Since time immemorial, ritual dances, farces, or open-air theatrical presentations form an indispensable complement of every religious festivity in Mesoamerican culture. In this wise they perpetuate traditional myths that exalt those ethical principles governing the patterns of life, as well as extol the mysteries of creation, of cultural origins, and of the religious code that is a compendium of all the laws and great deeds of the hero-gods, by putting them in the form of allegory that is within reach of the public's understanding.
But ever since the Conquest, these manifestations of the native spirit carry the inevitable mark of colonial European theology, and this has permitted them to survive under strange formalisms in versions corrected and authorized by the Spanish clergy. Thus it was that "The History," the name the Chortís have preserved for the Dance of the Giants, became transformed in appearance into two Biblical episodes: the beheading of Saint John, and the battle between Gavite (meaning David) and Goliath.
Nevertheless, beneath this superficial disguise the Chortís have known how to preserve the most valuable literary document of their past which, besides being a historical account of great significance, can well be regarded as the most important present-day expression of Mesoamerican theater, as much because of its content as because of its venerable antiquity. And this work's importance acquires even greater merit since it deals with a people about whose past we know nothing, as we completely lack informational sources.
Although the Chortí "History," such as we find it exhibited in the Dance of the Giants, contains traditions common to both Maya and Quiché culture and is found written in the Popol Vuh, we see that it is presented only in the exclusively Chortí area and lately is confined to a small part of Camotán. This is the final redoubt where this dramatization of the mythic portion of the Popol Vuh can still be observed. It was more or less a century ago that performance of the Dance of the Giants was discontinued in Chiquimula as a result of a cholera epidemic which caused the death of the group of artists responsible for continuing that traditional event.
As said, ritual dances given in the ceremonial plaza of the district capital of the tribe formed the cultural patrimony of specific clans that had specialized in certain artistic presentations, in the same way that industrial firms specialize in a particular product. Thus the Dance of the Giants, with its body of players directed by a master of ceremonies, is a long-time specialty of the village of Tisipe, located a half-league from the town of Camotán. According to the artistic director responsible for carrying on the tradition, that very important dance is slowly coming to its end since the "accounts" of today are already incomplete, it being noted that since the past century part of the text that is recited during the theatrical presentation has been lost.
Responding to one of the imperatives of ethnography — to rescue while still possible all the manifestations of native culture in their multiple aspects — I arranged with the master of ceremonies to put into writing under his verification the actual extent of the "accounts," promising not to divulge the contents of my report to any person in the Chortí area and to give him a copy of what I wrote. As a result of this agreement and after having witnessed the famous Chortí drama many times over in order to compare the spoken record with the written, I delivered to the master of ceremonies the version that today can be found amid the ceremonial paraphernalia of the director of "The History," and which he found completely satisfactory. That my report was accurate is vouched for in the following paragraph taken from a letter written to me by the mayor of Camotán, responsible for receiving, lodging, and feeding the actors. It says:
The Master of Ceremonies of the Dance of the Giants tells me that the report you sent is very good, and needs no modification whatsoever. Thank you for the photographs. Affectionate greetings to the Very Honorable Don Raphael Girard.
(signed) FIDELINO ROMERO
We have some idea as to the relative antiquity of this theatrical piece from the fact that its theme forms a cultural inheritance common to both Mayas and Quichés before their separation, i.e., before our own era, the Chortí "History" being the myth of the Popol Vuh made into drama. It must not be forgotten that Mayas and Quichés were separated during the whole of the Old Empire period, and when the Quichés returned to Guatemala about the tenth century of our era, according to their own traditions, a long time had already elapsed since Maya civilization had collapsed. The Quichés brought with them a folkloric series: the Dance of the Deer, the Flying Pole, the Dance of the Snake, etc., all of which are foreign to Chortí culture. On the other hand, the Quichés do not know the Dance of the Giants or any similar presentation, but they did indeed write the Popol Vuh, which we find to be the explanation of the Chortí drama. Considering these circumstances, the famous "History" cannot be attributed to Quiché influence and must be seen as an element that has been preserved from a remote past which allows us to go back to the common cultural origins of both groups.
Its principal dramatis personae embody the hero-gods Hunahpú and Ixbalamqué who, with their parents the seven Ahpú, fight against the mythological giants Vukup Cakix, Zipacná, Caprakán and the forces of Xibalbá represented by the Black Giant and his henchmen. This is the theme that embraces the whole of the mythic portion of the celebrated Quiché text. Evocation of the life of the gods in mystical dramas is a typical custom of Mesoamerican peoples; and we have a proof of this in the "Tulanianhululae," which according to the Vatican A Codex condenses the cultural origins of the Aztecs expressed in dances and songs. Despite that, the Dance of the Giants or Chortí "History" is something original and unique in America. What "The History" offers us is not solely a mythical account; it sums up the native knowledge of theogony, cosmogony, and astronomy as well as the arithmetic and time-reckoning procedures employed during the Great Period of Maya civilization. Therefore, every single thing pertaining to its presentation is carried out according to a program that is exceedingly carefully laid out beforehand in harmony with the mathematical mentality that is so characteristic of the Maya.
The Chortís emphasize with great frequency that everything taking place in the world, as well as in their lives, has "its day and its hour," predetermined by Providence. Therefore "The History" must be presented exactly at midday when the sun is at its zenith. The drama is presented three times in the year: June 24, coinciding with the fiesta of San Juan, patron of the town; June 13 on San Antonio day; and December 8, fiesta of the Immaculate Conception, patroness of Camotán.
In each of these presentations the Dance must be given twice on each day on three successive days: the day before the fiesta date; that day itself; and the following day. These numbers are not arbitrary since the total of 18 annual presentations corresponds with the 18 months of the old native calendar that still governs their ritual and economic cycle today. With regard to the dates given and despite a slight variation so as to adjust them to the fiestas of the holy days of the Roman Catholic Church, the day of San Juan corresponds to the old three-day festival which formerly celebrated the summer solstice amid great solemnities and mythological dances. Likewise, that of the Conception coincides with the old three-day festival that solemnized the winter solstice. It is curious to note how in the celebration honoring San Juan two millennial rites come together: one pertaining to the primeval civilizations of the Old World and the other to the Mayan people, but whose original meaning was the same. Actually the fires of San Juan, by which that Roman Catholic date is commemorated now in some parts of Europe, are vestiges of the solstitial festival which was celebrated before the arrival of Christianity. Thus, both commemorations are closely related in the same way as fusion of the birthdate of Christ and the winter solstice came about.
The old rules are rigorously observed down to their smallest details, such as the one requiring that the actors who represent the solar and lunar gods take their places according to the respective positions of those heavenly bodies during the winter solstice. Moreover, by means of the mysteries in which word and mimicry are combined, the gods are praised in public, this being a form of prayer or adoration which every human being should give to his creators.
