooth thing." The
paintings were on
"the inside" (upam) of the cloaks, and it was this side that
to the body of the lord who was then stung by wasps, despite the
*(422) He turned around: The verb stem here is zolouic, translated
on the basis of zololic, "to give turns" (B.).
*(423) unfurling it: This is catzonon ucuxic [u3uxic], literally
"he-undresses his-being-covered"; B. gives tzonolic as "undressed."
I take it that this lord opened up his cloak so that everyone could
see the eagle on the inside of it.
*(424) It then became the profession of Xtah and Xpuch to bark
shins: "Bark shins" is my translation of hoxol chec [4hek],
the comments of Andres Xiloj: "4hek is the shin bone. Hoxol is
who wounds.' It is the wound that they [the girls] gave them. A girl
or a boy comes to know how the world is [laughs]. Let's suppose we are
now old people. We can deceive a girl of fifteen or sixteen years, and
there is the wound. The violence. And so a woman can deceive a boy
of fifteen or fourteen years, then there it is. The old woman
wounded the boy [laughs]. This is hoxol 4hek, 'the wounder of
shins.' Only now we say xuporo rakan, 'she burned his legs.'"
*(425) those spirit boys: I have supplied "spirit" to make
clearer that the reference is to Tohil, Auilix, and Hacauitz.
*(426) their fortress: Ximenez translates catem as "fortification"
here; B. gives cateh as "to block passage."
*(427) Their eyebrows were plucked out, along with their beards: The
"plucking" here is mich [mi4h], which is elsewhere a metaphor
deception; this time plucking carries both its literal and
*(428) made a fence: The "fence" is coxtun, "wall, castle,
(B.). In the next paragraph I translate this same word as "parapet"
the basis of context.
*(429) They just made a palisade of planks and stakes: The materials
for this structure are tzalam and chut, respectively glossed as
"board" and "stake" by B.; the verb for the making
of the palisade
is quehbeh, translated on the basis of quehom che, "palisaded"
This was definitely not stonework.
*(430) around their citadel: This is rih quitinamit, which is
misleading when translated literally as "its-back their-citadel."
when applied to a house, means the side or sides that face the outside
world, whereas uuach, "its-face," means the side or sides
the patio; I assume that the same scheme was analogously applied to
a citadel. That is to say, a citadel turned its "back" to
outside world and its "face" inward. This interpretation is
confirmed by the entry for cotoh chirih tinamit in B., literally
"surround at-its-back citadel" but glossed (following European
reckoning) as the "face of a fortress."
*(431) They surrounded the citadel: The verb stem here is
cotcomih, a reduplicated form meaning "surround" (B.).
*(432) eight hundred score,... thirty times eight hundred: This is
my attempt to translate Mayan numbers into English without
completely converting them from the vegesimal system to the decimal
one; "score" in English is of course a remnant of vegesimal
The numbers in the text are cachui and oxchui, "2 x 8,000"
and "3 x
8,000," 8,000 being the third power of 20 and filling the same
in a vegesimal system that 1,000 fills in a decimal system.
*(433) they just enjoyed the spectacle: The verb stem here is cai,
"to watch admiringly, like watching dances" (listed under
cai3 in B.).
*(434) their legs, their arms: As Andres Xiloj pointed out, this
is an idiom meaning "all over their bodies."
*(435) they were doubling over: The verb stem here is uon,
translated on the basis of uonih, "to be doubled over so that the
knees meet the chin" (B.).
*(436) stumbling: The verb stem here is lahahic, a reduplicated
form, translated on the basis of lahab, "snare" (B.).
*(437) they were hit: Edmonson has qiyaq [kiyak], "poisoned,"
(The Book of Counsel, p. 208), but the MS. has cac, which I
translate on the basis of ca3o, "hit with stones" (B.).
*(438) gasping for breath: This is quehilouic quepolou, probably
an idiom for heavy or laborious breathing; hilouic is "sigh of
tiredness" and polou is "breath" (both in B.).
*(439) "our own tribal place": This could be all the way back
place where they were before arriving at Tulan Zuyua.
*(440) "Again it is the time of our Lord Deer": "It is
is my translation of cholan, "order" (in the sense of sequence).
"Our Lord Deer" is a reference to one of the twenty day names
260-day divinatory cycle. At present a day addressed in prayer is
always prefaced with the title "Lord," but the number prefix
day is specified- for example, ahau hun queh, "Lord One Deer."
of the few contexts in which days may be addressed or referred to by
name alone is that of prayers to or stories about the mam, the only
four day names that can serve to mark a new solar year. Deer is one
these days, and it seems likely that the present passage refers to the
day named Deer in its capacity as a mam. For speculation that the
specific day in question was One Deer, see the Introduction.
*(441) "Go see the place where we came from": Given that Jaguar
Quitze and the others have already said that they themselves are going
to "our own tribal place," it is difficult to interpret their
instructions to their sons. Perhaps the answer is that the fathers are
going in spirit, whereas their sons will make a pilgrimage in the
flesh. Also, the sons will not go until some time later. In any
case, the irreducible difference between the journey of the fathers
and that later undertaken by the sons is that the former are never
*(442) "for making requests": This is tanabal [taanabal],
"asking-instrument." Andres Xiloj remarked, "It's like
a place to burn
offerings. But this word is only used for places that are open to
the public, not for shrines that only a mother-father [patrilineage
head] can visit."
*(443) "fiery splendor": This is my translation of 3a3al,
"fire-ness" or "hot-ness," a frequent metaphor for
the glories and
splendors of lordly dominance over others.
*(444) downtrodden: This is yocotahinac, translated on the basis
of yo3o, "step on" (B.).
*(445) All those on Hacauitz: This phrase has been supplied in order
to distinguish the inhabitants of the citadel of Hacauitz from the
"broken and downtrodden" tribes.
*(446) the day of the bundle: This may have been the day named
Deer, mentioned by the departing Quiche ancestors on the same occasion
as the presentation of the bundle. Today this day is associated, above
all others, with mother-fathers, the priest-shamans who perform
rites for lineages, cantons, and an entire town (according to their
rank). All mother-fathers, as well as the ordinary daykeepers who rank
just below them, possess a sacred bundle, but this bundle contains
divining paraphernalia and is opened frequently.
*(447) who represented all the Cauecs: This is rech ronohel
cauiquib, literally "of (or belonging to) all the Cauecs."
similar phrases in the sentences dealing with the Greathouses and Lord
Quiches in this same passage.
*(448) judge: This is catol [3atol] tzih, at present 3atal tzih (X.)
or (in the dialect of Momostenango) 3atbal tzih, "reap-instrument
*(449) From across the sea, they brought back the writings about
Tulan. In the writings, in their words, they spoke of having cried:
The MS. reads as follows: xquicam [xqui4am] ula ri chaca [chaka]
palo utzibal [u4,ibal] tulan utzibal xe4ha chire quioquinac
[quio3inak] chupan chupan quitzih. The repetitions of utzibal and
chupan make no sense unless we assume a scribal transposition;
moving the second utzibal to a position immediately after the first
chupan gives the following reading: "they-brought back the from-across
sea its-writings Tulan, they-talked about having-cried inside
its-writings, inside their-words." The writers of the P.V. do not
specify whether the "writings about Tulan" and the Council
itself were one and the same, but it seems likely, given that one of
the epithets of the Council Book is "The Light That Came from Across
*(450) There were actually four mountains: "Mountains" (huyub),
referring to settlement, could mean prominences in close proximity and
of any size; for symbolic purposes even a small mound can be called
"mountain" in Quiche.
*(451) they examined: This is xeico chiri chuui, literally "they
passed there above," but Andres Xiloj read it as an idiom meaning
"to look over."
*(452) But their faces did not die: This is mana xucam quiuach,
translated almost literally. The reference is to the eschatology set
forth by One Hunahpu in his lecture to Blood Woman, in which he
says, "Neither dimmed nor destroyed is the face of a lord."
*(453) pain and affliction: This is caxcol [4ax4ol] rail, translated
on the basis of entries in B., where the two words are treated as
synonyms, and on the basis of the entry for 4ax4ol in X.
*(454) They ground their gypsum, their plaster: This seems to be a
metonym for major construction. It may not mean that previous Quiche
sites lacked gypsum plaster, but in the present context it combines
with such phrases as "excellent citadel," "the root of
splendor," and "lords of singular genius" to indicate
building of Bearded Place represented a whole new level in the rise
the Quiche lords.
*(455) one in each: This is my interpolation.
*(456) and that the other lord be allied with them: This is xa cu
[4u] hun ahau xrah cu [cuu] quib, "just then one (other) lord
was-wanted to-keep themselves," in which the translation of cuu
based on B. The lord in question here is Iztayul, as the next sentence
makes clear; in the present sentence he is being distinguished from
*(457) the Ilocs wanted him as their disciple: This is xrah tihox
cumal ilocab, "was-wanted disciple by-them Ilocs"; B. gives
*(458) First they invaded the citadel: This is xcoquibeh nabe
tinamit, literally "they-entered first citadel"; B. gives
tinamit as "scale a fortress."
*(459) This was in payment: The "payment" is tohbal,
"pay-instrument," which in this context is a sound play on
the principal god before whom the Ilocs were sacrificed, and on the
day name Toh, which was the day of Tohil. This day is still
interpreted by diviners as having to do with the payment of debts;
in making this interpretation they utilize a sound play on the day
name similar to the one used here, moving from toh as a proper name
the verb tohonic, "pay" (see B. Tedlock, Time and the Highland
*(460) the canyon and the citadel: This is the first of a number
of joint appearances of ziuan, "canyon," and tinamit, "citadel";
together, they seem to encompass both a citadel proper (see Glossary),
in the sense of a high, fortified place with temples and palaces,
and what lies around or below that citadel as well. The effect is to
extend the sense of settlement or community beyond its fortified core,
with temples and palaces, to the surrounding population, creating a
compound concept meaning something like "town" or "city."
T. J. Knab
(personal communication) suggests that this expression might be the
Quiche equivalent of the Nahua term for town or city, which also
involves a juxtaposition of the low with the high (in that order):
altepetl, compounded of al (from atl), "water," and tepetl,
(D.). The Quiche also use a water-mountain pairing, but it is
applied not to towns but to outdoor shrines, which (ideally) exist
in low-high pairs (see B. Tedlock, Time and the Highland Maya, pp. 76,
80). In sum, the Quiche and Nahua terms for "town," along
Quiche pairing of shrines, all involve a juxtaposition of the low
and the high, in that order. Both languages construct their term for
town by pairing complementary metonyms for a town rather than by
reducing the complexity of a town to a unitary abstraction.
*(461) lords of singular genius: "Singular" is humah, translated
on the basis of hunah, "make oneself unique" (B.).
*(462) nothing happened to make fools of them: "To make fools"
translation of alachinak, which is given by B. as "joke."
*(463) or to ruin the greatness: This is xaui banol rech nimal, in
which xaui indicates "the same as the aforesaid" and links
to the negative one preceding it; banol is translated "to ruin"
basis of banoh, "disaster" (V.); rech is "of their";
and nimal is
*(464) the blossoming of their daughters: The verb stem here is
ziih, "to flower" (X.), and fits with an earlier floral metaphor
young women [see note *(415)].
*(465) ate their corn: The verb here is uech, which refers
specifically to the eating of foods made of corn, and what I have
translated "corn" is ua, which refers to these same things,
primarily to tamales (which are often made of nothing but corn dough
*(466) our way of being thankful and grateful: The former is
camouabal [4amouabal], "thanks-instrument," and the latter
translated on the basis of pa3uh, "be thankful for" (B.).
*(467) allied tribes ... principalities: See note *(352) for a
discussion of these terms.
*(468) The Lords Cotuha and Plumed Serpent: The Cotuha mentioned
here is probably not the one who ruled as Keeper of the Mat at Bearded
Place, but the Cotuha who was Keeper of the Reception House Mat when
Plumed Serpent was Keeper of the Mat.
*(469) There had been five changes and five generations: This is
xroquexoc xrolea puch, in which x- is complete, ro- is "five,"
puch is "and." The rest is translated on the basis of quexoc,
return," and le, "generation" (both in B.).
*(470) their separation, when they quarreled among themselves,
disturbing the bones and skulls of the dead: The scribe got into a
tangle here, writing as follows (the items in parentheses were written
in the margin with their places of insertion marked by daggers):
quihachouic quib ta xqui (tzolbeh quib) tzol (cacbeh) bac uholom
caminac xquicacbeh quib. The only way I can make sense of this is to
assume that the scribe meant to cross out the final xquicacbeh quib
and move it (except for xqui-) to a position immediately following the
dangling xqui he had already written, and to insert a missing beh
after tzol. In the process he unnecessarily repeated tzol before
-beh and then inverted the order of cacbeh and tzolbeh, meanwhile
forgetting to cross out the final xquicacbeh quib. If I am right,
the text should read, quihachouic quib ta xquicacbeh [xquicakbeh] quib
tzolbeh bac [bak] uholom caminac [caminak], "their-sorting-out
themselves when they-quarreled themselves turning-over bone its-head
*(471) the lord bishop: This is Sr. obicpo, the first Spanish to
appear in the text since Part One. The person referred to here is
Francisco Marroquin, who blessed the ruins of Rotten Cane in 1539,
fifteen years after the place had been burned by Alvarado.
*(472) And now to show their faces: This is cate [4ate] chic
chiuachin uuach, "next now that-show his-face," singular in
in order to agree with "each of them" in the previous sentence.
notion of "face" is intimately tied up with personal identity
Quiche; a person's day of birth, for example, is called uuach u3ih,
"its-face his/her-day," and a number of Quiche lords were
after the days of their birth. A later passage mentioning the
"faces" of lords precedes a list of the names of individual
have put dots following both of these mentions of faces to indicate
that graphic elements might be missing here, something that was in the
manuscript Ximenez discovered but which he did not reproduce. If
that manuscript was like the Book of Chilam Balam of Mani, there may
have been a graphic device, at least partially based on hieroglyphic
writing, corresponding to each lord. In the Mani book the device is
a line drawing of a face with a European crown, a latter-day version
of the much more stylized face that composes the glyph meaning ahau
"lord," but the individual name of each lord is written in
letters on a scroll beneath the head rather than rendered
hieroglyphically (Eugene R. Craine and Reginald C. Reindorp, The Codex
Perez and the Chilam Balam of Mani, pp. 79-86).
*(473) a crowded life, crowded with petitions: "Crowded"
translates molomox, a passive form of molomanic, "many join
together" (B.). "Petitions" translates utabal tzih, in
stem of utabal is taba, "supplicate" (B.), and tzih is "words."
*(474) The birthdays: This is uquih [u3ih] ralaxic, "its-day
his-being-born," the phrase still used for "birthday."
*(475) On one occasion: This is hu uuc, a phrase most translators
have taken to be hu uuk and to mean "one seven" (literally)
days" (idiomatically). But "seven" should be uukub, not
uuk, and there
is nothing in the colonial dictionaries of Quichean languages that
would allow for its combination with hu. The solution I offer is based
on considerations of context and on uu3ul, a form that refers to
pauses or interruptions in the normal course of events (V.); I take
the present phrase to be hu uu3 and to mean something like "during
interval," or (idiomatically) "one time" or "on
*(476) serpentine.... aquiline ... feline: At some moments this
passage claims that Plumed Serpent became an "actual" (quitzih)
serpent (cumatz) or eagle (cot) or jaguar (balam), but at other
moments it would seem that he took on the qualities of these
animals. Wherever I translate with English words ending in -ine, the
MS. has cumatzil, cotal, and balamil, each of which has a suffix
meaning something like "-ness."
*(477) The news spread: This is xpaxin rib utaic, "it-scattered
*(478) he became the sole head: "Sole" here is huquizic,
translated on the basis of hu4izic, "only" (V.).
*(479) went down on their faces or flat on their backs: This is
xuleic, xpacaic, translated on the basis of xuleic, "throw face
down" (B.), and pa4alic, "face up" (X.).
*(480) Their lineages came to be bled, shot full of arrows at the
stake: This is xeoc chinamit xelotzic xecacquic chiche [chichee], in
which xeoc is literally "they-entered" but idiomatically "it
time," and chichee is "at-tree" or "at-pole."
Xelotzic, in which xe-
is "complete-they," is translated on the basis of lotzo, "to
blood" (B. and V.). Xecacquic (with a passive suffix) is translated
"they were shot with arrows" by Ximenez; B. has cacoqueh (with
active suffix), "hunt with arrows." This passage confirms
Quiche rituals included arrow sacrifice, a practice better known
from central Mexico.
*(481) Projectiles alone were the means for breaking the citadels:
The weapon here is 4ha [sometimes 4hab] in the MS., "arrow"
(judging from V.) the spear thrown by an atlatl (spear-thrower). 4ha
or 4hab is distinct from cha or chaa, which is the term for any lithic
projectile point or cutting instrument and (today) for glass (see
4ha and chaa in V., chab and cha in B., and 4hab and cha in X.). In
Mixtec codices, towns (or citadels) are identified by place signs
whose basic element is a mountain; the conquest of a town is signified
by showing its place sign pierced with a projectile (Mary Elizabeth
Smith, Picture Writing from Ancient Southern Mexico, p. 33 and fig.
51). The present passage sounds like a literal reading of a codex of
this style. It may also be that such codices depict a ritual
practice in which the very earth or native stone of a conquered
citadel was actually pierced or broken. Whatever the case with
codices, people from the towns conquered by the Quiche came to
Petatayub, "carrying in their hands the signs of the citadels,"
which "look as though they had been split with an axe."
*(482) one ... after another: This is libah chi, given by B. as
"step by step."
*(483) the gum tree: I follow Edmonson in reading col che as 3ol
chee, "gum (or resin) tree" (The Book of Counsel, p. 236),
as a place named "Colche," partly because the name of the
under discussion in this passage is otherwise accounted for.
*(484) carrying in their hands: This is chelah, translated on the
basis of 4helenic, "to carry with the hands" (X.).
*(485) cut stones: I have supplied "stones" here, assuming
are still the subject of the discussion; "cut" is my translation
xcatatahic [x3atatahic], "complete-cut-result-passive." Reading
verb stem as 3ata, "cut," fits with xchoi chi icah, "split
axe," later on in this same sentence, and with the general sense
the paragraph up to this point.
*(486) there on the flat: Ximenez translates tacah [ta3ah] as "the
coast," meaning the long Pacific coastal plain of Guatemala, but
this term can refer even to very small flats. See Petatayub in the
Glossary for a further discussion.
