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DEITIES

OF THE

ANCIENT MAYA

A guide for the


3rd Maya at the Playa workshop
2009
Reiko Ishihara
Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection
Washington, D.C.

Table of Contents
Acknowledgements................................................ 3
Introduction.......................................................... 4
Maya Religion and Cosmology.......................... .4
Maya Concept of Gods.5
Primary Sources of Information..........5
Organization of Workbook.............................. 6
Time Periods... 6
The Maya Deities.................................................7
Death God...........................................8
Ahkan, God of Intoxication..........................9
Chaahk, God of Rain & Lightning................10
Kuh, Godliness.......................................12
Itzam Nah Yax Kokaj Mut, God of Creation... 13
Jun Ixim and Ajan, Maize God......................15
Kinich or Kihnich, Sun God.........................17
Jaguar God of the Underworld ..18
Ik Kuh, Wind God........................................19
Yax Chiit Jun Naahb Nah Kan, Water Lily Serpent............20
Yax Bahlam, one of the Hero Twins..............22
Ix Sak Uh, the young Moon Goddess............... .23
Kawiil, God of Royal Dynasties.....................24
Haal Chuhaj / Chuwaaj, Lord of the Underworld.25
Ek Chuah, God of Merchants & Trade...............26
Itzam Chan Tuun, World Bearer................................27
Ix Chak Chel, the Old Goddess......................28
God of Sacrifice....................................29
Buluk Kaban........................30
Jun Ajaw, one of the Hero Twins...........................31
Huk Sip, Deer God............................32
References..............................................................33

Detail from polychrome plate,


Chill Hill, Main Chasm, Aguateca

Acknowledgements
The workshop was inspired by the work of my graduate adviser,
Dr. Karl A. Taube, and as such, the workshop guide is a
simplified version of his 1992 publication The Major Gods of
Ancient Yucatan, the great majority of which has proven to
stand the test of time. From his many seminars and hours of
advising, I hope to have presented as accurately as I can, at
least based on the current state of scholarly knowledge, the
variety and multitude of the supernatural beings or deities
that the ancient Maya peoples lived with and venerated. I
would like to thank Dr. Taube for supporting me in the
production of the workbook including his valuable comments.
Thanks also go to Dr. Christophe Helmke for providing me with
extensive comments for this revised guide.
Through this workshop, it is my intention to show a glimpse
of and foster an appreciation for the depth and complexity of
the cosmological world of the ancient Maya peoples.
I also would like to give my thanks to my friend and the main
organizer of the conference, Mr. Mat Saunders, for inviting me
to participate in a wonderful opportunity that helps open new
doors to exciting knowledge and research for youth and adults
alike in Florida and other parts of the US.

Detail from polychrome bowl,


Chill Hill cave, Main Chasm, Aguateca

Cover page: Carved bone, Grieta Rincn, Aguateca.


Drawing by Alfredo Romn, Aguateca Archaeological Project.

Introduction
Maya Religion and Cosmology

from the underworld at dawn in


the east, follows its arc in the
sky, and descends into the
underworld at dusk in the west.
During night time, the sun would
make its journey through the
underworld in order to emerge
back up to earth the following
morning.

In order to reconstruct and


understand aspects of prehispanic
Maya
religious
beliefs
and
cosmology, we have turned to a
variety of sources of information,
including ethnographies (based on
the culture of present-day peoples
of the diverse Maya ethnic
groups), ethnohistoric accounts
(written around the time of the
Spanish conquest), and analyses
of the archaeological evidence.
Certainly much has transformed
profoundly, as no culture or
religion is static, yet there are
some fundamental elements that
have been perpetuated through
time.
For
example,
many
contemporary Maya peoples make
no distinction between what we
call natural and supernatural
nor
between
animate
and
inanimate things, as everything is
imbued with a spiritual force. This
was also what the prehispanic
Maya people believed.

The universe consisted of the sky,


the earth, and the underworld.
The earth was a flat, four-cornered
surface, the sky supported by four
aged sky bearers or by four world
trees. In the center was a bluegreen ceiba (silk-cotton tree)
whose roots stretched into the
underworld, its trunk growing out
of the earths surface or a cave,
and its branches reaching the sky.
The earths surface was likened to
the back of a crocodile or turtle
floating in a vast sea of water
lilies. Its celestial counterpart was
the double-headed serpent.
Time was not linear but cyclical,
with repeated creations and
destructions. The current world,
which was preceded by several
others, was created on 4 Ajaw 8
Kumku 13.0.0.0.0 (13 August
3114 BC) and will complete its
Long Count cycle on December 23,
2012. We have learned much from
the 16th century document, the
Popol Vuh, that narrates the
Kiche Maya creation myth.
Michael Coe first demonstrated

According to Maya cosmological


thinking, the world was ordered
by
time
measured
by
the
movements of the sun, moon,
planets, and stars, of which they
had
accumulated
accurate
knowledge.
Based
on
this
information,
they
developed
various calendars. The basic,
most important unit of order was
the sun: the sun is reborn daily

that a version of this myth existed


during the Classic period and that
various scenes from it were
illustrated elaborately on pottery.

and
other deities. They may
maintain a counterpart of the
opposite sex, have both young and
old aspects, and be benevolent and
malevolent,
reflecting
the
fundamental
Mesoamerican
principle of dualism. They are not
always
far-away
ancient
mythological characters as some
have birth dates and named
parents.
Many
actually
participated in ritual practices as
witnesses to events or actors in
processions; the tangible images
of deities were embodiments of
them as were ritual impersonators
depicted
on
vessels
and
monuments. Objects such as
temples, monuments, and pottery
could also be such embodiments.