This detail in ritual stands out clearly in the Chortí drama when the actors, at the start of each allegorical scene and at the end of the presentation, give homage to the sun, saluting it ceremoniously with face turned to the east while they trace semicircles from east to west in the air with their naked swords, imitating the daystar's trajectory symbolized in olden times by the ball game. This game is also remembered in the struggle of Gavite with the Black Giant, in which these stand respectively for the opposing light and dark fields of the cosmic plane. When paying homage to the sun, the actors invariably place themselves in a position that corresponds with the east-west axis, directing their salutes toward the east. One time, when the Indians danced expressly for me, I repeatedly tried to get them to change their position under pretext of getting better photos of them in movement, but they automatically returned to the posts indicated by tradition and, when the ballet took the form of the cosmic cross, the artists glided each to his place, resulting in a perfect image of that cross oriented toward the four cardinal points.
This sun veneration emanating from the whole Dance performance seems not to have undergone any alteration since the pre-Cortéz period, despite the efforts the priests made to change the "pagan" theme into Biblical episodes. Although the earlier names of the principal actors have become Christianized, the substance has preserved all its native flavor, with the single exception that the epic battle between Hunahpú and Hun Camé has become the individual combat between David and Goliath, respectively called Gavite and the giant Golillo, while what is the beheading of San Juan for those not versed in native matters is in reality the beheading of the seven Ahpú by order of Hun Camé.
The eight actors, who in addition to the master of ceremonies and the musicians form the cast of the Dance of the Giants, are divided into two equal groups that take positions facing each other. One group is in the east and the other in the west of an imaginary quadrilateral that represents the cosmic plane. The east foursome includes the King who personifies the Father-Sun, the greatest deity of the native pantheon; two Gavites who symbolize the young sun and the young or full moon and are the twin hero-gods represented in the Popol Vuh by Hunahpú and Ixbalamqué; and a "captain" who embodies the role of the Mother-moon, companion of the sun-King, equivalent to Ixmucané of the Popol Vuh, who completes the east quartet. These take posts in accordance with the position of the starry bodies during the solstice in the manner shown in the diagram below. The western foursome is composed of the Black Giant, the personification of both the mythical giants and the Camé, which have come together in one personage symbolizing the malign forces of the universe eradicated by Gavite and confined to a sector of the underworld; a White Giant, who embodies the role of the seven Ahpú fallen into the power of Hun Camé; and two "armorers" or "outfitters" whose parts will be explained below.
Both quartets in their relative positions and their costumes represent the clear or luminous side of the universe in combat against the dark side, or the contrast between day and night, the summer and winter sky, the upper level of the cosmos in opposition to the lower; and, therefore, of civilization against barbarism. We shall discuss all of this symbolism and explain it in terms of native thought.
The actors place themselves as follows:
Before explaining the action of the dance, we shall describe the apparel of the actors. The King wears rose-colored trousers whose two cuffs have each been cut in four triangular points to make eight "solar rays," a feature we also find in the dress of figures sculptured on the stelae at Copán which have the lower legs adorned with belts of triangles whose meaning of sun rays is well known. Also the cuffs of the shirt sleeves, tied up like bracelets, terminate in yellow pointed festoons, the typical color of the Solar god. It must be noted that whereas one cuff has ten festoons, the other exhibits only seven. The shirt is sprinkled with blue points on a light background and, in terms of its cut, the front flap is longer than the rear, and the area of the umbilicus is bordered by thirteen points having yellow borders each ten centimeters long. The collar is cut into five triangles. As for the adornments of the cuff, armlet, and anklets, we find they are also typical of those found on the sacerdotal personages depicted in Maya statuary; there they figure not only as simple adornments but as arithmetic and time-reckoning elements, as we shall explain. Upon the rose-colored background of the trousers, along the outer seams, run two vertical yellow bands sown with a double line of red thread; each band finishes in a figure of three elements (reproduced below), also yellow, which are the graphic expression of the trine and dual conception of native theogony.
The King is the only personage who wears a crown, made of cardboard and covered with brilliant gold paper, terminating in ten points. In form it is similar to the headdress worn on certain crowned heads in ancient Mesoamerican statuary. A blue bonnet, symbol of the celestial vault, covers the top of the King's head while a rosy veil some thirty centimeters long falls from it and covers his face. A long yellow cloak with surplice covers the shoulders of this august figure and, with the crown and signs of solar rays, composes the unmistakable evidence of regal dignity belonging only to the Sun god. The four ritual colors — yellow, blue, red, and white — are represented in the dress of this being which, occupying the chief place in the Chortí pantheon, symbolizes the cosmos. The absence of black in the gamut of cosmic colors should be noted.
The many triangular points that literally radiate from the divine figure stand for the sun's rays. No less symbolic is the yellow cape, the duplication of the resplendent mantle of Gucumatz or Quetzalcoatl in which the elements of feathers, sun rays, breastplates, and hair have the same meaning, are consubstantial, and reduce to a common linguistic denominator according to the native way of thinking. The mantle is yellow to identify the Solar deity or deity of Summer, but is transformed into green — the color of the vegetation — to indicate the Agrarian deity who governs during the winter season.
Since the Dance of the Giants represents a festivity in honor of the Solar god in his aspect as a summer deity, the color of his mantle must be yellow, contrasting with the green mantle that covers the shoulders of the elder of the agrarian worship, just like the cape of the god he represents when he celebrates the ceremonial corresponding to winter. In similar manner the mythological serpent (sierpe) becomes a red snake (culebra) and a blue snake (or green since the same word is used for both colors) to symbolize the change of seasons which are clearly differentiated in Chortí liturgy.
Figure 24a. 1. Glyph on cap of master of ceremonies. 2. Figure on trouser cuffs of Giants. 3. Shaft of Black Giant's headdress. 4. Insignia of Gavite. 5. Captain's sleeve adornment. 6. Shoulder insignia. 7. Collar spangles.
Figure 24b. 8. Lunar hieroglyph on Captain's cap. 9-10. Captain's costume, trouser-cuff figures. 11. King's costume, trouser-cuff ornament. 14. Cap with veil. 15. Lunar glyph in the Atl sign, Aztec calendar. 16. Atl glyph in the Cospi Codex. 17. Atl glyph in the Nuttall Codex. 18. Atl element in the Laud Codex.
Figure 24c. 12. Points on King's crown. 13. Points on King's shirt.
All this serves to clarify certain peculiarities in Mesoamerican iconography which until now have not been understood because the researchers had not penetrated into the esotericism that conceals native religious thought, to the point where some pictographic texts have been "corrected" in the belief that the native artist had made a mistake. Such is the case of Lord Kingsborough: when reproducing a plate of the Borgia Codex in which the Solar deity was associated with yellow feathers, he believed there had been a mistake made by the artist because in his view the feathers should have been green. And he, in fact, colored them green, but by doing so he succeeded only in deforming the original meaning of the text (Lord Kingsborough, Antiquities of Mexico, London, 1831).