*(487) "and like doubles for our own lineages": This is quehe
cacachinamit, which I read as quehe pu kacacab chinamit, "like
*(488) "send for us to come and kill them": Here the text
nu, the first person singular, and ca [ka], first person plural. The
text reads chulibiih chibe nu ca camizah, in which ca is written
somewhat above the line, just after nu; for this reason, and because
the statement quoted here is attributed to three people, I take nu
to be an error the scribe forgot to cross out when he added ca.
*(489) nor did any of them have his own god: That is to say, those
who were sent to occupy the conquered citadels did not have stone gods
(4abauil) of the kind that were brought from Tulan Zuyua. We do not
know whether the previous lords of these citadels had such stones or
what might have been the fate of their stones. It is interesting to
note that the present-day term 4amauil, which covers large stones
found in outdoor shrines, is used only in the region around the
ruins of Rotten Cane. Shrines in the western Quiche area lack such
stones, and the small stone objects collected for household altars are
called by a different term, mebil.
*(490) "the ennobling of the lookout lineages": The "ennobling"
quecalem [quekalem], in which qu- is "their"; B. gives ecalem
"dignity" or "nobility." The root eka- has to do
with taking a load on
the shoulders; it is used today in various expressions having to do
with the taking on of responsibilities, such as those of
mother-fathers for people they train as daykeepers, or those of
daykeepers for the clients they are currently praying for.
*(491) "we'll induct": This is cachapa [kachapa], literally
"we-take-hold-of," but V. notes that chapa is also an idiom
"putting into lordship."
*(492) "which is mine ... which is yours": This translates
mine," and aue, "of yours (singular familiar)"; others
have missed the
sense of this sentence, trying to make these two pronouns agree;
Edmonson has ui for the ue of the MS. (The Book of Counsel, p. 240).
*(493) in concord: This is hunam uach, literally "equal face,"
idiom meaning "to be in concord" (under the entry for hun
*(494) a fortress around Quiche: In effect, the entire Quiche
state was conceived as a gigantic fortress, an enlargement of the
citadel at its center.
*(495) house of sacrifice: This is cahbaha, which I take to be
composed of cahb, "sacrifice" [see the note *(351)], and ha,
"house." Some have taken cahbaha to be a reference to the
Sajcabaja today, but that is written zacabaha or zaccabaha in the P.V.
(see Plaster House in the Glossary) and combines ha with zakcaba,
*(496) they nurtured and provided for the Keeper of the Mat and
Keeper of the Reception House Mat: The gods are spoken of at various
points as needing nurturers and providers; the present passage means
that the relationship between lords and vassals was conceived in the
same terms as that between gods and humans. Note here that the text
goes right on to emphasize the greatness of the lords under
*(497) everything they saw was clear to them: That is to say, they
were able to recover the clairvoyance that the first humans had before
"they were blinded as the face of a mirror is breathed upon."
*(498) there was a place to see it, there was a book: The "place
to see it" is ibal re, earlier written as ilbal re. With the book
the lords are able to recover the full vision of the first humans;
such vision, as this passage makes clear, reached into future time.
*(499) a way of cherishing: This is locbal [lo3bal], "love (or
desire or value) instrument." Andres Xiloj suggested "something
shows esteem or expresses a sense of value."
*(500) For nine score days they would fast: "Nine score" is
uinac [uinak]; Edmonson is correct in reading this as 9 x 20 rather
than "nine persons" (The Book of Counsel, p. 243). As he has
180 is half a tun, the 360-day cycle (distinct from the solar year)
used by the lowland Maya in reckoning chronologies. The "thirteen
score" (or 260) mentioned next is the length of the so-called
divinatory cycle, while the "seventeen score" (or 340) is
length of the 90- and 250-day segments of the Venus cycle (see the
notes to the Introduction).
*(501) They would only eat zapotes, matasanos....: For
identifications of the tropical fruits listed here, see the
Glossary. Of this kind of diet, Andres Xiloj said, "This was so
they would have strength. This Tecum Umam [hero of Quiche resistance
to the Spanish] didn't eat cooked things, only raw [or green]
things. Because of this, the people of that time were muscular.
Whatever place they went, whatever kind of fruit they found, they
ate in place of tamales."
*(502) abstinence: This is auazinic, translated on the basis of
auazim, "forbidden" (in B. under auatz).
*(503) there weren't any women with them when they slept: This
does not mean that women were not present at all. When people "keep
the days" at present, the abstinence always includes sexual contact
but never avoidance of all interaction with the opposite sex. If the
fasts described here were like those of the first four Quiche
ancestors, it was not only the lords who fasted but their wives as
*(504) "On this blessed day": This is atoob uquih [u3ih],
u3ih is "its-day"; B. gives atob as "good."
*(505) "ripeness and freshness": literally 3anal, "yellowness,"
and raxal, "greenness." Andres Xiloj commented: "When
one prays, 3anal
means to have corn, to have money, to do business. Yes, it is like
'yellow' but it isn't yellow, but rather that it ripens. Raxal is like
a plant that is green, it is developing to give fruit. 3anal is when
*(506) "spread thy stain, spill thy drops / of green and yellow":
This is a fairly literal translation of chatziloh, chamaquih uloc
[cha4,iloh, chama4ih ulok] araxal, a3anal. Andres Xiloj commented:
"4,iloh is to use [sexually]; now they are going to have a family.
Ma4ih is the sin. The man looks for his companion, there it is. And
there is that liquid [semen]. And the green [raxal], there it is, it
is the son or daughter, and the yellow [3anal]; and they, in turn,
have to produce again. Here it is like a plant, the sowing of a plant,
and its ripening."
*(507) "that they might multiply" [chipo3tah]: Andres Xiloj
commented: "Po3tah is that it produces. Like a seed: when we cast
it, we say to it, capo3 la, 'Come out [sprout], produce more.'"
Commenting on the prayer as a whole, he said, "We're using this
it's just that the language has changed somewhat."
*(508) "may they neither be snared nor wounded, / nor seduced,
burned, / nor diverted below the road nor above it": "Burned"
paired with "seduced" here because, as Andres Xiloj pointed
act of seducing an innocent person may be expressed in the phrase
xuporo rakan, "He (or she) burned her (or his) legs." He suggested
that a contemporary prayer for safety in the road might include the
Do not let us fall into the hands
of this person, this neighbor,
who has a pistol, who has a dagger,
who has a knife, who has a revolver;
keep away the legs and arms
of people at the corners, on the streets.
Contemporary prayers also include numerous passages with lists of
negative requests; here is an example from a prayer by Esteban
Ajxub, a professional ahbix or "singer":
May there be no pain,
may there be no trouble,
may there be no jail,
may there be no prison,
may there be no weakness,
may there be no feebleness,
may there be no stiffness,
may there be no lies and gossip.
*(509) "secrets or sorcery of thine": This is acuil auitzmal,
which a- is your (singular familiar)." Andres Xiloj read cuil as
4uyil, "hidden"; itzmal is translated on the basis of itzim,
(X.). Don Andres commented, "God gives all the good and all the
*(510) "before thy mouth and thy face": Placement "before"
"face" is the commonest Quiche way of saying something like
"in" someone's "presence"; sometimes this is elaborated,
as here, by
adding "mouth" to "face," in which, if "face"
is a metonym for the
whole front of the body, "mouth" is a metonym for the whole
the present context "mouth" has an additional connotation,
that it refers in part to Heart of Earth, the deity called Mundo
today. This is the great Mesoamerican earth deity, the ultimate
swallower of all living things, depicted in classic Maya art (in the
Palenque relief panels, for example) as an enormous pair of jaws
upon whose lips even the feet of great lords must rest in precarious
balance, and into whose throat even great lords must fall. Turning
to the contemporary scene, daykeepers who visit the cave beneath the
ruins of Rotten Cane, the last Quiche capital, speak of the danger
of falling into "the open mouth of the Mundo" there, which
to be more than four yards wide.
*(511) carrying the tribes and all the Quiche people on their
shoulders: This is re3alaxic [rekalaxic] amac [ama3] ru4 ronohel
queche uinac [uinak], "its-being-carried (on the shoulders) tribe,
with all-of Quiche people."
*(512) they became lords: The verb stem here is ahauaric, "to make
oneself a lord" (B.).
*(513) gathered in gifts: This is xquicac cochih, in which xqui-
is "complete-they"; the rest is translated on the basis of
gather" (E.), and cochih, "to receive a gift." (B.).
*(514) food and drink: This is uain ucaha, translated on the basis
of the reading offered by Andres Xiloj, who uses the phrase uaim
o4aha, "food, drink," in his own prayers.
*(515) falsify: This is tzuba, translated on the basis of tzubu,
*(516) drops ... that measured the width of four fingers or a full
fist across: "Drops" is my translation of racan [rakan], literally
"its leg" but also a term for the large drops of rain that
end a thunderstorm (see Hurricane in the Glossary). The measurements
are cahcab [cah3ab], translated on the basis of cah3a, "measured
with the four fingers together" (under 3a in V.), and tuic, translated
on the basis of tuuic, "measurement of the fist with the thumb
*(517) green and red featherwork: This is raxon cubulchactic. Raxon,
literally "greened," is a synonym for 3u3, "quetzal feather."
Cubulchactic is a "thing made of feathers" (G.) or a "garland"
B. lists chactic as "a species of red bird."
*(518) rise and growth: The MS. has unimaric ri unimaric puch, in
which the second unimaric is probably an error for uuinakiric,
giving "its-big-becoming its-growth and."
*(519) two by two: In the list of Cauec lords that follows, the
pairing of lords will not actually begin until the fourth generation.
*(520) succeeds: This is camiheic, which Ximenez translates this
way; B. has 4amibeh, "continue" (listed after camibeh).
*(521) the faces ... of each of the Quiche lords: Again, it would
seem that something is missing here; perhaps the MS. Ximenez copied
had name glyphs for the lords in the list that follows this statement.
*(522) Great Reception House: The MS. repeats this title after
Mother of the Reception House and leaves out Great Lolmet Yeoltux, the
final name on an earlier list of titles belonging to the Greathouses.
*(523) great in being few: This is nim zcaquin u4oheic, "great
(or little bit) its-being-there."
*(524) the original book and ancient writing: This is simply nabe
oher, "original (or first) ancient" in the MS., abbreviated
phrase near the opening of the P.V., nabe uuhil, oher tzibam
[4,ibam] puch, translated as "the original book and ancient
writing." I have repeated the full phrase here to make the echo
opening more obvious. In general the closing paragraph is rather
terse, as if the hand that wrote it were running downhill toward the
ABOVE THE HOT SPRINGS Chuui miquina [mi3inaa], "above (or on top
of) hot water." The town known today as San Miguel Totonicapan,
capital of the Department of Totonicapan, formerly located on one of
the hilltops above the present site. Once a citadel of the White
Earths (Mam Mayas), conquered by the Quiche lords during the reign
of Quicab. Today the inhabitants speak Quiche.
ABOVE THE NETTLES Chuui la, "above (or on top of) the nettles."
town more widely known today as Chichicastenango, a Nahua name meaning
"Nettles Citadel." Formerly a Cakchiquel citadel, conquered
Quiche lords during the reign of Quicab. Today the inhabitants speak
ACUL PEOPLE Acul uinac [uinak], in which uinak is "people."
people belonging to a group of thirteen allied tribes the Quiches
regarded as having come (like themselves) from the east.
ANCIENT WORD Oher tzih, also translatable as "Prior Word."
word, whether in the narrow sense of a single word or in the broad
sense of an extended discourse, that carries the authority of
tradition rather than being mere hearsay. At the beginning the writers
of the P.V. claim this authority for their entire work, though they
occasionally assign their later statements to hearsay.
ANONAS Cauex [3auex]. A tropical fruit (Anona spp.), sometimes
called "cherimoya" or "custard apple" in English.
green outside and creamy inside, segmented, and incredibly sweet.
ARMADILLO Yboy. The name of a dance done by Hunahpu and Xbalanque
in their guise as vagabonds.
ARMADILLO DUNG Achac [achak] iboy, "dung armadillo." Crier
People for the Lord Quiches when Quicab was Keeper of the Mat;
possibly a nickname for one of the Lord Quiche lords listed in Part
Five of the present translation.
ARM GUARD Pachcab [pa4h3ab], composed of pa4h, "tighten, fasten"
(X.), and 3ab, "arm." Part of the equipment necessary for
game played in the P.V. (see gaming equipment). The players of the
pre-Columbian ball game are usually depicted with a wrapping on the
lower arm (often the right arm only).
ATOLE A ixim, "water corn-kernel," is the Quiche term for
corn-gruel drink more widely known in Mesoamerica by its Nahua name,
AUILIX Often aulix in the MS. Patron deity of the Greathouse
lineage, given to Jaguar Night at Tulan Zuyua and eventually placed
Concealment Canyon, "the great canyon in the forest", in a
that came to be named Pauilix, literally "At Auilix"; the
Greathouses were there when the dawn first came. Auilix was also the
name of the temple that housed the god Auilix in the citadel of Rotten
Cane, at the east side of the main plaza. It consisted of a pyramid
with a single stairway (on the west side) and topped by a single
thatch-roofed room with its door facing west across the plaza,
toward the temple that housed the god Tohil; at present its ruins
are the site of an active shrine. And finally, Auilix or Lord Auilix
was the title of the priest of the god Auilix; he was seventh in
rank among the lords of the Greathouses and headed one of the nine
great houses into which their lineage was divided after the founding
of Rotten Cane.
BALL COURT Hom. The I-shaped courtyard in which the Mesoamerican
ball game was played. The playing field was paved with stone and
bounded by stone walls; the side walls of the narrow part
(connecting the two ends of the I) sloped upward in opposite
directions from the playing surface, resembling grandstands in
appearance but in fact constituting part of the area where the ball
was in play. The ball court at Rotten Cane (see Councilor of the
Ball Court) ran east-west, but many Mesoamerican ball courts ran
north-south. Today hom is the Quiche term for "graveyard,"
suggests the deadly nature of the game described in the P.V., at least
when it is played in the underworld court of the lords of Xibalba (see
also Place of Ball Game Sacrifice). It should be noted that the
playing fields of the ball courts in Mesoamerican archaeological sites
typically lie on a lower plane than that of the nearby plazas or
BARK HOUSE See Thorny Place.
BAT HOUSE Zotzi [zo4,i] ha. One of the tests of Xibalba, fourth
or sixth in the sequence of tests. If the test of fire that comes
fifth in the later list is discounted as a redundant elaboration based
on the eventual immolation of Hunahpu and Xbalanque (which does not
take place in a house), then Bat House would come fifth in the later
sequence and both sequences would total five houses. These houses
may correspond to the five different kinds of complete Venus cycles
plotted out in the Maya calendar; each cycle includes a ninety-day
period during which Venus has disappeared as the morning star and
has not yet reappeared as the evening star. Bat House is also the name
of a lordly Cakchiquel lineage whose founders steal fire from the
Quiches rather than pledge themselves as sacrifice victims.
BEARDED PLACE Chi izmachi, "at bearded." Citadel of the Quiche
lords after they left Thorny Place and before they built Rotten
Cane, founded by Jaguar Conache. When the Cauecs, Greathouses, and
Lord Quiches left for Rotten Cane, Bearded Place was left to the Tams.
The ruins are located one kilometer south of Rotten Cane, separated
from the latter by a canyon.
BEARER, BEGETTER Alom 4aholom, "one who bears children, one who
begets sons," sometimes pluralized (e alom, e 4aholom). Names or
epithets for the gods who make the earth, plants, animals, and humans.
The bearing and begetting is metaphorical, since these gods do their
work by means of words, genius, and sacrifice rather than through
procreation. The same gods are also called Maker, Modeler, and they
include Sovereign Plumed Serpent.
BEFORE THE BUILDING Chuua tzac [4,ak], "in-front-of building (of
earth or stone)." The town more widely known today as Momostenango,
a Nahua name meaning "Citadel of Shrines," formerly located
kilometers northwest of its present site. Conquered by the Quiche
lords during the reign of Quicab.
BIRD HOUSE Tziquina [4,iquina] ha. The palace, at Rotten Cane, of
the Keeper of the Reception House Mat, second in rank among all the
Quiche lords. Not to be confused with the ah4,iquina ha, "those
Bird House," a people known today as the Tzutuhil. They speak a
language of the Quichean family and are located south and west of Lake
Atitlan. They belong to a group of thirteen allied tribes the
Quiches regarded as having come (like themselves) from the east.
BLACK ROAD Quecabe [3ekabe]. One of four cosmic roads (see
Crossroads and Road of Xibalba).
"BLAME IS OURS, THE" Camacu [kamacu], "our blame or wrong."
song sung by Jaguar Quitze, Jaguar Night, Mahucutah, and True
Jaguar, in which they lamented being separated from the other
peoples who were together at Tulan Zuyua before the first dawn. They
especially lamented leaving the Yaqui people behind, presumably
Nahua speakers of the Gulf coast.
BLOOD GATHERER Cuchuma quic [qui4], "gathering (or uniting) blood."
Fourth-ranking lord of Xibalba; by this same name he figures in
present-day Quiche tales, in which he heads the banquet table where
the other lords of Xibalba bring together all human blood that has
been lost by violence or illness since their previous banquet.
BLOOD RIVER Quia or quiquia [qui4 yaa], "blood water." A river
crosses the road to Xibalba (the underworld). This name, along with
Pus River, might have been an actual toponym, referring to a large,
muddy river of the kind that originates in the Guatemalan highlands
and flows into the northern lowlands. For today's Quiche the region
that drops off toward the Atlantic in the vicinity of Coban is still
an abode of evil.
BLOOD WOMAN Xquic [xqui4], composed of x-, archaic in Quiche but
"she of" or "small" in Cholan (K.), and qui4, "blood";
by way of sound
play the name also suggests i4, "moon." Daughter of Blood
one of the lords of Xibalba, and mother of Hunahpu and Xbalanque.
She is probably the moon but perhaps not the full moon (see
BLOODY TEETH, BLOODY CLAWS Quic [qui4] re, quic rixcac [rix4ak],
"blood his teeth, blood his claws." These two lords of Xibalba
omitted from earlier lists but appear as the eleventh- and
twelfth-ranking lords in later lists. The situation is just the
opposite for Trash Master and Stab Master, who appear only in the
earlier lists and may be these same two lords under different names.
BONE FLUTE, BIRD WHISTLE Zubac [zubak], in which zu is "flute"
and bak is "bone," and chamcham, possibly a reduplicated form
derived from 4hanin, referring to the trilling and warbling of birds
(V.). Among the emblems of lordship given out by Nacxit.
