Friday, December 28, 2012

Sayil -- A Puuc Region Site

Author's note: The two maps I have found on Sayil do not match each other. For information on the Puuc region's style of architecture, go here.

Sayil is a site located in the Puuc region, in the modern Mexican state of Yucatán, whose life as a center of activity occurred during the Terminal Classic. Notable ones include El Palacio, El Mirador, Temple of the Hieroglyphic Lintel, Stela 9, Grupo Sur and a ballcourt.

According to Mesoamerican Elites: An Archaeological Assessment, Sayil is a " site and very little architecture is buried beneath later constructions." Sayil's development, height and decline occurred during the Terminal Classic Period -- a time in which the Classic Period turned into the Postclassic Period --, like other (not so far away) Puuc region sites such as Kabah, Labná and Uxmal. Its abandonment occurred at least by 1000 AD.

What has helped archaeologists to figure out when to place Sayil? Various pieces of archeological evidence for this short history include: a lintel at El Palacio dating to 730 AD; ceramic ware dating from 750 AD to 950 AD; and a stela whose calendar inscription translates to 810 AD.

El Palacio
Sometimes likened to Early Greek architecture or the the Minoan palace of Crete, El Palacio (also called the Great Palace) is a structure whose construction is thought to have occurred in several stages through the 700s AD. It has three tiers, a central staircase and a facade, which includes engaged (false) columns, regular columns and images of Chac (God B) and the  Diving God. The rooms contained within El Palacio number over 90. Also included in El Palacio is a basin meant to catch rain and send it to a chultun.  At the base of El Palacio's steps, a sacbé runs north-south to a ballcourt.

El Mirador
Heading south along the sacbé from El Palacio, after around 1,312.34 feet (400 meters) one reaches the structure called the Watchtower, Pyramid Temple, or El Mirador (or just Mirador.) This structure's notable features include its slotted roofcomb, its five rooms and the chultunes (cisterns located underground -- having been carved out of rock -- and plastered insode) found near it.

Like the chultunes, archaeologists have uncovered something else of interest near El Mirador. Evidence has been found that may indicate a market used to be held near it.

Temple of the Hieroglyphic Lintel
This structure is west of Mirador. The name of this structure gives an idea is to what it looks like: the doorways have inscriptions -- ones that are

Grupo Sur
Also known as Palacio Sur, this building originally contained 18 rooms. Several rooms are notably large.

 East of the Gurpo Sur is the ballcourt of Sayil. Looking at a map from Reed College, it appears that the ballcourt was of the I-shaped variety. This variety of ballcourt includes two parallel, rectangular structures standing on either side of the playing field.

Stela 9
South on a path from El Mirador is stela 9. This stela portrays what is currently understood to be an obscene depiction of a warrior. It is possible that it was connected to a fertility cult.

Consideration: Hours  
According to Yucatan & Mayan Mexico, Sayil is open from 8AM to 5PM, and costs the equivalent of $3 in US currency. Not far from the entrance to the site is a display of stelae.

"Yucatan & Mayan Mexico"; Nick Rider; 2005

"Frommer's Cancun, Cozumel and the Yucatan 2010"; David Baird; 2009

"Yucatán"; Ray Bartlett, Daniel C Schecter; 2006

"Mesoamerican Elites: An Archaeological Assessment"; Diane Z. Chase, Arlen Frank Chase; 2003

"The Ancient Maya", 6th Edition; Robert J. Sharer, Loa P. Traxler; 2006

Reed College: Sayil

Friday, December 21, 2012

Food of the Ancient Maya

Figuring out what the ancient Maya ate is till an ongoing process. Currently, it is understood that the Maya obtained food from both animal sources as well as plant sources (some of which it is thought were developed during the Archaic period). Also understood is that different regions had different resources generally available, which affected the everyday diet of the local communities.

Produce the ancient Maya ate includes manioc, sapodilla fruit, jicama, sweet potatoes, cacao tree fruit, tomatoes, avocados, macal (for its leaves, tubers and shoots) and chili peppers as well as corn, beans  -- particularly black beans -- and squash. The Maya also ate green vegetables like chaya (Jatropha aconitifolia.)

Processing Produce
The ancient Maya processed their corn by boiling it with snail shells or with white lime. The process, known today as nixtamalization, made the corn's niacin available. Kinds of foods made with corn include tamales, corn beer, gruel (atole -- a breakfast drink, according to bishop Landa) and the ancient Maya style of tortillas (thicker than the Aztec version) -- to which chili peppers, honey, achiote or squash seeds that had been toasted and ground were added.

Tamales were a often eaten lunch item. They could be filled with meat fillings, iguana eggs, flowers (for example, squash flowers), green vegetables and toasted squash seeds. Wrapped in leaves, they were cooked various ways such as under coals, steamed inside a certain kind of jar. Where it was used,  the Maya would use a comal to cook tamales.

And how did people drink their atole? Those who are understood to have been commoners put honey, chili peppers, squash seed powder or herbs in their atole. On the other end of the spectrum, people understood to have been elites would mix the fermented, roasted and ground up seeds of the cacao tree into their atole.

Meat -- in the lowlands, at least -- included the ocellated turkey (also called the wild turkey), the domestic turkey, peccary, armadillo, crocodile, spider monkey, turtles, deer, manatee, tapir and howler monkey as well as various species of saltwater fish, iguana and freshwater fish. A certain kind of domesticated dog was also eaten.

Processing Meat
Grilling -- via skewering the meat and put on a wood frame on a fire -- was common for dog meat, deer meat, bird meat and peccary meat, and may have been common for iguana and turtle meat. Roasting food in a pit like the Hawaiians was also common: the meat was placed in a fire pit in the ground on top of hot stones, and the pit was covered. This process was common for festivals.

Though grilling was common, the most often used method to cook both fish and bird meat was to boil it. It is possible that boiled fish and poultry were used in stews - like tamales, a common lunch food.

Consideration: Dietary Theories
In terms of reconstructing which foods were most important, one interpretation was that corn was the most important to the ancient Maya. According to The Ancient Maya: New Perspectives corn may not have been as important as has been thought.

There is also the theory that corn, squash, and beans (the "three sisters" in certain North American cultures) as well as chili peppers were commonly eaten in both the highlands and lowlands of the ancient Maya world, with tropical fruit like the cacao tree's fruit were more common in the Yucatán Peninsula and in the Petén region.

As to how common meat was, that depended on the person's rank in society. Meat was not as common for people understood to be commoners to eat. Festivals were the time during which they would be more likely to eat it.

"Archaeology of Ancient Mexico and Central America: An Encyclopedia"; Susan Toby Evans, David L. Webster; 2001

"The Ancient Maya: New Perspectives"; Heather Irene McKillop; 2004

 "Handbook To Life In The Ancient Maya World"; Lynn V. Foster; 2005

Monday, December 17, 2012

Periods of Ancient Maya History

Author's note: My resources do not always corroborate on dates and facts of these periods. To keep down a potential ideological issue, I have stuck with each resource's use of BC and AD or BCE and CE when referencing their dates. Updates will undoubtedly be necessary as time goes on. Also, I plan to expand each of the periods to have their own post.