With respect to the time-reckoning symbolism exhibited in the apparel of the King, we can say that there are represented in it all the basic units of Maya computation. The 10 points of the crown and the 8 of the trousers make the 18 uinals of the tun — a unit of the katún series that we also find in the 18 per year presentations of the famous Chortí drama — while the two series of 10 rays on the crown and a series on one of the sleeves symbolize the basic unit of the native vigesimal system, i.e., the 20 days of the uinal. By extension, the same number represents the katún composed of 20 tuns, as well as the whole ascending series of the katún wheel: baktún of 20 katúns, piktún of 20 baktúns, kalaltún of 20 piktúns, and kinchiltún of 20 kalaltúns. Also the breakdown into the katunic thirteen and the wutz or doubles of 7 katúns is represented by the 13 points of the shirt and the 7 of the other sleeve. This peculiarity is explained in a most picturesque way in the Book of Chilam Balam of Chumayel as follows: "Then, the days went to test each other, and they said, 'Thirteen and seven in a group . . .' " Such is characteristic of Maya computation, and has been preserved traditionally by the Chortí.
The days of the civil year result from multiplication of the numbers 18 and 20 which are figured in the crown, the feet, the umbilicus, and a sleeve of the Solar deity, while the element 13 combined with the 20 gives us the cipher corresponding to the totality of the Tzolkín or ritual calendar of 260 days, whose elevation to a higher power results in the baktún of 260 years just as it is computed in the u kahlay katunob of the Mayan Chumayel manuscript. With respect to the series of 9 days of the Tzolkín and its extension to the Long Count, which the epigraphers assign to the glyph G and which corresponds to the 9 forms of the Bolón ti kú in Maya mythology, it is found in the 5 solar rays of the collar and the 4 of the feet; moreover, it is expressed in the 9 days of the year on which "The History" is danced.
Multiplying the 4 points of the foot by the 2 series of 10 elements found on one sleeve and on the crown, we obtain the number 400, a value corresponding to a bak in Maya mathematics. Equally can be found the whole ancient arithmetic scale, combining numbers: hun = one; 20 hun = 1 kal; 20 kal = 1 bak; 20 bak = 1 pik; and 20 pik = 1 kabal; that is to say, the same progression noted in the katún wheel. The number 400 also corresponds to the number of days of the loose year employed by the Quichés until the Conquest, while the succeeding unit is arrived at by an operation like that above in which we get the value of 1 bak, except that the sum of the elements shown on the two trouser legs (8) — rather than a single trouser leg — must be taken into account. In lesser units we find that the 4 points of one ankle in themselves stand for a cycle of 4 years that, multiplied by 13 given us by the belt, turns up the number 52 which has a dual function: as exponent of days it forms a division of the Tzolkín; but representing years it forms a cycle of 52 — that is, the time that must pass before a day can return to the same calendric position. The xiuhmolpilli is obtained by multiplying the lower points by those on the belt (8 x 13 = 104). Likewise, the numbers 4, 5, 10, and 13, which appear as multipliers in the formation of subdivisions of the Tzolkín, figure in the elements displayed by this royal personage, as do the multiplicands 26, 20, and 65, this last obtained by the combination of the 5 and the 13.
When the King spreads his legs and lifts his arms over his head, he assumes a posture that can be called a cross and which is nothing more nor less than a representation of the nahui ollin or the glyph kin. That is, at those moments he assumes the character of a cosmic and solar entity, an affirmation that is confirmed as well by the juxtaposition of the following two numerals in the central point: the 13 of the umbilical cloth and the 5 formed by the cruciform point. Both these correspond to the type-number of the deity of the Cosmic Center, which is also called the navel of the world, so that the Chortí personage embodies it in all of its aspects.
On the other hand, the 4 cosmic entities that according to Chortí religious ideas are positioned in the 4 angles of the cosmos are symbolized by means of 4 red threads sewn into the trousers of the King. Their very color, which in Chortí is called chak, eloquently expresses the role of the 4 Mayan Chac. And neither must we forget the cosmic cross formed by the King when standing with arms extended, since this symbolizes the 4 cardinal directions as well as the east and west positions of the sun in its zenith and its nadir, and in this way he is able to represent the cosmic apparatus in toto.
And those triangular cuts which seemingly have no great significance have not been made arbitrarily but with premeditation, inasmuch as there are 7 points to one sleeve and 10 to the other. Nor is it coincidence that the 13 points should be placed exactly over the navel. The same is true of the other cuttings of the cloth, needlework, and sewn figures of costume: all have a precise although multiple meaning that is always in accordance with Chortí esoteric knowledge. The adornments of the cuff and the anklets evoke in the Chortí elders the continuous memory of the "strong arms and hands" of their gods, who also possess a tremendous power in their lower extremities since "with only the point of the foot" they keep the terrestrial serpent in its place. We find this very expression of "strong arms" in the narratives of the Dance we are describing, and which brings to mind the Maya name kab ul, meaning "powerful arm," which was the specific name of a divinity in their pantheon.
Figure 25b. Diagram of the numbers represented by "solar ray" glyphs.
Figurue 25b. Diagram of the X-shaped cross represented by the King.
In the same way, the representation of glyphs connoting numbers typical of Maya chronology is an inseparable part of the apparel of the personages sculpted on the Copán stelae, who are richly adorned with collars, armlets, anklets, knee guards, and maxtlatl, covered with calendric symbols in the form of discs, balls, quadrangles with signs of nahui ollin, conches, etc., that undoubtedly perform the same function as the triangles on the Chortí costume we have been analyzing. Both the glyph of the solar ray and the disc or sphere represent an identical thing, the kin, the primary unit of Mayan mathematics and time-reckoning. In confirmation of what was said in the linguistic part of Los Chortís ante el problema maya we call attention to the fact that the parts of the body on Copán statuary are treated as units in themselves. For example, on stela A it can be seen that the knee is replaced by a human head surrounded by 18 beads, the unit number in the katún count; but that unit has no value unless it is exactly combined with the whole system expressed in the total aggregate of the personage on which it appears. Thus, we find there is projected in the structure of the calendar the same concept that governs the social organism, where the unit — in this case the individual — has no value by itself but only as a member of a group.
We shall describe next the apparel of the "Captain" who, despite his name and masculine clothing, in reality represents the inseparable feminine companion of the King and on the heavenly plane corresponds to the Lunar-Terrestrial goddess called Ixmucané in the Popol Vuh. In Chortí religious terminology, the name of Captain is applied to the moon. And, so that we shall have no doubt about his identity, he displays on his cap the lunar hieroglyph in the form of a yellow-colored U on a red background (see Figure 24, no. 8). From the actor's headdress hangs a yellow veil covering his face. Twenty-one rectangular spots, of which 12 are dark and 9 light, respectively violet and yellow in color, appear on the background of the fabric.