BONE SCEPTER, SKULL SCEPTER 4hamia bac [bak], 4hamia holom,
"staff bone, staff skull (or head)." Seventh- and eighth-ranking
BRACELET OF RATTLING SNAIL SHELLS Macutax tot tatam, in which
macutax is probably from Nahua mahcuetlax, "bracelet" (C.);
"snail"; and tatam may be related to totaanic, "shake"
(X.). One of
the emblems of lordship given out by Nacxit.
BROKEN PLACE, BITTER WATER PLACE Pan paxil, pan cayala [cayalaa],
in which pan is an archaic or non-Quiche form of pa, "at"
paxil probably has the same root as paxinic, "to break" (used
pottery); and cayal may be like modern 4ayil, "bitter," combined
with -aa for "water." A mountain or citadel where the Makers
Modelers got the corn and water needed to make the bodies of the first
true humans; its interior was filled not only with corn but with a
variety of tropical fruits. The name Broken Place suggests the Nahua
myth in which a mountain containing the corn needed for human flesh
was split open by a thunderbolt.
BROMELIAS Ec [e4]. Tillandsia spp., air plants abounding in the
trees of highland Guatemala, except in arid regions. In some species
the flowers have pointed petals and grow at the ends of stiff stalks
that jut out from the rest of the plant; hence their use by Hunahpu
and Xbalanque in constructing the arms and claws of an artificial
crab. Today, bromelias and Spanish moss are among the principal
materials used in constructing outdoor arbors for saints.
BUNDLE OF FLAMES Pizom 3a3al, "wrapped fieriness or heat."
relic left to the Quiche lords by Jaguar Quitze. Like the sacred
bundles of the North American Indians, a sort of cloth-wrapped ark
with mysterious contents.
CACAO Caco. Theobroma cacao, a higher grade of cacao than
pataxte. The seeds of cacao, which is native to the New World, were
and are used by Mesoamerican Indians to make cocoa and chocolate.
CAKCHIQUELS 3a3chequeleb or ca3chiqueleb, in which che is from
chee, "tree"; the first syllable would be "fire"
(3a3), judging by the
spelling in the P.V., but in the etymology offered by the Annals of
the Cakchiquels it is cak, "red." This is the name (still
today) of a people who border the Quiches on the south and east;
they speak a language of the Quichean family. They belong to a group
of thirteen allied tribes the Quiches regarded as having come (like
themselves) from the east. One of the Cakchiquel citadels, Above the
Nettles, was conquered by the Quiche lords during the reign of Quicab.
CALABASH TREE Zima [tzimah]; tzimah is Cholan for "gourd"
in Quiche this is a term for a lowland tree with fruit resembling
gourds (Crescentia cujete). It did not bear fruit until the head of
One Hunahpu was placed in a fork of its branches. According to
Andres Xiloj, the "gourds" of this tree are indeed the size
of a human
head; they have a woody or bonelike rind and are halved to make bowls.
CALM SNAKE Chamalcan, in which chamal may be derived from chaman,
"calm" (V.), and can is Yucatec for "snake." That
the writers of the
P.V. were aware of the meaning of can is hinted at by the fact that
they comment, after mentioning the name chamalcan, "but it looks
like a bat." The name of the god of the Bat House lineage of the
CANOPY, THRONE Muh, "canopy" (literally "shade"),
"presiding chair" (G.). Among the emblems of lordship given
Nacxit. The Keeper of the Mat was entitled to have four canopies
over him, the Keeper of the Reception House Mat three, the Lord
Minister two, and the Crier to the People one.
CAOQUES Caoqueb, an untranslatable proper name with a plural suffix
(-b). A tribe whose citadels once included Plaster House, which was
among the places conquered by the Quiche lords during the reign of
Quicab. Possibly the Caoques are the ancestors of the people who speak
the Quichean language called Uspantec today and whose present
territory begins only ten kilometers north of Plaster House.
CAUATEPECH A Nahua name of uncertain translation. Keeper of the
Reception House Mat in the eleventh generation of Cauec lords.
CAUECS Cauiquib [cauikib], singular cauec [cauek]. First-ranking
Quiche lineage, founded by Jaguar Quitze and divided into nine
segments or great houses after the founding of Rotten Cane.
CAUINAL See Thorny Place.
CAUIZIMAH Keeper of the Reception House Mat in the seventh
generation of Cauec lords.
CAUIZTAN COPAL Cauiztan pom, in which pom is "copal incense"
the rest is a Nahua name of uncertain translation. The kind of copal
used by Jaguar Night to incense the direction of the rising sun.
CAVE BY THE WATER Pecul ya; V. gives rupecul as "cave at the edge
of a river or lake," and ya is "water." One of the volcanoes
Zipacna. It may be the Volcan de Agua, eleven kilometers south of
Antigua Guatemala, which once had a lake at its summit.
CELEBRATED SEAHOUSE Caha [3aha] paluna, from 3ahar, "be famous";
palu, an archaic or non-Quiche form of plo or palo, "sea";
Yucatec for "house." One of the first four human females;
CHANNEL CATFISH Uinac [uinak] car, "person fish," identified
G. as the bagre or channel catfish. One of the forms assumed by
Hunahpu and Xbalanque. Catfish barbels are shown coming out of the
cheeks of the classic Maya equivalent of Hunahpu.
CHIMALMAT A Nahua-derived name in which chimal is from chimalli,
"shield." The word chimalli also entered Yucatec; M. gives
"shield" and chimal ek ("shield stars") as "the
guards of the north
(Ursa Minor)," but the constellation in question might well have
included Draco (to form the border of the shield). Chimalmat is the
wife of Seven Macaw and the mother of Zipacna and Earthquake. Her
astronomical identification fits with Seven Macaw's (he is the Big
CHULIMAL A place three kilometers north of Chichicastenango,
occupied by vassals of the Quiche lords during the reign of Quicab.
CHURNING SPIKES, RIVER OF Halha ha [haa] zimah; B. has halha ha
as "waters that join and revolve"; zimah is "sharpened
things." One of the rivers that crosses the road to Xibalba (the
CITADEL Tinamit, from Nahua tenamitl, "enclosure, or wall of a
city" (D.). A town in a defensible position, whether on top of
hill or mountain or between two canyons; any points of easy access
were walled or stockaded. Under Spanish rule most such towns were
relocated to weaker sites as a matter of colonial military policy;
today tinamit (or tinimit) is the general Quiche term for "town,"
regardless of location.
CO- 4o- or co- in the MS., probably related to the co- in two forms
given in B.: cobic, "to have an epithet," and cobizah, "to
Co- begins the names of a large number of Quiche lords (see below),
especially the earlier ones, and probably has an honorific effect.
COACUL First-ranking lord in the second generation of Greathouse
COACUTEC Second-ranking lord in the second generation of Greathouse
lords. He represented the Greathouses on the pilgrimage to the lord
COAHAU Co-, an honorific prefix, with ahau, "lord." First-ranking
lord in the second generation of Lord Quiche lords. He represented the
Lord Quiches on the pilgrimage to the lord Nacxit.
COATI Tziz. Nasua narica, an omnivorous, tree-dwelling,
raccoon-like mammal with a long, flexible nose and a long, erect tail,
ranging from southern Arizona to South America; confined to the
lowlands in Guatemala.
COCAIB Co-, an honorific prefix, with caib, "two." First-ranking
lord in the second generation of Cauec lords. He represented the
Cauecs on the pilgrimage to the lord Nacxit. According to the Title
the Lords of Totonicapan, his generation was already the fourth one
(starting with Jaguar Quitze) rather than the second.
COCAMEL Crier to the People for the Lords in the seventh generation
of Lord Quiche lords.
COCAUIB Second-ranking lord in the second generation of Cauec lords
and brother of Cocaib. According to the Title of the Lords of
Totonicapan, the generation of these brothers was already the fourth
one (starting with Jaguar Quitze) rather than the second. While Cocaib
was on the pilgrimage to the Lord Nacxit, Cocauib fathered a child,
Jaguar Conache, with Cocaib's wife. On his return, Cocaib nevertheless
recognized Jaguar Conache as his own legitimate successor in the
first-ranking Cauec lordship.
COCHAHUH First-ranking lord in the third generation of Greathouse
COCHINEAL See croton.
COCOZOM Crier to the People for the Lords in the fourth
generation of Lord Quiche lords.
COHAH A people belonging to a group of thirteen allied tribes the
Quiches regarded as having come (like themselves) from the east.
COLD HOUSE Teuh ha. One of the tests of Xibalba, also called
Rattling House; it is second or third in the sequence of test
houses. These houses may correspond to the periods when Venus is
invisible between its appearances as morning and evening star (see Bat
COMAHCUN Crier to the People for the Lords in the fifth
generation of Lord Quiche lords.
CONACHE See Jaguar Conache.
CONCEALMENT CANYON Euabal ziuan, "hiding place (or place of putting
into shadow) canyon." A great canyon in a forest; location of Pauilix,
where Jaguar Night placed the god Auilix. After Jaguar Quitze had
placed the god Tohil on a mountain in this same vicinity,
Concealment Canyon received the epithet Tohil Medicine.
COPAL Pom, from proto-Mixe-Zoque (C.). The Quiche term for a type
of incense widely used in Mesoamerica to this day, better known as
copal (from Nahua copalli). The basic ingredient is the resin from the
bark of the palo jiote tree (Hymenaea verrucosa).
CORAL TREE, CORAL SEEDS Tzite [4,ite]. A tree known in Spanish as
palo pito (Erythrina corallodenron), or its hard, red, beanlike seeds.
The seeds are used by Xpiyacoc and Xmucane in performing calendrical
divination for the gods who seek the proper materials for the human
body; the wood of the tree is then used in making an experimental male
CORNTASSEL HOUSE Tzutuha [4,utuha], composed of 4,utuh, "tassel
of the maize plant," and ha, "house." Temple of the patron
the Zaquic lineage, who was probably called 4,utuh, at Rotten Cane
or perhaps at a site now known as El Resguardo, one kilometer to the
east. Lord Corntassel House was the title of the first-ranking lord
the Zaquic lineage, who headed one of the two great houses into
which that lineage was divided; he must have been the priest of the
CORTES, DON JUAN Lord Keeper of the Reception House Mat in the
fourteenth generation of Cauec lords, alive when the P.V. was written.
His title was recognized by the Spanish, but he was unsuccessful in
his attempt to restore the full powers of the Cauec lords to don
Juan de Rojas (Keeper of the Mat) and himself, an effort that took him
all the way to Spain.
COTUHA Co-, an honorific prefix, probably with tuh, "sweatbath,"
and ha, "house." Keeper of the Mat in the fourth generation
lords. There were two plots against his life, in the second of which
he was ambushed at his sweatbath, according to the Title of the
Lords of Totonicapan; the latter source does not make it clear whether
this second plot succeeded, but the P.V. implies that it did. A second
Cotuha was Keeper of the Reception House Mat in the fifth generation
of Cauec lords, helping Plumed Serpent to found Rotten Cane. Still
other Cotuhas served as Lord Minister in the fifth, eighth, and
eleventh generations of Greathouse lords.
COTZIBAHA Co-, an honorific prefix, probably with 4,iba, "write,
paint," and ha, "house." Second-ranking lord in the third
of Greathouse lords.
COUNCIL BOOK Popo uuh or popol uuh, in which pop is "mat,"
has the effect of "-ness," and uuh (or vuh) is "paper"
or "book." In
classical Quiche, popol occurs in many phrases in which it has the
effect of "public" or "in common"; popoh, a verb
built on the same
root, was "to hold a council" (V.), and the pronouncements
council were popol tzih, in which tzih is "word." Popol, literally
"matness," would be a metonymic reference to a council, referring
the mat on which a council sat; at the very same time it could be a
metaphor for the way councils were structured, weaving diverse
interests together. Alternative readings of popol uuh would be "Common
Book" or "Council Paper."
COUNCILOR OF THE BALL COURT Popol uinac [uinak] pahom tzalatz,
"council person in-courtyard long-and-narrow"; the second
title is mentioned the name Xcuxeba is added (untranslatable). Title
of the lord who was eighth in rank among the Cauecs and head of one
the nine great houses into which their lineage was divided after the
founding of Rotten Cane. The ball court at Rotten Cane ran east-west
and was located immediately south of the Great Monument of Tohil, with
its east end forming part of the west side of the main plaza. The
north wall of the ruins of the ball court is at present the site of
COUNCILOR OF THE STORES Popol uinac [uinak] chituy, "council person
at-stack"; in B., tuyuba is "put one thing on top of another."
of the lord who was sixth in rank among the Cauecs and head of one
of the nine great houses into which their lineage was divided after
the founding of Rotten Cane.
COYABACOH Crier to the People for the Lords in the eighth
generation of Lord Quiche lords.
CRIER TO THE PEOPLE Ahtzic uinac [ahtzi4 uinak], "person who [or
person whose occupation is] calling out to people"; G. gives ahzi4
as "crier" (in the sense of "town crier"), and tzi4
could be an
archaic form of zi4, "to call out." Crier to the People or
the People for the Lords was the title of the lord who ranked first
among the Lord Quiches and headed one of the four great houses into
which their lineage was divided after the founding of Rotten Cane.
He ranked fourth among the four lords who jointly ruled the Quiche
state from Rotten Cane, with the Keeper of the Mat, Keeper of the
Reception House Mat, and the Lord Minister above him. A title with a
slightly different wording, Lord Crier to the People, pertained to the
lord who ranked second among the Greathouses and headed one of the
nine great houses of that lineage.
CRISTOBAL, DON Lord Minister in the twelfth generation of
Greathouse lords, still in office by September of 1554.
CROSSROADS Cahib xalcat be, "four junction roads"; xalcat
any joining or forking of roads, and cahib makes this junction a
"crossroads." There are two lists of the names of the four
that lead away from this junction. The earlier list has Red, Black,
White, and Yellow roads; it seems consonant (in terms of both sequence
and colors) with the lowland Maya color-directional scheme, in which
red is east, black west, white north, and yellow south. The later list
has Black, White, Red, and Green roads; this may be a separate
scheme for which the Milky Way (rather than the sun's path) is the
key. In the P.V. the Black Road is also the Road of Xibalba, which
corresponds to the cleft in the Milky Way. Whenever the cleft is
visible, the opposite end of the Milky Way is undivided where it
intersects the horizon; the undivided part is called White Road (see
below), which could explain why Black and White (rather than Red and
Black) are paired in the later list of roads. Since characters
corresponding to Venus (One and Seven Hunahpu and later Hunahpu and
Xbalanque) travel a path that intersects the Black Road, the
Crossroads would seem to be the point at which the cleft is crossed
the zodiac. Note that both the Milky Way and the zodiac shift
positions with respect to the horizon; we are not dealing so much with
a system of cardinal points fixed to the terrestrial plain as with a
complex system of navigation.
CROTON 3a3che [cakchee] or chuh 3a3che, "red tree" or "cochineal
red tree." A croton called sangre de dragon in Spanish (Croton
sanguifluus). Cochineal is a red dye made from scale insects that feed
on the prickly pear cactus; in the present context the Quiche word for
this dye is used simply as a color term. When the "cochineal red
is cut open, the sap that flows looks like blood and dries in scabrous
nodules. A large nodule of this sap is passed off as the heart of
Blood Woman by the messengers of Xibalba, and the burning of such
nodules is established as an appropriate offering to the lords of
CRUNCHING JAGUAR Cotzbalam [co4,balam], composed of co4,ih, "grind"
(V.), and balam, "jaguar." One of the monsters who ends the
era of the
CULBA See Thorny Place.
CUT ROCK Xay (or xoy) abah, possibly composed of choy, "cut,"
abah, "rock." The town known today as Joyabaj, occupied by
of the Quiche lords during the reign of Quicab.
CUTTING ANTS, CONQUERING ANTS Chai zanic, chequen [4hequen]
zanic; chai refers to cutting instruments made of stone. Ants summoned
by Hunahpu and Xbalanque to help them cut the flowers of Xibalba;
possibly two names for the same species. V. lists he chay as ants that
go in swarms; Andres Xiloj identified 4hequen zanic as very large
leaf-cutting ants seen only in the lowlands, called zampopo in
DARK HOUSE Que3uma [3ekuma] ha. One of the tests of Xibalba,
first in the sequence of test houses. These houses may correspond to
the periods when Venus is invisible between its appearances as morning
and evening star (see Bat House).
"DAWN OF LIFE, THE" Zac [zak] 4azlem, "light (or dawn)
epithet for the P.V., referring to the period after the first light
dawn and of the sun itself, as contrasted with the previous period,
which is referred to by the epithet, "Our Place in the Shadows."
alternative reading of the present epithet would be "The Life in
DAYBRINGER Icoquih [iko3ih in both T. and V.], composed of iko- (or
eko-), "to carry a burden," and 3ih, "sun" or "day."
The morning star.
DAYKEEPER Ahquih [ah3ih], "keeper (or person of) day (or sun),"
referring to diviners who count the days of the 260-day calendar using
coral seeds (see above). The daykeepers in the P.V. are the husband
and wife Xpiyacoc and Xmucane.
DEER DANCE PLAZA Xahba quieh, "dance-place deer." A place
kilometers northwest of Chichicastenango, occupied by vassals of the
Quiche lords during the reign of Quicab.
DRY PLACE See Thorny Place.
EARTHQUAKE Cabracan [cabrakan], "earthquake" in both classical
and modern Quiche. This name has been etymologized as cab-, "two,"
-r-, "his," and -akan, "leg," but "two"
is caib in classical Quiche
and Cakchiquel and takes the form cabi- as a prefix. The Cakchiquel
equivalent of this name, cabarakan, makes it even harder to read "two"
and instead suggests caba, "pile up a quantity of earth" (V.).
case -rakan, which can mean not only "leg" but "trunk"
suggests that the body of cabarakan provides the pillar (or pillars)
that hold up the earth, and that earthquakes are caused by his
movements. Earthquake is the second son of Seven Macaw and the younger
brother of Zipacna. He gives his name to a place nine kilometers
southeast of Rotten Cane, occupied by vassals of the Quiche lords
during the reign of Quicab.
EIGHT CORDS Uahxaqui caam [uahxaquib 4aam]. Keeper of the Mat in
the tenth generation of Cauec lords.
EIGHTEEN Uaxalahuh. A place of unknown location, occupied by
vassals of the Quiche lords during the reign of Quicab.