In the course of studying the ancient Maya, archaeologists have formed a classification of different periods of change and/or development. Among the most resources, these periods are the Paleo-Indian (Lithic) Period, Archaic Period, Preclassic (Formative) Period, Classic Period and Postclassic Period, with some of these periods having sub-periods. This post touches on highlights of each period.

Paleoindian Period
People crossing from the Old World to the New World is a major feature of the Paleoindian period, which is sometimes called the Lithic Period. It is currently thought that the migrants lived in nomadic groups, traveling and hunting large animals such as the wild horses of the time as well as mammoths. Different theories exist as to how people got to the New World: one involves people crossing the Bering Strait on a land bridge, while another thinks it's possible the travelers used boats.

The dates of the Paleoindian Period according to Dr. Kuang Yu Chen, started around 20,000 BC and ended around 8000 BC. Handbook To Life In The Ancient Maya World states the period started about 12,000 BCE and ended around 7000 BCE.

Archaic Period
Due to a change in climate that had been occurring -- the ice was melting --, and over-hunting of large animals, ancient peoples began to change their lifestyle. People began to hunt smaller animals and work more on their agricultural skills -- including the domestication of such things as corn, tomatoes and chilies. Completely sedentary villages began to occur in this period along with the arts of weaving and pottery.

Society changed as well in the Archaic Period. Around 1400 BC a culture currently called the Isthmian culture was in place from the Gulf Coast area in modern day Veracruz to the Pacific coast area that became part of the ancient Maya world.

According to Dr. Kuang Yu Chen the Archaic Period started around 8000 BC and ended in 2000 BC. According to Handbook, the Archaic Period started around 7000 BCE and ended around 1200 BCE.

Preclassic Period
Also known as the Formative Period, the Preclassic Period is a period that archaeologists have split into the Early Preclassic, Middle Preclassic and Late Preclassic. In the Early Preclassic, the Olmec civilization developed out of the Isthmian culture.

In the Middle Preclassic the Olmec civilization continued to flourish and then decline. Meanwhile, the Maya civilization developed to be notably distinct.

In the Late Preclassic, -- in the southern and central lowlands -- the ancient Maya society pyramid started to develop, and communities whose center were ceremonial structures began. The late Preclassic was also the time when the ancient Maya adopted the Zapotec writing system. Also in the Late Preclassic, the population increases to its maximum in both the communities of the Guatemalan highlands and in Pacific coast communities.

Dr. Kuang Yu Chen states that the Preclassic Period (which he calls the Formative Period) started around 2000 BC and ended around 250 AD. Handbook states the period started around 1200 BCE and ended around 250 AD. Handbook further elaborates, saying the Early Preclassic began around 1200 BCE and ended around 1000 BCE, the Middle Preclassic began around 1000 BCE and ended around 300 BCE, and the Late Preclassic began around 300 BCE and ended around 250 CE. A page -- on a section of Wesleyan University's website titled Unaahil B'aak The Temples of Palenque -- states however, that the Early Preclassic began around 2500 BCE and ended 1000 BCE, the Middle Preclassic began around 1000 BCE and ended 400 BCE and the Late Preclassic started around 400 BCE and ended around 200 CE.

Classic Period
Though sometimes described as a golden age of the ancient Maya civilization, other sources say the Classic Period was a time where the ancient Maya were both building as well as setting up stelae -- with others saying it was when they used the Long Count in their monuments. The Classic Period has two sub-divisions, the Early Classic and the Late Classic. The split between the Early and Late Classic is because of political turmoil that happened around 600 AD, as well as artistic changes that occurred around that time.

In the Early Classic Period, cities located along the Pacific coast decline. In the Late Classic the population increases in the southern and central lowlands, more and more cities are built in the southern lowlands and warfare increases.

Kuan Yu Chen states the Classic Period began around 250 AD and ended around 900 AD. Handbook states that this period began around 250 CE and ended around 900 CE. Handbook also states that the Early Classic started around 250 CE and ended around 600 CE, the Late Classic started around 600 and ended in 900. The Wesleyan University page states the Early Classic started around 200 CE and ended 600 CE, but does agree with Handbook as to the dates of the Late Classic.

Terminal Classic Period
In the time of transition known as the Terminal Classic Period -- which is, generally speaking, the last century of the Classic Period -- the cities in the Petén region decline, and at the same time something Handbook calls "pan-Mesoamerican culture" becomes dominant in the Yucatan Peninsula. Also during the Terminal Classic, monuments no longer use the Long Count.

Handbook  states the Terminal Classic is both part of the Classic and Postclassic Period. According to this book, it started around 800 CE and ended around 1000 CE. A study published August 24, 2012 titled "Classic Period collapse of the Central Maya Lowlands: Insights about human–environment relationships for sustainability" agrees with Handbook on the dates for the Terminal Classic.

Postclassic Period
The Postclassic Period is divided into the Early Postclassic and the Late Postclassic.  The Early Postclassic society was not as centered on the conquests of rulers as the Classic Period culture had been, and large systems of trade between cities existed in the northern lowlands.

In the Late Postclassic, cities began to be built to be fortified, public monuments became less common and the Aztec Empire started to influence the Maya word -- even taking tribute from places in the highlands of Guatemala.

Dr. Kuang Yu Chen states this period lasted from around 900 AD until 1521 and Handbook agrees with him. According to the page on Wesleyan University's website, the Postclassic Period is split into the Early Postclassic (which lasted from around 900 CE to 1200 CE) and the Late Postclassic (which lasted from 1200 CE until 1492 CE)


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Clothing of the Ancient Maya

There is not a lot known about how the Maya dressed like in ancient times, and what is known mostly is information on people understood to have been elites. This is because of the environment in which the ancient Maya lived -- like the codices, the clothing has rotted away. Instead archaeologists try to interpret the fashion sense of the ancient Maya via art mediums such as  ceramic ware, carvings, ceramic figurines and murals as well as the 1500s records by Spanish colonists.

General Concept
As it is currently understood, the ancient Maya had different ideas about clothes than people do today. For one thing, they never made clothes so they fit close to the body of their own accord. Clothes tended to be held in place by being knotted or were held in place by belts made of cloth. And for another, they could be quite different from Western standards of modesty.

Despite the decay problem, by using chemical analysis it has been discovered that the ancient Maya used bark cloth, hemp fiber and cotton as materials for their clothing. It is possible that bark cloth was a material for ritual clothing.

Beyond the materials themselves, the ancient Maya would dye their clothing, via plant and animal sourced dyes. Examples of colors available to the ancient Maya dyers include green, purple, black, blue and various sources of red.