Of great significance is the fact that the King's veil lacks any markings, while that of his companion exhibits a ritual series connected with the moon and the earth. As explained elsewhere, the stellar entities who "work" during the winter season, which according to the Chortí Tzolkín is made up of 9 uinals, are 12 in number. During that whole period the moon has a special role since, as goddess of Water, it brings down the rains that shall cause the seeds to fructify. When it is performing this function, the moon is compared to an immense pitcher full of water, which pours out its contents upon the world. Moreover, both numbers represent the night sky full of stars wherein dwell the 12 companions of the god-Thirteen and the Nine Lords of the Night who take part in the process of the maize germination. It is well known that the cabalistic number 9 corresponds to the Lunar-Terrestrial goddess, a deity that governs the formative phases of human and plant life. Its calendric importance is seen in the Tzolkín and in the series of glyphs G which, as said, figure at the end of the initial series, playing the same role as in the Tzolkín and in the so-called Supplementary Series or lunar computation.
If it is true that the King's veil lacks markings, on the other hand there emanate from all of his person solar rays that are projected in the yellow elements of the lunar personage, just as takes place in scientific reality with the reflection of solar light by the moon. This cosmic principle was already known to native science, to judge by Clavigero's observation that "the ancient Indians knew that the moon receives its light from the sun." Various popular legends reveal this belief, among other things saying that the sun had covered the face of the moon with pieces of paper. But the use of veils by the personages who embody the sun and the moon has another meaning, one that is found only in the Popol Vuh in a passage which tells us that "in the beginning the heaven and the earth existed, but as yet the faces of the sun and the moon were covered. Then there was only very little light on the earth."
To return to the description of the Captain's costume, we find that he wears a frock coat and blue trousers. Upon the vertical seams of the latter runs a wide white band ending at the ankle in a different image for each leg. One presents two figures shaped like a sickle, while on the other this figure is inverted and displays two parts of a disc. The two images together represent the four lunar phases. The triangular shoulder pieces are yellow upon a blue background, and they symbolize luminous bodies in the dark heavens, the reverse of the cap where a blue point shows against a red background. The edge of the frock coat is white, as are the cuffs of the sleeves, and each one exhibits a small yellow triangle in its center. The shirt front and buttons of the frock coat are also white because that is the color of the satellite at night. Two yellow spangles on the collar complete the adornments.
There are 9 elements in toto: 2 on the trouser borders, 2 on the cuffs, 2 on the shoulder pieces, 2 on the collar and 1 — a glyph — on the front of the cap. The latter, representing the lunar hieroglyph, has not varied since the epoch of the Old Empire. If, for example, we compare the Chortí figure with another on the pedestal of stela N at Copán, specifically related to lunar counts and deities, we shall see that the two glyphs are identical in both form and relative proportions. This sign, in the shape of a receptacle and evocative of a feminine function, has been preserved by all peoples of Mesoamerican culture. The essential part of the atl glyph in the Aztec calendar is similar to that of Copán and to the one worn by the Chortí actor. That shape is a stylization of a container with water — which is likened to the moon — or a realistic representation of nature, such as found in example 16 in the accompanying illustration taken from the Cospi Codex, showing a vessel full of water.
The Mexicans said that in the beginning the moon shed light with the same brilliance as the sun, the god of Pulque or Frothy Drink, but the latter covered the moon's face with paper as if it were trying to adorn a pot of pulque. The figures of Zapotecan deities which display on their foreheads the same lunar glyph as does our Chortí personage are typical, and we also find it on Xochiquetzal. All of the known codices give us this lunar hieroglyph in one or another form with its variants. We can say that its origin goes back to a far past, inasmuch as we already find it on the forehead of the giant head of La Venta pertaining to the Olmec horizon, and even in our day it is omnipresent on the apparel of the Chortí or Quiché women.
The Gavites, offspring of the White Giant, wear white blouses backstitched with red thread on the one and white thread on the other, tight-fitting at the waist. Both the sleeves of the blouse, as well as the trousers, are rose-colored. Like those of the King, the trousers of the twins have a vertical band, somewhat narrower, that ends at the cuff in two elements having the same form as those adorning the King's trouser cuffs. But here the differences begin. First, we note that the decorative element which one of the Gavites wears on his trouser cuff lacks the triangular symbols of the solar ray, since he embodies the young moon, the Ixbalamqué of the Popol Vuh. Also, we should observe that the trouser elements of the Gavites are not placed evenly on each side of the vertical band as they are with the King, but are found on one side. Together with the reduced dimensions of the forms, this distinction manifests a hierarchical rank lower than that of the King and suggests the idea of a sun in gestation.
This concept is found displayed also in the apparel of the Quichés, who through symbolism express differences in age and rank within the family group, as the well-known student of the Quichés, Flavio Rodas, has pointed out. Using the same method employed by the Chortís, the embroidery on the Quiché's trousers announces the three stages of human life — infancy, maturity, and old age. The sign of akal kij, infant sun, marks the first stage by means of a drawing representing the incomplete sun, and offers a parallel with the figure on the Gavite's trousers. Alal kij, young sun, is the distinctive emblem for those men who have proven their procreating ability; while the sign ma kij, grandfather sun, marks the patriarch who has gained a plenitude of wisdom and like the sun sheds his beneficence within the family circle.
The solar Gavite wears a yellow headdress from which hangs a veil sprinkled with 24 rectangular figures, of which 14 are dark and 10 light in color, the first divided into two series of 7 dark elements and the latter into two series of 5 light-colored elements, with the dark and light alternating in each. These latter clearly distinguish the young god who, in numerical terms, equates with god-Five in the divine hierarchical scale, while the septenary series corresponds to his parent, represented in "The History" by the White Giant. Possibly Gavite's wearing of this number is to make clear beyond all question the nature of his ancestral line, a conception very much in accord with the Chortí perspective which asserts that the offspring are like "the face" of their progenitors.
The lunar Gavite wears a white cap having a blue peak, and a white blouse and sleeves, since this is the distinctive color of the lunar entity, as we have seen in the discussion of the dress of the King's female companion. His face is covered by a veil similar to the one his companion wears, the difference being a variation in the number of signs: his veil has only 21 — 9 light and 12 dark in color.
Both the Gavites, as well as the King and the Captain, carry a wooden sword in their right hands, seemingly a Colonial feature. But if we turn to ethnography and archaeology, we quickly find that this element derives from a very old ethnical stage and is found over a very considerable area of the continent. The warriors shown in the pillars of Tula carry in their left hands a wooden sword called hulche, a weapon found dispersed over a large part of South America and into the Antilles where "a wooden sword of extremely hard palm is used," according to Columbus's account of his first voyage (Herrera, Déadas, II, 1943). Esoterically the sword stands for the solar ray or serpent of fire and, when the Chortí actors raise their swords to the sun, they repeat a classical gesture used by Mexican warriors in their ritual battles. When the master of ceremonies was asked what was his understanding of the origin and object of these wooden swords wielded by the actors, he replied to me that those arms were exceedingly old and no material other than wood must be utilized in their manufacture, certainly not metal, "because it was in that way that Our Lord (Ka tatá) gained victory with wooden instruments." This explanation helps confirm for us that in the mythical age metals were not known, a condition faithfully preserved by tradition despite the fact that the Chortís knew the use of metal, as well as of the bow and arrow, but do not employ in their "History" those arms not consecrated by tradition.