EMBLEMS OF LORDSHIP Uuachinel rahauarem, "its-face-agentive
his-lord-inchoative-substantive." The symbols of Toltecan lordship
given by Nacxit to Cocaib, Coacutec, and Coahau, listed as bone flute,
bird whistle; bracelet of rattling snail shells; canopy, throne; gourd
of tobacco; head and hoof of deer; nosepiece; paint of powdered yellow
stone; parrot feathers, heron feathers; and puma's paw, jaguar's paw
(see also under each of these headings).
FALCON Uoc, a bird that probably resembles the laughing falcon
(uac) listed elsewhere. A divine name paired with Hunahpu in a prayer.
Uoc is also the term used for the bird that serves as a messenger
for Heart of Sky, flying over One and Seven Hunahpu, as well as One
Monkey and One Artisan, while they play ball, (translated as
"falcon"); uac is the term for the bird that later brings
a message to
Hunahpu and Xbalanque at the same ball court. The two falcons may be
the planets Jupiter and Saturn; given that the uoc seems to be given
greater importance, he may be Jupiter, which is brighter than Saturn.
FIRE MOUTH Chicac [chi3a3], "mouth fire." One of the volcanoes
by Zipacna. Generally thought to be the Volcan de Fuego, nineteen
kilometers southwest of Antigua Guatemala.
FISHKEEPERS Chah [4hah] car, "guard fish." A people, also
as Sovereign Oloman, who stayed in the east when the Quiche
ancestors left, but who later participated in a plot against them
while they were settled in the citadel of Hacauitz.
FOUR HUNDRED BOYS Omuch [omu4h] 4aholab, "four-hundred boys (or
sons of a male)." The boys who attempt to kill Zipacna but are
killed by him instead, eventually becoming the Pleiades (see
Hundrath). They die while in a drunken stupor, just as the four
hundred rabbits of Nahua mythology do, and like those rabbits they
were probably the patron deities of an alcoholic beverage (see sweet
drink) and of drunkenness.
GAMING EQUIPMENT Etzabal [e4,abal], "play-instrument." The
used by One and Seven Hunahpu and by their sons, Hunahpu and
Xbalanque, in the Quiche version of the Mesoamerican ball game. The
items mentioned in the P.V. include a kilt, yoke, arm guard,
panache, headband, and rubber ball (see also under each of these
GENEROUS WOMAN, HARVEST WOMAN, CACAO WOMAN, CORNMEAL WOMAN Xtoh,
xcanil [x3anil], xcacau, ix pu tziya, in which the x- or ix is archaic
in Quiche but "she of" or "small" in Cholan (K.);
toh may be related
(given the horticultural nature of the accompanying names) to
tohohohenic, "to give in abundance" (X.); 3anil is "yellow"
"harvest"; cacau is "cacao"; and tziya is "corn
these are all names or epithets for the single goddess who guards
the crops of One Monkey and One Artisan.
GENIUS Naual. From a Nahua term (usually written nagual)
referring to the animal alter ego of a person. In Quiche usage naual
is much broader, referring to the spiritual essence or character of
a person, animal, plant, stone, or geographical place; this
corresponds to English "genius" in its older sense as "spirit
familiar." In the P.V. naual is sometimes paired with puz, a word
Mixe-Zoque and possibly Olmec origins (C.) that refers to the
cutting open of flesh with a knife and is the primary term for the act
of heart sacrifice. When used together, puz and naual are metonyms for
shamanic power, referring to the ability to make genius or spiritual
essence visible or audible by means of ritual.
GODLY COPAL Cabauil [4abauil] pom, "god copal." The kind of
incense used by Mahucutah to incense the direction of the rising sun.
GOUGER OF FACES Cotcouach [4ot4ouach], composed of 4ot4o, a
reduplicated form of 4oto, "to carve out," and uach, "face."
the monsters that ends the era of the wooden people. Andres Xiloj gave
the modern name as 4ot quiuach, "gouges out their faces,"
identified it as a kind of animal, commenting that "they still
exist, but I don't know whether in the sky or the forest. They stay
the darkness, and when the sun doesn't shine they come out." In
P.V. the Gouger of Faces accompanies a great, dark rainstorm.
GOURD OF TOBACCO 4uz buz, from Yucatec cuz or cutz, "tobacco,"
and bux, referring to a small gourd used for keeping tobacco (R.). One
of the emblems of lordship given out by Nacxit.
GRANARY Cuha, "granary for maize." The palace, at Rotten Cane,
the Keeper of the Mat, first in rank among all the Quiche lords.
GRANDMOTHER OF DAY, GRANDMOTHER OF LIGHT Ratit quih [3ih], ratit
zac [zak], "its-grandmother day (or sun), its-grandmother light."
Epithets for Xpiyacoc and Xmucane, despite the fact that Xpiyacoc is
described in other contexts as a grandfather (mama). Andres Xiloj
explained that a grandmother of "day" and "light"
would be a
grandmother from the beginning of light "until the end of the
world," that is, for as long as light lasts. In this context, then,
"day" and "light" are a dyadic and less direct way
of referring to
what Indo-European languages reduce to the unitary concept of "time."
GREAT ABYSS AT CARCHAH Nim xob carchah or nim xol. If these two
forms both referred to the same place, and if xob were correct, then
the translation of nim xob would be "great respect (or shame)."
xol were correct, then the translation would be something like
"great insertion"; xolobachan is given as "abyss"
by B. Finally,
carchah suggests the town called San Pedro Carcha, located eight
kilometers east of Coban on a river that descends rapidly into a
canyon and thence to the lowlands. Nim xob carchah is the ball court
where One and Seven Hunahpu played (followed later by Hunahpu and
Xbalanque) before they were summoned by the lords of Xibalba. The
route from this ball court to Xibalba is described as descending
very steeply; perhaps it was poised at the edge of the "great
abyss." Nim xol (translated "Great Abyss" in Part Four
present translation) refers to a place located somewhere between
Staggering and Place of Advice on the Quiche route of migration.
Note that San Pedro Carcha is located far to the east of the area
presently inhabited by the Quiches- that is, in the direction from
which the P.V. says the Quiches came- and that One and Seven Hunahpu
are responsible for the morning star, which appears and disappears
in the east.
GREAT HOUSE Nim ha. A term for a formally organized and named
lineage segment (within a larger patrilineage) with a person of lordly
rank at its head, and for the palace that served as headquarters for
that segment (see also lineage).
GREATHOUSES Nihaib, composed of ni- from nima, "great"; ha
hai, "house"; and -ib or -b, plural. Second-ranking Quiche
founded by Jaguar Night and divided into nine segments or great houses
after the founding of Rotten Cane.
GREAT LOLMET YEOLTUX See Lolmet.
GREAT MONUMENT OF TOHIL Nima tzac [4,ak] tohil, literally "great
building [specifically of stone or earth] Tohil." The temple that
housed the god Tohil in the citadel of Rotten Cane, on the west side
of the main plaza. It consisted of a pyramid with stairways on three
sides (all but the west) and topped by a single thatch-roofed room
with its door facing east across the plaza, toward the temple of
Auilix; at present its ruins are the site of an active shrine. It is
not clear whether the Great Monument of Tohil housed the original
Tohil stone brought from Tulan Zuyua by Jaguar Quitze or whether
that stone was left on the mountain of Patohil (see Tohil) and was
represented by some secondary object in Rotten Cane. In today's ritual
practice, one can use a shrine close at hand to summon up a deity
whose proper residence is another and quite distant shrine. The
diviners of El Palmar, a community whose inhabitants emigrated from
Momostenango, have named their local shrines after those of their
parent town but address the shrines of Momostenango itself from a
distance; they try to make a pilgrimage to the parent shrines once
each 260 days. In a like manner, the priest of Tohil at Rotten Cane
might have addressed the mountain named Patohil while he was
actually on the pyramid of Tohil, making periodic pilgrimages to the
GREAT RECEPTION HOUSE Nima camha [4amha], "great receive-house."
Title of the lord who was fourth in rank among the Greathouses and
head of one of the nine great houses into which their lineage was
divided after the founding of Rotten Cane.
GREAT TOASTMASTER Nim chocoh, "great convener of banquets."
gives choc- as "invite to a banquet"; G. and V. give chocola
meaning, with V. specifying a banquet in which a drink prepared from
cacao was consumed. Each of the three ruling Quiche lineages had a
lord with this title, and each one of these lords was the head of
one of the great houses of his respective lineage. The Great
Toastmaster ranked third among the Cauec lords, sixth among the
Greathouses, and third among the Lord Quiches; these three Great
Toastmasters came together for meetings. They are described as being
like fathers and like "givers of birth" to the other lords,
being Mothers of the Word, Fathers of the Word (see below); they may
be the authors of the Popol Vuh. During the reign of Quicab the
title of Great Toastmaster was bestowed upon the heads of eleven
GREAT WHITE PECCARY, GREAT WHITE TAPIR Zaqui [zaki] nim ac [ak],
zaqui nima tziz, "white great peccary, white great tapir (or
coati)"; in abbreviated form, "Great White Peccary, Tapir"
Peccary, Great Tapir." These are epithets for Xpiyacoc and Xmucane,
respectively. That the ak is "great" and "white"
identifies it as
the white-lipped peccary (Tayasu pecari), which has white jowls and
markedly larger than the collared peccary (Tayasu tajacu); the
white-lipped peccary is strictly a lowland species, ak being the
Cholan term for the male (K.). That the tziz is "great" and
identifies it as the tapir (Tapirella bairdii), which is enormously
larger than the coati and has white hair all over its jowls, cheeks,
and chest; no Quiche term for the tapir has been reported in
dictionary sources, but tzimin is "tapir" in Cholan (K.).
white-lipped peccary, the tapir is a lowland species. What the coati
or tziz (see coati) and the tapir or tzimin have in common, in
addition to the first syllable of their names, is a very long and very
flexible snout. What the tapir and peccary have in common, in addition
to long, flexible snouts, is that they are ungulates.
GREEN ROAD Raxabe. In a prayer quoted in the P.V., the petitioner
asks for the Green Road and does not mention roads of any other
color (see also the "greening road" in a previous prayer).
Road also appears in the later of two lists of the four cosmic
roads, where it replaces the Yellow Road mentioned earlier. In the
lowland Maya color scheme green did not correspond to any of the
four directions, but to the center, a sort of fifth direction. The
Green Road of the P.V. may be a paradoxical fifth road, synthesizing
the other four roads or passing vertically through the spot where they
cross. See also Crossroads.
GUARDIANS OF THE SPOILS Canchaheleb [can4haheleb], composed of can-
from canab, "spoils of war" (B.); 4hahel, "guardian";
and -eb, plural.
A people belonging to a group of thirteen allied tribes the Quiches
regarded as having come (like themselves) from the east.
HACAUITZ Uitz is Cholan for "mountain" (K.) and the rest is
uncertain derivation. Patron deity of the Lord Quiche lineage, carried
by Mahucutah from Tulan Zuyua and eventually placed "above a great
river" on a mountain that then took the name Hacauitz. The Lord
Quiches were there when the first dawn came, and the same mountain was
the site of the first Quiche citadel, built by Jaguar Quitze, Jaguar
Night, Mahucutah, and True Jaguar and abandoned after their deaths.
Hacauitz was also the name of the temple that housed the god
Hacauitz in the citadel of Rotten Cane, with its back marking the
south side of the main plaza. It consisted of a pyramid with a
single stairway (on the south side) and topped by a single
thatch-roofed room with its door facing south onto a courtyard
considerably smaller than the main plaza. Lord Hacauitz was the
title of the priest of the god Hacauitz; he was fourth in rank among
the lords of the Lord Quiches and headed one of the four great
houses into which their lineage was divided after the founding of
HANGING MOSSES Atziyac [a4,iak], literally "clothing."
Dendropogon usneoides, an air plant commonly called Spanish moss in
English. See bromelias for a discussion of its use.
HEAD AND HOOF OF DEER Holom pich queh, "head (or skull) hoof deer."
Among the emblems of lordship given out by Nacxit.
HEADBAND Uach zot, in which uach is "face" and zot is "to
circular, like a crown or ring" (V.). Part of the gear needed by
players of the ball game in the P.V. (see ball court and gaming
equipment), probably corresponding to the wreaths or turbans worn at
forehead level by the players in the ball-court reliefs of Chichen
HEART OF SKY, HEART OF EARTH U4ux cah, u4ux uleu, "its-heart sky,
its-heart earth." Heart of Sky, sometimes followed by Heart of
(which never appears by itself), is an epithet for the god or gods
otherwise named Hurricane, Newborn Thunderbolt, and Raw Thunderbolt.
These epithets are no longer used in Quiche prayers, but Andres
Xiloj compared the notion of u4ux uleu to that of u4ux puuak, "Heart
of Metal," which is applied to found objects that are either ancient
artifacts or stones that happen to resemble life forms. Some of
these objects (especially artifacts shaped by flaking) are said to
have been formed where lightning struck the ground, which suggests
that it was lightning that provided the conceptual link between the
Hearts of Sky and Earth for the Quiches of the P.V.
HEART OF THE LAKE, HEART OF THE SEA U4ux Cho, u4ux palo, "its-heart
lake, its-heart sea." These are epithets that may cover all the
who were in or on the sea before the raising of the earth; they are
also known as Maker, Modeler and as Bearer, Begetter, and they include
Sovereign Plumed Serpent. Their counterparts, with whom they cooperate
in making the earth, are covered by a contrasting pair of epithets:
Heart of Sky, Heart of Earth.
HOT SPRINGS See Above the Hot Springs.
HOUSE CORNER Xiquiri pat; in Pokomchi Maya (a language of the
Quichean family), xiquin pat is "corner of a house" (Z.).
Third-ranking lord of Xibalba. According to Andres Xiloj, it is at the
corners of a house that the evil influences of Xibalba enter. When a
house is under construction in Momostenango, eight skulls are
painted on the outside walls (two at each corner); they are
something like scarecrows.
HULIZNAB One of the volcanoes made by Zipacna; location uncertain.
HUMMINGBIRD HOUSE Tzununiha [4,ununiha], in which 4,unun is
"hummingbird" and ha is "house." One of the first
females; wife of Mahucutah.
HUNAHPU Composed of hun, "one"; ah-, occupational; and pu,
pub, "blowgun" (B.); thus the name as a whole could be read
Blowgunner." This is one of the twenty day names of the 260-day
divinatory calendar; since a speaker of Quiche no more takes note of
the "blowgunner" contained in Hunahpu than a speaker of English
takes note of the "Thor" in Thursday, the name has been left
untranslated in the body of the present work. The hun is so embedded
in the name that in both classical and modern Quiche, the particular
Hunahpu day that bears the number one is called hun hunahpu, literally
"One One-blowgunner." In the P.V., Hunahpu without any number
is the name of the elder brother of Xbalanque; the two of them are
twins, the sons of One Hunahpu and Blood Woman and nephews of Seven
Hunahpu. Hunahpu and his twin succeed their father and uncle at
controlling the morning-star aspect of Venus, playing ball at an
eastern site on the brink of Xibalba. Hunahpu is most like his
father in losing his head (twice) in Xibalba; as in the case of his
father, his detached head is probably the evening-star aspect of
Venus. Ultimately he becomes the sun, or at least the sun belongs to
him. Hunahpu is also the name of one of the volcanoes made by Zipacna;
this could be the Volcan de Amatenango, five kilometers north of the
Volcan de Fuego (Fire Mouth in the P.V.), since the Annals of the
Cakchiquels describes Hunahpu as standing beside Fire Mouth.
"HUNAHPU MONKEY" Hunahpu coy [4oy]. Title of a tune played
flute by Hunahpu and Xbalanque; One Monkey and One Artisan, having
been turned into monkeys, danced and did acrobatics to it, climbing
over their grandmother's house instead of using the door. Today
there are numerous Guatemalan Indian towns whose fiestas include a
Monkey Dance. The version done in Momostenango seems to confirm the
celestial aspect of One Monkey and One Artisan: two monkeys, with
stars on their costumes, climb a high pole and do acrobatics on a
HUNAHPU PLACE Chi hunahpu, "at Hunahpu." A place of unknown
location, occupied by vassals of the Quiche lords during the reign
HUNAHPU POSSUM, HUNAHPU COYOTE Hunahpu uuch [uu4h], hunahpu utiu.
Epithets for Hunahpu and Xbalanque in their guise as vagabond
dancers and magicians. The year-bearers of the lowland Maya are the
so-called possum actors, strolling players who appear at the
transition point between two solar years. Hunahpu and Xbalanque do not
assume their guise as performers until shortly before Hunahpu
becomes the sun. In the Venus tables of the Dresden Codex, day names
with solar implications do not appear until the last two divisions
in a series of five Venus cycles, reaching a crescendo in the fifth
cycle. In this last cycle, the descent of the morning star into the
underworld on a day associated with a year-bearing possum actor (the
day Eb in Yucatec and E in Quiche) would correspond to the
appearance of the vagabond Hunahpu and Xbalanque before the lords of
HUNDRATH Motz, the Pleiades; the astral form of the Four Hundred
Boys. Motz appears to be an archaic form of omu4h, "four hundred";
that reason it is translated here as "Hundrath," the archaic
Norse) source of English "hundred." In today's Quiche thought
Pleiades symbolize a fistful of seeds. The planting season for
high-altitude maize, in March, is marked by evening settings of the
Pleiades, which leave them invisible for most of the night; by May,
when low-altitude maize is planted, the Pleiades enter a period of
complete invisibility. In the P.V., the Pleiades' first fall into
the earth corresponds to Zipacna's defeat of the Four Hundred Boys.
