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'awiil (God K)

A ceramic box made between 450 AD and 550 AD (and therefore from the Early Classic.)
K'awiil is on the left side. From LACMA.

K'awiil or K'awil was a god connected to several things: royalty, flint, and like Chaak, lightning -- and you may also see it said that he was connected to rain as well. (It seems he was perhaps also worshiped at Palenque as a patron god.) Other names you might see him called include the scepter god and god K.

K'awiil has a snout that turns up, big eyes that have spirals for pupils, a fang coming out of his mouth, and one or both of his legs is a snake, with a snake's head where a foot should be. K'awiil's forehead has a smoking item stuck to it -- a smoking ax head seems to be a common item the Maya would draw on his forehead, though they would draw other items sometimes, like a cigar or a torch. (In a definition of K'awiil on the Metropolitan Museum's website, K'awiil's forehead is also described as being high and having a cartouche on it -- and it is this cartouche that the item is stuck into.)

Connection to Royalty
This artifact may have been a leg from a K'awiil
scepter. It was made between the 600s to 800s AD,
and came from either Guatemala or Mexico.
From The Metropolitan Museum of Art
The ancient Maya connected K'awiil with protection of royal lines as well as coronation -- that is, rulers officially becoming their city-state's ruler. There are drawings of rulers becoming their city'state's ruler while holding a scepter that looks like K'awiil. Inscriptions would have a phrase for when a new ruler took power, a phrase that translates as "he took the K'awiil."

But it went further than that in some city-states like Dos Pilas and Copan. Rulers of these city-states would use the name "K'awiil" as one of their own, as a title. It's possible that because rulers did this -- and also would use Chaak and Yopaat as names -- that it may have been that the ancient Maya thought their rulers had "co-essences" that were lightning.

On a related note, it's possible that people with dwarfism were also connected with K'awiil. They may have been thought to somehow actually be K'awiil.

Connection to Flint/Chert
This eccentric flint came from
Guatemala. It was made between the 
600s AD and 700s AD. From 
The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The ancient Maya would create items that are now called eccentric flints. These artifacts are pieces of flint/chert or obsidian that the ancient Maya sculpted into different shapes. Some were meant to look like real things, some were meant to look like gods, and some were just shapes. Among these various designs, they would make K'awiil-shaped eccentric flints. (And on a related note, the ancient Maya either may have thought or really did think that flint/chert happened when lightning hit the ground.)

It's also been found that, at the site of Piedras Negras, there are flakes of flint that had been painted with different gods's image, including K'awiil's image. In fact, K'awiil's image was the one that got painted the most.

Connection to Chaak
Speaking of stone, K'awiil was sometimes drawn as a hammer -- but not just any hammer. In his hammer form, drawings show him being used by Chaak.

This vessel was made between 800
AD and 1200 AD, in Mexico. From
the Yale University Art Gallery.
Patron God at Palenque
You may find it said that K'awiil was one of three patron gods of Palenque. He is seen as being the same as a god worshiped there that was called "Baby K'awiil" or "Unen K'awiil. (Archaeologists also call this god GII.)

Consideration: Astronomy Connection?
In the Late Classic, it was common for references to K'awiil -- inscriptions that include his name, or images of him -- to also talk about either Saturn or Jupiter when in retrograde. (Retrograde is the part of an object's orbit when it looks like it is moving west to east in comparison with the stars.)

There is a theory that has a lot of ideas about what this meant. Two ideas in it wonder if K'awiil was connected somehow to Jupiter -- or perhaps to Saturn and Jupiter's retrograde part of their orbits.


Google Books: "The First Maya Civilization: Ritual and Power before the Classic Period"; Francisco Estrada Belli; 2011

Image Credits:

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