The master of ceremonies wears blue trousers having vertical red bands and a blue jacket with red sleeves, the red being repeated in the trouser cuffs. A green veil covers his face, and over the forehead, on his cap, he displays a yellow lunar glyph crossed by a rose-colored bar that stands out against the reddish color of his headdress. Besides his function as chief of the association of artists and as director of the drama, the master of ceremonies also plays the most difficult roles, i.e., in those moments during which the "account" and the movements must be carried out with complete exactitude and with the precision demanded by the millennial tradition. At those times he is the center of the audience's attention, most so when he plays the role of Gavite, becoming the principal actor. He can do this with propriety since he displays the insignia, reproduced in Figure 24 above (no. 1), that authenticates him as Gavite: the rose-colored band inserted into the lunar glyph is by its color and meaning a distinctive mark of Gavite in his aspect as god-Five, which is symbolized by the Maya sign corresponding to the number five. We find this hieroglyph under a similar form on Zapotec earthen statuary, while in Mayan codices and on their monuments this idea is usually conveyed by the lunar glyph having the figure of a child inside it, in that way substituting for the mathematical sign its anthropomorphic equivalent (cf. Girard, Los Chortís, section on religion).
The uniforms of both giants are blue, with wide yellow bands on the trousers that terminate in the figure on the cuffs. From their blue cap with yellow stripes rises a high silver-colored cardboard peak terminating in a 30-centimeter-long triangle. This peak or mast has 2 small gold-colored cardboard rectangles on each side. The headdress of the Black Giant displays an 8-pointed star, which is the same as 9 points since the central intersection of the points is considered as itself a point. On the other hand, the cap of the White Giant carries 2 stars each having 4 points. Each actor hides his face under a heavy wooden mask having eyes of glass, the one painted white and the other black to identify their respective persons. In contrast with the other actors, the giants are the only ones to wear wooden masks.
According to the master of ceremonies, the Black Giant formerly used to wear a cardboard gauntlet showing 9 gold stars on a white or silver field. The gauntlet covered his whole forearm and reflected the sunlight when he brandished his sword. The whole of the symbolism displayed in the Black Giant's attire speaks to us of a stellar entity having incomplete solar as well as lunar markings, while his characterizing number, 9, shows him to be a personage from the underworld where the Nine Lords of Night reside. This symbolism is in perfect accord with the description the Popol Vuh gives us of "a being, full of self-pride, which boasted of being the sun and the moon," but which is also related with the underworld beings whose chief was Hun Camé, who was then absolute sovereign of the earth. From all this, then, we see that the Black Giant synthesizes at one and the same time — as can be seen in the performance of the drama itself — the mythical giants as well as the Xibalban caste of the Camé: that is, all of the malign forces in the universe before Hunahpú (Gavite), the hero-god of Quiché-Maya tradition, vanquished them and reduced them to impotence and thereby inaugurated a new era. That era is the era of Maya civilization, in contrast with the state of barbarism which characterized the former ethnical cycle and which, because it is barbaric, is personified by the Black Giant.
Now let us describe the armorers who carry out the role of enchanters. They wear red trousers with yellow vertical bands and cuffs, a blue jacket having a yellow-fringed border, and a headdress consisting of a blue cap with rose-colored peak and yellow band across the front, having two small rosy vertical bands across it. One of them hides his face behind a yellow veil sprinkled with 21 rectangular figures, 9 dark and 12 light colored, while his companion's veil lacks any figures. It should be noted that the veil with figures displays the reverse of those marked on the lunar Gavite. Thus the combination of these two series makes visible the contrast between the 2 seasons of the year: winter and summer. Winter is represented by means of the 9 light and 9 dark points which, according to native symbology, show us an exact picture of the distribution of the 18 uinals of the year. As for the 12 elements, we have already explained that they related to the starry heaven formed by 12 pairs of gods. Now with regard to the contrast between the light and dark, the meaning can perhaps be interpreted in the sense that when the moon is shining at its full, that is as the god-Nine, the stars are obscured. In any case, the apparel of the enchanters is related to nocturnal beings.
Each enchanter carries in his right hand a tambourine which he jingles continually during the whole performance, the action being directed to the personage who is acting so as to imbue the latter with courage, according to the master of ceremonies. As Koch-Grünberg has already noted, the enchanter's power is in his tambourine; without it he would lack all force and would, moreover, be deprived of the instrument that is his special attribute.
Two musicians, dressed in blue with vertical red bands on their trousers, complete the group of actors whose dress we have been describing. They respectively play the flute and the upright drum, instruments that, like the tambourine, are used only during representations of a religious nature and are of purely pre-Columbian origin. No other type of musical instrument is admissible as an accompaniment of a theatrical performance of such transcendence as the Chortí "History."
We have already said that the performance begins at midday, exactly at twelve noon, an hour in which the Aztecs also celebrated the fiesta of Xochipilli, their young Solar deity, the equivalent of Hunahpú, in whose honor the Dance of the Giants is presented to commemorate his victory over the malign forces.
Coming from Tisipe, the dancers arrive in the morning in time to get ready in the house of the mayor of Camotán. All of the apparel, articles of equipment, and religious implements, including the musical instruments, are stored in his house. If someone in the mayor's house chances to be sick, the resulting tabu demands that the dancers prepare themselves in the Chapel of Calvary; but when the function is ended all masks, swords, apparel, and instruments are returned to the mayor. The latter also has charge of feeding the actors and master of ceremonies, which he does by contributions from the people of the community. And this is the only stipend the dancers receive, but it is obligatory in nature, being part of their customary law.
From their place of preparation, the actors parade along the street leading to the public plaza, dancing and miming to the tune of native music. And so they enter dancing into the patio of the church in order to "prove the spot " (convencer al puesto); in other words, in order to purify the place that will be their theater of operations, driving away bad spirits or, according to the Chortí expression itself, "so that the ugliness will leave" (para que salga el feo). (According to Landa, the Mayas practiced the same custom before beginning their ceremonies by performing a rite of purification that cleansed the atmosphere of bad spirits.) This operation is carried out by circular dances in which the dancers separate and then come together while they jingle their tambourines and brandish their swords to the sound of flute and drum, shouting in a great clamor to chase away the invisible malevolent beings. Then the dancers place themselves in a row facing the west, and render honors to the sun by raising on high their swords, tambourines, and magic handkerchiefs in two movements: one directed toward the west and the other toward the east, while they take five steps first in one direction and then in the other as a salute to the daystar. Immediately after this they divide into two groups in measured, rhythmic movements until they form two parallel rows as described above.
