Maya Creation Myths
Words and Worlds of the Chilam Balam
Publication Year: 2010
Published by: University Press of Colorado
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Figures & Acknowledgments
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The final page of the Dresden Codex, a pre-Columbian Maya document, displays a scene showing the end of the previous world creation. Water is vomited from the mouth of a celestial caiman, poured from a vase by an old woman deity, and discharged from eclipse glyphs appended to the sky beast’s body, all of the action displayed against a dark and somber...
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There is no Classical Yucatecan Maya word for “myth.” But around the close of the seventeenth century, an anonymous Maya scribe penned what he called u kahlay cab tu kinil (“the world history of the era”) before Christianity came to the Peten, the land of the Maya. In this he collected numerous accounts of the cyclical destruction and reestablishment of the...
2: Aspects of Ancient Maya Intellectual Culture
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As with traditions of knowledge everywhere, the creation myths written in the Book of Chilam Balam of Chumayel were composed in dialogue with the voices past and present, even (or especially) with those voices that conquistadors and missionaries attempted to appropriate or suppress. In this chapter I provide a brief orientation to some aspects of ancient Maya...
3: Clandestine Compilations and the Colonial Dialogue
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Pages 42 to 63 of the Classical Yucatecan Maya–language manuscript known as the Book of Chilam Balam of Chumayel is a collection of Maya creation myths dating to years following the Spanish invasion of the Americas. Although individual creation narratives and related accounts written in the Classical Yucatecan Maya language appear elsewhere in the...
4: Creation and Apocalypse: The Katun 11 Ahau Myth
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This chapter examines the first creation myth contained in this Chumayel mythography, a kahlay ‘history’ of the destruction and re-creation of the world in Katun 11 Ahau. This myth is particularly interesting because it is attested to by redactions in two other Books of Chilam Balam, that of the town of Tizimín, and that of the town of Maní (contained in the Códice...
5: Theogony, Cosmology, and Language in the Ritual of the Angels
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Munro Edmonson wrote in the introduction to his translation of the Book Students of the Books of Chilam Balam of Tizim
6: The Creation of the First People and the Origin of Suffering
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Origin myths are often discourses on the human condition. These discourses often posit a theory of being (ontology) and construct fundamental degrees of sameness and difference between persons and groups, whether gender, kin, ethnic, or racial distinctions. ...
7: The Calendar and the Catechism
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The final cosmogony contained in the Chumayel mythography is an especially beautiful narrative, titled here, following Edmonson (1986), the “Birth of the Uinal,” uinal being the twenty-day Maya week (V. Bricker 2002b).1 While the preface presents the purpose of the Chumayel mythography as an answer to the questions of origin posed to the Maya by their...
8: “In Whatever Way It Is Chronicled”
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The final myth of the Chumayel mythography concludes on a hopeful note, remarking that the same Sun of the same creator travels across the sky to mark the day “in whatever way it is chronicled” (63.6). This statement, and the discourse of the entire cosmogony in fact, while subverting the monologues of the missionary catechists...
Appendix: Cross-Reference of Material in the Katun 11 Ahau Creation Myth Shared by Two or More Redactions
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Page Count: 240
Illustrations: 20 b&w photographs, 4 line drawings
Publication Year: 2010
Series Title: Mesoamerican Worlds Series
Series Editor Byline: Davíd Carrasco, Harvard University, and Eduardo Matos Moctezuma, El Colegio Nacional, Mexico, Series General Editors