We get the Maya version of Creation from The Popol Vuh.
The Popol Vuh describes the creation of the Earth by the wind of the sea and sky, as well as its sequel.
Their are many variations of the creation story by different Maya groups. The Book of Chilam Balam of Chumayel relates the collapse of the sky and the deluge, followed by the raising of the sky and the erection of the five World Trees. The Lacandon Maya people also knew the tale of the creation of the Underworld.
BTW, there is no end of the World prophecy by the Maya – we’ll just toss that out there.
The Popol Vuh gives a sequence of four efforts at creation: First were animals, then wet clay, then wood, then the creation of the first ancestors from maize dough.
The Story of Creation
Here is the story of the beginning,
when there was not one bird, not one fish, not one mountain.
Here is the sky, all alone. Here is the sea, all alone.
There is nothing more –no sound, no movement.
Only the sky and the sea. Only Heart-of-Sky, alone.
And these are his names:
Maker and Modeler, “Kukulkan” and “Hurricane. “
(Huracan (Mayan: Hunraqan, “one legged”))
But there is no one to speak his names.
There is no one to praise his glory.
There is no one to nurture his greatness.
And so Heart-of-Sky thinks,”Who is there to speak my name?
Who is there to praise me? How shall I make it dawn?”
Heart-of-Sky only says the word, “Earth,” and the earth rises,
like a mist from the sea. He only thinks of it, and there it is.
He thinks of mountains, and great mountains come.
He thinks of trees, and trees grow on the land.
And so Heart-of-Sky says, “Our work is going well.”
Now Heart-of-Sky plans the creatures of the forest;
birds, deer, jaguars and snakes.
And each is given his home.
“You the deer, sleep here along the rivers.
You the birds, your nests are in the trees.
Multiply and scatter,” he tells them.
Then Heart-of-Sky says to the animals, “Speak, pray to us.”
But the creatures can only squawk. The creatures only howl.
They do not speak like humans.
They do not praise Heart-of-Sky
And so the animals are humbled.
They will serve those who will worship Heart-of-Sky.
And Heart-of-Sky tries again.
Tries to make a giver of respect.
Tries to make a giver of praise.
Here is the new creation,
made of mud and earth.
It doesn’t look very good.
It keeps crumbing and softening.
It looks lopsided and twisted.
It only speaks nonsense.
It cannot multiply.
So Heart-of-Sky lets it dissolved away.
Now Heart-of-Sky plans again.
Our Grandfather and Our Grandmother are summoned.
(Xpiacoc and Xmucaneare)
They are the most wise spirits.
“Determine if we should carve people from wood,” commands Heart-of-Sky.
They run their hands over the kernels of corn.
They run their hands over the coral seeds.
“What can we make that will speak and pray?” asks Our Grandfather.
“What can we make that will nurture and provide?” asks Our Grandmother.
They count the days, the lots of four, seeking an answer for Heart-of-Sky.
Now they give the answer, “It is good to make your people with wood.
They will speak your name.
They will walk about and multiply.”
“So it is,” replies Heart-of-Sky.
And as the words are spoken, it is done.
The doll-people are made with faces carved from wood.
But they have no blood, no sweat.
They have nothing in their minds.
They have no respect for Heart-of-Sky.
They are just walking about, but they accomplish nothing.
“This is not what I had in mind,” says Heart-of-Sky.
And so it is decided to destroy these wooden people.
Hurricane makes a great rain.
It rains all day and rains all night.
There is a terrible flood and the earth is blackened.
The creatures of the forest come into the homes of the doll-people.
“You have chased us from our homes so now we will take yours,” they growl. And their dogs and turkeys cry out, “You have abused us so now we shall eat you!”
Even their pots and grinding stones speak, “We will burn you and pound on you just as you have done to us!”
The wooden people scatter into the forest.
Their faces are crushed, and they are turned into monkeys.
And this is why monkeys look like humans.
They are what is left of what came before,
an experiment in human design.
Heart-of-Sky then make yet another attempt at creating a suitably respectful race,
and finally succeed by fashioning humans out of maize-corn dough.
Out of this dough they made four men, then four women
They were given intelligence and knowledge
Humans used to be able to do anything,
fly, see oceans from far away, and inside rocks.
Huracan clouded their vision so that they couldn’t see so far.
Read more about Maya Culture in: The Maya by Njord Kane
- Kane, Njord. The Maya : The Story of a People. 2nd Edition. Spangenhelm Publishing, 2016. ISBN: 978-1943066032
Boremanse, Didier, Contes et mythologie des indiens lacandons. Paris: L’Harmattan. 1986. (Also in Spanish: Cuentos y mitología de los lacandones. Tradición oral maya. Editorial: Academia de Geografia e Historia de Guatemala.).
written by Njord Kane © 2016 Spangenhelm Publishing
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