The number of deities that the


prehispanic Maya peoples believed
is great but not precisely known.
The 18th century manuscript,
Ritual of the Bacabs, mentions
166 deities by name while the
Postclassic codices depict more
than thirty. Surely, the number of
deities fluctuated from time to
time, and the importance placed
on particular deities most likely
shifted not only temporally but
geographically as well.
Maya Concept of Gods
In order to better understand the
complexity of the Maya concept of
gods and supernaturals, we must
first be aware of the Western
tendency to perceive god as a
single,
immortal,
omnipotent
being. The Mayan word is kuh or
chuh, sacred entity (adjective:
kuhul or chuhul), and refers to
the vital force that forms the
essence of blood. Although it cannot be translated satisfactorily as
god, the terms god and deity are
used in this workbook.

As privileged individuals who


sought to control and lead a
population, rulers were depicted
as god impersonators or owners
of particular deities, claiming
divine
rulership.
Moreover,
polities or communities had their
own localized patrons. Thus
although multiple sites may have
venerated a similar deity, each
was a local variant with distinct
meanings and roles.

In many cases, a deity was not one


but four (at times five or six)
directional individuals. Moreover,
they may present a combination of
multiple aspects of humans,
animals, different animal species,
counterpart

One of the primary sources that


provides the greatest amount of
information about the prehispanic
Maya deities is the Postclassic
books, primarily the Dresden,
Madrid, and Paris codices. They
are comprised of bark paper

Primary Sources of Information

painted on both sides with a thin


layer of plaster. Divinatory in
nature,
they
contain
prognostications for the numerous
calendrical cycles.

of Linda Schele at Palenque has


also provided key insights.
Organization of Workbook
The general order of the deities
presented in the workbook follows
Schellhas
classification
with
Taubes revisions as presented in
his 1992 publication. Recently
published information is also
included. Each page describing the
particular deity contains:
(1) Significances of the deity;
(2) Identifying attributes;
(3) Temporal span of known
representation; and
(4) Counterparts among
non-Maya or modern groups.
Iconographic
and
epigraphic
examples of the deity comprise
the rest of the page.

In the late 19 century, among


the several scholars investigating
Maya deities, Paul Schellhas
(1886, 1897, 1904) systematically
isolated and identified particular
deities with their name glyphs in
the Maya codices. He designated
each deity with a letter starting
with A, and this classification is
still widely used today.
th

In addition to the codices,


Postclassic polychrome mural
paintings at Santa Rita, Tancah,
and Tulum likewise provide data
on the deities. Anthropomorphic
incense burners from the same
time period found throughout
Yucatan and Quintana Roo offer
rich iconographic information as
well. The iconography of Chichen
Itza from the Terminal Classic to
the Early Postclassic provides an
important link between the Late
Postclassic and the Late Classic
materials.

Time Periods

In addition, other sources such as


Classic period pottery and carved
stone
monuments
provide
iconographic
and
epigraphic
information on the gods. Coe
demonstrated that many of the
Postclassic deities can be traced
back to the Early Classic and some
to the Preclassic period. The
epigraphic and iconographic work

Sources: Coe 2005; Houston & Stuart


1996; Sharer 1994; Taube 1992; Vail 2000

The Maya Deities

Death God
1.

Deity of death and the underworld (God A). Personification of the


number ten. In the Postclassic (Yukatekan) he was called Kimiil /
Kimiiy and in the Classic (Cholan) he was Chamal / Chamiiy. Lab
eled as Kisin in the codices (and in one Classic example), meaning
the flatulent one.

2.

Skeletal appearance (ribs, limp limbs, fleshless mandible). Large


black spots on body. Bloated belly or pouring swirls of blood.
Hairlike ruff with globular elements (death eyes) around head
and collar. Eyes are often closed.

3.

Early Classic - contemporary

4.

Nahuatl Mictlantecuhtli

a.

b.
c.

d.

e.

f.

Figure 1. (a) Postclassic name phrase, Dresden Codex page 12b; (b) Late Classic name
glyph, detail of codex style vessel; (c) Name glyph phonetically labeled as kisin(i),
Codex Madrid page 87c; (d) Classic period, Xunantunich Altar 1; (e) Postclassic
depiction, note mo sign for molo, sphincter, Dresden page 13a; (f) Postclassic
Central Mexican Mictlantecuhtli, Codex Borgia page 15. (Source: (a-f) Taube 1992:
fig. 1a-b, e-h).

