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

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