HURRICANE Huracan [hurakan]. The god who causes the rain and
flood that end the era of the wooden people; his aspects include
thunderbolt gods (see Newborn Thunderbolt, Raw Thunderbolt) and the
first-ranking patron deity of the Quiche people (see Tohil), and his
epithets include Heart of Sky, Heart of Earth (see above). The name
can be read as hu[n]rakan, "one-his-leg," but Andres Xiloj
that it could also mean "one out of a group" or "one
of a kind," since
-rakan is a numeral classifier used in counting things that belong
to collectivities. V. gives rakan hab as "the drops of a rainstorm
when it begins or ends," apparently referring to the very large
drops that precede or follow a thunderstorm; thus hurakan could be
an abbreviated form of a phrase meaning "one large raindrop."
these readings point to the classic Maya god who is one-legged when
takes the form of the so-called manikin scepter, whose names include
Hunab Ku or "Solitary God," and who is sometimes referred
to as the
itz or "drop of liquid" (M.) of the sky, though he causes
rainstorms. Another name for this classic god is Tahil, "Torch
or "Obsidian Mirror" (see Tohil). This name, together with
one-leggedness and his rains, make him cognate, in turn, with the
Nahua god named Tezcatlipoca or "Smoking Mirror," who was
things) a god of the hurricane. Whatever the etymology of the word
hurakan, it may well have included the meaning "hurricane"
Mayan language spoken in the Gulf coast region where the Quiches
came from, a region susceptible to frequent hurricanes. Throughout the
West Indies and along the north coast of South America, especially
among Carib and Arawakan peoples, there is a god of the hurricane
and thunderbolt whose name is cognate with hurakan; in the Guianas
he is one-legged. Dictionary compilers favor a Taino (Arawakan) origin
for the word "hurricane" (which came into English from Spanish
French) over a Mayan origin, but the Taino word itself could have been
borrowed from the Quiche homeland, which was a center of
far-reaching maritime trade.
ILOCS Ilocab (singular iloc). One of the allied groups of
lineages called "the three Quiches," the other two members
Quiche proper (comprising the Cauecs, Greathouses, and Lord Quiches)
and the Tams.
IZTAYUL Sometimes ztayul or ztayub in the MS.; from Nahua izta,
"white, salt," and yol, "heart" (C.). Keeper of
the Reception House
Mat in the fourth generation of Cauec lords, with Cotuha as Keeper
of the Mat. A second Iztayul was Keeper of the Reception House Mat
in the fifth or sixth generation of Cauecs, with Tepepul as Keeper
of the Mat. A third Iztayul was Lord Minister in the seventh
generation of Greathouse lords. See also Xtayub.
JAGUAR CONACHE Balam conache or simply conache. The first to rule
with the title of Keeper of the Mat, coming in the third generation
Cauec lords; a contemporary of Nine Deer, who was Lord Minister in the
fourth generation of Greathouse lords. According to the Title of the
Lords of Totonicapan, Jaguar Conache was the son of Cocaib's wife
but was fathered by Cocaib's brother Cocauib while Cocaib was on his
pilgrimage to the Lord Nacxit. Nevertheless Cocaib officially
recognized Jaguar Conache as his legitimate successor in the
first-ranking Cauec lordship. But after Jaguar Conache's death the
descendants of Cocauib were shifted to the second-ranking lordship,
supplying Keepers of the Reception House Mat (beginning with Jaguar
Conache's own son Iztayul), while the first-ranking title of Keeper
the Mat reverted to the direct descendants of Cocaib.
JAGUAR HOUSE Balami ha. One of the tests of Xibalba, third or
fourth in the sequence of test houses. These houses may correspond
to the periods when Venus is invisible between its appearances as
morning and evening star (see Bat House). Jaguar House is also the
name of a people belonging to a group of thirteen allied tribes the
Quiches regarded as having come (like themselves) from the east.
JAGUAR NIGHT Balam acab [a3ab]. One of the first four human males
and founder of the Greathouse lineage.
JAGUAR QUITZE Balam quitze in the MS.; balam is "jaguar" and
(or better 4itze) could well be an archaic form of 4iche, "Quiche."
One of the first four human males and founder of the Cauec lineage.
JAGUAR ROPES Balam colob, composed of balam, "jaguar"; colo,
(B.); and -b, plural. A people belonging to a group of thirteen allied
tribes the Quiches regarded as having come (like themselves) from
JOCOTES Quinom [3inom], also meaning "richness." A tropical
(Spondias purpurea), yellow in color and resembling small plums.
KEEPER OF THE BAT MAT Ahpo zotzil [zo4,il], "keeper-mat
bat-ness." A Cakchiquel lineage whose god was Calm Snake.
KEEPER OF THE DANCER MAT Ahpo xa [xahil in other sources],
"keeper-mat dancer." A Cakchiquel lineage.
KEEPER OF THE MAT Ahpop, "person of [or person whose occupation
mat," a woven mat being a metonym for a council (whose members
on a mat or mats) and probably, at the same time, a metaphor for a
council (whose members might have been thought of as being
interwoven like a mat or as serving to interweave those whom they
represented). Keeper of the Mat or Lord Keeper of the Mat was the
title of the lord who ranked first among the Cauecs and headed one
of the nine great houses into which their lineage was divided after
the founding of Rotten Cane. He also ranked first among the four lords
who jointly ruled the Quiche state from Rotten Cane, with the Keeper
of the Reception House Mat, the Lord Minister, and the Crier to the
People for the Lords coming below him. The signs or emblems that
accompanied these four titles (or at least the first two of them) were
given out by Nacxit, the lord of a "populous domain" located
east"; the Keeper of the Mat was entitled to have four superimposed
canopies over his head, with the others having three, two, and one,
respectively. During the reign of Quicab, the title of Keeper of the
Mat was conferred upon the heads of twenty vassal lineages, presumably
lineages that were specifically vassals of the Cauecs.
KEEPER OF THE PLUMED SERPENT Ahcucumatz [ah3ucumatz], "person of
[or person whose occupation is] quetzal serpent." Title of the
priest of the god Sovereign Plumed Serpent at Rotten Cane; he was
fourth in rank among the lords of the Cauecs and headed one of the
nine great houses into which their lineage was divided after the
founding of Rotten Cane. The temple of Sovereign Plumed Serpent was
a round tower near the center of the main plaza, halfway between the
temples of Tohil and Auilix. Its circular foundation, whose outline
still visible in the pavement of the plaza, is the site of an active
KEEPER OF THE RECEPTION HOUSE MAT Ahpop camha [4amha], person of
[or person whose occupation is] mat receive-house." That the cam-
the MS. should be 4am-, "receive," rather than 3am-, "stairway,"
indicated by V. and G., both of whom list an analogous Cakchiquel
title as 4amahay. The Keeper (or Lord Keeper) of the Reception House
Mat ranked second among the Cauec lords and was the head of one of the
nine great houses into which the Cauecs were divided after the
founding of Rotten Cane. He ranked second among the four lords who
jointly ruled the Quiche state from Rotten Cane, coming below the
Keeper of the Mat and above the Lord Minister and the Crier to the
People for the Lords. If there was a council connected with the
"Reception House Mat," it might have consisted of the Keeper
Reception House Mat himself (representing the Cauecs), the two Mothers
of the Reception House (one each for the Cauecs and Greathouses),
and the Minister of the Reception House and the Great Reception
House (both representing the Greathouses). If these lords were like
the Cakchiquel 4amahay, their business was the collection of tribute.
KEEPER OF TOHIL Ahtohil, "person of [or person whose occupation
Tohil." Title of the priest of the god Tohil at Rotten Cane; he
third in rank among the lords of the Cauecs and headed one of the nine
great houses into which their lineage was divided after the founding
of Rotten Cane.
KILT 4,uum, "hide." The protective kilt worn by players of
game in the P.V. (see ball court and gaming equipment); this kilt is
clearly shown to be a hide in classic Maya art of the lowlands.
LAKE-SEA Chopalo, composed of cho, "lake," and palo, "sea,"
pronounced as a single word. In this context "lake" and "sea"
complementary metonyms that together produce a term for all pooled
water, but without any final reduction of the difference between lakes
and seas. This composite term is used in contemporary Quiche prayers.
LAMACS Lamaquib, in which -ib is plural. A people belonging to a
group of thirteen allied tribes the Quiches regarded as having come
(like themselves) from the east.
LAUGHING FALCON Uac; its cry is uac co, uac co in the text. In
Tzotzil Maya, the laughing falcon is vakos and its cry is vakvon (L.).
That vakos and uac are the same bird is confirmed by the fact that
Hunahpu and Xbalanque patch the wounded eye of the uac with gum; the
laughing falcon has a black patch around the eye. It is amusing to
note that the uac of the P.V. catches a snake; the scientific name
of the laughing falcon is Herpetotheres cachinnans. This bird is
obviously closely related to the uoc mentioned elsewhere; both birds
are messengers, and there are reasons for thinking the uoc corresponds
to Jupiter and the uac to Saturn (see Falcon).
"LIGHT THAT CAME FROM ACROSS THE SEA, THE" Zac petenac chaca
[zak petenak 4haka palo], "light come-from-perfect other-side sea."
epithet for the P.V., alluding to the fact that the sons of the
first Quiche lords, returning from a pilgrimage to the great lord
named Nacxit, "brought back the writings about Tulan" from
sea." "Sea" is probably a hyperbole for "lagoon"
here; other Quiche
documents call the body of water in question both a "lake"
LINEAGE Chinamit, from Nahua chinamitl, "hedge or enclosure of
plants" (D.). In Quiche this refers to an organized and named
patrilineage (or segment thereof) or to its lands; in the P.V.
chinamit seems to be synonymous with nim ha or "great house"
LOLMET Each of the three ruling lineages of the Quiche included one
lord whose title incorporated this word; in G., lolmay is "he who
sent on business," suggesting "emissary" as a possible
of Lolmet. Lolmet Quehnay was the title of the lord who ranked seventh
among the Cauecs and headed one of the nine great houses into which
their lineage was divided after the founding of Rotten Cane. Great
Lolmet Yeoltux was the title of the lord who ranked ninth among the
Greathouses and headed one of their nine great houses; this title is
omitted in the second of the two lists of Greathouse lords. Lord
Lolmet or Lolmet of the Lords was the title of the lord who ranked
second among the Lord Quiches and headed one of their four great
LORD QUICHES Ahau quiche [4iche]. Third-ranking Quiche lineage,
founded by Mahucutah and divided into four segments or great houses
after the founding of Rotten Cane.
MACAMOB Possibly from macamo, "to do something suddenly" (V.).
One of the volcanoes made by Zipacna; location uncertain.
MACAW HOUSE Caquixaha [cakixaha]. One of the first four human
females; wife of True Jaguar.
MACAW OWL Caquix [cakix] tucur, in which cakix is specifically
the term for the scarlet macaw. Third-ranking Military Keeper of the
Mat for the lords of Xibalba, a messenger. This is clearly the
so-called Moan bird of classic Maya vase paintings, who seems to
have the head and wings of an owl but the tail of a macaw. Along
with three other owl messengers, he may correspond to the planet
Mercury (see Shooting Owl).
MAHUCUTAH Possibly ma, "not," with hucotah, "right away,
moment" (B.), giving something like "nonmomentary." One
of the first
four human males and founder of the Lord Quiche lineage.
MAKER, MODELER Tzacol bitol [4,akol bitol], consisting of an
agentive suffix, -ol, added to two different verb stems. In both
classical and modern Quiche, 4,ak- has to do with making things out
clay, plaster, cement, or stone; the objects made range through
bricks, walls, monuments, mounds of earth, and buildings of all sizes.
Bit-, on the other hand, has to do with making definite shapes out
of a pliable and otherwise formless material, as when vessels are
shaped out of clay. Andres Xiloj said of 4,ak- (whose agentive form
would be 4,akal today), "This is to make or construct, like a
building, a wall." Of bit- he said, "This bitic is to form,
as when we
were small and played with mud; we made forms. Kabitic, 'we form it'."
He saw 4,akol and bitol as referring, respectively, to the amassing
clay and then its shaping into forms such as vessels or figures. In
the P.V. these two words are names or epithets for the gods who make
the earth, plants, animals, and humans. The same gods are also
called Bearer, Begetter, and they include Sovereign Plumed Serpent.
MAKER OF THE BLUE-GREEN PLATE, MAKER OF THE BLUE-GREEN BOWL
Ahraxa la3 [lak], ahraxa tzel, "person-of-blue-green plate,
person-of-blue-green bowl." First used as an epithet for Xpiyacoc
and Xmucane; later appears in a list of the arts and crafts
practiced by their grandsons, One Monkey and One Artisan. The plate
and bowl may refer ultimately to the earth and sky; the term raxa
covers both the green of a verdant landscape and the blue of the
sky. Andres Xiloj pointed out that when the head of a contemporary
patrilineage (who is always a diviner) dies, his successor must be
installed in office by the head of a neighboring lineage, who is hired
as an ah4hahbal lak, ah4hahbal tasa, "washer of the plate, washer
the cup." Before the new lineage head can take office, the "washer"
must go to all that lineage's shrines and clean out the ashes of all
the offerings burned by the deceased lineage head. Such shrines are
lined and covered with slabs of stone and pieces of pottery, which are
spoken of as "plates" and "cups." In the P.V., Maker
of the Blue-Green
Plate, Maker of the Blue-Green Bowl would refer to Xpiyacoc and
Xmucane in their general roles as those who look after (and even
create) shrines, or it might refer to pottery vessels used for burning
incense rather than to shrines as such.
MARIGOLD Yia [iya]. A species of marigold called pericon in
Guatemalan Spanish (Tagetes lucida), a common roadside herb in the
highlands, with all-yellow flowers. In the P.V. (as among today's
Quiche) the burning of marigolds, together with yarrow (see below),
constitutes a more modest offering than the burning of copal incense.
MATASANOS Ahache [ahachee]. A tropical fruit (Casimiroa edulis),
large, pulpy, thin-skinned, yellow inside and chartreuse outside;
called matasanos in Guatemalan Spanish.
MEAUAN The mountain beneath which Hunahpu and Xbalanque defeated
Earthquake. Possibly located within the great bend of the Rio Negro
Chixoy, north of Rabinal.
METEOR Cabicac or chabicac [4habi3a3], "globe of fire" (T.),
literally "arrow fire"; a comet, by contrast, is uhe 4humil,
tail." A place of unknown location, occupied by vassals of the
Quiche lords during the reign of Quicab.
MIDDLE OF THE HOUSE, MIDDLE OF THE HARVEST, LIVING CORN, EARTHEN
FLOOR Nicah [ni4ah] ha, nicah bichoc [bichok], cazam [4azam] ah,
chatam [4hatam] uleu, "middle house, middle shucked-corn, living
corn-ear, bed (or slab) earth"; the gloss of bichoc is from B.
Hunahpu and Xbalanque left their grandmother to go to Xibalba, they
"planted" ears of corn in the middle of their house, up above
earthen floor. For their grandmother, the drying (or ripening) and
renewed sprouting of corn served as a sign of their death and rebirth,
and she burned copal incense before ears of corn as a memorial to
them. As Andres Xiloj pointed out, her act corresponds to the
present-day customs of a patrilineage shrine called the uinel, located
near a cornfield.
MIDDLE OF THE PLAIN Nicacah tacah [ni4ah ta3ah],"middle plain."
Name of the god received by True Jaguar at Tulan Zuyua.
MIDMOST SEERS Nicuachinel [ni4uachinel], composed of ni4, "middle";
uachin, "see with one's own eyes" (V.); -el, agentive. A term
diviners, applied both to Xpiyacoc and Xmucane and to Xulu and
Pacam. It could mean that a diviner sees into the middle of things,
it could mean that a diviner recovers the vision that the first humans
had when they could see everything from the spot where they were,
without having to walk around.
MILITARY KEEPER OF THE MAT Rahpop achih, "its-keeper-mat
soldier." Title held by the four owls who served as messengers
lords of Xibalba. One of the titles conferred upon the heads of vassal
lineages during the reign of Quicab.
MILITARY MINISTER U3alel achih, "its-minister soldier." One
the titles conferred upon the heads of vassal lineages during the
reign of Quicab.
MILITARY WALLS, MILITARY CORNERS Rahtzalam [rah4,alam] achih, utzam
[utzaam] achih, "his-keeper-wall soldier, his-corner (or angle)
soldier." 4,alam is "wall" in V., while other sources
the "walls" and "corners" here are undoubtedly those
of a stockade.
Military Walls and Military Corners are among the titles conferred
upon the heads of vassal lineages during the reign of Quicab; they
seem analogous to the "sides" and "corners" of the
suggesting that a fortified town was seen as a microcosm.
MINISTER 3alel, possibly from 3alunel, "one who holds something
in his arms." Lord Minister was the title of the lord who ranked
among the Greathouses and headed one of the nine great houses into
which their lineage was divided after the founding of Rotten Cane.
He also ranked third among the four lords who jointly ruled the Quiche
state from Rotten Cane, coming below the Keeper of the Mat and the
Keeper of the Reception House Mat and above the Crier to the People
for the Lords. During the reign of Quicab, when Quema was Lord
Minister of the Greathouses, the title of Minister was conferred
upon the heads of twenty vassal lineages, presumably lineages that
were specifically vassals of the Greathouses.
MINISTER FOR THE LORDS 3alel ahau, "minister lord," with ahau
referring, as it does when it ends other titles, to the Lord Quiche
lineage. One of the titles conferred upon the heads of one or more
vassal lineages during the reign of Quicab, when Armadillo Dung was
Lord Crier to the People for the Lord Quiches. Presumably these
would have been vassals of the Lord Quiches in particular, although
Minister is not listed as one of the titles actually held by their
MINISTER FOR THE ZAQUICS 3alel zaquic. Title of the lord who ranked
second among the Zaquics and headed one of the two great houses into
which their lineage was divided after the founding of Rotten Cane. The
Zaquics may not have acquired this title until the reign of Quicab,
two generations after the founding of Rotten Cane, since it is
elsewhere listed as one of the titles conferred on the heads of vassal
lineages during the reign of Quicab. It could also be that the Zaquics
themselves ennobled one or more lineages subordinate to themselves,
titling them Ministers for the Zaquics in order to distinguish them
from the Ministers created by the Greathouses at this same time.
MINISTER OF THE RECEPTION HOUSE 3alel 4amha, "minister
receive-house." Title of the lord who ranked third among the
Greathouses and headed one of the nine great houses into which their
lineage was divided after the founding of Rotten Cane.
MIXTAM COPAL Mixtam pom, in which pom is "copal incense" and
rest is a Nahua name of uncertain translation. The kind of copal
incense used by Jaguar Quitze to incense the direction of the rising
sun. Andres Xiloj suggested that this might be Ixtahuacan pom, a
kind of copal from the area of Ixtahuacan and Cuilco (Mam towns)
that is highly valued by the Quiche today.
MONKEY HOUSE Batza [ba4,a], composed of ba4,, "howler monkey,"
and ha, "house." Lord Minister in the sixth generation of
MOTHER-FATHER Chuchcahau [chuchkahau], composed of chuch, "mother,"
and kahau, "father," but pronounced as a single word. In this
context "mother" and "father" are complementary
metonyms that together
produce the sense of "parent," but without any final reduction
the difference between motherhood and fatherhood. In the P.V., the
composite term thus produced is used as a metaphor for the gods called
Maker and Modeler and less figuratively for the first four human
males, three of whom become founders of patrilineages. In several
present-day Quiche towns the heads of patrilineages, who are
daykeepers and are also responsible for lineage shrines, are called
mother-fathers even though they are all males (see also Mothers of the
Word, Fathers of the Word).
