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p. 41

II. Chapter 2

THE messengers of Hun-Camé and Vucub-Camé arrived immediately.

"Go, Ahpop Achih!" 1 they were told. "Go and call Hun-Hunahpú and Vucub-Hunahpú. Say to them, 'Come with us. The lords say that you must come.' They must come here to play ball with us so that they shall make us happy, for really they amaze us. So, then, they must come," said the lords. "And have them bring their playing gear, their rings, their gloves, and have them bring their rubber balls, too," said the lords. "Tell them to come quickly," they told the messengers.

And these messengers were owls: Chabi-Tucur, Huracán-Tucur, Caquix-Tucur and Holom-Tucur. 2 These were the names of the messengers of Xibalba.

Chabi-Tucur was swift as an arrow; Huracán-Tucur had only one leg; Caquix-Tucur had a red back, and Holom-Tucur had only a head, no legs, but he had wings.

The four messengers had the rank of Ahpop-Achih. Leaving Xibalba, they arrived quickly, bringing their message to the court where Hun-Hunahpú and Vucub-Hunahpú were playing ball, at the ball-court which was called Nim-Xob-Carchah3 The owl messengers went directly to the ball-court and delivered their message exactly as it was given

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to them by Hun-Camé, Vucub-Camé, Ahalpuh, Ahalganá, Chamiabac, Chamiaholom, Xiquiripat, Cuchumaquic, Ahalmez, Ahaltocob, Xic, and Patán, as the lords were called who sent the message by the owls.

"Did the Lords Hun-Camé and Vucub-Camé really say that we must go with you?"

"They certainly said so, and 'Let them bring all their playing gear,' the lords said."

"Very well," said the youths. "Wait for us, we are only going to say good-bye to our mother."

And having gone straight home, they said to their mother, for their father was dead: "We are going, our mother, but our going is only for a while. 4 The messengers of the lord have come to take us. 'They must come,' they said, according to the messengers.

"We shall leave our ball here in pledge," 5 they added. They went immediately to hang it in the space under the rooftree. "We will return to play," they said.

And going to Hunbatz and Hunchouén they said to them: "Keep on playing the flute and singing, painting,

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and carving; warm our house and warm the heart of your grandmother."

When they took leave of their mother, Xmucané was moved and burst into tears. "Do not worry, we are going, but we have not died yet," said Hun-Hunahpú and Vucub-Hunahpú as they left.

Hun-Hunahpú and Vucub-Hunahpú went immediately and the messengers took them on the road. Thus they were descending the road to Xibalba, by some very steep stairs. They went down until they came to the bank of a river which flowed rapidly between the ravines called Nuziván cul and Cuziván6 and crossed it. Then they crossed the river which flows among thorny calabash trees. 7 There were very many calabash trees, but they passed through them without hurting themselves.

Then they came to the bank of a river of blood and crossed it without drinking its waters; they only went to the river bank and so they were not overcome. They went on until they came to where four roads joined, and there at the crossroads they were overcome.

One of the four roads was red, another black, another white, and another yellow. And the black road said to them: "I am the one you must take because I am the way of the Lord." So said the road.

And from here on they were already overcome. They were taken over the road to Xibalba and when they arrived at the council room of the Lords of Xibalba, they had already lost the match.

Well, the first ones who were seated there were only figures of wood, arranged by the men of Xibalba. These they greeted first:

"How are you, Hun-Camé?" they said to the wooden

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man. "How are you, Vucub-Camé?" they said to the other wooden man. But they did not answer. instantly the Lords of Xibalba burst into laughter and all the other lords began to laugh loudly, because they already took for granted the downfall and defeat of Hun-Hunahpú and Vucub-Hunahpú. And they continued to laugh.

Then Hun-Camé and Vucub-Camé spoke: "Very well," they said. "You have come. Tomorrow you shall prepare the mask, 8 your rings, and your gloves," they said.

"Come and sit down on our bench," they said. But the bench which they offered them was of hot stone, and when they sat down they were burned. They began to squirm around on the bench, and if they had not stood up they would have burned their seats.

The Lords of Xibalba burst out laughing again; they were dying of laughter; they writhed from pain in their

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stomach, in their blood, and in their bones, caused by their laughter, all the Lords of Xibalba laughed.

"Go now to that house," they said. "There you will get your sticks of fat pine 9 and your cigar 10 and there you shall sleep."

Immediately they arrived at the House of Gloom. 11 There was only darkness within the house. Meanwhile the Lords of Xibalba discussed what they should do.

"Let us sacrifice them tomorrow, let them die quickly, quickly, so that we can have their playing gear to use in play," said the Lords of Xibalba to each other.

Well, their fat-pine sticks were round and were called zaquitoc, which is the pine of Xibalba. 12 Their fat-pine sticks were pointed and filed and were as bright as bone; the pine of Xibalba was very hard.