Head Wear for Women
Women tended to wear either a complicated hairstyle that involved intertwining the hair with cloth, or -- like men -- wore turban-like headdresses. However, women's head wear fashions seem to have been less diverse than men's head wear fashions.

Head Wear for Men
Men's also wore different fashions of turban-like headdresses. However, they also seem to have worn other kinds of headdresses, that were commonly complicated structures made using various materials including such things as feathers, gems, animal hides.

Clothing for Men
Menswear included a kind of breech-clout that was, according to The Ancient Maya, ..."five fingers wide" -- though Your Travel Guide to Ancient Mayan Civilization says was between eight and ten feet long and ten inches wide. This breech-clout was wrapped around the waist repeatedly before being passed between the legs. For the upper classes, they were commonly decorated with featherwork on the ends. Lower class men wore undecorated loincloths.

Seemingly not as common as the breech-clout, some depictions of men show them also wearing a pati. A pati is a big, square-shaped piece of cloth that is -- like the breech-clout -- decorated in relation to the class of the wearer. The pati was tied around the wearer's shoulders. Not just for day-wear -- except for very fancy ones -- it was also used to sleep in.

Clothing for Women
Women would wear a skirt and/or a sleeveless, poncho-like tunic (commonly known today as the huipil) or a dress. Maya skirts were either tied with belt or was knotted in place with the huipil worn over the skirt. Elite women's skirts, as with other clothing, were more decorated than skirts of the lower classes -- they would have decorative fringes and knots.

Not everyone wore the huipil with their skirt, when they did wear more than a skirt. According to bishop Diego de Landa, women in Campeche, Balacar and along the coast wore a skirt as well as a folded piece of cloth tied around their torsos. He called the folded cloth a manta -- but The Ancient Maya: Fifth Edition calls a pati.

As to dresses, there seem to be different kinds of dresses worn by ancient Maya women. One kind of Maya dress is described in The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Clothing as a full length version of the tunic that was sewn up the sides. A second kind of dress seems to have been made of a large piece of cloth wrapped around the body.

The ancient Maya wore sandals. Ancient Maya sandal straps had two thongs. One thong went in the space between the first and second toe while the second went between the third and fourth toe.

As with other aspects of ancient Maya society, it seems that elaboration and material usage depended on where a person ranked in society. Men who were not upper class wore deer-hide sandals that were untanned, with hemp cord for straps. For elites however, it seems they had much more complicated sandals.

Decorations for sandals also existed. Depictions of sandals exist with such embellishments as pompoms, or jaguar skin.

 "The Ancient Maya"; Robert J. Sharer, Loa P. Traxler; 2006

"Handbook To Life In The Ancient Maya World"; Lynn V. Foster; 2005

"Ancient Maya Commoners"; Jon C. Lohse, Fred Valdez, Jr; 2004

"Your Travel Guide to Ancient Mayan Civilization"; Nancy Daya; 2001

"The Ancient Maya: Fifth Edition"; Sylvanus Griswold Morley, Robert J. Sharer; 1994

"The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Clothing Through World History: 1501-1800", Volume 2"; Greenwood Publishing Group; 2008

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Casa Blanca

Author's note: Frommer's Central America and An Archaeological Guide to Central and Southern Mexico states Casa Blanca is a site in and of itself. Other sources such as Archaeology of Ancient Mexico and Central America: An Encyclopedia and an article written by Robert J. Sharer state that Casa Blanca is not a site in and of itself but a group of structures that is part of a larger site called Chalchuapa. In his article, Robert J. Sharer refers to Casa Blanca as the Casa Blanca Mound Group, and says it is the largest out of all the groups of Chalchuapa.

Located in a park called Parque Arqueológico Casa Blanca, Casa Blanca is a small-ish ancient Maya site residing in El Salvador, not far from the site of Tazumel (Frommer's Central America says it is a 5 minute drive from this site). Casa Blanca, as well as other sites in El Salvador, are used as evidence to show that the country was a large center for trade during ancient times. Beyond the ruins, the park also includes other things such as a museum and an "archaeological window".

Historical Facts on Casa Blanca
Casa Blanca's structures mostly date from the Late Preclassic and the Classic Periods, though there was some building during the Postclassic Period. The site was not as used during the Postclassic Period, and seems to have  been used for burials.

Features of Casa Blanca
The park is 15 acres and has a total of six structures (three pyramids and three other structures), with a trail leading by them (Frommer's Central America states this is a 15 minute walk). Two of the pyramids have been restored somewhat.  At the base of structure five-- in front of the steps --, a column of basalt has been discovered. Next to this column a carved piece of stone has also been discovered.

Another Feature
Known as the Archaeological Window, at the park there is a square pit dug into the ground which tourists may view. The pit has a roof, a staircase and a platform for viewing, which was bought with money from the Japanese government.

Of note in the strata is a layer of white ash that comes from the Ilopongo volcano. Located east of San Salvador -- El Salvador's capital --, this volcano is thought to have erupted during the 400s AD, and is understood to have destroyed various communities in the area. It is now a large lake.

Associated Establishments

Parque Arqueológico Casa Blanca contains more than the ruins of Casa Blanca. It also contains a museum and a workshop known as the indigo workshop.

Designed to look like an hacienda, this museum is for Spanish speakers. Among its pieces, the museum is in the possession of the only (currently)  known piece of Maya writing with an El Salvadoran origin. The writing is a piece of a stela, and comes from El Trapiche, a site north of Casa Blanca. Its writing has almost entirely been destroyed purposefully.

Indigo Workshop
Started with government aid from Japan, the indigo workshop's focus is to teach how to dye with natural dyes and sells items the workshop has dyed indigo. However it closed down on December 31st, 2009 and has not yet reopened.

Hours Of Operation
The park is open Tuesday through Sunday. Hours vary by source: Frommer's Central America states it is open until 4:30PM but a site according to FUNDAR (National Foundation of Archaeology of El Salvador), the site is open until 4PM.  It costs $3 for an adult from a foreign country to enter the site but only $1 for a El Salvadoran adult or an adult from a Central American Country. There is also $1 for cars and $2 for buses.


"Frommer's Central America"; Eliot Greenspan, Jisel Perilla, Nicholas Gill, Charlie O'Malley; 2011

"Western El Salvador: Frommer's Shortcuts"; Frommer's Shortcuts; 2007

"An Archaeological Guide to Central and Southern Mexico"; Joyce Kelly, Jerry Kelly; 2001

Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History: Global Volcanism Program

University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology: "Expedition", Winter 1969; "Chalchuapa Investigations at a Highland Maya Ceremonial Center"; Robert J. Sharer Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Pitzer College

FUNDAR: Casa Blanca Archaeological Park

Saturday, December 1, 2012

God Q

 Author's note: for the overview post on gods and goddesses of the ancient Maya, go here

Only found in the Madrid Codex, God Q was -- as mentioned in the overview post on the ancient Maya gods and goddesses -- once classified as part of God F. Thompson was the first to officially talk about reclassifying God F into three gods, giving them new designations -- the other two of which are God R and God A'.

