January 23rd, 2011

A Mayan Creation Story from The Popul Vu

Before we worry too much about what might happen in 2012, it might be interesting to read what the pre-Columbian Mayans had to say about themselves.  This creation story is remarkable for, among other things, its resemblance to yet great difference from, the creations stories of tjhe Hebrew people.  The text is about 160 pages, but about one-third of that is footnotes.  If even 100 pages is too much you can begin on page 38 (Part I, chapter 1), break off at page 50 (Chapter 4); start reading again at page 121 (Part III, chapter1) and finish at page 125 (End of chapter 2).

The Popol Vuh (English)

There are questions about the text.  The original is a hieroglyphic of uncertain age, probably dating from around 700 c.e. It was supposedly retold in the early 17th century in a Europeanized, alphabetized, version of Quiche, and translated into Spanish by a Dominican monk (hence the references to Christianity which appear in the text).  The original Quiche document disappeared around 1855, perhaps hidden by the Mayans to preserve its sanctity.

Creation was by word, there is a flood, humans were the culmination of creation (other animals could not praise the gods)
Creating acceptable humans was one hell of job, certainly nothing that could be accomplished in one day; several prototypes had to be destroyed.  And finally four "adams" were created, followed by four eves.  Everything went rather well after that so far as the story goes.

It a great story, poetic in places, reminiscent of Genesis,  Showing real creativity and insight.  A masterpiece, i think.