MOTHER OF THE RECEPTION HOUSE Uchuch camha [4amha], "its-mother
receive-house." Title of the ninth in rank among the Cauec lords
titled Sovereign Yaqui) and head of one of the nine great houses
into which their lineage was divided after the founding of Rotten
Cane. The fifth-ranking lord of the Greathouses, who headed one of the
nine great houses of their lineage, was also titled Mother of the
MOTHERS OF THE WORD, FATHERS OF THE WORD Uchuch tzih, ucahau
[ukahau] tzih. An epithet of the Great Toastmasters, suggesting that
they were ritual heads of patrilineages (see mother-father) and that
they may have been responsible for the Word (see Ancient Word) that
set forth in the Popol Vuh itself.
MOUNTAIN-PLAIN Huyubtacah [huyubta3ah], composed of huyub,
"mountain (or hill)," and ta3ah, "plain (or flat),"
as a single word. In this context "mountain" and "plain"
complementary metonyms that together produce the sense of "earth,"
without any final reduction of the difference between mountains and
plains. In modern Quiche ritual language, at least, huyubta3ah (or
huyub by itself) is a common metaphor for the human body. In the
P.V. the gods conceive humans at the same time they conceive the
earth, but a great deal of time passes before they succeed in actually
NACXIT From Nahua naui, "four," and ikxitl, "foot"
(C.). In Nahua
sources this is a title held by the king named Quetzalcoatl; in the
Book of Chilam Balam of Chumayel, a lord named Nacxit Xuchit is
mentioned in connection with events that sound like part of the
Nahua legend of Quetzalcoatl. In the P.V. Nacxit gives out the emblems
of lordship to Cocaib, Coacutec, and Coahau, who come to him on a long
NANCE Tapal. A tropical fruit (Byrsonima crassifolia), small,
yellow and purple.
NECK CANYON Cu [ku] ziuan, "neck, narrow place" (from kul)
"canyon." A canyon crossed by the road to Xibalba (the underworld).
NET WEAVE TRIBE Amac [ama3] uquin cat [4at], composed of ama3,
"tribe"; u-, "its"; quin, "do the warp in weaving"
(B.); and 4at,
"net." Place where the Ilocs gave a home to their patron deity,
far from where the Tams, Cauecs, Greathouses, and Lord Quiches did the
same; also the place where the Ilocs were when the dawn first came.
NEWBORN NANAHUAC, RAW NANAHUAC Chipi [4hipi] nanauac, raxa nanauac,
in which 4hipi is "youngest child"; raxa is "green, blue"
fresh"; and nanahuac seems to be the Quiche equivalent of Nanahuatzin,
who in Nahua mythology throws the thunderbolt that opens up the
mountain filled with the corn needed to make human flesh (see Broken
Place). In the P.V., Newborn Nanahuac and Raw Nanahuac are alternative
names for Newborn Thunderbolt and Raw Thunderbolt.
NEWBORN THUNDERBOLT, RAW THUNDERBOLT Chipa [4hipa] caculha
[cakulha], raxa caculha in which 4hipa is "youngest child";
"green, blue" or "raw, fresh"; and cakulha is specifically
a bolt of
lightning (with the accompanying thunder), as contrasted with
coyopa, which is sheet lightning (seen in the distance and without
distinguishable bolts or audible thunder). Gods who are included under
the Heart of Sky, Heart of Earth rubric and make up a threesome when
combined with the name Hurricane. Lucas Pacheco recognized their names
and said that in today's prayers they also go under the names of two
archangels, Michael and Gabriel.
NINE DEER Beleheb queh. Lord Minister in the fourth generation of
Greathouse lords, when Jaguar Conache was Keeper of the Mat. Another
Nine Deer was Lord Minister in the ninth generation. At least the
first of these two was apparently born on the day Nine Deer on the
divinatory calendar; the second was probably named after the first.
Today such a birth date would augur a domineering, articulate, and
masculine character with shamanic inclinations, and because of the
relatively high number these qualities should be obvious.
NINE DOG Beleheb tzi [4,ii]. Keeper of the Reception House Mat in
the twelfth generation of Cauec lords, apparently born on the day Nine
Dog on the divinatory calendar. Today, such a birth date would augur
confusion, weakness, promiscuity, and ill fortune. According to the
P.V. Nine Dog was hanged by the Castilians; other sources have him
burned at the stake. In any case he and Three Deer were executed by
Alvarado in 1524, immediately following the fall of Rotten Cane.
NOSEPIECE Caxeon, possibly derived from kaxah [3axah], "to run
through, as with an arrow" (T.); -on could be the substantive suffix
or it could be related to onih, "to nail" (E.). One of the
of lordship given out by Nacxit; the Annals of the Cakchiquels
mentions that noses were pierced when the emblems were given out but
does not refer to the ornament itself. Of the various names given to
the emblems in the P.V., caxeon is the most likely candidate as a term
for this particular item.
ONE DEATH, SEVEN DEATH Hun came, uucub [uukub] came, in which hun
and uukub are "one" and "seven." Came is one of
the twenty day names
of the divinatory calendar; it shares the same root with such forms
camel, "dead person," but it is not the ordinary term for
(that would be camic or camical). One and Seven Death rank first and
second among the lords of Xibalba. They are treated in the narrative
as two persons, as are One and Seven Hunahpu (see below), but their
numbers show that they represent all thirteen possible days bearing
the name came, as Andres Xiloj pointed out (see the notes to the
ONE HUNAHPU, SEVEN HUNAHPU Hun hunahpu, uucub [uukub] hunahpu.
The sons, elder and younger respectively, of Xpiyacoc and Xmucane; One
Hunahpu is the father (by Xbaquiyalo) of One Monkey and One Artisan,
later becoming the father (by Blood Woman) of Hunahpu and Xbalanque.
One and Seven Hunahpu, as their numbers show, represent all thirteen
possible days bearing the name Hunahpu (see the notes to the
Introduction). They are responsible for Venus in its aspect as a
morning star that first rises on a day bearing the name Hunahpu;
such a morning star appears at the start of each fifth Venus cycle.
One Hunahpu's severed head, when placed in the fork of a tree by the
lords of Xibalba, becomes Venus in its aspect as an evening star
that first rises on a day bearing the name Came or "Death";
the particular evening star that follows after a Hunahpu morning star.
ONE-LEGGED OWL Huracan [hurakan] tucur, "one-his-leg owl."
Andres Xiloj pointed out, owls stand on only one leg at a time.
Second-ranking Military Keeper of the Mat for the lords of Xibalba,
a messenger. Along with three other owl messengers, he may
correspond to the planet Mercury (see Shooting Owl).
ONE MONKEY, ONE ARTISAN Hun batz [ba4,], hun chouen, in which hun
is "one"; ba4, is "howler monkey"; and chouen is
Yucatec for "artisan"
and archaic Yucatec for "howler monkey." The sons of One Hunahpu
Xbaquiyalo; patron deities of flautists, singers, writers, carvers,
lapidaries, jewelers, sawyers, carpenters, incense makers, and
metallurgists. Hunahpu and Xbalanque (their younger half-brothers)
leave them marooned in a tall tree, where they become monkeys; this
also the beginning of their celestial career (see "Hunahpu Monkey").
They probably correspond to the planet Mars.
ONE TOH Hun toh, a day on the divinatory calendar. The god of the
Rabinals, declared by the writers of the P.V. to be equivalent to
the Tohil of the Cauecs, Ilocs, and Tams.
"OUR PLACE IN THE SHADOWS" Camuhibal [kamuhibal],
"our-being-shaded-place." An epithet for the P.V., referring
period (lasting about two-thirds of the book) before the first sunrise
is seen; the following period is referred to by another epithet,
"The Dawn of Life." The implication of "shadows"
in the present
epithet is that the light of dawn and of sunrise were really there
(somewhere) all along, but that "our" position as humans with
respect to this light was such that we remained in darkness.
PAINT OF POWDERED YELLOW STONE Tatil canabah [3anabah]; tatil may
be the same as titil, "bright powder" (B.); 3anabah is an
"yellow stone" (V.) and a paint applied to the body (R.).
One of the
emblems of lordship given out by Nacxit.
PANACHE Iachuach, B. gives yachuachibeh as "to crown." Part
the gear needed by players of the ball game in the P.V. (see ball
court and gaming equipment), probably corresponding to the long
bunch of feathers shown attached to the crowns of the heads of the
players in the ball-court reliefs of Chichen Itza.
PARROT FEATHERS, HERON FEATHERS Chiyom, "parrot feathers"
aztapulul, which is partly derived from aztatl, a Nahua term for a
white heron (D.). Among the emblems of lordship given out by Nacxit.
PATAXTE Pec. Theobroma bicolor, a lower grade of cacao than cacao
proper (or caco in Quiche), more widely known in Mesoamerica by its
Nahua name, pataxte. The seeds of pataxte and cacao, which are
native to the New World, were and are used by Mesoamerican Indians
to make cocoa and chocolate.
PATOHIL See Tohil.
PAUILIX See Auilix
PERSON OF BAM Uinac [uinak] bam, "person," followed by an
untranslatable proper name. Crier to the People for the Lords in the
ninth generation of Lord Quiche lords.
PETATAYUB Partly from Nahua petatl, "mat" (C.). A flat place
(ta3ah) where a "mountain" (huyub) of shattered stones from
conquered citadels was piled up during the reign of Quicab. Ximenez
takes this flat to be the south coastal plain of Guatemala, but
ta3ah can refer to any level place, down to the size of a cornfield.
Petatayub may be the spot known today as Altar Place (chi mumuz), a
prominent pile of broken stones on an otherwise stoneless flat eight
kilometers northwest of San Pedro Jocopilas. On the south side of this
pile is an active shrine.
PLACE OF ADVICE Chi pixab, "at advice (or counsel)." A mountain
where the Quiches and other tribes held a council during their
migrations. It is a peak, still known by this name, of the Montana los
Achiotes, about seven kilometers west of San Andres Sajcabaja.
PLACE OF BALL GAME SACRIFICE Pucbal Chah [puzbal chaah]; B. gives
puzbal as "place of sacrifice," and chaah is "ball game."
where the decapitated body of One Hunahpu and the complete body of
Seven Hunahpu were buried by the lords of Xibalba. Probably not a
place name, but rather a name for the altar where losing ball
players were sacrificed. That such altars were in or near ball
courts is indicated by the fact that the classical Quiche term for a
ball court, hom, is today the term for a graveyard. Hunahpu and
Xbalanque, addressing the remains of Seven Hunahpu (their paternal
uncle), tell him, "You will be prayed to here"; today, as
pointed out, people visit graveyards on days bearing the name Hunahpu.
PLACE OF SPILT WATER See Spilt Water.
PLANK PLACE Chitemah, "at-plank"; tema is a bench or a roofing
beam. A place of unknown location, occupied by vassals of the Quiche
lords during the reign of Quicab.
PLASTER HOUSE Zaccabaha [zakcabaha], composed of zakcaba, "plaster"
(B.), and ha, "house." The town known today as San Andres
Formerly a Caoque citadel, conquered by the Quiche lords during the
reign of Quicab. Today the inhabitants speak Quiche.
PLUMED SERPENT Cucumatz [3ucumatz], from 3u3, "quetzal bird"
"quetzal feathers," and cumatz, "serpent." Keeper
of the Mat in the
fourth or fifth generation of Cauec lords, named after the god
listed elsewhere as Sovereign Plumed Serpent. The P.V. mentions Cotuha
(not the same Cotuha who preceded Plumed Serpent as Keeper of the Mat)
as the Keeper of the Reception House Mat who corresponded to Plumed
Serpent in a number of places, but elsewhere states that Plumed
Serpent served as both Keeper of the Mat and Keeper of the Reception
House Mat; perhaps Cotuha died during the reign of Plumed Serpent
and was not replaced until after the latter's death. However that
might be, it was Plumed Serpent and Cotuha who together founded Rotten
Cane. Both of them were regarded as lords of genius- that is, as lords
with powerful spirit familiars- and Plumed Serpent in particular put
on miraculous demonstrations of shamanic power. Here, as in the case
of his central Mexican counterpart (Quetzalcoatl), it is difficult
to separate Plumed Serpent as king from Plumed Serpent as deity.
POINT OF THE ARROW, ANGLE OF THE BOWSTRING Uchi 4ha, uchi cam
[4aam], "its mouth arrow, its mouth cord"; Andres Xiloj pointed
that in Quiche, the "mouth" of an arrow is its tip, while
"mouth" of a bowstring is the point at which the butt end
of the arrow
is pulled back against it. Epithets for the vanguard lineages sent out
to occupy conquered citadels during the reign of Quicab.
POORWILL, DANCE OF THE Xahoh puhuy, "dance poorwill." The
name of a
dance done by Hunahpu and Xbalanque in their guise as vagabonds.
POPOL VUH See Council Book.
PRAWN HOUSE Chomiha, composed of chom, "shrimp" (B.), and
"house." One of the first four human females; wife of Jaguar
The "prawn" etymology- as opposed, for example, to 4humil
lets the four women's names fit together in a pattern, making for
two with maritime names (Celebrated Seahouse and Prawn House) and
two with avian names (Hummingbird House and Macaw House).
PUMA'S PAW, JAGUAR'S PAW Tzicuil [4,icuil] coh, tzicuil balam; V.
gives 4,ic as "heel of hand," and coh and balam are "puma"
"jaguar." Among the emblems of lordship given out by Nacxit.
PUS MASTER, JAUNDICE MASTER Ahal puh, ahal 3ana, "owner pus,
owner yellowness." Fifth- and sixth-ranking lords of Xibalba.
PUS RIVER Puhia [puhiaa], "pus water." A river that crosses
road to Xibalba (the underworld). This name, along with Blood River,
might have been an actual toponym, referring to a large, muddy river
of the kind that originates in the Guatemalan highlands but flows into
the northern lowlands. For today's Quiche the regions that drop off
toward the Atlantic, especially in the area of Coban, are an abode
QUEHNAY See Lolmet.
QUEMA Also spelled queema in the MS. Lord Minister in the tenth
generation of Greathouse lords. Yet he is also mentioned among the
contemporaries of the Keeper of the Mat named Quicab, who ruled in the
sixth or seventh generation of Cauec lords.
QUENECH AHAU From Yucatec Kinich Ahau, "sun-eye lord" (C.),
of the names of the lowland Maya sun god. In the P.V. this is the name
of a people belonging to a group of thirteen allied tribes the Quiches
regarded as having come (like themselves) from the east.
QUETZAL Cuc [3u3]; according to G., raxon, literally "blued"
"greened" (and translated "blue green"), is a synonym
"Quetzal," the name by which this bird is best known, is from
quetzalli. Pharomachrus mocinno, the most spectacular bird in the
New World, confined to localized cloud forest habitats scattered
from Chiapas to Panama; red breast but otherwise mostly green (with
blue iridescence). The two-foot-long tail coverts were a major item
tribute and a major feature of lordly regalia throughout Mesoamerica.
QUIBA HOUSE, THOSE OF Ahquibaha, in which ah- is "persons from"
ha is "house." A people belonging to a group of thirteen allied
the Quiches regarded as having come (like themselves) from the east.
QUICAB Possibly 4i, "many," with 3ab, "hand" or
"arm." Keeper of
the Mat in the sixth or seventh generation of Cauec lords. Quicab
greatly expanded the Quiche state, destroying the citadels of
neighboring peoples and occupying them with vassal lineages drawn from
the immediate vicinity of Rotten Cane. He ennobled the heads of many
vassal lineages, including those who had served him well in his
conquests, but members of this new nobility later perpetrated a revolt
(as described in both the Title of the Lords of Totonicapan and the
Annals of the Cakchiquels but not in the P.V.). They failed in an
assassination attempt, but the lineages with military titles (see
under Military) gained in power.
QUICHE Quiche [4iche] and sometimes queche [4eche], possibly from
4i, "many," and chee, "trees," thus carrying approximately
meaning as Cuautemallan, the Nahua name for what is now called
Guatemala. Quiche is used in several different senses in the P.V. As
people, the Quiche proper consist of those who descend from Jaguar
Quitze, Jaguar Night, and Mahucutah- that is to say, the Cauec,
Greathouse, and Lord Quiche lineages- and who worship the gods
Tohil, Auilix, and Hacauitz. "The three Quiches" include the
proper, as just described, together with two further lineages whose
god was Tohil, the Tams and Ilocs. This Quiche threesome is said to
have been inseparable since its members were all at Tulan Zuyua
together, and to have shared the same language- a language which is
also called Quiche. Late in the narrative Quiche becomes a toponym
referring to the vicinity of Rotten Cane, covering Rotten Cane itself,
the modern site of Santa Cruz (three kilometers to the east of
Rotten Cane), and probably also Bearded Place (half a kilometer to the
south of Rotten Cane). By metonymic extension, Quiche also becomes the
name for the conquest state formed by the Quiche threesome after the
founding of Rotten Cane.
QUITZALCUAT Equivalent to Nahua Quetzalcoatl, "quetzal serpent."
One of the names of the god of the Yaqui people, who is said by the
writers of the P.V. to be the same as Tohil.
RABINALS Rabinaleb, in which -eb is plural. The people known
today as the Achi, whose principal town is Rabinal. Their language,
Achi, may be considered either a dialect of Quiche or a separate
language of the Quichean family; its speakers are located to the
northeast of the speakers of Quiche proper. They belonged to a group
of thirteen allied tribes the Quiches regarded as having come (like
themselves) from the east. One of the Rabinal citadels, Spilt Water,
was conquered by the Quiche lords during the reign of Quicab.
RATTLING HOUSE Xuxulim ha; B. gives xuxulim as a continuous buzzing
or humming. This is one of the tests of Xibalba, also called Cold
House; it rattles because of continuous drafts and hail. This test
comes second or third in the sequence of test houses. These houses may
correspond to the periods when Venus is invisible between its
appearances as morning and evening star (see Bat House).
RAZOR HOUSE Chaim ha; chay or cha refers to cutting instruments
or projectile points made by percussion techniques, probably
obsidian blades in the present context. One of the tests of Xibalba,
fifth or second in the sequence of test houses. These houses may
correspond to the periods when Venus is invisible between its
appearances as morning and evening star (see Bat House).