Name Consideration
As to his name, it could be that God Q's was called Lahun P'el. The glyphs the ancient Maya used for his name include the number 10.

Notable Features
God Q's costume tends to include the death eyes and death collar -- like God A --, as well as a knotted headband (theorized to be paper or cloth.)

Another notable feature of God Q is what is called his "facial band" in The Major Gods of Ancient Yucatan, Issue 32 by Karl A. Taube. This band may be made of lines of dots, bands or just lines, and goes from his forehead, through an eye and stops at the far side of his cheek. Theories exist as to the nature of this band. One theory states it refers to human skin while another says it relates to stone.

God Q is commonly understood to be either a god of death, human sacrifice and/or war.  This god is also thought to be a god who lived in Xibalbá, and is often drawn alongside Kisin (God A) in the Madrid Codex.

On three pages of the Madrid Codex, God Q is fighting Ek Chuah (God M), a god of merchants.

Missouri State University: MAYA GODS AND GODDESSES

"Star Gods of the Ancient Maya: Astronomy in Art, Folklore, and Calendars"; Susan Milbrath; 2000

"Native American Mathematics"; Michael P. Closs; 1996

"The Major Gods of Ancient Yucatan, Issue 32"; Karl A. Taube; 1992

Monday, November 26, 2012

God P

Author's note: for the overview post on ancient Maya gods and goddesses, go here

God P is a god who so far has only been found in the Madrid Codex. He is much debated upon, with various theories connected to his function -- and in fact his existence as a god.

God P's notable feature is his fingers, which look frog-like, and he wears a headdress that incorporates a 360-day sign. Schellhas called it the Frog God, which is another name still used for the god.

In the Madrid Codex he is drawn making furrows and planting seeds, and this has been used as evidence of of the god being related to agriculture. However, there is a variance in how this is specifically interpreted. Two of my three sources with information on God P state that he is a god of agriculture. However, my third source South and Meso-American Mythology A to Z, states that God P is a water god related to agriculture.

 Consideration: Only An Aspect?
God P may not be a god in his own right. He may just be an aspect of Pauahtun (God N) -- a god with at least four aspects ( known as Bacabs or Bakabs) who were thought to hold the sky.

Identity Theory
There is a theory which states that God P is somehow Kukulkan/Quetzalcoatl (the Aztec version of Kukulkan), and several theorists on this are Tedlock, Seler and Taube. In particular Taube thinks that God P is a form of Kukulkan/Queztalcoatl known as Ehecatl Quetzalcoatl -- an aspect of the god connected to the wind --, and is an aspect of Sak Nik (God H).


"South and Meso-American Mythology A to Z"; Ann Bingham, Jeremy Roberts; 2010

"A Dictionary of Non-Classical Mythology"; Lewis Spence; 2005

Missouri State University: MAYA GODS AND GODDESSES

University of Kansas: "Quetzalcoatl's Fathers A Critical Examination of Source Materials"; Brant Gardner; 1997

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Pauahtun (God N)

Author's note: for the overview post on gods and goddesses of the ancient Maya, go here.

Pauahtun (Pawahtun) is God N of the Schellhas classification. Currently known to have four aspects, he has been connected to an earth god known as Mam described as a god still being worshiped today in Exploring the Life, Myth, and Art of the Maya.


Drawn as an old man with missing teeth, images depict Pauahtun with a turtle shell or a conch shell on his back. He also wears a headdress -- most sources this author has found say it is a netted headdress, though The Ancient Maya: New Perspectives states that it is a crocodile headdress (the book also state that he has a "cut-out shell nose").

The god is also commonly drawn with one hand raised above his head, and is drawn either as a scribe or teaching scribes. In a few Classic period images on ceramics, Pauahtun is drawn with an accompaniment of women.

Pauahtun was the patron of scribes and of group of 5 unlucky days known as the Uayeb (Wayeb), which came at the end of the Haab calendar.

The four aspects of Pauahtun -- called Bacabs (Bakabs) -- each were thought to stand at one of the four main compass points and hold up the sky. Each Bacab was connected to a color as well, like the aspects of Chac (God B).

Uayeb Dance
Pauahtun may be connected to a dance known as the Uayeb (Wayeb) Dance. A scene in the Lower Temple of the Jaguars at Chichen Itzá depicts a ruler and ritual participants taking part in a dance, with Pauahtun being a notable figure. It is conjectured that this dance may have taken place during the Uayeb.

Sources conflict concerning Pauahtun's name. The Ancient Maya states that Pauahtun was known as Bacab during the Postclassic period, while Handbook to Life in the Ancient Maya world states that it is Pauahtun's four aspects that are known as Bakabs. A third source,The Ancient Maya: New Perspectives, states that Pauahtun at the time of contact with the Spanish was known as the four Bacabs.


"Handbook to Life in the Ancient Maya World"; Lynn V. Foster; 2005

"Exploring the Life, Myth, and Art of the Maya"; Timothy Laughton; 2011

"The Ancient Maya"; Robert J. Sharer, Loa P. Traxler; 2006

"The Ancient Maya: New Perspectives"; Heather Irene McKillop; 2004

"Star Gods of the Maya: Astronomy in Art, Folklore, and Calendars"; Susan Milbrath; 2000

Missouri State University: MAYA GODS AND GODDESSES

Friday, November 16, 2012

Ek Chuah (God M)

Author's note: To go to the overview post on the ancient Maya gods and goddesses, go here.

God M of the Schellhas classification system was a god of merchants known to us as Ek Chuah (also Ek Chauah, and Ek Chuwah or Ek' Chuwah), a name that might really be his though it is not known for sure. He is somewhat close in appearance and function to God L, a god that Ek Chuah may have supplanted.

Ek Chuah had a black body (some sources say face), a long and narrow nose and a big lower lip. Some images of Ek Chuah show him holding a spear.

Like God L, Ek Chuah was a god of merchants. The spear he is sometimes drawn with possibly connects him with fighting in connection to attacks on merchants. Some sources such as Chocolate: History, Culture, and Heritage and Explorer's Guide Mexico's Aztec & Maya Empires say that Ek Chuah was also the god of cacao. 

Chocolate: History, Culture, and Heritage  also quoted a translated section of Bishop Diego de Landa's Relación de las cosas de Yucatan:

      "Wherever they came they erected three little stones, and placed on each several grains of the incense; and in front they placed three other flat stones, on which they threw incense, as they offered prayers to God whom they called Ek Chuwah [Ek' Chuwah] that he would bring them back home again in safety." **

During the Postclassic period, it is thought that Ek Chuah became more popular than God L. There are fewer images of God L in the Postclassic period than in the Classic, where most of his images are found.