Ahkan, God of Intoxication


1.

Deity of visions, enemas and alcohol (God A). Associated with


violent death and sacrifice. Shares roles with God A, though has
multiple manifestations. In the Late Classic, ritual performers oft
en impersonated this deity. Ahkan means groan.

2.

Large femur in the headdress with akab glyph denoting darkness.


White face with black band through the eyes. Division () sign on
the cheek. Often shown in the act of self-decapitation.

3.

Early Classic - Late Postclassic

4.

No known analogues in Gulf Coast or highland Mexico.

a.

e.

h.

b.

c.

f.

d.

g.

i.

j.

Figure 2. (a-c) Postclassic name variants, Madrid page 64c, Dresden pages 28b, 5b;
(d) Classic name glyph, Naranjo Altar 1; (e-f) Late Postclassic representation of God
A, Madrid page 72b, Dresden page 5b; (g) God A emerging from serpent jaws, from
lid of Early Classic incised vessel; (h) in act of self-decapitation, Late Classic vessel;
(i-j) God A impersonators on Late Classic pottery. (Source: (a-j) Taube 1992: figs. 2ah, 3a-b).

Chaahk, God of Rain & Lightning


1.

As one of the most important deities (God B), he is the most


commonly depicted in the codices with numerous manifestations
including GI, Kalomte and Yopaat. Quadripartite god with likely
a fifth in the center. Also identified with war and human sacrifice.
Sometimes shown fishing. Closely associated with Kawiil.

2.

Pendulous nose. Wields hafted stone axes or serpents, which are


symbols of lightning. Often holds a serpent in the mouth. Wears a
Spondylus shell earflare.

3.

Late Preclassic - contemporary

4.

Central Mexican Tlaloc. Zapotec Cocijo.

a.

b.

c.

d.

f.

e.

g.

Figure 3. (a) Late Postclassic name glyph, Paris p.17; (b) Postclassic name glyph
with ki complement, Dresden page 32c; (c) Late Classic name phrase read chak xib
chak, detail of plate; (d) Late Classic compound read chak xib; (e) Early Classic
Chaahk, detail of modeled and incised vessel, note serpent in mouth; (f) Early
Classic Chaahk with burning serpent in mouth, detail of belt assemblage of ruler,
Yaxha Stela 4; (g) Chaahk with serpent in mouth, Yaxchilan Lintel 35. (Source: (a-g)
Taube 1992: figs. 4a-d, 6c-e).

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a.

b.

c.

d.

e.

f.

Figure 4. (a) Late Preclassic Chaahk engaged in fishing, note serpent belt, Izapa
Stela 1; (b) Chaahk with water jar flying in breath spiral exhaled by earth crocodile,
detail of Quirigua Zoomorph P; (c) Anthropomorphic Chaahk sacrificing jaguar
infant; (d) Three Chaahks fishing, incised bone, Burial 116, Tikal; (e) Fishing Chaahk
captures Wind God, detail from Late Classic polychrome vase; (f) Postclassic Chaahk
as warrior with lightning serpent, shield, and spear, Dresden page 66a. (Sources: (a,
c, f) Taube 1992: figs. 6a, 7a, 8b; (b, e) Taube 2004: fig. 4d, 6c; (d) Coe 2005: fig. 73).

11

Kuh, Godliness
1.

Personification of preciousness, life or divinity rather than a deity


in himself (God C), as the profile face is depicted on objects (in
particular, maize) and bodies of supernaturals, like the back of the
Winal Toad, patron of the period of twenty days. His face
represents the glyph kuh (sacredness) and with the water
group reads kuhul (godly, divine). Most representations are
limited to the face only. Closely associated with God D and the
maize deity.

2.

Fat lips, small round nose, resembling two stacked balls. Banded
helmet-like element framing the head.

3.

Late Preclassic - Postclassic

4.

No known analogues in Gulf Coast or highland Mexico.

a.

b.

c.

f.

d.

e.

g.

Figure 5. (a-b) Late Postclassic name glyph, Madrid page 50c, Dresden page 13b; (c-d)
God C holding kan glyph for tamale, Madrid page 50c, Dresden page 13b; (e) God C
inside structure, Dresden page 35a; (f) Mural from Str. 44, Tancah; (g) Bas relief on
round column, Uxmal. (Sources: (a-f) Taube 1992: fig. 10a, c-f; (e) Anonymous 1998).

12

Itzam Nah Yax Kokaj Mut, God of Creation


1.

This deitys name is problematic but the most recent reading is


Itzam Nah Yax Kokaj Mut (Boot 2008). God D is one of the most
important and perhaps the major deity, often portrayed as a lord
on a throne. Deity of creation. Identified with wisdom, esoteric
knowledge, and divination as well as writing. Omnipresent deity,
commonly appearing with world trees (ceiba) as axis mundi and
relates to the Principal Bird Deity, God N and God L. Strong link
with the earth crocodile. Associated with kuh, maize, sun, and
wind deities.

