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.

Appearance
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.

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

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