Then begins the drama itself, in five parts (a ritual number) named Entrance (Entrada), Cross (Cruzada), Apparition (Espanto), The Sling (Honda), and Death (Muerte). In each of these scenes, the musicians execute appropriate but different pieces which also have their own special names in the repertory. We can say that the first act, or the Entrance, forms the overture since the purification of the "spot" is accomplished, preparing it for the drama that we have just briefly summarized.
The Cross contains the battle between the White and the Black Giant. Both place themselves face to face and stare in silence at each other for a long moment while the enchanters frantically jingle their tambourines. Then suddenly the White Giant begins the action by moving against his adversary, and they engage their swords in skirmish while the other actors dance from east to west and the reverse.
Figure 26. Scene of the battle between the Black and the White Giant. Both brandish wooden swords in their right hands and a magic handkerchief in their left.
In the following episode, Apparition, the vicissitudes undergone by the White Giant, who has fallen into the hands of his rival, are mimed. The Black Giant "intimidates" his opponent by beating the ground furiously with his sword while he makes menacing gestures and movements in hopes of touching or wounding the White Giant, who defends himself as best he can by trying to evade and riposte the thrusts. The battle is suspended at intervals while the giants pay homage to the sun, but is then immediately resumed with greater fury. During the whole episode the Black Giant maintains a menacing stance, not only toward his rival but also toward the large audience witnessing the spectacle. Both actors watch each other constantly, trying to take advantage of the smallest error of the other. For whole minutes they are motionless like statues, then cautiously cross swords as they dart glances around in all directions as if fearing some invisible danger. Then they come to grips and each places the point of his sword against his opponent's neck, a tragic pose that lasts but an instant. Finally the Black Giant succeeds in decapitating the White Giant "because his power is greater," an episode that for the Chortí represents the moment "when our Lord was suffering under the dominion of the bad spirit."
Figure 30. Act in which the Black Giant (Hun Camé) kills the White Giant (Seven Ahpú). Note the King at one side, with his crown, sword, mantle and triangular trimming on his trouser and sleeve cuffs.
This scene in fact reproduces the contest that took place in Xibalbá between Vucup-Hunahpú and Vucup-Camé, in which the former perishes. The head of the vanquished giant is hung in a tree, but is transformed into a guacal or calabash. To all appearances the development of the drama contains excessive details: but in reality they are profoundly revealing of the native mentality and the thematic unity of the work, which is as much Quiché as it is Chortí. Worth mentioning as well is the initial pause when the antagonists scrutinize each other's face before they fight, a mute scene which the Popol Vuh explains to us as the inherent obligation of the combatants to "make themselves known to each other by their features."
The Gavites come on the scene in the fourth act, The Sling, and, as said, represent the twins Hunahpú and Ixbalamqué who try to avenge the death of their father, the White Giant. The solar Gavite has the principal role and is played by a young boy who, to carry out the action well, must not be more than twelve years old, although in the culminating phases of the drama he is replaced by the master of ceremonies. In this act the enchanters place themselves on each side of the Gavite who, confident of the enormous magical power accumulated about him, challenges the Black Giant, protecting himself with a red handkerchief with which he also provokes his adversary. The Giant assails the handkerchief with the point of his sword and forces Gavite to give ground; but the latter returns to the charge and now it is he who forces the Black Giant to give way in the face of his magic handkerchief. Five times this action, now favoring the one and then the other, is repeated by the two actors, who have placed themselves in an east-west line while the remaining cast hold their original positions. Thus, the scene of combat takes the form of a double T, the same as the model of the ball court in which the opponents occupy the central line and the others are in two perpendicular lines with respect to them.
Exceedingly interesting is the esoteric value of this episode in which, according to the exact explanation of the master of ceremonies, "Gavite always tries to be the target so that he will receive the blows, freeing the rest of his companions, because in this way it is on Gavite that will fall the darts meant for all." In other words, Gavite assumes the role of redeemer of humanity, sacrificing himself only to save the rest, concentrating upon his own person the attention of the evil forces and receiving "the darts" so that they will not fall upon his own kind. In this way Gavite brings out his function as redeemer-god, the equal of what Hunahpú does in the Popol Vuh.
Another Chortí characteristic exemplified by Gavite refers to the relations between parents and children. To the latter fall the actual labor to be done, while the former support them through their counseling. This feature of the family code, elevated to the plane of the divine, shows us the personages who represent the sun and the moon in a passive attitude throughout the drama, since they are the grandparents. On the other hand, Gavite assumes the active role, although under the spiritual direction of his divine ancestors, as is seen in the action of the enchanters about whom the Popol Vuh tells us also.
Then Gavite performs various magical passes, moving his handkerchief with great dexterity over his adversary's entire body, at the same time appearing to clean the handkerchief by blowing at it so that he can exert his magical influence over the Black Giant. The latter tries to prevent this by cleaning off his clothing with his own handkerchief, especially defending the lower part of his body, since Gavite casts his spell "downward" to conquer the giant by using stratagem instead of force — that is, a method different from the one preferred by his opponent. Following this pantomime, Gavite brusquely turns his back to the west and directs his glance to the east as if imploring supernatural help in a very difficult case. He pays tribute to the sun by the customary salute. And at this point the play is recessed by a short intermission between the fourth and fifth acts.
The fifth and final act begins with el mento or the "spoken account," since until now the drama has had the silent character of a ballet. The Black Giant challenges Gavite in the following words:
O Captain of God, compelled among those loyal to my banner, with due respect I say to you: today we come forth to contend for a kingdom [the dispute is for universal dominion]. Therefore, with those strong arms kill me so that you can begin your reign. Ah! Forces, captains: where are those strong arms with which to fight? And death trembles before me, and showing you other powers, now I want to see your face and I wait. Your hands are going to offend you. Then attack me now with your weapons, which I will turn into ashes and send back to you. And without any more niceties or considerations, let us have at it to prove your mettle and whether you are a brave soldier.*
* [This statement of the Black Giant and Gavite's reply immediately following it, as well as later statements made by each in the "spoken account," are rather literal translations of what is an archaic Spanish phrased according to the Indian's elliptical manner of expression. It is useless, therefore, to dwell overmuch on them. The reader should rather focus upon the author's explanations of their meaning for a clear understanding of their significance in the Drama. — Trans.]
I give you answer to this great cause; they say that you challenge me to come out and fight. I come with my strong arms and hands, which will be your death, and your death awaits you with great patience. I have been well advised, and now all my soldiers come together and are well prepared. From my arms you will not escape to the hell of your power.
The Black Giant continues:
What does this little unfortunate beardless man dare to do [referring to Gavite who advances with sword in hand], so small in stature, now he wishes to come and contend with a giant Golillo. If I catch him in my arms, I'll break him into a thousand pieces and eat him. Seven kings have I beaten and seven kings have I vanquished [an allusion to Hun Camé's triumph over the seven Ahpú, or of the Black over the White Giant]. If I am in God, God shall consume me and glorified shall I be. After the world that I have gained [allusion to his universal sovereignty], what dares this beardless little man, born only yesterday, who now wants to have at me without revealing himself. Now play the drum, bugle, and cornet [flute and conch shell] so that we can see that mortal. Well, come here, little beardless unfortunate man; if I were to kick you, the whole world itself would tremble.