2.

Aged (wrinkles in face) and possesses the Ajaw title of rulership.


Large square eye. Shown with a tasseled flower-like motif with an
akab sign on the brow, symbol of blackness and night, which is a
mirror plaque. Often appears with a peccary. Can be shown as a
priest with a cape and a tall cylindrical headdress, holding a
serpent-tailed aspergillum.

3.

Protoclassic - Late Postclassic

4.

Central Mexican Tonacatecuhtli, Lord of Our Sustenance, old


god of the earth and creation/birth.

a.

d.

b.

c.

e.

f.

Figure 6. (a-b) Postclassic name glyph, Paris page 11, Dresden page 28c; (c) Late
Classic form of name glyph; (d) Postclassic representation, Dresden page 15c; (e-f)
Postclassic representation of Itzamnaaj in office of priest, Madrid pages 100d, 60c.
(Source: (a-f) Taube 1992: figs. 12a-c, f, 14b-c).

13

b.

a.

c.

d.

Figure 7. (a) God D with caiman tree, detail of Late Classic codex style vessel; (b)
Late Classic representation of God D with peccary, detail of Tepeu 1 vessel; (c) God
D in mouth of bicephalic crocodile, Dresden pages 4b-5b; (d) Late Postclassic
representation of bicephalic crocodile with two aged faced in mouths, Santa Rita.
(Source: (a-d) Taube 1992: figs. 12g, h, 15a, b).

14

Jun Ixiim and Ajan, Maize God


1.

As maize has been the staple of the Maya people, Jun Ixiim is of
prominent importance (Classic name identified by David Stuart,
ixim = maize seed; God E), and as such, was commonly depicted.
Associated with life and abundance as well as with death (crop
failure, agricultural cycle of maize). Personifies the number 8.

2.

Young, handsome deity with maize foliation at the top of the


head. In the Early Classic form, the cranial maize growth sprouts
out of a maize sign. Two Late Classic forms: Tonsured Maize Deity
and Foliated Maize Deity. The latter form continued on into the
Postclassic and is often shown diving. The name glyph is a
conflation of God C with a foliated forehead that curls around the
back of the head. Often shown emerging from crevices in the
earth and being dressed by nude young women.

3.

Late Preclassic - Late Postclassic

4.

Cinteotl, Central Mexican maize deity. Olmec maize god.


Ancestral form of Hun Hunahpu, the father of the Hero Twins who
was decapitated in the underworld.

a.

b.

d.

h.

c.

e.

i.

f.

g.

j.

Figure 8. (a-c) Postclassic name glyph of Ajan, Dresden page 6b, Paris page 6, Madrid
page 105a; (d-e) Early Classic glyph, detail of alabaster vessel from Santa Rita &
ceramic vessel; (f-g) Head variant of the number 8, Pomona Flare & Yaxchilan Lintel
48; (h-j) name glyph from Late Classic vessels. (Sources: (a-g) Taube 1992: figs. 17a,
20b-e; (h-j) Taube 1985: fig. 3a-c).

15

b.

a.

c.

d.

e.

f.

g.

h.

i.

Figure 9. (a) Late Preclassic maize deity, North Wall, Pinturas Sub-1, San Bartolo; (b)
Foliated Maize God emerging from zoomorphic witz eye, detail of Lintel 3, Temple
IV, Tikal; (c) Foliated Tonsured Maize God in foliation growing out of maize curl
earspool assemblage, detail of Quirigua Stela H; (d) Disembodied tonsured head in
center of foliage; (e) Tonsured Maize God emerging from witz cleft forehead with two
maize deity heads at side of witz head, base of Bonampak Stela 1; (f) Postclassic
diving maize god, stone sculpture from Mayapan; (g) Head surrounded by blood,
Madrid page 34b; (h) Lifeless head on kab, or earth, Dresden page 34a; (i) Seated
maize god on metate, detail of Mural 1, Str. 12, Tancah. (Sources: (a) Saturno et al.
2005: fig. 23a, drawing by Heather Hurst; (b, c, e-i) Taube 1992: figs. 17d-f, 18b, 19a,
c, d; (d) Taube 1985: fig. 4a).

16

Kinich or Kihnich, Sun God


1.

God G. Kinich means resplendent and Kihnich the hot one.


Identified with jaguars, decapitation, fire, rulership, and dynastic
descent. Serves as head variant for the number four as well as the
patron of the month Yaxkin. Close association with the jaguar and
God D.

2.

The glyph for sun, kin, is found in his brow or other parts of the
body. In Postclassic representations, he has a beard. Frontal face
shows him cross-eyed. Has T-shaped filed incisors with curling
elements coming out of his mouth. Similar to God D, having a
large square eye and big nose, but is often a middle-age man at
the peak of strength.

3.

Late Preclassic - Late Postclassic

4.

