Wednesday, March 24, 2010

From Ancient Civilizations: The Popol Vuh Legacy

Many versions of the creation must have circulated among the Mayas, but the only one that survives in a written form is the Classical K'iche' version in the Popol Vuh, title that literally means "book of the mat." Throughout Mesoamerica mats, or petates, were symbols of the kings' authority and power and were used to sit on by governors, high-ranking courtiers and heads of lineages. For this reason, the title of the book has been interpreted  as the Council Book.
The names of its authors are unknown, but evidence indicates it was written by prominent members of the K'iche' nobility from Q'umarkaaj, which ruled a vast region of the Guatemalan highlands during the time of the Spanish conquest. Written in a brilliant poetic style, it is also a masterpiece in literary terms.
The Popol Vuh presents a mythological version of the creation of the world, followed by the adventures of the twin gods, Hunahpu and Xbalanque, that take place in a primordial age before the creation of the first human beings. The triumphs of the heroes over primeval forces and the gods of death give way to the creation of man from maize. The second part of the text concentrates on the origins of the governing lineages of the K'iche' kingdom, their migration to Guatemala's highlands, their territorial conquests, the founding of their principal city, and the history of their kings up until the time of the Spanish conquest.
The Popol Vuh is a corpus of myth-historical narratives and encompasses a range of subjects that includes creation, ancestry, history, and cosmology. In Spanish, the major reference continues to be the translation made by Adrian Recinos
Despite the technological advancements and foreign culture influences, the Maya descendants are still in contact with their roots and maintain their traditions and rituals, which are admired by contemporary people, myself included.


  1. Regarding the photo of the Late Classic Maya Vase painting from the Justin Kerr, Maya Vase Data Base. This cylindrical vase(600-900 C.E.) number K1185 in roll out form is from the Nakbe Region in Guatemala. The photo above depicts one of a pair of scribes, or calendar priests, who we know were skilled in prophecy and divination. The scribe above holds a paint stylus in one hand and a shell pot in the other. "Hidden in Plain Sight", if you look closely, the artist has cleverly encoded a sacred mushroom into the head or headdress of the Maya scribe. Maya ceremonial centers were ruled by a priestly caste whose duties seem to have been obsessively concerned with astronomical observations and mathematical calculations of the planet Venus. Maya calendar priests were typically known throughout Middle America as the enlightened ones. The Aztecs attributed their divine enlightenment to a single god named Quetzalcoatl, the Plumed Serpent, who was the legendary leader of the Toltec empire who influenced all of Mesoamerica since Olmec times. According to the Florentine Codex (Sahagun) the Toltecs above all, "were thinkers for they originated the year count, the day count; they established the way in which the night, the day, would work; which sign was good, favorable; and which was evil, the day of the wild beasts. All their discoveries formed the book for interpreting dreams." Through sacred mushroom rituals priests summoned the deities of creation to manifest themselves in the underworld where life regenerates from death."
    Painted vessels like the one pictured above very likely contained a ritual drink consisting of either of a mix of cacao and mushrooms or a chocolate beverage used during consumption to wash down the raw or dried mushrooms. The collection of hallucinogenic mushrooms was always accompanied by a variety of religious sanctions. For example, among the present day Mixtecs the sacred mushrooms must be gathered by a virgin. They are then ground on a metate, water added, and the beverage drunk by the person consulting the mushroom." (Borhegyi, 1961)
    Carl de Borhegyi
    For more on Quetzalcoatl's mushroom-Venus religion visit Breaking The Mushroom Code at

  2. What an interesting comment! Thank you very much for sharing such valuable information.


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