** The book's reference for this quote is as thus: "Tozzer, A.M. Landa's relación de las cosas de Yucatan. Papers of the Peabody Museum of American Archaeology and Ethnology, Volume 18. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University , 1941 (original. 1566, Landa, D. de); P. 107."


"Handbook to Life in the Ancient Maya World "; Lynn V. Foster; 2005

"The Ancient Maya: New Perspectives"; Heather Irene McKillop; 2004

Missouri State University: MAYA GODS AND GODDESSES

"Chocolate: History, Culture, and Heritage"; Louis E. Grivetti, Howard-Yana Shapiro; 2011

"Maya Conquistador"; Matthew Restall; 1999

"Explorer's Guide Mexico's Aztec & Maya Empires"; Zain Deane; 2011

Sunday, November 11, 2012

God L -- A God of Xibalbá

Author's note: To go to the overview post on the ancient Maya gods and goddesses, go here.

God L was a god connected to trade and the underworld, Xibalbá,  (and was was one of the Lords of Death that the Hero Twins defeated.)Another merchant god (God M, known as Ek Chuah or Ek Chuwah) may have become more popular than God L as time passed.

Often drawn with a black colored body, God L is an old-looking god who has square eyes and a big nose. He wears a black cape and in his mouth is a cylinder -- described in books as a cigar. At times he is drawn with a merchant's pack and a walking stick.

Another distinctive part of God L's appearance is headdress with a wide brim that has a bird with black tipped feathers on it (thought to be a screech owl, sometimes called a muan-bird). At times this headdress is drawn with a jaguar ear, making it look like the ear is attatched to it.

The material of God L's clothing varies somewhat, it seems. The depiction of God L on both the Temple of the Sun and the Temple of the Cross includes his cape being a jaguar pelt. In the Vase of Seven Gods, God L wears a jaguar kilt and his throne is a jaguar (describe alternately as jaguar skin) throne.

God L was the patron of merchants (The Ancient Maya states he was also the god of tribute). He was connected to jaguars, wealth and power. Depending on the source he is either a one of the gods in Xibalbá (such as Trees of Paradise and Pillars of the World: The Serial Stelae Cycle of "18-Rabbit-God K," King of Copan) or the ruling god of Xibalbá (such as The Ancient Maya).

It's possible that God L was more than this. According to Dr. John F. Chuchiak IV's site, God L wasn't just a merchant god, but was also a creator god.

Possible Function
According to Star Gods of the Maya: Astronomy in Art, Folklore, and Calendars by Susan Milbrath, in the Dresden Codex's "Venus pages", God L is shown as the dry-season Morning Star (connected to war). This may connect him to war. The book states a man named Michael Closs says that God L could be an aspect of Venus.

There is a site known as Cacaxtla ("place of the merchant pack") that has colorful murals. In these murals, one of the figures depicted holds a pack containing jaguar pelts, cacao and quetzal feathers. This figure could be God L, and he may be the referent in Cacaxtla's name.


"Handbook to life in the Ancient Maya World"; Lynn V. Foster; 2005

"The Ancient Maya"; Robert J. Sharer, Loa P. Traxler; 2006

"Star Gods of the Maya: Astronomy in Art, Folklore, and Calendars"; Susan Milbrath; 2000

"Icons of Power: Feline Symbolism in the Americas"; N. Saunders; 1998

Precolumbian Art and Art history: Cacaxtla

"Archaeology of Ancient Mexico and Central America: An Encyclopedia"; Susan Evans; 2000

"Trees of Paradise and Pillars of the World: The Serial Stelae Cycle of "18-Rabbit-God K," King of Copan "; Elizabeth A. Newsome; 2001

"Chocolate: Pathway to the Gods"; Meredith L. Dreiss, Sharon Edgar Greenhill; 2008

Missouri State University: MAYA GODS AND GODDESSES

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

K'awil (God K)

Author's note: As has been found when researching other gods, the functions and appearance of God K vary somewhat by source. And also, to go to the overview post on the gods and goddesses of the ancient Maya, click here.

God K in the Schellhas list of gods is also known as K'awil (or K'awiil), a name found for the god in Classic period inscriptions. Possibly a god of both certain natural sources and of royalty, he may also be somehow connected to Chac -- also spelled Chaac and Chaak -- (God B). I've split K'awil's Function section into two sections, for clarity.

There are multiple notable features of K'awil's appearance. These include his upturned snout, his one snake foot and the smoking axe blade (sometimes tube) protruding from his forehead.

In Star Gods of the Maya: Astronomy in Art, Folklores and Calendars by Susan Milbrath, the depiction of K'awil's snout also included "branching elements". The book also says that sometimes his snout was drawn with an inset mirror.

Functions: Just A Lightning God?
 According to the site run by Dr. John F. Chuchiak IV, K'awil was a god of both fire and lightning.  While The Ancient Maya: New Perspectives by Heather Irene McKillop says exactly the same thing, other sources disagree somewhat on the god's functions.

In  The Ancient Maya -- by Robert J. Sharer and Loa P. Traxler -- it states that K'awil may have been a lightning god -- personification of lightning. This is due to the smoking axe (or tube) in his forehead, which may be related to Chac, who had an axe.

Trees of Paradise and Pillars of the World:The Serial Stelae Cycle of "18-Rabbit-God K," King of Copan  backs up The Ancient Maya somewhat, as well as Dr. Chuchiak. It states that K'awil was mostly a god of lightning, and was connected to Chac.

The Decipherment of Ancient Maya Writing says that K'awil was "probably closely related" to Chac. It sites images in which K'awil and Chac are seen together.

Finally, the National Gallery of Art States that K'awil was a god of lightning.

Functions: Royal Rites
The ancient Maya used the image of K'awil in their royal accession ceremonies. Scepters made to look like K'awil  -- known today as Mannikin Scepters -- were important in rituals concerning ascending the throne. Also, "eccentric flints" (stone chipped into designs, and not for practical reasons) of K'awil have been found. It is thought that these flints used to be part of scepters.

Dr. Chuchiak's site states K'awil was a god of dynastic descent. As with his function as a lightning god, the National Gallery of Art corroborates this, and says K'awil is a god for protection royal lines.

The Ancient Maya is a bit more conservative in the connection between K'awil and ancient Maya rulers. It talks about Mannikin Scepters, and states that from this it is "assumed" he was a patron of rulers.

The Decipherment of Ancient Maya Writing -- published by the University of Oklahoma Press -- like other sources talks about K'awil in terms of royalty (as well as about Chac and K'awil being connected). It states that in the Classic period, K'awil was connected to royal lineage as well as royal power.

K'awil may also be another god, known as Bolon Tz'akab, or vice versa. Sources are not clear.