Nahuatl Tonatiuh.

a.

c.
b.

f.

d.

e.

Figure 10. (a) Postclassic name glyph, Dresden page 5a; (b) Early Classic head variant
for the numeral 4, Pomona Flare; (c) Early Classic example of Sun God head serving
as belt-piece, detail Tikal Stela 31; (d) Postclassic representation of Sun God, note
beard and kin sign, Madrid page 108b; (e) Late Classic representation of Sun God,
detail of polychrome vessel; (f) Late Preclassic Sun God with burning serpent in
crook of arm, note kin sign on cheek, detail from upper portion of Takalik Abaj Stela
2. (Source: (a-f) Taube 1992: figs. 22a, e, g, 23a, c).

17

Jaguar God of the Underworld


1.

This deity depicts the night sun, the sun that travels west to east
in the underworld after sunset. Commonly referred to as the
Jaguar God of the Underworld, or JGU. Patron of the number 7.
Often depicted on shields, incense burners, and seen emerging
from bicephalic serpent bars. According to David Stuart, possibly
Classic Maya god of fire.

2.

Eyes are spiraled and surrounded by the figure-eight cruller


device passing over the bridge of the nose between the eyes.
Generally is depicted with jaguar ears.

3.

Early Classic - Terminal Classic

4.

No known analogues in Gulf Coast or highland Mexico.

a.

b.

e.
c.

d.

Figure 11. (a) Early Classic stairway block with face of JGU, Str. 5D-22-3rd, Tikal;
(b) Late Classic stairway block from the Jaguar Stairway, Copan; (c) Detail of
polychrome incensario, Pellicer Museum, Villahermosa, Tabasco, Mexico ; (d) JGU
depicted on shield, detail of Tablet of the Sun, Temple of the Sun, Palenque; (e) JGU
as the principal image on one of eight flanged, cylindrical censer stands, Temple of
the Foliated Cross, Palenque. (Sources: (a-b) Taube 1998: fig. 13b, c; (c) Photo
courtesy of FLAAR online; (d) Proskouriakoff 1950: fig. 32k; (e) Rice 1999: fig. 7).

18

Ik Kuh, Wind God


1.

The wind deity (God H) embodied the breath spirit, which was the
food of gods and ancestors but also their spiritual nature. Also the
god of music. Personification of number three, patron of the
month Mak. Associated with Itzamnaaj. Schellhas God P, which
depicts Kukulcan (the Yukatek version of Quetzalcoatl), is an
aspect of the Wind God.

2.

Young male deity wearing a headband with a prominent flower on


the brow. In the portrait glyph, the flower is at the back of the
head or can be an inverted ajaw glyph. Often wears the ik sign,
the glyph for wind.

3.

Early Classic - Postclassic

4.

Quetzalcoatl-Ehecatl, Central Mexican god of wind

a.

b.

d.

e.

i.

c.

f.

g.

h.

j.

Figure 12. (a-b) Early Classic wind god, Tikal Stela 31; as patron of the month Mak,
detail of Bonampak stone panel; (c) Late Classic Wind God, detail of carved bone from
Burial 116, Tikal; (d-e) Wind God as day-name Ik, Palenque; (f-g) Drum & rattle with
ik sign, detail of Early Classic vase & detail of sculpture from Temple 11, Copan; (h)
Early Classic wind god, detail of incised vessel; (i) Personified form of number 3,
detail of text from carved bench, Copan; (j) Patron of month Mak, note possibly
singing, detail of Palace Tablet, Palenque. (Sources: (a-j) Taube 2004: fig. 2a-e, 3b-f.)

19

Yax Chiit Jun Naahb Nah Kan,


Water Lily Serpent
1.

Symbolizes terrestrial waters (rivers, lakes, cenotes, sea).


Personification of the number thirteen and of the 360-day tun
period. Close association with Chaak, as a different type of water.
Commonly impersonated by rulers during the Classic period.
Recently Christophe Helmke (pers. comm. 2008) identified the
name as Yax chiit (or pet) jun naahb nah kan.

2.

Serpent body, often plumed, with an avian head, closely


resembling the Principal Bird Deity. Headdress displays a water
lily pad and flower, with the stalk of the blossom knotted across
the pad. The water lily pad is rounded with a bumpy outline of
widely spaced knobs or continuous scallops, and its surface is
cross-hatched. Fish nibble at the flower. At times, the entire
headdress is replaced by a large water volute.

3.

Late Preclassic - contemporary

4.

Equivalent to Central Mexican Chalchiuhtlicue, goddess of


terrestrial bodies of water. May be related to contemporary
Chorti Chikchan, the King Serpent.

c
b

Figure 13. (a) Detail of lower border of Pier D, House A of the Palace, Palenque; (b)
Detail of Late Classic carved incised bowl; (c) Tun glyph, detail of fragmentary
Caracol Stela 20; (d) Water serpent with Chaak face and WLS headdress, with
accompanying name glyph, Dresden p.35b; (e) Ruler with WLS headdress,
Machaquila Stela 4. (Sources: (a) Robertson 1990: figs. 4; (b, d) Taube 1992: 26a, b;
(c) Ishihara et al. 2006: fig. 5, drawing by Taube; (e) Graham 1967: fig. 49).