RED BANNER Ca3lacan [cakla3an], with cak, "red"; B. gives
as "banner." Crier to the People for the Lords in the third
of Lord Quiche lords.
RED ROAD Cacabe [cakabe]. One of four cosmic roads (see
ROAD OF XIBALBA Ri be xibalba, "the road Xibalba," also called
Black Road (see Crossroads). The road that beckoned to One and Seven
Hunahpu when they were on their way to Xibalba and led to their
deaths. At present ube xibalba, "its-road Xibalba," is the
for the black cleft in the Milky Way. From the identity of One and
Seven Hunahpu (or their rubber ball) as Venus, and from the fact
that they go down to Xibalba from a ball court located far in the
east, it may be deduced that they descended at a time when Venus was
ending its period of visibility as the morning star in a sidereal
position that was in or near the Milky Way cleft. Venus takes five
complete cycles to repeat its sidereal position, which is the same
number of cycles it takes for its periodic reappearance as a morning
star to return to a day bearing the name Hunahpu.
ROBLES, DON PEDRO DE Lord Minister in the thirteenth generation
of Greathouse lords, in office when the P.V. was written. Since his
predecessor was still in office in September of 1554, the P.V. must
have been written after that time.
ROCK ROWS, FURROWED SANDS Cholochic abah, bocotahinac [bocotahinak]
zanaieb, composed of a reduplicated form of cholo-, "to order,
in a row"; abah, "rocks"; boco-, "uproot";
plough"; -nak, perfect; and zanaieb, "sands." The place
Quitze, Jaguar Night, Mahucutah, and True Jaguar crossed through a
palo or "sea" on their migration from Tulan Zuyua. The name
effect, a description of a lowland Maya causeway.
ROJAS, DON JUAN DE Lord Keeper of the Mat in the fourteenth
generation of Cauec lords, in office when the P.V. was written. His
title was recognized by the Spanish; he retained his serfs, was
given a reception room in the Royal Palace at Santiago Guatemala,
served as a sort of minister of native affairs, and attempted to
regain jurisdiction over the towns that had been conquered by the
Quiche state before the arrival of the Spanish. He was still in office
in 1554; since he was no longer signing documents by November of 1558,
the P.V. must have been written before that date.
ROTTEN CANE Cumaracaah [3umarakah], "rotten-plural-cane plant."
citadel built by the Quiche lords after they left Bearded Place,
founded by the Keeper of the Mat named Plumed Serpent. At Bearded
Place there had been only three great houses or lordly lineages, but
after the founding of Rotten Cane the Cauecs divided into nine
parts, the Greathouses into nine parts, the Lord Quiches into four
parts, and there were also two divisions of Zaquics (not mentioned
at Bearded Place). Except for the two divisions of the Zaquics,
which shared a single palace, each of these lineage segments
apparently had a separate palace, making twenty-three palaces in
all. It was from Rotten Cane that Quicab greatly expanded the Quiche
state, and it was Rotten Cane that was burned by Pedro de Alvarado
in 1524. The ruins, better known by their Nahua name, Utatlan, are
located three kilometers west of Santa Cruz Quiche (see also Great
Monument of Tohil, Auilix, Hacauitz, Keeper of the Plumed Serpent,
Councilor of the Ball Court, Granary, and Bird House).
RUBBER BALL Qui4, literally "blood" but also referring to
rubber balls in particular. Europeans saw rubber balls for the first
time in the West Indies and Mesoamerica. In the P.V. a rubber ball
is part of the gaming equipment (see under that heading) used by One
and Seven Hunahpu and by their sons, Hunahpu and Xbalanque. The ball
used by their opponents in Xibalba is not called qui4 (except by a
falsehood that fails to deceive Hunahpu and Xbalanque) but is rather
referred to by its proper name (see White Dagger) or by the term
chaah, which is also a term for the ball game itself (whatever kind
ball it is played with).
SANTA CRUZ Bishop Francisco Marroquin gave this name to Rotten Cane
in 1539, but the town that came to be known as Santa Cruz Quiche was
not built on the ruins of Rotten Cane itself but three kilometers east
SERPENTS Cumatz, A people belonging to a group of thirteen allied
tribes the Quiches regarded as having come (like themselves) from
SEVEN CANE Uucub [uukub] ah, "seven cane plant." Crier to
People for the Lords in the sixth generation of Lord Quiche lords.
Apparently born on the day Seven Cane on the divinatory calendar;
today such a birth date would augur good luck in all the affairs of
life and a potential career as a dutiful priest-shaman or official.
SEVEN CAVES, SEVEN CANYONS Uucub [uukub] pec, uucub ziuan. An
epithet for Tulan Zuyua, the citadel where the ruling Quiche
lineages acquired their patron deities. Uucub pec is a Quiche
translation of Chicomoztoc, the "seven caves" of the mythic
place of origin. The ruins of both Teotihuacan and Xochicalco have
natural caves beneath them; Rotten Cane has an artificial cave that
penetrates to a point beneath the main plaza.
SEVEN MACAW Uucub caquix [uukub cakix], in which the term for macaw
is composed of cak, "red," and perhaps quiix, "feathers."
A lord who
falsely claimed to be both the sun and moon during the era of the
wooden people, causing offense to Hurricane; husband of Chimalmat
and father of Zipacna and Earthquake. From his red feathers and from
his nose that "shines white", the macaw in question could
the scarlet macaw (Ara macao), which displays more red feathers than
the military macaw (Ara militaris) and contrasts with the latter in
having a white beak. The P.V. does not specify Seven Macaw's actual
astronomical identification (as contrasted with his false claim to
be the sun), but A. gives it as Ursa Major, whose prominent stars
(comprising the Big Dipper) number seven. In West Indian Carib myths
the Big Dipper has a feathered headdress that shows by day as the
rainbow, which suggests that Seven Macaw might also have a rainbow
aspect. What the Big Dipper has in common with the rainbow is that its
appearance marks the end of storms, only it does so seasonally. In the
latitudes of Mesoamerica and the Caribbean, the hurricane season
(mid-July to mid-October) begins with nights on which the Big Dipper
is already in steep descent at twilight and disappears entirely for
much as half the night, and it ends with the first nights on which all
seven stars of the newly ascending Big Dipper appear before dawn. To
put this in terms of the P.V., when Hunahpu and Xbalanque (acting on
behalf of Hurricane) bring Seven Macaw down out of his tree (or
below the horizon), they open the way for the great rain that destroys
the people for whom Seven Macaw was the sun.
SEVEN THOUGHT Uucub noh [uukub naoh]. Keeper of the Mat in the
eleventh generation of Cauec lords, apparently born on the day Seven
Thought on the divinatory calendar. Today, such a birth date would
augur an ability to solve problems, potential leadership, and a
markedly masculine character.
SHIELD DANCE Pocob, "shield," not only an implement of war
"an ancient dance" (B.). A dance performed by the Quiche lords
they were settled at Bearded Place.
SHOOTING OWL 4habi tucur, in which tucur is "owl"; 4ha is
"arrow," but better yet, B. gives chabih as "stoop like
First-ranking Military Keeper of the Mat for the lords of Xibalba, a
messenger. The four owls of Xibalba are able to reach the eastern ball
court used by One and Seven Hunahpu and by One Monkey and One Artisan,
but in contrast with Falcon, the messenger of the Heart of Sky, or
Hurricane, they are not described as being able to reach the place
where the Heart of Sky is located. They may correspond to the planet
Mercury, with perhaps one pair of owls for its morning star aspect and
the other for its evening star aspect.
SKULL OWL Holom tucur, "head (or skull) owl." Fourth-ranking
Military Keeper of the Mat for the lords of Xibalba, a messenger.
Along with the other three owl messengers, he may correspond to the
planet Mercury (see Shooting Owl).
SKY-EARTH Cahuleu, composed of cah, "sky," and uleu, "earth,"
pronounced as a single word. In this context "sky" and "earth"
complementary metonyms that together produce the sense of "world,"
without any final reduction of the difference between sky and earth.
This composite word is used in contemporary Quiche prayers.
SNATCH-BATS Camazotz [4amazo4,], composed of 4ama, "take,"
zo4,, "bat." The bats that inhabit the Bat House of Xibalba.
lists camotzoh as "an animal that eats the moon." Andres Xiloj
commented, "These are not animal bats, but the bats of Xibalba."
in Rabinal the dance-drama of San Jorge includes a character of this
SORREL GUM Lotz quic [qui4], in which qui4 (literally "blood")
the term for latex or other plant products of a gummy consistency.
SOVEREIGN OLOMAN Tepeu oloman or oliman, from Nahua tepeuani (see
Sovereign Plumed Serpent) and ollomani, "ballplayer" (D.).
also called Fishkeepers, probably from the Gulf coast of Tabasco or
eastern Veracruz. They stayed in the "east" when the Quiche
ancestors left there, but later, during the time the Quiches were
settled in the citadel of Hacauitz, they participated in a plot
SOVEREIGN PLUMED SERPENT Tepeu 4ucumatz [3ucumatz], in which
tepeu is an honorific title and the second word is composed of 3u3,
"quetzal bird or quetzal feathers," and cumatz, "snake."
Tepeu is from
Nahua, in which tepeuani is "conqueror or victor in battle"
Quiche tepeual, a participial form (marked by -al), is translated by
B. as "majesty, dignity." 3ucumatz is the equivalent in Quiche
Yucatec Kukulcan and Nahua Quetzalcoatl, both of which names mean
"quetzal-plumed serpent." As a god, the Plumed Serpent is
always prefixed with tepeu in the P.V.; he numbers among the gods
who are covered by the names or epithets Maker, Modeler; Bearer,
Begetter; and Heart of the Lake, Heart of the Sea. In the primordial
scene these gods, unlike the god or gods called Heart of Sky,
Hurricane, Newborn Thunderbolt, and Raw Thunderbolt, are on or in
the sea. Just as the Nahua Quetzalcoatl cooperates with Tezcatlipoca
in making the present earth in the midst of the sea, so the Quiche
Sovereign Plumed Serpent cooperates with Hurricane; the difference
is that the Nahua earth in question was the fifth, whereas the P.V.
seems to have it as the first. By the time Rotten Cane was founded,
Sovereign Plumed Serpent numbered among the most important of Quiche
gods, judging from the fact that the Keeper of the Plumed Serpent
was among the five heads of lordly lineages who were priests, the
others being priests of Tohil, Auilix, Hacauitz, and Corntassel. But
the writers of the P.V. neither give the story of Sovereign Plumed
Serpent's origin nor elaborate his divine attributes, and scarcely a
trace of him remains in today's Quiche oral narratives.
SOVEREIGN YAQUI Title of the lord who was ninth in rank among the
Cauecs and head of one of the nine great houses into which their
lineage was divided after the founding of Rotten Cane; he was also
called Mother of the Reception House.
SPILT WATER Maca [ma4aa] or pamaca [pama4aa], composed of pa,
"at" or "in"; ma4, "spill or fall"; and
aa, "water." The town known
today as Zacualpa, formerly located two kilometers southeast of its
present site. Once a Rabinal citadel, conquered by the Quiche lords
during the reign of Quicab. Today the inhabitants speak Quiche.
STAGGERING Zilizib; zilizab is "sway, swing, stagger" (B.).
place where the tribes (other than the Cakchiquels) pledged themselves
to be "suckled" (or to have their hearts cut out) by Tohil
for fire; the name of this place is not mentioned until later.
STAR HOUSE, THOSE OF Ahchumilaha [ah4humilaha],
"persons-from-star-house." A people belonging to a group of
allied tribes the Quiches regarded as having come (like themselves)
from the east.
SUDDEN BLOODLETTER Camalotz, probably composed of cahmah,
"fright, surprise attack" (V.), and lotz, "to let blood."
One of the
monsters that ends the era of the wooden people.
SUN-MOON Quihic [3ihi4], composed of 3ih, "sun," and i4, "moon,"
but pronounced as a single word. In this context "sun" and
are complementary metonyms that together produce an abstraction
encompassing major heavenly bodies (and major markers of time), but
without any final reduction of the difference between sun and moon.
The composite concept of sun-moon would include Venus as morning
star as well, since the latter has 3ih in its Quiche name (see
SWALLOWING SWORDS Xtzul [x4,ul], a proper name of uncertain
etymology. The name of a dance done by Hunahpu and Xbalanque in
their guise as vagabonds. B. describes it as a dance in which masked
performers with tortoise-shell rattles put sticks or daggers in
their mouths. V. (who specifies 4,, the glottalized tz), describes the
masks as small and says that the dancers are two in number (as they
are in the P.V.), wear the tails of macaws down their backs, put
sticks down their throats and bones into their noses, and give
themselves hard blows on their chests with a large stone.
SWEATBATH HOUSE Tuhalha. The people who inhabit the area around
Sacapulas today, belonging to a group of thirteen allied tribes the
Quiches regarded as having come (like themselves) from the east;
they speak a highly distinctive dialect of Quiche. One of the four
sections of the town of Sacapulas still bears the name Tuhal.
SWEET DRINK Qui [quii], "sweet," "poison," and (according
"wine or chicha," chicha generally being an alcoholic beverage
fermenting corn. It is not known for certain what went into the making
of quii; the pulque of Mexico (made from maguey) is not reliably
reported for indigenous Guatemala, nor is the drink the Yucatec Maya
called balche (partly made from honey). What is known about quii is
that it required cooking at some stage, that it took three days to
ferment, and that the Four Hundred Boys went "out of their senses"
drinking it. The making of balche does not involve cooking, but at
least one kind of pulque does (a variety in which maguey cuttings
are boiled together with honey prior to fermentation). Pulque and
balche are both sweet to the taste before fermentation and bitter
afterward; perhaps the seemingly contradictory meanings of quii
reflect the paradox of a drink that started out sweet and harmless and
ended up bitter and (in sufficient quantities) sickening.
TALK HOUSE Uchabaha [u4habaha], "its-talk-place-house." A
belonging to a group of thirteen allied tribes the Quiches regarded
having come (like themselves) from the east.
TAMAZUL From Nahua tamazolin, "toad" (C.); the Quiche term
animal is xpek. The name of the toad that swallowed the louse that
carried the message of Xmucane.
TAMS Tamub (singular tam). One of the allied groups of lineages
called "the three Quiches," the other two members being the
proper- comprising the Cauecs, Greathouses, and Lord Quiches- and
TAM TRIBE Amac [ama3] tan, composed of the term for "tribe"
an archaic pronunciation of tam. Place where the Tams gave a home to
their patron deity, not far from where the Ilocs, Cauecs, Greathouses,
and Lord Quiches did the same; also the place where the Tams were when
the dawn first came.
TEARING JAGUAR Tucumbalam, probably composed of tucun, "scratch"
(V.), and balam, "jaguar." One of the monsters that ends the
the wooden people.
TECUM A Nahua name of uncertain translation. Keeper of the Mat in
the ninth generation of Cauec lords; a second Tecum held the same
position in the thirteenth generation. The latter Tecum was taken
hostage when Rotten Cane fell to the Spanish in 1524; he was the son
of Three Deer, the Keeper of the Mat who was executed by Alvarado.
Tecum's accession to his father's title was later recognized by
Alvarado, who made that position subordinate to himself, but Tecum
plotted rebellion and was eventually hanged. He is not to be
confused with the warrior named Tecum Umam, who died in a battle
with Alvarado's forces before the attack on Rotten Cane took place.
TEPEPUL From Nahua tepe, "mountain," and pol, "big"
(C.). Keeper of
the Mat in the fifth or sixth generation of Cauec lords; taken
prisoner in an attack on the Cakchiquels. Another Tepepul was Keeper
of the Mat in the eighth generation of Cauec lords, and still others
were Keepers of the Reception House Mat in the ninth and thirteenth
generations of Cauec lords. This last Tepepul, along with the last
Tecum, was taken hostage when Rotten Cane fell to the Spanish in 1524;
he was the son of Nine Dog, the Keeper of the Reception House Mat
who was executed by Alvarado. Tepepul's accession to his father's
title was later recognized by Alvarado, who made that position
subordinate to himself, but Tepepul plotted rebellion and was hanged
THORNY PLACE Chiquix [chi4ix], "at thorns." Citadel of the
lords after they left Hacauitz and before they built Bearded Place.
was divided into four parts or "mountains": Dry Place, Bark
Culba, and Cauinal. Dry Place is chichac [chichak], "at dryness";
House is humetaha, composed of humeta, "bark," and ha, "house."
Place doubtless corresponds to the archaeological site known today
as Cauinal (beneath a mountain of the same name), on the Rio Blanco
near its confluence with the Rio Negro or Chixoy, about twenty
kilometers northwest of Rabinal. The site has four main plazas, two
each side of the Rio Blanco; it is located in a dry region dominated
by xerophytic vegetation, in which it contrasts with most of the
area occupied by the Quiches today.
THREE DEER Oxib quieh. Keeper of the Mat in the twelfth
generation of Cauec lords, apparently born on the day Three Deer on
the divinatory calendar. Today such a birth date would augur a
domineering, articulate, and masculine character, with possible
shamanic inclinations, but because of the low number, these
qualities would be present in only moderate quantity. According to the
P.V. Three Deer was hanged by the Castilians; other sources have him
burned at the stake. In any case he and Nine Dog were executed by
Alvarado in 1524, immediately following the fall of Rotten Cane.
THRONG BIRDS 4,iquin molai, "birds joined together." Possibly
mythic species, or possibly referring to a flock rather than a
species. One of the obstacles on the road to Xibalba (the underworld).
TOHIL Patron deity of the Cauec, Tam, and Iloc lineages; the name
sometimes covers the patron deities of the Greathouse and Lord
Quiche lineages as well, Auilix and Hacauitz. Apparently the name is
composed of Toh, one of the twenty day names of the 260-day
calendar, and -il, "having the quality of"; Toh may be related
Cholan tohokna, "the way in which clouds join," and tohmel,
"thunder" (C.), but the classic Maya predecessor of Tohil
Palenque carries the name Tahil, meaning "Torch Mirror" or
Mirror" (S.). Tahil is shown with a burning torch sticking out
the mirror on his forehead; Tohil is a giver of fire, pivoting
inside his own sandal like a fire drill. The one-leggedness
suggested by the fire drill, together with the fact that Tohil can
cause great rainstorms, identify him as an aspect of Hurricane (see
above). The stone whose genius or spirit familiar was Tohil was
carried in a backpack by Jaguar Quitze, founder of the Cauecs, when
left Tulan Zuyua. He placed this stone on a mountain that came to be
called Patohil, literally "At Tohil," apparently located above
Concealment Canyon, where the god Auilix was placed. A temple
dedicated to Tohil was later built at Rotten Cane (see Great
Monument of Tohil); those bringing tribute to Rotten Cane, which was
probably payable on days named Toh, gave offerings to Tohil before
they made their presentations to the Quiche lords. The present
character of the day Toh seems to reflect its past connection with
tribute. One of the divinatory mnemonics for the meaning of this day
is tohonic, "to pay," indicating that the client owes offerings
gods and the ancestors. In visits to shrines, daykeepers use Toh
days to make up for delinquent ritual obligations.