Hun-Hunahpú and Vucub-Hunahpú entered the House of Gloom. There they were given their fat-pine sticks, a single lighted stick which Hun-Camé and Vucub-Camé sent them, together with a lighted cigar for each of them which the lords had sent. They went to give them to Hun-Hunahpú and Vucub-Hunahpú.

They found them crouching in the darkness when the porters arrived with the fat-pine sticks and the cigars. As they entered, the pine sticks lighted the place brightly.

"Each of you light your pine sticks and your cigars; come and bring them back at dawn, you must not burn them up, but you must return them whole; this is what the lords told us to say." So they said. And so they were defeated. They burned up the pine sticks, and they also finished the cigars which had been given to them.

There were many punishments in Xibalba; the punishments were of many kinds.

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The first was the House of Gloom, Quequma-ha, in which there was only darkness.

The second was Xuxulim-ha, the house where everybody shivered, in which it was very cold. A cold, unbearable wind blew within.

The third was the House of Jaguars, Balami-ha, it was called, in which there were nothing but jaguars which stalked about, jumped around, roared, and made fun. The jaguars were shut up in the house.

Zotzi-há, the House of Bats, the fourth place of punishment was called. Within this house there were nothing but bats which squeaked and cried and flew around and around. The bats were shut in and could not get out.

The fifth was called Chayim-há, the House of Knives, 13 in which there were only sharp, pointed knives, silent or grating against each other in the house.

There were many places of torture in Xibalba, 14 but Hun-Hunahpú and Vucub-Hunahpú did not enter them. We only mention the names of these houses of punishment.

When Hun-Hunahpú and Vucub-Hunahpú came before Hun-Camé and Vucub-Camé, they said: "Where are my cigars? Where are my sticks of fat pine which I gave you last night?"

"They are all gone, Sir."

"Well. Today shall be the end of your days. Now you shall die. You shall be destroyed, we will break you into pieces and here your faces will stay hidden. You shall be sacrificed," said Hun-Camé and Vucub-Camé.

They sacrificed them immediately and buried them in the Pucbal-Chah, as it was called. 15 Before burying them, 16 they cut off the head of Hun-Hunahpú and buried the older brother together with the younger brother.

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"Take the head and put it in that tree which is Planted on the road," said Hun-Camé and Vucub-Camé. And having put the head in the tree, instantly the tree, which had never borne fruit before the head of Hun-Hunahpú was placed among its branches, was covered with fruit. And this calabash tree, it is said, is the one which we now call the head of Hun-Hunahpú.

Hun-Camé and Vucub-Camé looked in amazement at the fruit on the tree. The round fruit was everywhere; but

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they did not recognize the head of Hun-Hunahpú; it was exactly like the other fruit of the calabash tree. So it seemed to all of the people of Xibalba when they came to look at it.

According to their judgment, the tree was miraculous, because of what had instantly occurred when they put Hun-Hunahpú's head among its branches. And the Lords of Xibalba said:

"Let no one come to pick this fruit. 17 Let no one come and sit under this tree!" they said, and so the Lords of Xibalba resolved to keep everybody away.

The head of Hun-Hunahpú did not appear again 18 because it had become one and the same as the fruit of the gourd tree. Nevertheless, a girl heard the wonderful story. Now we shall tell about her arrival.


48:1 p. 210 Title of some of the Quiché lords and chiefs.

48:2 Chabi-Tucur, swift owl; Huracán-Tucur, owl with one leg, or gigantic owl; Caquix-Tucur, macaw owl; Holom-Tucur, head of an owl, or owl distinguished by the head. Tucur is the Quiché name for owl. A town of Verapaz, San Miguel Tucurú, is also so named. This night bird is known in Guatemala by the name of tucurú and also as tecolote, from the Náhuatl tecolotl. Dr. Otto Stoll (Die Maya Sprachen der Pokom-Gruppe) suggests that the name which the Mexicans gave to Verapaz was Tecolotlán, or place of owls or tecolotes, i. e., the land of the tucur, and that the Spanish missionaries, through an error, wrote it Teçolotlán, which later was changed to Tezulutlán. The name Verapaz was given to that province after its peaceful conquest by the Dominican friars. In fact, Ixtlilxóchitl says that the Tolteca emigrated to the south to Guatemala and Tecolotlán, and Sahagún (Historia general de las cosas de Nueva España, Vol. III, Book XI, Chap. II, p. 163) notes that the quetzal lives "In the province called Tecolotlán, which is toward Honduras, or near."

48:3 The great Carchah, an important center of population in Verapaz, the region in which the Quiché seem to have placed the mythological deeds of the Popol Vuh. The Cakchiquel Manuscript says that they and the Quiché went to populate Subinal, in the middle of Chacachil, to the middle of Nimxor, to the middle of Moinal, to the middle of Carchah (nicah Carchah). p. 211 Some of these places still retain their ancient names today and may easily be identified in the Verapaz region. According to the Cakchiquel document, Nim Xor and Carchah were two different places.

48:4 Which is to say, "that they go, but they will return."