20

a.

b.
Figure 14. (a) East roof faade, Room 42, Temple of the Fish, Ek Balam; (b) West
stucco mask, Structure B5 (upper mask) and B5-sub (lower mask), Caracol. (Sources:
(a) drawing by Karl Taube; (b) Ishihara et al 2006: fig. 3, drawing by Gustavo
Valenzuela).

21

Yax Bahlam, one of the Hero Twins


1.

Yax Bahlam (or Yax Balam in Postclassic) (God CH) is one of the
Hero Twins, often appearing with his twin brother, Jun Ajaw and
his father the maize deity. Serves as the head variant for the
number nine. May be associated with hunting.

2.

Young male with jaguar skin markings around the mouth and on
the body. His name glyph is prefixed with the yax glyph. At the
back of the head is a cross-hatched cartouche. Wears an ajaw
headband like his twin brother.

3.

Late Classic - Early Colonial

4.

Deity specific to the Maya area.

a.

d.

b.

e.

c.

f.

g.

Figure 15. (a) Name glyph, Madrid page 104b; (b) Yax Bahlam serving as head variant
of the number 19, Dresden page 69; (c) Head variant for number 9, stucco glyph
from Olvidado Temple, Palenque; (d) Yax Bahlam with maize elements on head, note
accompanying name glyph, Madrid page 28d; (e) Seated Yax Bahlam with jaguar
skin markings on face and body, Dresden page 7b; (f) Late Classic representation of
Yax Bahlam, detail of polychrome vessel; (g) Jun Ajaw and Yax Bahlam , Drawing
87 at Naj Tunich. (Sources: (a-f) Taube 1992: fig. 28a, c-g; (g) Miller &Taube
1993:175).

22

Ix Sak Uh, the young Moon Goddess


1.

Goddess of women, marriage, and sensual love (Goddess I). The


name glyph shows a kaban curl in the head and sometimes at the
brow. Often carries the sak prefix. Related to the Classic period
moon goddess. The moon and moon goddess are linked to maize
and the maize deity. In the Postclassic, she is identified with
weaving. Closely associated with Ix Chak Chel.

2.

Usually a young female deity but can be depicted as an aged


woman as well.

3.

Early Classic - Late Postclassic

4.

Nahuatl Xochiquetzal

a.

b.

c.

e.

f.

d.

Figure 16. (a-c) Postclassic name glyph with sak prefix or ki postfix, note aged
face in (c), Dresden pages 22b, 16c, Madrid page 107b; (d) Moon goddess and name
glyph from Dresden Venus pages, Dresden page 49; (e) Aged Goddess I weaving,
Madrid page 102c; (f) Seated Goddess I, Dresden page 16c. (Source: (a-f) Taube
1992: figs. 29a, b, d, f, I, 30c).

23

Kawiil, God of Royal Dynasties


1.

One of the important deities (God K). He is a celestial lightning


deity, often appearing as Chaahks smoking serpent lightning axe;
also is identified with rain and maize. Associated with elite
lineage and dynastic rulership.

2.

Long upturned snout (scaly reptile) with a fire element extending


out of his brow, often from a shining mirror. In the Terminal
Classic and Postclassic periods, he can appear with wings. In the
Classic period, he is shown with a serpent foot and a smoking
device in his forehead, but most commonly, is in the form of the
Manikin Scepter, an axe wielded by rulers.

3.

Early Classic - Late Postclassic

4.

Some correlation with Aztec Tezcatlipoca.

a.

b.
c.

f.
d.

g.

e.

Figure 17. (a) Late Postclassic name glyph, Paris page 24; (b) Late Classic name
glyph with phonetic la suffix, Yaxchilan Lintel 25; (c) God K scepter held by Chaak,
detail of Early Classic incised and modeled vessel; (d) God K holding bowl of cacao,
Dresden page 12a; (e) God K holding headdress, Madrid page 21c; (f) Eccentric chert
of profile with smoking torch through the forehead; (g) One of four God K plastered
wooden effigies found within Burial 195, Tikal. (Sources: (a-e, g) Taube 1992: figs.
32b-e, 35a, 36a; (f) L7123, drawing by Linda Schele on www.famsi.org).

24

Haal Chuhaj /Chuwaaj,


Lord of the Underworld
1.

No consensus on the name, but his Postclassic name may be Haal


Chuhaj and Classic period examples from Altun Ha read Haal
Chuwaaj (Helmke pers. comm. 2008). Deity of the underworld as
well as of merchants and trade (God L). Associated with the jaguar
and moan owl, both related to caves and the night. Related to
death and destruction but also fertile riches. Regal status as a
merchant.

2.

