Vucub-Caquix (K'iche' : Wuqub’ Kaqix, [ʋuˈquɓ kaˈqiʃ] , possibly meaning 'seven-Macaw') is the name of a bird demon defeated by the Hero Twins of a Kʼicheʼ-Mayan myth preserved in an 18th-century document, entitled ʼPopol Vuhʼ. The episode of the demon's defeat was already known in the Late Preclassic Period, before the year 200 AD. He was also the father of Zipacna, an underworld demon deity, and Cabrakan, the Earthquake God.
Vucub-Caquix is described as a powerful bird pretending to be the sun and moon of the twilight world in between the former creation and the present one. According to modern Kʼicheʼ, his name refers to the seven stars of the Big Dipper asterism.The false sun-moon bird was shot out of his tree with a blowgun by Hun-Ahpu, one of the Maya Hero Twins, but still managed to sever the hero's arm. Finally, however, the demon was deprived of his teeth, his eyes, his riches, and his power. Together, the Twins were to become the true sun and moon of the present creation. The episode is only loosely connected to the main tale of the Twins, and is varied by other Mesoamerican hero myths. It is also akin to certain scenes in Mayan art dating back to the 8th century and before.
The 16th-century Popol Vuh episode has been used for interpreting certain early stone monuments as well as Classic-period pottery scenes. References to the episode are already present on the Late Preclassic stela 25 from Izapa, near the Pacific coast, where a man with a mutilated arm looks upward towards a bird perched on a pole, and on a facade of the Copan ballcourt, where a war-serpent head inserted between the legs of a large bird holds the severed arm of Hunahpu.The episode has also been connected to Izapa's stela 2, where two small figures assumed to be the Twin Heroes flank a large descending bird personifier (perhaps a royal ancestor).
As to the Classic Mayan scenes painted on pottery, they show Hun-Ahpu (or Hun-Ahau) aiming his blowgun at a steeply descending bird with the characteristics of the so-called 'Principal Bird Deity', an avian transformation of Itzamna. The solar affiliation of (Kinich Ahau) Itzamna is part of the argument for identifying the Popol Vuh and the Classic episode, since the upper god's solar aspect seems to reflect the claim to solar status voiced by Vucub-Caquix.
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Leaving apart the representations on stone mentioned above, the identification of the Classic Mayan bird-shooting scenes on pottery with the shooting of Vucub-Caquix causes problems.For one, the bird involved is usually the avian transformation of the creator god, Itzamna, and the concept of a generally venerated creator god seems to be at odds with the demonic nature of Vucub-Caquix. Secondly, the shooting of the Principal Bird Deity includes elements foreign to the Quichean tale. The bird is clearly not a macaw, and instead of being perched in a tree, it can even assume the (deceptive?) shape of a heron or cormorant-like bird seated on the waters. Thirdly, and more basically, there is no reason why the Twins, being bird-hunters, should not have been involved in more than one bird-shooting episode. As a matter of fact, at least one pottery scene has Hun-Ahpu shooting a vulture. Therefore, rather than referring to the Vucub-Caquix tale, the shooting of the Principal Bird Deity may well represent a now lost bird-shooting episode of Twin mythology. It seems clear that if a generalized Vucub-Caquix theory is to stand the test, important questions still need to be answered.
Maya mythology is part of Mesoamerican mythology and comprises all of the Maya tales in which personified forces of nature, deities, and the heroes interacting with these play the main roles. The myths of the Pre-Hispanic era have to be reconstructed from iconography. Other parts of Mayan like oral tradition are not considered here.
Qʼuqʼumatz was a deity of the Postclassic Kʼicheʼ Maya. Qʼuqʼumatz was the Feathered Serpent divinity of the Popol Vuh who created humanity together with the god Tepeu. Qʼuqʼumatz is considered to be the rough equivalent of the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl, and also of Kukulkan of the Yucatec Maya tradition. It is likely that the feathered serpent deity was borrowed from one of these two peoples and blended with other deities to provide the god Qʼuqʼumatz that the Kʼicheʼ worshipped. Qʼuqʼumatz may have had his origin in the Valley of Mexico; some scholars have equated the deity with the Aztec deity Ehecatl-Quetzalcoatl, who was also a creator god. Qʼuqʼumatz may originally have been the same god as Tohil, the Kʼicheʼ sun god who also had attributes of the feathered serpent, but they later diverged and each deity came to have a separate priesthood.