Upon the Black Giant's order the musicians play the march titled del Batallón, while Gavite and the Black Giant place themselves in the center of the groups so they can dance. The Giant opens combat, saying, "Come here, little beardless unfortunate man, don't be frightened by my name [as said elsewhere, in the native conception the name is the same as the person, and we have here a clear demonstration of this]; there is no one who is not afraid of me." Then a series of skirmishes takes place between the two adversaries, who admirably fit the descriptions given in the Popol Vuh. Gavite, flanked by the armorers, takes some steps toward the west and then flees toward the east and hides behind the King, seeking paternal protection. This posture reminds one of the native idea regarding the young sun who "like the child hides behind his father" when the latter ascends through the celestial vault. The two opponents peer at each other for several moments before returning to the center of the square.
It is then that takes place the scene most characteristic of the drama, which is found exactly described in all its details in the Popol Vuh. Just as the Quiché manuscript puts it, Gavite gives a surprising demonstration of his magical power, letting himself be cut up and then becoming his whole person again. He is "tasajeado" (cut to pieces), to use the Chortí expression, just as an animal which has been hunted, beginning with the legs and arms as described in the Quiché codex.
Figure 29. Scene of the dismemberment. As the Popol Vuh says: they cut him into pieces and tore out his heart and, holding it aloft, showed it to the Lords. In the Chortí drama a handkerchief represents the heart that is displayed to the sun. Another actor cuts off the legs, arms, and so on, in succession.
These pieces taken from the body are triumphantly exhibited first before the sun and then to the audience so that none will doubt that Gavite has really died. A handkerchief is used for the dismembered pieces of the body, as can be seen in the photograph. The Chichicastenango manuscript describes the act as follows:
Hunahpú and Ixbalamqué did many wonderful things. They cut each other into pieces, killing each other, and the first to let himself be killed was as one who is dead, but immediately revived. The Xibalbans begged them to cut each other up. . . . Immediately they did so. Ixbalamqué cut Hunahpú to pieces, first the legs and arms; cutting off the head, she carried it a distance away, then cut out the heart. . . . Arise!" she commanded Hunahpú at once, and he returned to life.
This episode of magical dismemberment, narrated in the Popol Vuh and dramatized in the Dance of the Giants, is also known in the Huastec culture. Sahagún, telling us of the enchantments effected by these people, says, "they simulated the burning of houses which did not really burn and the killing of each other and cutting the bodies into pieces, and other things which were appearances and not really done." Such an identic tradition among Chortís, Quichés, and Huastecs does much to confirm the great age of the idea which was a patrimony common to all the Maya peoples before their separation. With respect to the system of enchanting by means of a twisted handkerchief, displayed by Gavite, we find the same custom among the Mayas, for Redfield writes concerning the badz pach (hit the shoulder) that the elder gives the patient some taps with twisted handkerchiefs.
On bringing himself back to life, Gavite and his companion and both giants form a cross in the center of the stage, just as depicted in the following diagram, an allegorical sketch marked out twice in succession by means of dances in rectilinear movements north to south and east to west in four turnings: first, from north to south; second, east to west; third, north to south; and fourth, east to west. In relation to these movements, we note a very meaningful detail: the Gavites dance only along the east-west line and the giants along the north-south line, and neither touches the territory of the other. The giants do not participate in the lateral dance marked out by the sun's course, this being reserved for the Gavites, "only themselves coming together," as the textual expression in the Popol Vuh has it. Each pair moves about within its own line of dance, both lines together symbolizing the astronomical cross. Later on, when the Gavites have conquered the Black Giant, they also dominate the north-south line and form a homogeneous cross, dancing then along its entire extension.
Following the scene of the cross there is another magical action by Gavite, who runs swiftly toward the giants. These lock arms to block his passage, but Gavite leaps agilely over the obstacle, punching the chest of his rival with his closed fists and tries to separate the giants. This maneuver is repeated four times, Gavite avoiding being knocked down by the kicks given him by the Black Giant. This scene doubtless dramatizes the passage in the Popol Vuh in which Hunahpú obliges the Xibalbans to reveal their names by pricking them with a hair taken from his own shinbone, a magical procedure well known to Mayan enchanters who hurl invisible darts at the person they intend to affect.
Figure 27. The Gavites bewitch the Giants.
Gavite keeps on surprising the audience with his magical abilities that culminate in the scene called "The Castration," when he grips the Black Giant and makes a gesture as though castrating the latter. This symbolizes the annihilation of the virility, that is, the power, of his opponent. In the same way, the "castration" of others selected from among the spectators is put into effect; these are carried to the center of the patio in reminiscence of the pursuit and destruction of the people of Xibalbá by Hunahpú and Ixbalamqué following the death of Hun Camé. The merriment of the audience now reaches its crescendo: some of them flee to evade being seized and "castrated," others pursue them, and all join in a great hubbub anticipating the scene that will mark the apotheosis of Gavite. In fact, as the master of ceremonies explains: "Gavite already had won the battle because he succeeded in overcoming his adversary."
Then the King intervenes, ordering the Gavites to reunite with their father the White Giant whom they have rescued from the power of his enemy, saying to them: "Go now, take hold of your father, embrace your father." These words fix the grandfather's instructional role in the family by telling his grandchildren to fulfill their filial duties, just as is done today within the extended Chortí family. The King is immediately obeyed and then there takes place the scene of "The Death," wherein one of the Gavites takes hold of the White Giant while the other imprisons the Black Giant in his arms, immobilizing him.
Figure 28. The act in which each Gavite (Hunahpú and Ixbalamqué) grip a Giant from behind. One holds the Black Giant while the other rescues the White Giant on orders from the King who, with his Companion, witnesses the action.
The pairs, without separating, and preceded by the two enchanters, place themselves in a single file along the east-west axis, the King and the Captain standing apart at the eastern end of the line as follows:
Distribution of the characters according to the Popol Vuh:
Distribution of the characters according to the Chortí version:
The six actors bend their bodies in a simultaneous bowing movement, describing a semicircular figure to the right and then to the left: that is, toward the south and then the north. This movement makes perfectly clear the Gavites' dominion over the whole area of ground covered by the cross. The King and Captain look on impassively at these movements, which imitate the ball game, since the ball describes a semicircle in its flight from one end of the playing field to the other in the same direction marked by the bowing of the actors, which coincides with the south-north axis of the ball court at Copán. Once again the figure of the cross is symbolically traced, but this time vertically rather than horizontally as before, when it was traced out on the surface of the quadrangle. In an erect position, the heads and feet of the actors in accordance with the native conception indicate two astronomical points: the zenith and the nadir. The latter point is beneath the earth, since the Chortís like Ptolemy figure that the terrestrial surface is a fixed quadrangle around which the sun revolves. The actors then pay homage to the sun by bowing to east and west.
