One of the most common mysteries to the human mind is the speculation of how the world came about. Every culture has their belief, but no idea is certain. Therefore wonderful stories are made by the pondering cultures of each region. The Mesoamerican culture has its own unique stories of creation. The Popol vuh is a story of creation, which depicts the Maya imagination of how they believe this world, came about. There for we are able to extend our knowledge about that culture by interpreting their beliefs and ideas, that lead to “their creation”.
The Maya were extremely sophisticated people. They were able to adapt to their living environment of their homelands efficiently. Over numerous generations, the Maya developed useful practices and lifestyles, which allowed them to live amongst their surroundings. Ancient religious concepts and teachings, such as the ones found in the sacred text of the Popol Vuh (as well as their highly developed calendar system), have survived through several centuries (Miller, Mary E). Such documentations contain the spiritual beliefs, origin and creation stories that reveal the cultural history of the Mayan people.
Following the Spanish conquest, a Quiche Indian transcribed the Popol Vuh. This individual had also learned to speak and write the Spanish language. Not much is known about that person, because the Spanish soldiers and missionaries destroyed most of their sacred texts. It is commonly believed the original Popol Vuh and other sacred manuscipts have been hidden and protected since the time of European contact (www.isourcecom.com). This sacred manuscript is considered as the bible of the Mayan people.
Later in time a Spanish priest named Francisco Jimenez translated the book into Spanish (www.isourcecom.com). He borrowed the book from a Quiche Indian with the condition that he would return the book once it was read. The priest had read the book and returned it; the book was later lost and never found again. The priest however rewrote the book (from what he remembered) and later copies were made of the priest’s version of the popol vuh.
The creation of mankind through the story of the Popol vuh is said to involve two feathered serpents Tepeu and Gucumatz, the only living beings (www.jaguarpaw.com). They were thinking of things to do and began creating things such as the landscape. They thought of the earth, and it appeared. They thought of the mountains, and there they were. They thought of trees, and of sky, and of animals, and each came into existence. None of these entities could praise them though, so they shaped more advanced beings out of clay.
These beings fell apart when they got wet, so Tepeu and Gucumatz made more beings out of wood. These proved unsatisfactory as well by causing trouble in the world. The gods had to send a great flood to wipe out these beings. They wanted to start over again. With the help of Parrot, Coyote, Mountain Lion and Crow the gods fashioned four more new beings (www.jaguarpaw.com). These four beings lived as they should and became the ancestors of the Quiché.
The Popol Vuh also involves explanations through stories of how certain objects came about in this world, such as the sun and the moon. The story is about two Hero brothers Hunahpu and Xbalanque, which were ball players (www.isourcecom.com). They were both fascinated by the game and continually played it through out the day. The Gods of the underworld (Lord Xibalba) became annoyed by the bouncing noise the ball made and then ordered the brothers to play a tournament in the underworld. There the Gods would attempt to defeat and deceive the brothers so that they could be killed just like their father. The brothers anticipated this and made plans to outsmart the Gods. During the tournament the brothers purposely lost the first match and were forced to stay the night in the house of darkness.
They were required to pay a floral tribute in order to get out (www.isourcecom.com). They then convinced a colony of ants to retrieve the flowers for them so they could leave. After the second game the brothers were forced to stay in the house of bats, in which Hunahpu’s head was decapitated by a bat and later retrieved by his brother during the third match. The brothers eventually won the match. They then allowed themselves to be sacrificed. Through their supernatural powers, Hunahpu and Xbalanque were reborn. In this diminsion, they became part of the Maya “overworld” and became recognized as the sun and the moon (www.isourcecom.com).
Every culture has their differences and similarities, how they believe people came about varies from culture to culture. Most people agree on the basic concept of their creation some one or something big was involved. Everyone has their own beliefs and ideas, however the fascination with other cultures has always left us pondering. That is why we explore the unknown, in order to better comprehend ourselves by comparing our beliefs to that of others.
1. Miller, Mary E. The Art of Mesoamerica. New York: Thames & Hudson, 3rd edit.