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p. 1


Popol Vuh




of the old traditions of this

place called Quiché. 1

Here we shall write and we shall begin the old stories, 2 the beginning and the origin of all that was done in the town of the Quiché, by the tribes of the Quiché nation.

And here we shall set forth the revelation, the declaration, and the narration of all that was hidden, the revelation by Tzacol, Bitol, Alom, Qaholom 3, who are called Hunahpú-Vuch, Hunahpú-Utiú, Zaqui-Nimá-Tziís, Tepeu, Gucumatz,

p. 2

u Qux cho, u Qux Paló, Ali Raxá Lac, Ah Raxá Tzel, as they were called. 3 And [at the same time] the declaration, the combined narration of the Grandmother and the Grandfather, whose names are Xpiyacoc, and Xmucané, 4 helpers and protectors, twice grandmother, twice grandfather, so called in the Quiché chronicles. Then we shall tell all that they did in the light of existence, in the light of history. 5

This we shall write now under the Law of God and Christianity; we shall bring it to light because now the Popol Vuh, as it is called, 6 cannot be seen any more, in which was dearly seen the coming from the other side of the sea and the narration of our obscurity, and our life was clearly seen. 7 The original book, written long ago, existed, but its sight is hidden to the searcher and to the thinker. Great were the descriptions and the account of how all the sky and earth were formed, how it was formed and divided into four parts; how it was partitioned, and how the sky was divided; and the measuring-cord was brought, and it was stretched in the sky and over the earth, on the four angles, on the four corners, 8 as was told by the Creator and the Maker, the Mother and the Father of Life, 9 of all created things, he who gives breath and thought, she who gives birth to the children, he who watches over the happiness of the people, the happiness of the human race, the wise man, he who meditates on the goodness of all that exists in the sky, on the earth, in the lakes and in the sea.


2:1 p. 195 Aré u xe oher tzih varal Quiché u bi. At the very beginning of the ancient chronicles of the Quiché race and in the following words, the unknown author of this manuscript gives the name Quiché to the country: varal Quiché u bi; to the city, Quiché tinamit; and to the tribes of the nation, r'amag Quiché vinac. The word quiché, queché, or quechelah means "forest" in many of the Indian dialects of Guatemala, and comes from qui, quiy, "many," and che, "tree," an original Maya word. Quiché, "land of many trees," "covered with forests," was the name of the most powerful nation of the interior of Guatemala in the sixteenth century. The Náhuatl word Quauhtlemallan has the same meaning, which is probably a direct translation of the Quiché name and aptly describes the mountainous, fertile country which lies south of Mexico. Without doubt the Aztec name Quauhtlemallan, from which the modern name of Guatemala is derived, was applied to the entire country and not only to the capital of the Cakchiquel, Iximché (the tree now called breadnut in English), which the Tlaxcalteca, who arrived with Alvarado, called Tecpán-Quauhtlemallan. All this territory situated to the south of Yucatán and the Petén-Itzá region was known since before the Spanish Conquest as Quauhtlemallan and Tecolotlán (the Verapaz of today). Sahagún is very explicit when he says (Historia general de las cosas de Nueva España [1938 ed.] Book X, Chap. XXIX) that the first inhabitants of New Spain landed in Panutla (Pánuco) and traveled along the seacoast looking toward the snow-covered mountains and volcanoes until they came to the province of Guatemala.

2:2 Varal x-chi ca tzibah vi, x-chi ca tiquiba-vi oher tzih, in the original. In order to write the ancient chronicles about the origin and development of the Quiché nation, the author probably made use not only of oral traditions, but also of the ancient paintings or picture-writings. Sahagún says that the Toltec priests as they journeyed toward the East (Yucatán) took with them "all their paintings in which they had all the things of ancient times and of the arts and crafts." In Chapter 5 of Part IV of this book one reads that Lord Nacxit (Quetzalcoatl) gave to the Quiché princes, among other things, "the p. 196 paintings of Tulán [u tzibal Tulán], the paintings as those were called in which they put their chronicles."

2:3 These are the names of the divinity, arranged in pairs of creators in accord with the dual conception of the Quiché: Tzacol and Bitol, Creator and Maker. Alom, the mother god, she who conceived the sons, from al "son," alán, "to give birth." Qaholom, the father god who begat the sons, from qahol, "son of the father," qaholah, "to beget." Ximénez calls them Mother and Father; they are the Great Father and the Great Mother, so called by the Indians, according to Las Casas; and they were in heaven.

Hunahpú-Vuch, a hunting-fox bitch, or tacuazín (opossum), god of the dawn; vuch is the moment which precedes dawn, Hunahpú-Vuch is the divinity in the feminine capacity, according to Seler. Hunahpú-Utiú, a hunting coyote, a variety of wolf (canis latrans), god of the night, is the name in the masculine capacity.