Thursday, November 1, 2012

Ix Chel (Goddesses I and O)

Author's note: It is not entirely clear what Ix Chel was like before the arrival of the Spanish. The Early Colonial period version of Ix Chel is more understandable. Also, to see the overview post on the gods and goddesses of the ancient Maya, go here.

 A female deity of the ancient Maya was a goddess known as Ix Chel, (also known as Lady Rainbow), who was either the companion or wife of Itzamná (God D). So far as it is understood, Ix Chel seems to have two forms: one that is also known as the old (or aged) moon goddess (Goddess O) -- called either Chac Chel (Chak Chel) or Chakal Ix Chel -- and one that is known as the young moon goddess.

The apperance of Ix Chel varies depending on the aspect. Maya scribes drew the young aspect of Ix Chel was a young and beautiful woman who has a large nosepiece, and was seen with a rabbit and a crescent moon. The aged aspect of Ix Chel was depicted as an old woman with snakes in her headdress and jaguar paws for hands, who often is pouring water out from a jar.

Ix Chel seems to have both positive and negative functions. Her positive functions included being the goddess of divination and weaving as well as a medical goddess of healing, childbirth and medicine. Her negative functions included being a goddess of floods and destruction (and at times war), as well as of snakes. However she does not bring sickness.

This goddess was important along the Carribbean coast. A shrine to Ix Chel can be found on Cozumel Island, in which a statue may have been designed so that a priest could make it seem like the statue "talked".

 Moon Goddess?
Sources including Handbook to Life in the Ancient Maya World (published by Oxford University Press) and Dr. Chuchiak -- say that Ix Chel was a moon goddess. However, in Mesoamerican Mythology:
A Guide to the Gods, Heroes, Rituals, and Beliefs of Mexico and Central America (also published by Oxford University Press) states that Ix Chel may have been a moon goddess.

Goddess I and the Tonsured Maize God
Goddess I may have been connected connected to the Tonsured Maize God. There are images that show her looking somewhat like the Tonsured Maize God, wearing his costume, hairstyle and having his facial markings. Another possible piece of evidence for the connection is an image showing a crescent moon in connection to the Tonsured Maize God.
Who was Ix Chel Really Married To? 
In Yaxchilán there is a depiction of a ruler's parents in which an image of his father has a sun glyph in it while an image of the ruler's mother has a lunar sign in it. This is what, according to Handbook to Life in the Ancient Maya Word, gives evidence to a theory that Ix Chel was the wife of the sun god.

Other Possible Aspects
Dr. John F. Chuchiak IV -- the Assistant Professor of Colonial Latin American History at the Department of History at SMSU -- states that Goddess I was confused with another goddess (who he designates as I'). This other goddess, named Sakal Ix Chel that was was similar in appearance with Chac Chel. Though he is not entirely sure, he thinks it is possible that Sakal Ix Chel is the same as Chac Chel.

Also, there is a theory that states that Blood Woman -- or Blood Moon -- (called Xkik in Handbook to Life in the Ancient Maya World) could be an aspect of Ix Chel. Blood Woman was the mother of the Hero Twins.


Missouri State University: MAYA GODS AND GODDESSES 

"Mesoamerican Mythology: A Guide to the Gods, Heroes, Rituals, and Beliefs of Mexico and Central America"; Kay Almere Read, Jason J. Gonzalez; 2002

"Handbook to Life in the Ancient Maya World"; Lynn V. Foster; 2005

"The Ancient Maya: New Perspectives"; Heather Irene McKillop; 2004

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Sak Nik (God H)

Author's note: to see the overview post on Maya gods and goddesses, go here.

God H -- Sak Nik (literally "white flower" a term used for the soul) -- is a god who may the god of a diversity of things. He used to be confused with another god (either termed God CH or God J), a god now understood to be the Hero Twin Xbalanque (Yax Balam). 

The appearance of Sak Nik is of a young man. In the codices, he has a headband with flowers on it.

Sak Nik could be a god of music,  the soul and/or the wind -- he is thought to be connected to the day Ik (meaning "wind"). Sak Nik may also be the god depicted in the "head glyph" variant for the number three (numbers could be written several ways, including with heads of gods). Another thing he may have been connected to is the Water-lily serpent -- a creature with a bird's head and snake's body with a headdress made of a lily and lily pad.

Beyond these things it is possible that Sak Nik was also god of music. In scenes found in the codicies in which the gods are making music, one of the most common gods in those scenes is Sak Nik.

In the codices, Sak Nik is possibly connected somehow with Itzamná (God D). Examples used as evidence include sections 12c and 15c of the Dresden Codex.


"Star Gods of the Maya: Astronomy in Art, Folklore, and Calendars"; Susan Milbrath; 2000

"Prehistoric Mesoamerica"; Richard E.W. Adams; 2005 

"The Maya and Teotihuacan: Reinterpreting Early Classic Interaction"; Geoffrey E. Braswell; 2004

"Of Macaws and Men: Late Preclassic Cosmology and Political Ideology in Izapan-Style Monuments"; Julia Guernsey Kappelman; 1997

"To Be Like Gods: Dance in Ancient Maya Civilization"; Matthew G. Looper; 2009

"The Ancient Maya: New Perspectives"; Heather Irene McKillop; 2004

Monday, October 22, 2012

Kinich Ahau (God G)

God G was the sun god of the ancient Maya. In the Classic period and the Postclassic period, he was referred to either as Ahau Kin (Ahaw K'in) or Kinich Ahau (K'inich Ahau, K'inich Ajaw). One of the most famous pieces of jade found in the ancient Maya land is a jade head bearing his appearance, from Altun Ha. His head has also been used to decorate temples.

There are variances in how Kinich Ahau was drawn. In Mesoamerican Mythology: A Guide to the Gods, Heroes, Rituals, and Beliefs of f Mexico and Central America he is described as having several distinguishing features: a hooked nose (a spiral often heading out from it in profile drawings); eyes that looked like crosses in full view but with an eye that looked like a square in profile; and sometimes a beard that had sections curling at the corners of his mouth.

Star Gods of the Maya: Astronomy in Art, Folklore, and Calendars says some similar things but also says some different things. It uses examples of Kinich Ahau found in the codices: in the Madrid Codex he is depicted as a aged being with crooked teeth; but in the Dresden Codex he is depicted to be around middle age, though on a table concerning eclipses he is drawn with a beard. The book also says that during the Postclassic period, Kinich Ahau was drawn with the glyph for the day Kin on his head or body. Sometimes, he was drawn with fangs or with one tooth.

Kinich Ahau was the sun, and was believed to turn into a jaguar as he went through Xibalbá each night. He was the patron of the day Muluc (also spelled Muluk), and was associated with Maya rulers and warriors as well as jaguars.

Change of Kinich Ahau's Patronage of Kings
The association of Kinich Ahau with kings changed over time. In the Classic period it was very common for a ruler to say he had a connection with the god. However this changed to become less common in the Postclassic period, as did the prominence of Kinich Ahau.

