Esotericism of the Popol Vuh by Raphael Girard

Theosophical University Press Online Edition

Chapter 13

The Fourth and Final Age: Era of Quiché-Maya Culture

Surrounded by the brilliant solar rays, Hunahpú had to illuminate the scene of the new creation, and this must be concluded before the dawn. To that end, the divine council once more came together to form a new humanity and " 'consecrate the nutriments which will sustain our civilized progeny, making their existence on the face of the earth divine,' they said among themselves."

Then they sent their prayers amidst the darkness of the night (exemplifying the norms of the agrarian ritual celebrated only during the night, like the coitus); then those shadows scattered, and they were filled with gratitude. In that way the purifying sentiments of their progeny were coming to birth, and they found what would form the flesh of the new humans (maize). Only a short time remained before the sun, moon, and stars would appear.

Note that now the creative gods treat their creatures as their own offspring, comparing them with Hunahpú, the very term the Chortí elder — as representative of the agrarian gods (which are also the creative gods) — applies to his flock. Thus the humankind of the Fourth Creation will be formed in the same way as Hunahpú, from which it follows that the divine spirit now enters into human life, lights the flame of knowledge in the soul, and gives to the being its new ethical physiognomy. Therefore man's feelings will be pure and elevated and, having an awareness of being part of divinity, he will know how to discharge his real duties, paying tribute to the Creator in the same way as do the creative gods to the Supreme Being to whom "they give that which is its just due." Such is the view of the Chortí theologians, and upon it is also founded the law of obligatory offerings to the elder.

Because of this the creative gods "are filled with feelings of gratitude," since they will now be able to subsist by virtue of the principle that they cannot live without man's veneration, nor can man live without divine protection: the advent of both these conditions is implied. But in Maya mythology the coming of Deity into the soul as well as into the body is naturally related only after maize becomes the material employed to mold the beings of the Fourth Creation.

The relation between Deity and mankind is linguistically expressed by the use of a common root. For example, in Zapotec vi or bi means vital breath, wind, and enters into the composition of the name of the divinity, vi dó, and of man, vi nih (compare this with the winik of languages in the northern Mayan group, inik in Huastec, vinak in Quiché, etc.). This is the real meaning of this latest creation, which no longer relates to the universe or the human species as such, but rather to the formation of beings that are perfect, like gods, and who possess the Quiché-Maya qualities of culture.

To emphasize the beginning of their cultural era, the Mayas have it begin with the latest creation, which is also the creation of the great luminaries and of the stars. All that came before the Fourth Creation has little importance, as if it had not existed, since in the Maya conception the world begins with the coming of their historic era. The Chumayel document confirms the Quiché text, declaring that "then the stars awoke and from that moment the world began." Referring to the humanity of the earlier cycle it says, "those creatures had no fathers [a specific mention of the matriarchy], lived a life of misery, and were living beings but had no hearts." The annals of the Cakchiquels speak to us in similar terms of life before the latest creation: "Formerly man lived in misery, fed on wood, had no blood or flesh, and lacked anything fit to eat until maize was discovered."

This allegory of a miserable humanity that lived in shadows before the existence of the stars is typical of native American myths, since we find it everywhere, from the country of the Red Skins to that of the Urus. The traditions of the latter, recently collected by Dr. A. Vellard, exhibit surprising similarities to those of the Popol Vuh. Everywhere, the native American peoples make known the incisive division between the prehistoric cycle and the beginning of their history.

From Paxil and Cavalá, so named, came the yellow corn ears and the white ears. These are the names of the animals which provided them with news of the new foods: yak (the Mountain Cat), utiú (the Coyote), quel (the Magpie), and joj (the Crow, or Bird of Prey). Four, then, were the animals who gave the news of the existence of the yellow ears and the white ears, which were found in Paxil; and they pointed out the road to Paxil. In this way the gods found the elements that would become the flesh of the people they were going to create and form, and the liquid of their blood would be the blood of the people, and this liquid Alom and Cajolom caused to enter into the maize ears.
And so the gods were filled with joy, having found that place full of good and delicious things where the yellow and white maize ears abounded, where were abundant also the pataxte [Theobroma bicolor, a variety of cacao] and cacao, and groves of zapotes, annonas [custard apples], apples, cherries, and honey. Full of succulent foods were the places called Paxil and Cavalá. There were foods of every kind and shape, produce of great and small plants, and the animals showed them the road they were to use to get them. Then they shelled and ground the yellow and white ears, and Ixmucané made nine drinks whose ingredients entered into the substances destined to give life, strength, and vigor to the people.
Immediately afterwards they made and formed our first fathers and our first mothers; of yellow maize and white were made their flesh, their arms, and their legs. Only maize dough became the flesh of our first fathers, the four men which were created.
These were our first fathers, named Balam Quitzé, Balam Acap, Majucutaj, and Iqui Balam, our first seed.
They had no mother or father; they were just called Men. They were not born from woman, but were sons formed by Ajtzak and Ajbit, by Alom and Cajolom. Their formation and creation was wholly brought about by the supernatural and marvelous work of the gods, who gave them the appearance of men. They then spoke, reasoned, saw and felt, walked and grasped things; they were men perfect in face and of good and beautiful form.

Equally with the Romans, Greeks, Chinese, Japanese, and other Oriental peoples, the Quiché-Maya regarded themselves as direct descendants of the gods.

Chapter 14