Zaqui-Nimá-Tziís, great white coati mundi (Nasua nasica), gray with age, mother of god; and her consort, Nim-Ac, great wild pig, or wild boar, wanting in this passage through unintentional omission, but given in the following chapter.

Tepeu, "king" or "sovereign," from the Náhuatl Tepeuh, tepeuani, which Molina translates as "conqueror" or "vanquisher in battle"; the Maya form is ah tepehual, and was probably taken from the Mexicans. Gucumatz, a serpent covered with green feathers, from the Quiché word guc (kuk in Maya), "green feathers," particularly those of the quetzal, and cumatz, serpent; it is the Quiché version of Kukulcán, the Maya name for Quetzalcoatl, the Toltec king, conqueror, culture hero, and god of Yucatán during the period of the Maya New Empire. The profound Mexican influence in the religion of the Quiché is reflected in this Creator-couple who continue to be invoked throughout the book until the divinity took the bodily form of Tohil, who in Part III is specifically identified with Quetzalcoatl.

U Qux Cho, the heart, or the spirit of the lake. U Qux Paló, the heart or spirit of die sea. As will be seen, the divinity was also called the Heart of Heaven, u Qux Cah;

Ah Raxá Lac, the Lord of the Green Plate, or the earth; A Raxá Tzel, the Lord of the Green Gourd or of the blue bowl, as Ximénez says, meaning the sky.

The name Hunahpú has been the subject of many interpretations. Literally it means a "hunter with a blowgun," a "shooter"; etymologically it is the same, and is a word of the Maya tongue, ahpú in Maya meaning "hunter," and ah ppuh ob, the plural form, the "hunters," who go forth to the chase, p. 197 according to the Diccionario de Motul. It is evident, nevertheless, that the Quiché had to have some more plausible reason than this particular etymology for giving the name to their principal divinity. The hunter in primitive times was a very important personage; the people lived by the products of the chase and the wild fruits of the earth before the beginning of agriculture. Hunahpú would be, consequently, the universal hunter who provided man with food; hun in Maya also has the meaning of "general" and "Universal."

But possibly the Quiché who descended directly from the Maya, wished to reproduce, in the name Hunahpú, the sound of the Maya words Hunab Ku, "the only god," which they used to designate the principal god of the Maya pantheon, and which could not be represented materially since he was incorporeal. The painting of a hunter might have served in ancient times to represent the sound of Hunab Ku, which contained the abstract idea of a spiritual and divine being.

The procedure is common in pre-Columbian pictographic writing. Hunahpú is also the name of the twentieth day of the Quiché calendar, the day most venerated by the ancients; it is equivalent to the Maya Ahau, "lord" or "chief," and to the Náhuatl Xóchitl, "flower" and "sun," symbol of the sun god or Tonatiuh.

2:4 Xpiyacoc and Xmucané, the old man and the old woman (in Maya, xnuc is "old woman"), equivalents of the Mexican gods Cipactonal and Oxomoco, the sages who, according to the Toltec legend, invented their astrology and arranged the counting of time, that is, the calendar. Although in the Quiché legend there was also the other abstract pair previously mentioned, Xpiyacoc and, above all, his consort Xmucané, this pair had a more direct contact with the things of this world; together they were what the Mexican archaeologist Enrique Juan Palacios calls "the active Creator-couple who are directly concerned with the making of material things."

2:5 Ta x-qui tzihoh ronohel ruq x-qui ban chic chi zaquil qolem, zaquil tzih.

2:6 Popo Vuh, or Popol Vuh, literally the "Book of the Community." The word popol is Maya and means "together," "reunion," or "common house." Popol na is the "house of the community where they assemble to discuss things of the republic," says the Diccionario de Motul. Pop is a Quiché verb which means "to gather," "to join," "to crowd," according to Ximénez; and popol is a thing belonging to the municipal council, "communal," or "national." For this reason Ximénez interprets Popol Vuh as Book of the Community or of the Council. Vuh or uúh is "book," "paper," or "rag" and is derived from the Maya húun or úun, which means at the same time both paper and book, and finally the tree, the bark of which was used in making paper in ancient times, and which the Nahua call amatl, commonly p. 198 known in Guatemala as amatle (Ficus cotinifolia). Note that in many words the n from the Maya is changed to j or h in Quiché. Na, "house" in Maya, is changed to ha, or ja; húun or úun, "book" in Maya, becomes vuh or úuh in Quiché.

2:7 Ilbal zac petenac chacá paló, u tzihoxic ca muhibal, ilbal zac qazlem. Brasseur de Bourbourg enclosed the last seven words in quotation marks, but in the original these marks do not appear.

2:8 Cah tzuc, cah xucut, in the original. The four cardinal points, according to Brasseur de Bourbourg. It is the same idea of the four Bacabs which in Maya mythology support the sky.

2:9 When the Popol Vuh enumerates persons of the two sexes, it will be observed that it gallantly mentions the woman first.

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