Finally, Gavite decapitates the Black Giant and takes away his sword, after the giant humbly says to him: "Rest a moment, child, and I will give you your payment, because I now yield myself, and even my heart trembles." He acknowledges himself vanquished and a tribute-payer to Gavite from thenceforward. But the hero-god replies: "There is no rest now, boastful giant, because we are beginning the end of the labor [hornada]." We note here for the reader's better understanding that the word hornada means task, act, or ceremony, and is a term frequently employed by Chortí elders in that sense.
There is no discrepancy between the Chortí and the Quiché sources regarding the manner of killing the chief of the infernal forces. Gavite cuts off his head, just as Hunahpú did that of Hun Camé in the Popol Vuh: "The first to be cut off was the head of the one called Hun Camé, the great Lord of Xibalbá." Offering the Black Giant's head and sword as trophies to the King and Captain, Gavite says: "Here I bring you the head of this giant, with a blade of steel from my sling, from my battle. It will overcome the whole world, since if you do not subdue it, it will be your subduer."
Figure 31. Scene in which Gavite (Hunahpú) uncovers his face after overcoming the Black Giant (Hun Camé), and delivers the latter's sword to the King. From left to right: the Captain (lunar goddess), Gavite, the White Giant (representing the seven Ahpú), and the Black Giant, conquered and disarmed.
The King answers: "Let us give thanks to the Lord, and let the death of this boastful giant be told [for the gods to speak is the same as to carry the action out, in the Chortí conception]. Today songs of rejoicing will be heard among my people, Gavite. Take my crown, Gavite, we will begin praises to the King. Let this be forever. Amen." Finishing his discourse, the King returns the head and the sword to the Black Giant who will thereafter be his subject. The drama ends as it began: with honors and salutes to the sun, this time beginning from east to west to signify the triumph of the luminous forces over those of the shadows. Without doubt the fifth act, the apotheosis of Gavite, must be related to the fifth day, that of the resurrection of Hunahpú according to the Quiché text.
Reserving for another place the analysis of the teachings to be found in this valuable Chortí theatrical performance, we will here refer to some of the explanations of their "History" that are given by the Indians themselves.
Among other things, they say that the Black Giant could be the chief of the gang of "strong men" because "they gave him the power," but he was overcome and lost it "when they took away his power." In this way the Chortís corroborate and set out the idea found in the Quiché codex, which is that there is always a superior and essentially beneficent force behind universal law even when that force is apparently eclipsed during an epoch of dominion by the giants, that is, by evil. This conception is found in the following aphorism from Chortí philosophy: "Divinity allows evil to exist up to the required point, but no further." Thus there is no dualism in their religious ideas or, in other words, an opposition between a benevolent and an evil god, inasmuch as the omnipotent Supreme Being controls the forces of evil which can act only with its permission, and this can be taken away at any given moment. Carefully analyzed, we see that the divine authorization permitting the forces of evil to come into play to injure humanity serves to punish the latter for offenses against religious ethics and, at the same time, encourages the search for divine protection. It is in this way that the Chortís have resolved the problem of good and evil, so that at bottom the malign forces become instruments of Providence. Man must struggle against the inclinations to evil until he has conquered them, following the example given by Gavite.
Another interesting peculiarity, which clarifies a point in the Popol Vuh that until now has been poorly understood, is the incarnation of seven persons in one, as set out in the drama when the Black Giant boasts: "Seven kings have I struck down and seven kings overcome," referring to his triumph over the White Giant. The latter represents seven persons in one single individuality and corresponds exactly to the Vucup-Hunahpú of the Popol Vuh; that is, to the seven Ahpú which at one time are presented as a group of seven individuals and at another as one single individual of that name. In terms of Chortí theogony, this concept is explained by the numeral god-Seven who is at once a person but also has the quality of unfolding itself in seven divine hypostases. The god-Seven, or the seven gods, forms the Agrarian deity which, like the Ahpú, fecundates the earth with its own blood.
Moreover, in the personage of the Black Giant the Chortí drama gives us a synthesis of the malevolent beings that peopled the earth in the mythic age, of whom the Popol Vuh tells us. Thus we see that by the boastfulness manifested in his words this giant embodies Vukup Cakix and, when he brags that he can make the earth tremble with one stamp of his foot, he plays the role of the giant Zipacná; and finally, his actions as Hun Camé or Vucup Camé, chief of the underworld caste, are clear.
The part, in which Gavite orders that "all my soldiers come together," is a clear allusion to the native's communal conception by which no action can be undertaken without the participation of the whole collectivity. And with regard to the Black Giant's repeated scoffs at that youth "without beard and luckless," this simply confirms what we have said regarding the ritual value of the beard as an insignia of power, authority, and respect.
Many details, among which we mention only some, closely link the Chortí "History" with the Chichicastenango manuscript. For example, in both messengers are sent by the forces of Xibalbá to deliver their formal challenge to Hunahpú to compete against them in the ball game, a game objectified by the movements of the Chortí actors; and in both sources the one challenged accepts without hesitation the contest that will decide universal authority.
The mythic origin of the drum is also an interesting point brought out by the Chortí drama, since it is an exceedingly ancient musical instrument, already known to an ethnic cycle antedating Mayan culture.
A detailed analysis of the mythologic, astro-cosmic, and ethnologic elements contained within the Dance of the Giants would be out of place here; but these matters are treated in Los Chortís ante el problema maya in the chapters on religion and esotericism of the Popol Vuh. It is enough here to have pointed out the concordance between the Chortí oral tradition and the written account in the Quiché codex, in both of which is found the theme that dramatizes the story of the young Solar deity. This circumstance permits us to make comparisons between the two traditions not only for their mutual corroboration but also for their better comprehension.
The form in which the text and other aspects of the Chortí drama have been handed down from generation to generation gives us an idea of how the contents of the Popol Vuh have been transmitted within the Quichés from very remote times. In the case of the Chortis, the master of ceremonies, whose function is hereditary, acts as a real historian who has the obligation to take scrupulous pains to see that no detail of "The History" shall be lost. Thanks to that fact, in the middle of the 20th century the Chortís can still sing the episodes of their remote past history and recite passages from their mythology.
Nevertheless, important differences exist between the Quiché and Chortí traditions; these are found in the Chortís' time-reckoning methods which are based upon the patterns of classical Maya culture, and which we do not find in the Popol Vuh. This fact would seem to show that the common mythographic theme, which goes back to a period before that of the classical Maya, was extended in a unilateral manner to incorporate into the original drama the most outstanding and characteristic feature of Maya culture which the Chortís, their direct descendants, have passed down to us right to this day. This innovation, absent from the Quiché tradition, goes to show that before the Quiché and Maya separation both peoples had a common mythographic patrimony faithfully expressed in the mythic portion of the Popol Vuh.