Aged deity with a moan screech owl in his large-brimmed hat.


Often black body. Large, squared eyes, jaguar characteristics,
frequently is smoking a cigar. Often appears with a sacred bundle,
sometimes labeled ikatz, or a netted bundle (carrying packs of
merchants) topped with a bird (quetzal) suggesting its contents as
plumes. Often carries a staff. The moan owl is identified by its
broad and sharply tipped beak and spotted feathers. Often a pair
of large spotted feathers appear on the brow and the back of the
head, probably referring to the horn-like feather tufts.

3.
4.

Late Classic - Late Postclassic


One of the few Maya deities that appear in Veracruz.

d.

Figure 18. (a) Seated God L with accompanying name glyph, Dresden page 14c; (b)
God L with merchant bundle topped with long-tailed bird; (c) God L smoking, from
Temple of the Cross, Palenque; (d) God L seated upon jaguar throne, perhaps inside a
cave. (Source: (a-d) Taube 1992: figs. 38a, 39b, 40c, 42b).

25

Ek Chuah, God of Merchants & Trade


1.

Deity of merchants and trade (God M), and as such, closely


associated with God L. Name glyph is represented by an eye
within a U-shaped device with a black background, recalling a
typical depiction of a deitys eye.

2.

Long, Pinocchio-like nose. Depicted in black (ek means black).


Long, pendulous lower lip accentuated with red. Face is not of a
typical Maya face.

3.

Late Postclassic

4.

God L was the Classic period counterpart. Probably originated


from the Central Mexican Yacatecuhtli.

a.

b.

c.

d.

e.

f.

Figure 19. (a-b) Postclassic name glyph of God M, Dresden page 16b, Madrid page
54c; (c) God M with merchant bundle on road, Dresden page 43a; (d) Pair of black
God M figures making fire upon a road, Madrid page 51a; (e) Postclassic effigy vessel,
Mayapan; (f) Postclassic fragmentary effigy censer, Mayapan. (Source: (a-f) Taube
1992: fig. 44a-e).

26

Itzam Chan Tuun, World Bearer


1.

God N. Quadripartite year and sky bearer, he is identified with


earth, water, thunder, music, drunkenness, and the old year. As
deity of mountains, he can be benevolent or malevolent.
Associated with the opossum, turtle, snail, spider, and monkey.
Personification of the number five. The Old Man and headscarf are
logograms read ITZAM (Martin n.d.). With the turtle shell, his
name may be Itzam Chan Ahk.

2.

Aged deity donning a netted scarf knotted at the brow. Simply


dressed with a loincloth and a cut-shell pendant. Often shown
with a turtle carapace, mollusk shell, or spider web on his back or
emerges from them. May be shown holding up the sky.

3.

Late Preclassic - contemporary.

4.

Nahuatl Tzitzimitl, the sky bearer; modern Mam or Maximon


(Qeqchi, Chol, Tzutujil, Huastec Maya).

a.

b.

c.

g.

d.

e.

f.

h.

Figure 20. (a-c) Name glyphs, Madrid pages 71a, 104b, Dresden page 60; (d) Seated
God N, Madrid page 104b; (e) With turtle carapace, Dresden page 60; (f) Late Classic
God N in turtle shell, Quirigua Zoomorph P; (g) Pair of God N figures serving as
supports for sky band throne, detail of Late Classic polychrome vessel; (h) Classic
period God N in conch, detail of carved vessel. (Source: (a-h) Taube 1992: figs. 46a,
b, e, 47a, d, e).

27

Ix Chak Chel, the Old Goddess


1.

Goddess identified with both forces of creation and destruction.


Closely associated with divination, curing, childbirth, and
weaving. During the Postclassic, called Ix Chel, she is depicted
with storms and water, and thus related to Chaak.

2.

Invariably an old female deity, often with a red body in the


Postclassic codices. Her name has the prefix chak which means
red or great, and chel means rainbow. Often shown with a
serpent headdress, she has claws and fangs, and wears a skirt
marked with crossed bones and other death symbols. At times,
she can have a jaguar ear with spotted eyes. Closely related to the
spider. Can be shown holding a mirror.

3.

Late Classic - Early Colonial

4.

Aztec goddess Cihuacoatl (also known as Quilaztli, Ilamatecuhtli);


Nahuatl Toci. She may be the Grandmother of the Hero Twins.

a.

b.

c.

d.

Figure 21. (a) Name glyph prefixed by chak sign, Dresden page 43b; (b) Classic form
receiving vomit or other liquid from howler monkey artisan; (c) Goddess O with
clawed hands and feet, detail of flood scene on Dresden page 74; (d) Goddess O with
water pouring from loins and armpits, Madrid page 30b. (Source: (a-d) Taube 1992:
figs. 50a, e, g, 51c).

28

God of Sacrifice
1.

Deity of stone and castigation (God Q). Related to Death God.


Name glyph also shows the facial band and often has a coefficient
of ten, which is personified by the death deity.

2.