Itzamna was, in Maya mythology, the name of an upper god and creator deity thought to reside in the sky. Although little is known about him, scattered references are present in early-colonial Spanish reports (relaciones) and dictionaries. Twentieth-century Lacandon lore includes tales about a creator god who may be a late successor to him. In the pre-Spanish period, Itzamna, represented by the aged god D, was often depicted in books and in ceramic scenes derived from them.
In Maya mythology, Zipacna was a son of Vucub Caquix and Chimalmat. He and his brother, Cabrakan (Earthquake), were often considered demons. Zipacna, like his relatives, was said to be very arrogant and violent. Zipacna was characterized as a large caiman and often boasted about creating mountains.
Xibalba, roughly translated as "place of fear", is the name of the underworld in Maya mythology, ruled by the Maya death gods and their helpers. In 16th-century Verapaz, the entrance to Xibalba was traditionally held to be a cave in the vicinity of Cobán, Guatemala. Cave systems in nearby Belize have also been referred to as the entrance to Xibalba. In some Maya areas, the Milky Way is viewed as the road to Xibalba.
In Maya mythology, Camazotz was a bat god. Camazotz means "death bat" in the Kʼicheʼ language. In Mesoamerica the bat was associated with night, death, and sacrifice.
Popol Vuh is a text recounting the mythology and history of the Kʼicheʼ people, one of the Maya peoples, who inhabit the Guatemalan Highlands northwest of present-day Guatemala City.
Xmucane and Xpiacoc, alternatively Xumucane and Ixpiyacoc, are the names of the divine grandparents of Maya mythology of the Kʼicheʼ people and the daykeepers of the Popol Vuh. They are considered to be the oldest of all the gods of the Kʼicheʼ pantheon and are identified by a number of names throughout the text, reflecting their multiple roles throughout the Mayan creation myth. They are usually mentioned together, although Xmucane seems to be alone during most of the interactions with the Maya Hero Twins, when she is referred to as simply "grandmother".
The Maya Hero Twins are the central figures of a narrative included within the colonial Kʼicheʼ document called Popol Vuh, and constituting the oldest Maya myth to have been preserved in its entirety. Called Hunahpu and Xbalanque[ʃɓalaŋˈke] in the Kʼicheʼ language, the Twins have also been identified in the art of the Classic Mayas. The twins are often portrayed as complementary forces. The complementary pairings of life and death, sky and earth, day and night, sun and moon, among multiple others have been used to represent the twins. The duality that occurs between male and female is often seen in twin myths, as a male and female twin are conceptualized to be born to represent the two sides of a single entity.
Xquic is a mythological figure known from the 16th century Kʼicheʼ manuscript Popol Vuh. She was the daughter of one of the lords of Xibalba, called Cuchumaquic, Xibalba being the Maya underworld. Noted particularly for being the mother of the Maya Hero Twins, Hunahpu and Xbalanque, she is sometimes considered to be the Maya goddess associated with the waning moon. However, there is no evidence for this in the Popol Vuh text itself.
Izapa is a very large pre-Columbian archaeological site located in the Mexican state of Chiapas; it is best known for its occupation during the Late Formative period. The site is situated on the Izapa River, a tributary of the Suchiate River, near the base of the volcano Tacaná, the sixth tallest mountain in Mexico.