A God or an Aspect?
Kinich Ahau might not actually be a god by himself. There is a possibility that he is only an aspect of Itzamná (God D), a creator god (Itzamná has been identified as having an aspect named Kinich Ahau Itzamná).


"The Ancient Maya: New Perspectives"; Heather Irene McKillop; 2004

"The Ancient Maya"; Robert. J Sharer, Loa P. Traxler; 2006

"Prehistoric Mesoamerica"; Richard E. W. Adams; 1991

"Star Gods of the Maya: Astronomy in Art, Folklore, and Calendars"; Susan Milbrath; 2000

"Mesoamerican Mythology: A Guide to the Gods, Heroes, Rituals, and Beliefs of f Mexico and Central America"; Kay Almere Read, Jason J. Gonzalez; 2002

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Maize God (God E)

Author's note: I have come into many varying sources when it comes to the Maize God's name and appearance. Two sources state the god's name was Yum Kaax, so I have used that name in this post. For the overview post on the gods and goddesses, go here.

One of the most often depicted in scenes from the Classic period, God E (sometimes called Yum Kaax or Yum K'aax, which means "lord of the field") was a god who ruled over corn -- a central crop for the ancient Maya. Yum Kaax had at least two aspects: one now known as the Tonsured Maize God (Hun Nal Ye) and another now known as the Foliated Maize God.

Yum Kaax's appearance is commonly a young man who is good looking, possibly even feminine looking, and a "crown" of foliage. Sources vary as to the god's appearance. Handbook to Life in the Ancient Maya World states that the Tonsured Maize aspect had a flattened head with a small amount of hair on top. However, Archaeology of Ancient Mexico and Central America: An Encyclopedia states that the flattened head and hair tuft depiction is actually just the way Yum Kaax was drawn in the Classic period and also states that the foliated head occurred in the Postclassic period.

Often drawn wearing a lot of quetzal feathers and jade jewelry. This could mean that the ancient Maya associated corn with riches.

Father of the Hero Twins?
Some sources such as The Ancient Maya by Robert. Sharer and Loa P. Traxler state that Yum Kaax was Hun Hunapu -- the father of the Hero Twins, Xbalanque and Hunapu. Handbook to Life in the Ancient Maya World by Lynn V. Foster has a variant of this, and states that the ancient Maya gradually came to believe Hun Nal Ye was Hun Hunapu as time went on.

Diving God?
Some sources such as Star Gods of the Ancient Maya and The Ancient Maya state that a diving figure depicted in various places -- known as the diving god (sometimes capitalized as Diving God) -- was possibly a Postclassic period version of Xux Ek -- the "wasp star", a Venus god. However, according to Mesoamerican Mythology: A Guide to the Gods, Heroes, Rituals, and Beliefs of Mexico and Central America -- published by Oxford University Press, like Handbook --, the Diving God was the Postclassic version of the Maize God.

Yum Kaax was connected to agriculture and also to plant fertility and human fertility (when shown in the codices, the Maize God usually is near tamales and plant shoots.) He was the patron of the day Kan (a day whose name means ripe corn).

The god's aspects each ruled over a specific time of the life of corn. The Foliated Maize God aspect is connected with young shoots of corn while the Tonsured Maize God is associated with both fertile corn and mature corn.

According to Mesoamerican Mythology: A Guide to the Gods, Heroes, Rituals, and Beliefs of Mexico and Central America,Yum Kaax and the Diving God are the same, Yum Kaax  was also connected to death and sacrifice. This is due to the fact that Yum Kaax is sometimes represented as a sacrifice.


Due to the fact that his head may have literally been thought to be an ear of corn, the ancient Maya may have associated harvesting corn with beheading.


"Handbook to Life in the Ancient Maya World"; Lynn V. Foster; 2005

Missouri State University: MAYA GODS AND GODDESSES

"Archaeology of Ancient Mexico and Central America: An Encyclopedia"; Susan Evans; 2000

"Historical Dictionary of Mesoamerica"; Walter R. T. Witschey, Clifford T. Brown; 2011

Missouri State University: Maya Gods & Religion

NIU School of Art: Jack Olson Gallery: Crafting the Maya Identity

"The Ancient Maya"; Robert J. Sharer, Loa P. Traxler; 2006

"Prehistoric Mesoamerica"; Richard E. W. Adams; 1991

Friday, October 12, 2012

Itzamná (God D)

Author's note: The aspects of Itzamná are a source of ongoing research for me. I will update this post when I have created a sub-section to satisfaction.

A creator deity of the ancient Maya is classified in the Schellhas system as God D.  Also called Itzamná -- "reptile house" in Yucatecan Maya, --, this god was seen as a god of several aspects and functions. Possibly the son of Hunab Ku, he was married to God O (also known as Ix Chel).

In the codices, Itzamná looks like an old man with a large nose, hollow cheeks, wrinkled skin and no teeth. Like Chac (God B) Itzamná is understood to have four aspects -- evidence of this is in the book Ritual of the Bacabs--, each being connected to a color and a compass direction.

A common way the ancient Maya drew Itzamná is in costume of a scribe. One thing that helps identify Itzamná is a beaded disk on his forehead that is combined with his name glyph. This disk sometimes has a sign called an akbal sign in it, which is connected to darkness and may be related to the idea of an obsidian disk -- a divining tool.

Information on Itzamná says that he helped form creation: in a creation myth he placed the third stone of what was known as the Cosmic Hearth. This stone is called the Waterlily Throne Stone in Classic period writings.

Other than being a creator, archaeologists understand that Itzamná was believed to be the first shaman who was the god of rulers as well as the god -- not to mention the inventor -- of writing and the god of knowledge. He also was the god of the sky as well as day and night, and was the patron of the day Ahau (also spelled Ahaw), a day whose name translates as "lord".

Archaeologists also currently understand that Itzamná would sometimes be prayed to as a healer god. In the month of Sip (or Zip), prayers went to Itzamná to heal people's illnesses.

Beyond these things, Itzamná was seen as a god who granted k'uhul, the sacred life force and divinity. For the spiritual leaders of the ancient Maya -- the priests and the kings --, Itzamná was the god they turned to to bring k'uhul into this world.


"Handbook to Life in the Ancient Maya World"; Lynn V. Foster; 2005

"Star Gods of the Maya: Astronomy in Art, Folklore, and Calendars"; Susan Milbrath; 2000

Missouri State University: MAYA GODS AND GODDESSES


California State University LA: Aspects of the God Itzamna

Long Beach City College: Itzamna

Santa Fe College: Popol Vuh Notes

Boston University: The Mayans: Religion

College of the Sequoias: Precolumbian Glossary

Sunday, October 7, 2012

God C -- The God Who May Not Be A God

Author's Note: I have been unable to find a specific description of God C's appearance so I have left the description simple, based on pictures I have seen.