48:5 X-chi canah cu caná va ca quic. Here is a play on words; canah is to "stay," and caná "pledges" "hostage," or "captive."

48:6 Nu zivan cul, "my ravine," or "the narrow ravine." Cu zivan, narrow, close ravine." Zivan is "ravine," but the underground caves in Verapaz and the Petén are also called Zivan. The topographical data included in this chapter as well as similar indications found in other passages in Part II show that the ancient Quiché had very definite ideas about the location of the kingdom of Xibalba, where lived some cruel, despotic chiefs to whom they were subject in mythological time. in the present chapter, the large town of Carchah, which still stands a few miles from Cobán, capital of the department of Alta Verapaz, is named as the crossroads of the way to Xibalba. Leaving Carchah, the road leads down "by some very steep steps" until it comes to the ravines or caves, between which a swift river flows; which is to say, descending the mountains of the interior to the lowlands of the Petén, to the territory of the Itzá. At the end of Part II it is said that the people of Xibalba were the Ah-Tza, the Ah-Tucur, the evil ones, the owls. Nevertheless, these words may also be read as "those of Itzá [Petén]" and "those of Tucur," or Tecolotlán, the land of the owls (Verapaz).They are the two regions of northern Guatemala, very well known in the ancient Middle American world, over which the Quiché could not extend their conquests. These names confirm the topographical references in the text. Some of the tribes, which in relatively recent times came to establish themselves in the mountains of the interior of Guatemala, without doubt believed that the northern territory was inhabited by their old enemies, the same who, in former times, had taken the lives of their forefathers. These inhabitants of the north were the Maya of the Old Empire, one branch of which, the Itzá, was the last to surrender to the Spaniards in the later years of the seventeenth century. Other scattered data in the Popol Vuh reveal that Xibalba was a very deep, underground place, an abyss from which one had to climb up in order to come to the earth; but the same Quiché document explains that the Lords of Xibalba were not gods, nor were they immortals, that they were false of heart, hypocrites, envious, and tyrants. That they were not invincible is shown in the course of the narrative.

48:7 Chupan halhal ha zimah. The Quiché word Zimah corresponds to the tree and fruit which the Mexican Indians call Xicalli, and in Guatemala is p. 212 called jícaro. It is a tree of the Bignonia family, Crescentia cujete. The round or oval shaped fruit of this tree has a hard rind from which the Indians make vases called jícaras and guacales.

48:8 Chuvec ch'y qaza u vach, in the original. In the text transcribed by Brasseur de Bourbourg it is ch'y qaza a vach. The change of a single vowel makes the sentence incomprehensible. Schuller ("Das Popol Vuh und das Ballspiel der K'icé Indianer von Guatemala") believed that it had been garbled by the French translator.

48:9 Chah in Quiché, ocotl in the Mexican language. A resinous pine which the Indians use for lighting.

48:10 Ziq, tobacco; zikar, to smoke.

48:11 Qequma-ha. Brasseur de Bourbourg compares this House of Gloom with the dark house which Votán constructed in Huehuetlán, in the province of Soconusco, according to Bishop Núñez de la Vega.

48:12 Are curi qui chah xa coloquic cha zaquitoc u bi ri chah u chah Xibalba. Zaquitoc, literally, is "white knife." Brasseur de Bourbourg translates it blanc silex. Seler is of the opinion that zaquitoc was the knife used in human sacrifice to open the breasts of the victims. The description in the text clearly identifies the hard, bright flint point which both the ancient Maya and Quiché used, as a short, sharp weapon, as knives, lance points, and so on. The author plays here with the words cha, flint and obsidian, and chah, fat-pine sticks, etc. The purpose of this confusion and the true explanation of this entire paragraph is evidently to remember that the guests of Xibalba were threatened with the sacrificial knife.

48:13 Chay, obsidian, glassy substance, black volcanic stone, the "stone of lightning" of the peasants; from it the Indians selected small sharp pieces which they used as knives, razors, and arrow points.

48:14 Quii nabec u tihobal Xibalba. Ximénez thus interprets this sentence, and this is its logical meaning.

48:15 Ta x-e puz cut, x-e muc cut chi Pucbal-Chah u bi. Ximénez (Historia de la Provincia de San Vicente de Chiapa y Guatemala) translates this name as "the place where the ashes are dumped." Brasseur de Bourbourg translates it "the ash-pan." It seems evident that there is an error in transcription here and that the name of this place must have been Puzbal-Chah, that is, the place of sacrifice of the ball game. Puzbal is "place of sacrifice," according to Basseta, and chah is the game of ball. Raynaud also gives this last interpretation.

48:16 X-e muc vi, a phrase in the original, which is missing in the text which Brasseur de Bourbourg publishes.

48:17 Ma qo ma chupuvic ri u vach. Brasseur de Bourbourg does not translate p. 213 this sentence, although it is present in the original, as well as in the text which he publishes.

48:18 Ma cu calah chiri u holom Hunhun-Ahpu.

Next: II. Chapter 3