The Popol Vuh is the sacred book of the Maya which describes the dawn of life.  The beginning of the Maya Long Count starts with the current, fourth creation which is described in this sacred text .  The Popol Vuh relates the history in which the gods lifted the sky above a watery void and formed the world which included the creation of man.  According to the Popol Vuh, after various attempts man was successfully created from a mixture of corn and blood of the gods.  Mayas call themselves Children of the Corn.  Autosacrifice was practiced in order to honor the gods' gift of their own blood in the creation of humans. 

The beginning of creation and the events which had to be accomplished before the creation was complete is told in the Popol Vuh.  The gods of the underworld had to be pleased and they were known to enjoy games and trickery.  To ensure a successful creation, the Hero Twins, Hunhapu and Xbalanque, descended to the underworld, Xibalba, to play ball against the gods.  This ball game was the origin of the ball game played throughout Maya society and it is considered a sacred ritual.  In addition to defeating the gods in the ball game, the Hero Twins had to defeat the gods in other trickery as well. 

This sacred book was written by anonymous members of the Quiché-Maya nobility, a branch of the Maya that dominated the highlands of western Guatemala prior to the arrival of Spanish conquerors in 1524.  The authors only refer to themselves as "we."  No known original copies of the Popol Vuh exist today; all copies were destroyed by the Spanish.  Working with Maya elders, the manuscript was transcribed after the conquest in the 1550s.  A handwritten manuscript was latter produced in the early 18th century by a Dominic monk, Francisco Ximénez.  Copies of the text were hidden from the Christian authorities and many of them have disappeared.  Today the book is available in Quiché, Spanish, and English.  The Popol Vuh is not only considered to be one of the most important Maya texts in terms of its historical and mythological content, but it is also a work of literature, composed in poetry.  (Christensen)

The Popol Vuh begins:


Quiché (Modern) Spanish


Here Quiché its name.
we shall write,
We shall plant ancient word,
Its planting, Its root-beginning as well,
Everything done in
Citadel Quiché,
Its nation Quiché people.
This therefore we shall gather
Its being manifested,
Its being declared,
Its being expressed as well,
Means of sowing,
Means of dawning,
By Framer,
She Who Has Borne Children,
He Who Has Begotten Sons, their names.
Hunahpu Possum,
Hunahpu Coyote,
White Great Peccary,
Quetzal Serpent,
Its Heart Lake,
Its Heart Sea,
He/She of Blue/Green Plate,
He/She of Blue/Green Bowl, as they are called,
Together named,
Together expressed these:


Waral K'iche' u b'i'.
WARAL xchiqatz'ib'aj1 wi,
Xchiqatikib'a' wi ojer tzij,
U tikarib'al,
U xe'nab'al puch,
Ronojel xb'an pa
Tinamit K'iche',
Ramaq' K'iche' winaq.
Are' k'ut xchiqak'am wi
U k'utunisaxik,
U q'alajob'isaxik,
U tzijoxik puch,
Rumal Tz'aqol,
K'ajolom, ki b'i'.
Junajpu Wuch',
Junajpu Utiw,
Saqi Nim Aq,
U K'u'x Cho,
U K'u'x Palo,
Aj Raxa Laq,
Aj Raxa Sel,
Rach b'i'xik,
Rach tzijoxik ri':

DE LAS TRADICIONES ANTIGUAS de este lugar llamado Quiche

AQUÍ escribiremos.
Comenzaremos a contar l
as historias antiguas del inicio,
del origen de todo lo que se hizo dentro de la ciudadela de Quiche,
entre la gente del pueblo Quiche.
Aquí reuniremos
la manifestación,
la declaración,
la explicación del sembradío
y del amanecer
realizados por el Armador
y el Formador,
La Que Ha Parido Hijos
y El Que Ha Engendrado Hijos,
como se les llama;
junto con Hunahpu Tacuazín
y Hunahpu Coyote,
Gran Pecarí Blanco
y Pisote,18 Soberano
y Quetzal Serpiente,
Corazón del Lago y Corazón del Mar,
Creador de la Tierra Verde y
Creador del Cielo Azul,
como se les llama.


THIS IS THE ACCOUNT of when all is still silent and placid. All is silent and calm. Hushed and empty is the womb of the sky.

THESE, then, are the first words, the first speech. There is not yet one person, one animal, bird, fish, crab, tree, rock, hollow, canyon, meadow, or forest. All alone the sky exists. The face of the earth has not yet appeared. Alone lies the expanse of the sea, along with the womb of all the sky. There is not yet anything gathered together. All is at rest. Nothing stirs. All is languid, at rest in the sky. There is not yet anything standing erect. Only the expanse of the water, only the tranquil sea lies alone. There is not yet anything that might exist. All lies placid and silent in the darkness, in the night.

All alone are the Framer and the Shaper, Sovereign and Quetzal Serpent, They Who Have Borne Children and They Who Have Begotten Sons. Luminous they are in the water,wrapped in quetzal feathers and cotinga feathers (Popol Vuh, pp. 67–68).

Source:  Christenson, Allen J.  Popol Vuh:  The Sacred Book of the the Maya:  The Great Classic of Central American Spirituality, Translated from the Original Maya Text.  University of Oklahoma Press, 2007.


Popol Vuh, text translated into English, University of Texas

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