Curving band (solid or dotted line) from the forehead through the
eye to the back of the cheek. Dotted lines frequently appear on
the body. Shown often as sacrificial victims, with death eyes, the
death collar, and a knotted headband of cloth or paper.

3.

Early Classic - Late Postclassic

4.

Tezcatlipoca-Itzlacoliuhqui-Ixquimilli, Nahuatl god of stone, cold,


and castigation. Linked to Early Classic Central Mexican Xipe
Totec, our lord the flayed one, and Formative period Zapotec.

a.

b.

c.

d.

e.

Figure 22. (a-c) Postclassic name glyph with numeral ten prefix, Dresden page 6b,
Madrid page 84c, Paris page 8; (d) God Q drilling fire, Dresden page 6b; (e) God Q
with burning torch and sacrificial blade, Madrid page 84c. (Source: (a-e) Taube 1992:
fig. 53a, c-e, g).

29

Buluk Kaban
1.

God R. May be variant or aspect of Jun Ajaw. Personification of


the number eleven. May be an earth deity (Helmke, pers. comm.
2008). Relatively rare and poorly understood deity.

2.

Single prominent kaban (earth) curl that passes from the brow
to the lower cheek, and appears on the body as well. Wears an
ajaw headband.

3.

Late Postclassic

4.

Deity specific to the Maya area.

a.

b.

c.

d.

Figure 23. (a) Name glyph with numeral 11 prefix, Dresden page 5b; (b-d) Buluk
Kaban, Dresden pages 5b, 6a, Madrid page 65b. (Source: (a-d) Taube 1992: figs. 57a,
d, e, g).

30

Jun Ajaw, one of the Hero Twins


1.

The Classic period version of Hunahpu from the Popol Vuh (God
S). Personification of the ajaw glyph or day sign. Connotations of
death and sacrifice. In ethnohistoric sources, he is referred to as
the preeminent lord of the underworld. Appears with the
Tonsured Maize God, the Classic version of Hun Hunahpu, the
father of
Hunahpu and Xbalanque. During the Classic period,
rulers impersonating Jun Ajaw are shown receiving the Principal
Bird Deity headdress, connecting royal accession with mythical
importance.

2.

Single black spot on the cheek and several on the body, referred
to as death spots that are found on death figures (Gods A, A).
The spot on the cheek can be replaced by a U-shaped black area
around the mouth. Wears a headband, but at times may be seen
wearing the death crest of hair and eyeballs. Sometimes shown
decapitated, which relates to the Popol Vuh episode in which
Hunahpu loses his head during the ball game. He may also be
depicted as a bound captive.

3.

Early Classic - Early Colonial

4.

Deity specific to the Maya area.

a.

c.

b.

e.

f.

g.

d.

Figure 24. (a-b) Late Classic name glyph, detail of pottery; (c-d) Postclassic depiction
with accompanying name glyph, Dresden pages 2a, 50; (e) ajaw face, Tablet of the
96 Glyphs, Palenque; (f) Early Classic examples; (g) Jun Ajaw with Yax Bahlam.
(Source: (a-g) Taube 1992: figs. 60b-e, 61a, c, d).

31

Huk Sip, Deer God


1.

The hunting deity is commonly depicted. In contemporary lore,


he is the master of animals who live in a mountain cave, and in
fact, Classic period vessels and monuments show the hunting god
(or its impersonators) inside a cave maw or mountain.

2.

An aged deity. He has deer ears, antlers, and often an extended


lower lip, possibly alluding to the manner in which they pluck
vegetation with their mouths. Commonly has the spiral eye found
with gods of night and darkness. May have jaguar pelt markings
on the face and body like Yax Bahlam (God CH). Prominent black
striping on the body, probably serving as camouflage in the forest.
In Classic Maya scenes, wears a hunting costume of a grass skirt
and broad-brimmed hat, sometimes with a conch trumpet.

3.

Late Classic - contemporary

4.

Mixcoatl of Central Mexico who is identified with the Milky Way.

a.
e.
b.

h.

c.

f.

g.

d.

i.

j.

k.

l.

Figure 25. (a-b) Classic Sip god with black prefix on (a), Dos Pilas Hieroglyphic
Stairway 4 (read ik sip black sin) & Copan Stela B; (c) Deer with hunting god with
accompanying name glyph, Dresden page 13c; (d-f) Postclassic hunting god, labeled
aj chi winik (deer hunter) in (d) and as Huk Sip in (e), Madrid page 40b, c, Paris
page 10; (g) Terminal Classic Sip god with deer ear; (h) Sip god blowing conch
trumpet; (i) Sip god with hunting hat, Bonampak Room 3; (j) Sip god holding torch
and blowing conch trumpet; (k-l) Hunters holding peccary and deer haunches, detail
of Late Classic vase. (Sources: (a-c, g-j) Taube 2003: fig. 36.7a-g; (d-f) Taube 1992:
fig. 28h-j; (k-l) Stone 2002: fig. 19, K1373).

32

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