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). 

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

Function
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.

Consideration
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.


References: 

"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.

Appearance
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.

Function
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).


References:

"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.


Appearance
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.

Function
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.

Consideration

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.

References:

"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).

Appearance
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.

Function
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.


References:

"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

Missouri State University: OUTLINE: LECTURE # 2 PRE-COLUMBIAN INDIGENOUS SOCIETIES: MESOAMERICA THE MAYA

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.

Appearance
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.

Consideration
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.


References:

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.

Appearance
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.

Functions
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.

Consideration
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.


References:
 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