Chapter 11 Mesoamerica: Popol Vuh Ancient Quiché Mayan Culture Major Periods of Maya History 2000 B.C.E.–250 C.E. 150 C.E. 300–600 C.E 600–900 C.E. 900–1200 C.E. From 1200 C.E. to the European invasion Preclassic Preclassic “collapse” Early Classic Late Classic Early Postclassic Late Postclassic Meaning and Transmission of the Popul Vuh • Popol Vuh means Council Book • During the Early Classic period, the Mayans invented a writing system using pictorial “hieroglyphics.” • The Dresden Codex is considered the oldest book in the Americas known to historians. It contains hieroglyphics representing events in the Popol Vuh. • In about 1701, the Dominican priest Francisco Ximénez used an alphabetic transliteration of an early Mayan hieroglyphic text to produce a Spanish translation of the Popol Vuh. • The excerpt in this chapter is a translation into English by Dennis Tedlock from the Ximénez translation. Creation of the World • The writer of the Popol Vuh confirms he is writing after his world has been conquered by Christians. • Creation in the Popol Vuh begins with an existing sea and sky. • The gods confer among themselves and with the Sovereign Plumed Serpent in creating the physical world. • The creation of humans is the culmination of the creative act. Failed Attempts at Creating Humans • The gods want the animals they create to speak and praise the gods, but “each one gives a different cry.” • The gods are disappointed and transform the animals. • The gods attempt to make humans who will praise them. • The gods make a body out of earth and mud, but it dissolves. • The gods then make beings out of wood carvings. These manikins (little men) talk and multiply, but they do not remember or praise the gods. The gods destroy the manikins with a great flood. The Hero Twins • Part Two: genealogy and early adventures of Hunahpu and Xbalanque, the Hero Twins. – In the ancient tradition as well as in contemporary Mayan culture, daykeeper is the premier position of respect in the community: in the Popol Vuh, the grandparents Xpiyacoc and Xmucane are daykeepers. – The Hero Twins defeat Seven Macaw and members of his family. The Hero Twins • Part Three: playing ball with the lords of the underworld. – One Death and Seven Death, lords of Xibalba, are annoyed by the constant noise made by One Hunahpu and Seven Hunahpu as they play ball, so they summon them to play ball in Xibalba. – The brothers are killed and buried; One Hunahpu’s head is placed in a tree. – Blood Moon reaches out for the fruit of the tree; the head spits into it and tells her “I live on through you.” She becomes the mother of the Hero Twins, Hunahpu and Xbalanque. – Hunahpu and Xbalanque survive a series of tests by the lords of Xibalba, but they are killed by being burned in an oven. – The Twins reappear, demonstrate power over life and death, communicate with their dead father and reconstruct his body. Genealogy of the Hero Twins Part Four: Successful Humans • Corn is used in the successful creation of humans. • Jaguar Quitze, Jaguar Night, Not Right Now and Dark Jaguar are the first four humans. • These four humans – are good people who talk, listen and work. – see and understand everything perfectly. They thank the Maker. Part Four: Limiting Humans, but Giving Them Companions • The gods are threatened by the first four humans and “worry that “their deeds would become equal to ours.” The gods then limit their abilities. This causes the loss of the means of understanding and of knowing everything by these four humans. • The gods then create woman and wives for the first four humans. • “And this is our root, we who are the Quiché people.” Part Four: Tulan, Tohil and Fire • There are many reverent people who give praise to the gods, before the birth of the sun and light. • Jaguar Quitze, Jaguar Night, Not Right Now and Dark Jaguar tell their people to go in search of the light. • They find what they are looking for in Tulan. • They receive fire from the god Tohil. Only those with the god Tohil have fire. Part Four: the Origin of Ritual • At Tohil’s request, Jaguar Quitze, Jaguar Night, Not Right Now and Dark Jaguar bleed their ears to give thanks. • The tribes travel, carrying the gods on their backs and watching for the dawning. Tohil directs Jaguar Quitze, Jaguar Night, Not Right Now, and Dark Jaguar to find hiding places for the gods in nature. • Jaguar Quitze, Jaguar Night, Not Right Now, and Dark Jaguar find the sun, moon, and stars and burn incense. Part Four: the Quiché Legacy • Jaguar Quitze, Jaguar Night, Not Right Now, and Dark Jaguar know of their death and leave instructions for their sons. They then disappear. • The Quiché legacy points to a tradition of righteous ancestors who fulfilled their duty to the gods, as the original creators wished.