God C of the Schellhas deity classification system is a god of sacredness. Known also as k'uhul (or ch'ulel), this god is currently understood to be some kind of personification of sacredness and not necessarily a god.

God C's appearance is that of a man. Sometimes the head of God C is bearded. One theory exists that God C's appearance is unlike anything that can be found in the natural world, and so is not an anthropomorphic relation to the natural world.

K'uhul Defined
The term k'uhul is understood to mean both divinity and a life force the ancient Maya considered sacred. These two things both existed in the world and were brought into the world via magic rituals.

History of Redefining God C
When Schellhas first made his classification of the gods found in the Maya codices, he thought that the god he termed God C was a simian (monkey) deity. Later a theory existed that stated God C was a god of the north. This theory was replaced by the current understanding.

God C may also have had functions archaeologists have yet to find out. In the Madrid Codex, ancient Maya artists depict God C in various ways that could possibly mean that the god may have a connection to astronomy. Various ways he is drawn in the codex include being placed in a skyband, on a skyband throne or walking on a road with a merchant's bag.

Another possible indicator of God C being related to astronomy is an image in the Madrid Codex that shows Chac (God B) coming out of God C's mouth. This could be an artistic representation of a conjunction.


Missouri State University: MAYA GODS AND GODDESSES

"Archaeology of Ancient Mexico and Central America: An Encyclopedia"; Susan Evans; 2000

"The Ancient Maya: New Perspectives"; Heather Irene McKillop; 2004

"Handbook to Life in the Ancient Maya World "; Lynn V. Foster; 2005

"Star Gods of the Ancient Maya: Astronomy in Art, Folklore, and Calendars"; Susan Milbrath; 2000

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Kisin (God A)

Author's note: I have recently found that some Schellhas classification charts list God A as a different alphabet letter. However, several resources connected to places of higher learning state that God A's alphabetical designation is A.

God A, -- called Kisin (also spelled Cizin) in the Madrid Codex -- is an ancient Maya god of death, associated with putrefaction as well as gas produced by human beings (flatulence). He is associated with the owl, as the ancient Maya connected the owl with caves (Xibalbá -- the underworld -- was understood to be underground), night and killing prey. 

Name Meaning
Kisin translates as "Stinking One" or "Flatulent One" (the modern Yucatec Maya word for fart is "kis".) This isn't just a modern name for God A, it is also the understood to be an ancient name.

In the ancient Maya writing system, Kisin's name was written two ways: one way depicts a dead body whose eyes are closed, and the second way depicts Kisin's head but with a short nose and bone jaws and a sacrificial knife.

Ancient Maya artists sometimes depicted Kisin as a skeleton in motion -- understood to be dancing --, sometimes with large spots who is holding something that resembles a lit cigarette. Other times Kisin was drawn as a bloated figure whose chest has sores and whose skin in general has dark jagged spots.

Another part of Kisin's appearance is his "costume". Kisin was drawn wearing as a neck collar. This collar was made of what the book Handbook to Life in the Ancient Maya World describes as "extruded eyes" and gives the name of "death eyes" -- possibly eyes and their nerve cords. Alternately, instead of a collar, Kisin would be depicted as having hair or cuffs on his wrists and ankles made of the death eyes.

Kisin ruled Xibalbá, controlled earthquakes, and was also the patron of the day Kimi (a day whose name means death.) In the codices he can be seen in scenes connected with human sacrifice, next to one of the Maya war gods. At times in the codices he is shown killing trees that Chac (God B) had planted.

Kisin may not have just been one god, but one aspect of a god. In this theory, this multiple-aspect god had other guises as well as names, including Ah Puch, Yum Kimil and Xibalbá.

 Missouri State University: MAYA GODS AND GODDESSES

"Historical Dictionary of Mesoamerica"; Walter R. T. Witschey, Clifford T. Brown; 2011

"A Mythological Reference"; G. Rodney Avant; 2005

Encyclopedia of religion: Volume 1"; Lindsay Jones; 2005

Encyclopedia Britannica: Cizin

"Handbook to Life in the Ancient Maya World"; Lynn V. Foster; 2005

Monday, September 24, 2012

Chac (God B)

Author's Notes: For an overview of ancient Maya gods and goddesses, go to this post here. Also, as mentioned before on other subjects within the topic of the ancient Maya, sources do not always add up; in this post I have combined things from various sources.

Labeled God B in the Schellhas classification system, Chac (or Chaac) is the Maya god most commonly known as the god of rain. He is also known by other names including Ah Tzenul, which translates as "he who gives food to others". Of the different deities, the ancient Maya depicted Chac the most often.

The appearance of Chac varies. Variable characteristics include scales, a big and curving nose, fangs or catfish whiskers. Some depictions have tears going down his face. Another version is of a blue man holding lightning or an axe. In some depictions, he is shown with symbols connected to the planet Venus or of God H.

It is currently understood that the ancient Maya thought Chac had four aspects, like the Pauahtuns (the gods who held up the sky at a cardinal point). Each aspect was connected to a cardinal direction and to a color.

Sac Xib Chac was the Chac of the north, whose color was white. The Chac of the east was Chac Xib Chac, and his color was red. Kan Xib Chac was the Chac of the south. Ek Xib Chac was the Chac of the west -- his color was black. Each of these Chacs were depicted as a man whose skin color was his designated color.

What exactly Chac controlled and how he controlled it tends to vary by source. Chac is thought to have been the god who controlled thunder, rain, lightning and wind. He was also thought to control fertility and was the patron of the number 13 -- a lucky number to the ancient Maya.

The ancient Maya thought that lightning and thunder occurred when Chac threw stone axes, which sources such as The Ancient Maya  and Handbook to Life in the Ancient Maya World describe as smoky or fiery. Rain occurred when Chac poured out a gourd filled with water -- though another source states they thought that he poked his nose into clouds to cause rain to fall.

Power over rain was delegated: each of the four aspects of Chac had the power of bringing rain from their particular cardinal direction.

A chacmool (or chac mool) is a statue made to honor Chac, as a receptacle for offerings. A chacmool looks like a man who is in the middle of a sit-up, but with his head facing sidways and his arms bent to support himself on his elbows. Some chacmools had a scoop out of the stomach to place the offerings into, while others were flat for offerings to be placed on top of.

Some sites have more chacmools than others. The site of Chichén Itzá -- located in the lowlands -- is known to have 12 chacmools.

In relation to Chac being a god of rain, he was associated with frogs, who were his friends. Frogs were understood to croak before a storm started.


 "South and Meso-American Mythology A to Z"; Ann Bingham, Jeremy Roberts; 2010

"Star Gods of the Maya: Astronomy in Art, Folklore, and Calendars"; Susan Milbrath; 2000

"Mythology: Myths, Legends and Fantasies"; Struik Publishers, Janet Parker, Alice Mills, Julie Stanton; 2007