TOHIL MEDICINE Cunabal tohil, "cure-instrument Tohil." An
given to Concealment Canyon after Tohil was placed nearby on the
mountain called Patohil. This epithet may be based on a bilingual
pun on the place name Patohil; Nahuatl patli means "medicine"
TOHIL'S BATH Ratinibal tohil, "his-bathing-place Tohil." During
time when the Quiche lords occupied the citadel of Hacauitz, the
spirit familiars of Tohil, Auilix, and Hacauitz were regularly seen
bathing at this place (location unknown).
TONATIUH Donadiu, a Nahua word meaning "sun." This was the
given by the Indians of central Mexico to Pedro de Alvarado before
he came to Guatemala.
TORTILLA GRIDDLE Xot. A round and slightly concave pottery griddle,
used in toasting tortillas; better known in Mesoamerica as the
comal, from Nahua comalli.
TRASH MASTER, STAB MASTER Ahal mez, ahal tocob [to3ob], "owner
filth (or trash), owner puncture wound." These lords of Xibalba
ninth and tenth in earlier lists but are omitted from later ones.
See also Bloody Teeth, Bloody Claws.
TRUE JAGUAR Iquibalam, with balam, "jaguar," possibly prefixed
iki- (V.) or iqui- (X.). This prefix can be combined with a3ab,
"hand," to give "right hand," and with tzih, "word,"
to give "truth"
(V.); it is probably present in the expression of affirmation given
B. as iquiquih. True Jaguar was one of the first four human males, but
he had no son and therefore did not found a lineage.
TULAN From Nahua tollan, "Place of Reeds (or Cattails)." A
widely used in Mesoamerica to prefix the names of places where the
investiture of Toltecan lords could take place. The P.V. states that
the Quiches, Cakchiquels, and various other tribes were assigned their
patron deities at Tulan, before the first sunrise; it locates Tulan
the east, perhaps recalling the direction from which the Quiches
happened to be moving immediately before coming into the region of
their present home rather than the absolute spatial relationship
between that home and Tulan. Tulan is nearly always joined to the name
Zuyua in the P.V. (see below).
UNDER TEN Xelahuh, "under (or below) ten"; the full name (not
in the P.V.) is xelahuh queh, "Under Ten Deer." This town
called Xelaju or Xela in everyday Guatemalan speech, whether in
Spanish or in an indigenous language, but in government documents
and on maps it is known by a slightly altered form of its Nahau
name, Quezaltenango (it should be spelled Quetzaltenango, meaning
"Quetzal Citadel"). Its former location, when it was truly
citadel, must have been on one of the hilltops in the vicinity of
the present town, but the exact site is not known. It was among the
citadels conquered by the Quiche lords during the reign of Quicab.
UNDER THE TWINE, UNDER THE CORD Xebalax, xecamac, in which xe-
may be "under" but could also be a verb prefix indicating
action and the third person plural; balax may be a passive form of
bal, "to make or twist a cord" (V.), and camac may be 4aamak,
perfect form of 4aamah, "to cord (measure land with a cord)."
place in Chulimal or perhaps an epithet for Chulimal. This is where
the heads of vassal lineages were elevated to lordship and assigned
conquered territories during the reign of Quicab; the name may
allude to the setting of boundaries for these territories.
VASSALS Al4ahol, "children," a composite term made up of al,
(of a woman)," and 4ahol, "son (of a man)." The term
for members of
commoner lineages owing fealty to lordly lineages. Vassalage was a
sort of kinship by adoption, but note that the term clouds or averts
the issue of lineality by including the term for a woman's children.
During the reign of Quicab the first-ranking male members of many
vassal lineages were elevated to lordship.
WALKING ON STILTS Chitic, "to go on stilts" (B.). The name
dance done by Hunahpu and Xbalanque in their guise as vagabonds.
WEASEL, DANCE OF THE Xahoh cux, "dance weasel." The name of
done by Hunahpu and Xbalanque in their guise as vagabonds. B. mentions
a dance (cux) done with weasel skins.
WHITE CORNMEALS Zacahib [zak4ahib], "white-cornmeal-plural."
people belonging to a group of thirteen allied tribes the Quiches
regarded as having come (like themselves) from the east. They must
have settled in the area of the present town of Salcaja, which is
called zak4aha in Quiche.
WHITE DAGGER Zaqui toc [zaki to3]; V. gives to3 as "knife"
"stab"; it is the Cholan term for implements of flaked stone
which are cha in Quiche. The name of the sacrificial knife belonging
to the lords of Xibalba and of the ball (containing this knife) they
are anxious to use in their game with Hunahpu and Xbalanque.
WHITE EARTHS Zaculeuab [zakuleuab], "white-earth-plural."
named after the citadel of Zakuleu (located five kilometers west of
the present town of Huehuetenango) and comprising part or all of the
speakers of the Mayan language known today as Mam. The P.V. does not
claim that the Quiche lords conquered Zakuleu itself, but rather a
separate citadel belonging to the White Earths, named Above the Hot
WHITE RIVER Zaqui ya [zaki yaa], "white water." A place four
kilometers west of Chichicastenango, occupied by vassals of the Quiche
lords during the reign of Quicab.
WHITE ROAD Zaquibe [zakibe]. One of four cosmic roads (see
Crossroads). Today, at least, this is the term for the solid white
portion of the Milky Way, as opposed to the Road of Xibalba (see
above), which is the portion divided by a dark cleft.
WHITE SPARKSTRIKER Zaqui coxol [zaki 4oxol], composed of zaki,
"white"; 4oxo, a verb stem used for the act of striking stones
together "to start a fire" (V.); and -l, agentive. In the
being escapes into the shelter of the woods when the sun first
rises, taking along the animals that were petrified by the sun; in the
present-day Quiche dance-drama of the Conquest, he or she (the sex
is ambiguous) escapes into the woods to avoid Spanish domination. In
the drama the White Sparkstriker appears as a dwarf dressed entirely
in red, but may have silver clothing in dreams and visions. When the
sun rose and petrified the first animals, the White Sparkstriker
escaped into a tree and is now the keeper of the petrified animals
(iron concretions that resemble animals) and may be encountered in
caves, in deep woods, and at night. In some manifestations the White
Sparkstriker carries a stone hatchet- the one he-she used to strike
sheet lightning into the bodies of the first daykeepers, according
to Vicente de Leon Abac.
WHITE VULTURE Zac cuch [zak 4uch]. The king vulture (Sarcoramphus
papa), a lowland species which has a naked red head and black flight
feathers but is otherwise white.
WILLOW TREE Tzolohchee, "willow tree." The town known today
Santa Maria Chiquimula. One of the citadels conquered by the Quiche
lords during the reign of Quicab.
WING, PACKSTRAP Xic [xi4], patan, "wing, packstrap," the latter
referring to a strip of hide used to protect the forehead when a
load is carried with a tumpline. These lords of Xibalba rank
eleventh and twelfth in earlier lists and ninth and tenth in later
XBALANQUE The younger brother of Hunahpu and the son of One Hunahpu
and Blood Woman; the full meaning of his name remains uncertain. X-
archaic in Quiche but means "she of" or "small"
in Cholan (K.);
balan is from balam, "jaguar"; que could be from queh, "deer,"
could be like 3e in the Kekchi Maya term for "sun," zak3e,
composed of zak, "light," and 3e, "day" (F.). It
has been reported
that one of the names of the sun god among the contemporary Kekchi
is xbalam3e (F.), which recalls the fact that Hunahpu and Xbalanque
become the sun and moon in the P.V. If the name Xbalanque literally
means "Little Jaguar Sun" in the P.V., it could refer specifically
to the full moon, which is metaphorically called "sun" by
Quiches; that would leave other phases of the moon to his mother,
Blood Woman. In Pokomchi Maya, xbalanque or xbalamque is the term
for species of fish of the family that includes perch and bass (Z.),
which recalls the fact that Hunahpu and Xbalanque are described as
taking the form of channel catfish after their ground bones are thrown
in water; perhaps it was specifically Hunahpu who became a catfish,
whereas Xbalanque became a bass.
XBAQUIYALO The x- is archaic in Quiche but "she of" or "small"
Cholan (K.); the rest is of uncertain derivation but could include
bak, "bone" or "pit (of a fruit)." The wife of One
Hunahpu and the
mother of One Monkey and One Artisan.
XCANUL [X4anul], in which the x- is archaic in Quiche but "she
of" or "small" in Cholan (K.). In the P.V. this is a
proper name for
what is now called the Volcan Santa Maria (note the feminine
gender), nine kilometers south of Quezaltenango, but in the
present-day vocabulary of the western part of the Quiche-speaking
region it is a generic term for volcano.
XCUXEBA See Councilor of the Ball Court.
XIBALBA Probably derived, in part, from the same root as xibih,
"frighten"; the -al might have been participial and the final
could have been -bal, "place of." The underworld, located
face of the earth (uuach uleu) but at the same time conceptualized
as being accessible by way of a road that descends cliffs and canyons,
probably in the general direction of the lowlands that lie to the
Atlantic side of the Guatemalan highlands. In Yucatec Maya, Xibalba
one of the names for the lord of the lowest underworld. See also
Road of Xibalba.
XPIYACOC, XMUCANE Divine grandparents, probably older than all
the other gods; parents of One and Seven Hunahpu; patrons of the
diviners known as daykeepers (see above). Their epithets include
Grandmother of Day, Grandmother of Light (though Xpiyacoc is male);
Maker of the Blue-Green Plate, Maker of the Blue-Green Bowl; Great
White Peccary, Great White Tapir; and Bearer twice over, Begetter
twice over (as if to make them even older than the gods who are simply
called Bearer, Begetter). They are also described (respectively) as
a midwife and matchmaker, which are specialized subfields of
contemporary daykeepers (female and male respectively). That
Xpiyacoc is named first, reversing the normal feminine-masculine order
of Quiche phrasing, may reflect the fact that the two of them are
the Quiche counterparts of Cipactonal and Oxomoco, an old divining
couple named in masculine-feminine order in Nahua. The meaning of
the Quiche names is unclear, except that the initial x-, though
archaic in Quiche, means "she of" or "small" in
Cholan (K.). The
feminine aspect of Xpiyacoc recalls the fact that contemporary
daykeepers (of either sex) are symbolically androgynous, female on the
left side of the body and male on the right. Andres Xiloj suggested
that the -pi- in Xpiyacoc might be -pe-, "to come," and he
-yac- from yequic (yaquic in some dialects), "to be put in order,
be lifted up," a verb diviners use with reference to the problems
clients. In classical Quiche yaco is a numeral classifier for counting
tribute (B.); the yaco in Xpiyacoc could refer to the counting (and
manipulation) of the divining seeds rather than to the "lifting
the client. In the case of Xmucane, Xiloj derived mucane from moconic,
"to do something requested" or "to do a favor";
he pointed out that
a diviner who has ascertained the cause of a problem may then be hired
to make prayers and offerings on behalf of the client. To this day,
a daykeeper ideally has a spouse who is also a daykeeper, and the
divinations with the clearest outcomes are the ones they do together.
XTAH, XPUCH The x- is archaic in Quiche but "she of" or "small"
in Cholan (K.). The two women sent (by tribes hostile to the
Quiches) to seduce Tohil, Auilix, and Hacauitz. On the positive
side, -tah could be read as "goods, riches, gifts" (V.), and
could be read as a borrowing from Nahua ichpuchtli, "maiden"
On the other hand, tahih is "to sin many times" (V.), and
puchu is "to
smash, disembowel" (B.).
XTAYUB Possibly a variant spelling of Iztayul (see above). Keeper
of the Reception House Mat in the eighth generation of Cauec lords.
XULU, PACAM Names of the diviners consulted by the lords of Xibalba
on the question of how to dispose of the remains of Hunahpu and
Xbalanque. V. describes xulu as "[spirit] familiars appearing
alongside rivers"; an ahxulu, or "keeper of Xulu," is
a curer (V.)
or a diviner (B.). Pacam could be composed of pa, "at" or
cam, "bridge" (B.).
YACOLATAM, OR EDGE OF THE ZACLATOL MAT Yacolatam, utzam pop
zaclatol; yaco- is "to lift," and V. gives yac as a particle
counting tribute; utzam pop is "its-edge (possibly fringe) mat";
is likely zak, "white" or "light"; the rest is untranslatable.
Yacolatam is listed by itself the second time it is mentioned. Title
of the lord who ranked eighth among the Greathouses and was head of
one of the nine great houses into which their lineage was divided
after the founding of Rotten Cane.
YAQUI PEOPLE Yaqui uinac [uinak], in which yaqui is Nahua for
"gone, departed" (C.) and uinak is Quiche for "people."
This refers to
Nahua speakers who were present in the citadel of Tulan Zuyua at the
same time the Quiches, Rabinals, Cakchiquels, and those of the Bird
House (Tzutuhils) were there; according to the P.V., their god (called
Yolcuat and Quitzalcuat) was equivalent to Tohil. See also "The
Blame Is Ours."
YAQUI SOVEREIGN Probably the same as the Yaqui people (see above).
YARROW Holom ocox, "head of mushroom." A common aromatic herb
the Guatemalan highlands, named for the shape of its composite
flower head, which consists of numerous tiny, closely spaced white
blossoms; probably Stevia eupatoria, called pericon blanco in Spanish.
In the P.V. (as among today's Quiche) the burning of this herb,
together with marigolds (see above), constitutes a more modest
offering than the burning of copal incense.
YELLOWBITE Canti [3anti], in which 3an is "yellow" and ti
the same root as tiinic, "to eat (meat)." The snake commonly
as the fer-de-lance, which has a yellow zone around the mouth.
YELLOW ROAD 3anabe. One of four cosmic roads (see Crossroads).
YELLOWWOOD Cante [3ante], in which 3an is "yellow" and te
for "wood" or "tree" (C.). A. gives 3ante as the
(Gliricidia sepium), a large tree that is planted to provide shade
in cacao plantations. Hunahpu and Xbalanque send One Monkey and One
Artisan up this tree in order to transform them into monkeys.
YOKE Bate, from Cholan bat, which is today "ax, shovel, blade,"
te, "wood, tree" (C.). Part of the equipment necessary for
game played in the P.V. (see gaming equipment). Each player in the
Mesoamerican ball game had a yoke-shaped object of wood riding on
his hips; it was with this yoke that he returned the ball, which could
not be touched with the hands while it was in play. The upper, outer
rim of this yoke is often depicted with a mildly sharpened edge. Among
all the words for the gaming equipment in the P.V., bate is the best
candidate as a term for the yoke. First of all, bate is used as a term
for the game itself over wide areas of Mesoamerica; since the yoke
is one of the most distinctive features of the game, it could well
have given its name to the game itself at some remote point in the
past. Second, it was the bate with which Hunahpu and Xbalanque
received and returned the ball when they played the game against the
lords of Xibalba.
YOKE HOUSE, THOSE OF Ahbatenaba, "person-from-yoke-plural-house."
people belonging to a group of thirteen allied tribes the Quiches
regarded as having come (like themselves) from the east.
YOLCUAT From Nahua yol, "heart," and coatl, "snake"
(C.). One of
the names of the god of the Yaqui people, who is said by the writers
of the P.V. to be the same as Tohil.
ZAPOTES Tulul. A tropical fruit (Lucuma mammosa), sometimes
called "sapota" in English. The tan skin resembles suede;
the flesh is
ZAQUIC A lordly lineage divided into two great houses after the
founding of Rotten Cane; not mentioned as having come from the east
with the lordly Quiche lineages or as having been present at Tulan.
The Zaquics may have been indigenous to the area around Chinique,
and they may have been adopted by the Cauecs, Greathouses, and Lord
Quiches to fill out an ideal foursome that was left short by the
fact that True Jaguar (one of the first four human males) had no sons.
ZAQUICAZ V. gives zaki3az as "a very thick snake that flees when
sees people, making a noise with its belly." This is the snake
swallows the toad that swallows the louse that carries the message
ZIPACNA Derived from the same source as Nahua cipactli, referring
to a mythological animal, with the features of a crocodile and
sometimes those of a shark, that gives its name to the Nahua day
corresponding to Imox on the Quiche calendar. That Zipacna hunts
fish and crabs from a position on shore fits the crocodile
identification, but the Quiche term for crocodile, ayin, does not
occur in the P.V. Zipacna is the son of Seven Macaw and Chimalmat
and the elder brother of Earthquake; he claims to be the maker of
mountains and even of the earth in general.
ZIYA HOUSE Ziyaha, in which -ha is "house." A place of unknown
location, occupied by vassals of the Quiche lords during the reign
ZUYUA In the P.V. this name (sometimes rendered as zuua) always
appears as part of the compound name Tulan Zuyua, referring to the
town where the Quiches and related peoples are said to have been given
the stones containing the spirit familiars of their patron deities
(see also Tulan). Zuyua was probably on the system of lakes,
lagoons, and estuaries that stretches from southwestern Campeche
through Tabasco to eastern Veracruz, known in Nahua as Nonoalco. The
etymology of the name remains unsolved.
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As a director and his crew shoot a controversial
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Academia Semillas del Pueblo
"If Brown (vs. Board
of Education) was just about letting Black people into a White
school, well we don’t care about that anymore. We don’t
necessarily want to go to White schools. What we want to do is
teach ourselves, teach our children the way we have of teaching.
We don’t want to drink from a White water fountain...We
don’t need a White water fountain. So the whole issue of
segregation and the whole issue of the Civil Rights Movement is
all within the box of White culture and White supremacy. We should
not still be fighting for what they have. We are not interested
in what they have because we have so much more and because the
world is so much larger. And ultimately the White way, the American
way, the neo liberal, capitalist way of life will eventually lead
to our own destruction. And so it isn’t about an argument
of joining neo liberalism, it’s about us being able, as
human beings, to surpass the barrier."
- Marcos Aguilar (Principal,
Academia Semillas del Pueblo)