The traditional Maya religion of the extant Maya peoples of Guatemala, Belize, western Honduras, and the Tabasco, Chiapas, and Yucatán states of Mexico is part of the wider frame of Mesoamerican religion. As is the case with many other contemporary Mesoamerican religions, it results from centuries of symbiosis with Roman Catholicism. When its pre-Spanish antecedents are taken into account, however, traditional Maya religion has already existed for more than two millennia as a recognizably distinct phenomenon. Before the advent of Christianity, it was spread over many indigenous kingdoms, all after their own local traditions. Today, it coexists and interacts with pan-Mayan syncretism, the 're-invention of tradition' by the Pan-Maya movement, and Christianity in its various denominations. It also includes some ties to polytheist religions.
According to the Popol Vuh, Hun Hunahpu, or 'Head-Apu I', is the father of the Maya Hero Twins, Head-Apu and Xbalanque. As their shared calendrical day name suggests, Head-Apu I is first and foremost the father of Head-Apu. He is also stated to be the father of the twins' half-brothers, the patrons of the artisans and writers, Hun-Chowen and Hun-Batz. Head-Apu I is paired with his brother, Vucub-Hunahpu 'Head-Apu VII'. The brothers were tricked in the Dark House by the lords of the Underworld (Xibalba) and sacrificed. Head-Apu I's head was suspended in a trophy tree and changed to a calabash. Its spittle impregnated a daughter of one of the lords of Xibalba, Xquic. She fled the underworld and conceived the Twins. After defeating the lords of the Underworld, the Twins recovered the remains of their father and father's brother, but could not resuscitate them.
The music of the ancient Mayan courts is described through native and Spanish 16th-century texts and is depicted in the art of the Classic Period. The Maya played instruments such as trumpets, flutes, whistles, and drums, and used music to accompany funerals, celebrations, and other rituals. Although no written music has survived, archaeologists have excavated musical instruments and painted and carved depictions of the ancient Maya that show how music was a complex element of societal and religious structure. Most of the music itself disappeared after the dissolution of the Maya courts following the Spanish Conquest. Some Mayan music has prevailed, however, and has been fused with Spanish influences.
Among the Classic Mayas, the howler monkey god was a major deity of the arts—including music—and a patron of the artisans, especially of the scribes and sculptors. As such, his sphere of influence overlapped with that of the Tonsured Maize God. The monkey patrons—there are often two of them—have been depicted on Classic vases in the act of writing books and carving human heads. Together, these two activities may have constituted a metaphor for the creation of mankind, with the book containing the birth signs and the head the life principle or 'soul', an interpretation reinforced by the craftsman titles of the creator gods in the Popol Vuh.
Like other Mesoamerican people, the traditional Mayas recognize in their staple crop, maize, a vital force with which they strongly identify. This is clearly shown by their mythological traditions. According to the 16th-century Popol Vuh, the Hero Twins have maize plants for alter egos and man himself is created from maize. The discovery and opening of the Maize Mountain - the place where the corn seeds are hidden - is still one of the most popular of Maya tales. In the Classic period, the maize deity shows aspects of a culture hero.
The pre-Columbian Maya religion knew various jaguar gods, in addition to jaguar demi-gods, (ancestral) protectors, and transformers. The main jaguar deities are discussed below. Their associated narratives are still largely to be reconstructed. Lacandon and Tzotzil-Tzeltal oral tradition are particularly rich in jaguar lore.
The Maya death gods, known by various names, are two basic types of death gods who are respectively represented by the 16th-century Yucatec deities Hunhau and Uacmitun Ahau mentioned by Spanish Bishop Landa. Hunhau is the lord of the Underworld. Iconographically, Hunhau and Uacmitun Ahau correspond to the Gods A and A'.
The Princeton Vase is a famous example of Late Classic Maya ceramics in codex style, first published in M.D. Coe's 'The Maya Scribe and His World' (1973), and now a key piece of the Pre-Columbian collection of the Princeton University Art Museum. Originally serving as a drinking vessel for chocolate, it depicts a throne room occupied by an aged deity wearing an owl headdress and by five young women surrounding him. In front of the throne a bound captive is being decapitated by two masked men, a scene that has long been assumed to refer to an episode in the Popol Vuh. As to the object's art-historical importance, it bears comparison to the equally famous Jaguar Baby vase in the New York Metropolitan Museum.