Top 10 Gods and Goddesses of Mayan Mythology
In this installment, we're going to journey into the mystery of the Mayan civilization, and pay homage to their respective Gods. Join us now, as we count down our top picks for top 10 Mayan Gods and Goddesses.
The ruler of the heavens and day and night, Itzamna was one of the most important deities of Mayan mythology. He was a creator and healer, with powers to resurrect the dead, and a protector of priests and scribes. Often appearing as four gods called Itzamnas who encased the world, they were associated with the points of the compass. In various myths he was a cultural hero, teaching them to grow corn, write, use calendars, and practice medicine. He is also noted to have established the basis of civilizations. Most Mayan art depicted him as a pleasant, toothless old man with an immense nose.
Closely related to the Aztec Quetzacoatl or the Quiche Maya designation Gucumatz, Kukulkan means "feathered serpent". He brought code of law, agriculture, fishing and medicine to the Mayan people. He is often associated with being the god of the four elements: Air, Earth, Fire, and Water, but he is also a creator god and the god of resurrection and reincarnation. Kukulkan is identified as one of thirteen gods that shaped the world and created human beings. Said to have come from the ocean, he is said to also have left the same way but will return to Earth at the End of Time.
The Mayan god of rain and thunder, like other major Mayan Gods, appeared as four gods known as Chacs. They were also associated with the four points of the compass. Chac maintained important water sources like wells and streams. He is sometimes shown as an old man with reptilian or amphibian features, fangs and a long nose. Tears coming from his eyes symbolize rain, and he carries an axe which caused thunder. He is closely related to agriculture and as such Mayan people looked to Chac for rain. Human sacrifice became associated with the rain god, giving the priests who held the limbs of the sacrificial victims the name Chacs.
The Lady Rainbow or Moon Goddess, Ix Chel was patron to weavers and womanly crafts. She was also associated with fertility and childbirth. Some instance's state she is depicted as an evil old woman with undesirable traits and that she had a destructive nature, causing floods and other violent events, while other myths state she was in love with the sun, causing her grandfather to become jealous and kill her, only for her to awake 183 days later and make her way back to the sun's palace where this time the Sun became jealous. Annoyed with the behavior of the Sun, she went into the night and remained invisible whenever the sun came looking for her. Venerated by most women who were pregnant or wished to get pregnant, her shrine on the island of Cozumel became a popular destination and a pilgrimage site for Ancient Maya.
Hunahpu & Xbalanque
These two twin gods have their roots within the Popl Vuh, a sacred Mayan text depicting them outwitting both gods and the lords of the underworld. Their father, Hun Hunahpu, was tricked and decapitated by these lords, only to be found by the Blood Moon. Spitting in the maiden's hand, the two twins were conceived. Growing up they used their wit and strength to defeat many lords that came to challenge them. Outwitting them at every turn, the lords of the underworld were defeated and both brothers ascended past earth into the sky. Hunahpu and Xbalanque both played an important part in the Mayan Creation story and were considered heroes in their time.
God of Earthquakes and death, he rules the 9 subterranean levels of the underworld known as mitnal or Xibalba. He is known by many names, a couple being Yum cimil and Ah Puch and takes delight in setting souls on fire to hear their crying pain, in which he douses them in water and repeats the process until the soul is extinguished. Shown with a body that is mostly skeletal, his adornments are also made of bones, but he has also been depicted with a body covered in black spots which represent decomposition. He is also recognized by the collar he wears with dangling eyes from nerve endings and known as "The Stinking One", by the foul stench that accompanies him.
Four gods thought to be brothers, supported the multilayered sky from their assigned positions at the cardinal points of the compass, presiding over one year of their four year cycle. Their names were Cantzicnal, Hosanek, Hobnil, and Saccimi, and associated with North, South, East, West respectively on a compass. Muluc and Hosanek generated positive energies, while Hobnil and Saccimi brought negative forces. This assemblage of energy enabled the early gods to create human beings along with the physical and non-physical worlds. The Maya expected the Muluc years to be the best because Cantzicnal presided over those years and was considered the best god of the four. It is proposed that these four brothers are the offspring of Itzamna and Ix Chel. They were connected to rain and agriculture due to their close relationship with the four Chacs, or rain deities, and the Pauahuns, or wind deities.
God of the hunt, nature, plants, and animals, and is patron of hunters. Farmers seek his aid for clearing land or protection in the fields from predators. Yum Caax has the ability to appear instantly, help guide an arrow to its target or turn it back on its owner if proper respect was not shown. Often regarded as a generous God who protects the vegetation and animals for human use and nourishment, he truly earns his name as "lord of the woods".
Meaning "Black war chief", he is often portrayed as a black man with a black-rimmed eye, and large lower lip. He is the god of war and charged with carrying off the souls of warriors killed in battle, but also is the patron of travelling merchants and journeys. As a merchant, he is often depicted as carrying a pack and spear or scorpion's tail. Travelers would stack three stones on top of one another, offering incense to Ek Chuah at night to ensure safe travels. He is also recognized as patron and protector of cacao, which signified wealth and why festivals and offerings were made to him to ensure a good harvest.
The Goddess of suicide, the noose, and the gallows, Ixtab escorted those who suffered a violent or suicidal death to heaven. This included slain warriors, sacrificial victims, priests, women who died in childbirth, and those who died playing Poc-a-Toc. There they enjoyed the best food, drink, and shade, free from any wants. Suicide was considered an honorable alternative to living and guaranteed passage into paradise. She is represented with a rope around her neck, hanging from a tree, eyes closed and her body partially decomposed.