Index  Previous  Next 

p. 121

III. Chapter 6

There was nevertheless a tribe who stole the fire in the smoke; 1 and they were from the house of Zotzil. 2 The god of the Cakchiquel was called Chamalcán 3 and he had the form of a bat.

When they passed through the smoke, they went softly and then they seized the fire. The Cakchiquel did not ask for the fire, because they did not want to give themselves up to be overcome, the way that the other tribes had been overcome when they offered their breasts and their armpits so that they would be opened. And this was the opening [of the breasts] about which Tohil had spoken; that they should sacrifice all the tribes before him, that they should tear out their hearts from their breasts.

"They should cut themselves open, that from under their ribs up under their armpits their hearts should be torn out. Before everything, sacrifice. By this you will obtain grace. Next, make holes in your ears, and likewise prick your elbows and knees. Offer as sacrifice the blood that flows from them. In these ways, your gratitude will be shown."

Diego Rivera (1886-1957)
Human Sacrifice Before Tohil [Illustration for Popol Vuh], ca. 1931

And this had not yet begun when the taking of power and sovereignty by Balam-Quitzé, Balam.-Acab, Mahucutah, and Iqui-Balam was prophesied by Tohil. 4

There in Tulán-Zuivá, whence they had come, they were accustomed to fast, they observed a perpetual fast while they awaited the coming of dawn and watched for the rising sun.

They took turns at watching the Great Star called Icoquih5 which rises first before the sun, when the sun rises, the brilliant Icoquih, which was always before them in the

p. 122

East, when they were there in the place called Tulán-Zuivá, whence came their god.

It was not here, then, where they received their power and sovereignty, but there they subdued and subjected the large and small tribes when they sacrificed them before Tohil, and offered him the blood, the substance, breasts, and sides of all the men.

In Tulán power came instantly to them; great was their wisdom in the darkness and in the night.

Then they came, they pulled up stakes there and left the East. "This is not our home; let us go and see where we should settle," Tohil said then.

In truth, he was accustomed to talk to Balam-Quitzé, Balam-Acab, Mahucutah, and Iqui-Balam: "Give thanks before setting out; do what is necessary to bleed your ears, prick your elbows, and make your sacrifices, this shall be your thanks to God."

"Very well, "they said, and took blood from their ears. And they wept in their chants 6 because of their departure from Tulán; their hearts mourned when they left Tulán.

p. 123

"Pity us! We shall not see the dawn here, when the sun rises and lights the face of the earth," they said at leaving. But they left some people on the road which they followed so that they would keep watch.

Each of the tribes kept getting up to see the star which was the herald of the sun. This sign of the dawn they carried in their hearts when they came from the East, and with the same hope they left there, from that great distance, according to what their songs now say. 7


123:1 p. 231 Xa x-relecah ubic gag pa zib, in the original.

123:2 Zotzilá-ha, the house of the zotziles or bats. Thus the royal house of the Cakchiquel was called, and its king boasted the title of Ahpo-zotzil, King or Lord Bat.

123:3 The present Cakchiquel call a serpent of great size chamalcán.

123:4 Maha chi tihou oc u banic ta x-nicvachixic rumal Tohil u camic puch gagal tepeual cumal ri Balam-Quitzé, etc. In interpreting this sentence, the translators of the Popol Vuh have given the word camic the common meaning of "death," suggested to them, no doubt, by the idea of the human sacrifices of which the previous paragraph speaks. Brasseur de Bourbourg translates this paragraph as follows: On n'avait pas tenté cette pratique, quand fut énigmatiquement proposée par Tohil leur mort dans l'épouvante et la majesté. Nevertheless, the sentence in Quiché is very simple, and it becomes clear by reading camic as the substantive derived from the verb cam, "to take," "to receive." The first sentence of the third paragraph following confirms this interpretation. The verb nicvachin means "to see at a distance." The prophet, augur, sorcerer, or seer is nicvachinel in Quiché. The words gagal, tepeual, signify sovereignty, divine or royal majesty, says the Vocabulario de las lenguas Quiche y Kakchiquel. Tepeual is a word of Náhuatl origin.

123:5 Icoquih, Venus, the precursor of the sun, literally, "who carries the sun on her back" "The star of the aurora," says the Vocabulario de los P. P. Franciscanos, and the Manuscript Yzquin which Fuentes y Guzmán cites calls it Nimá Chumil, "Great Star," which is exact equivalent to the Maya Noh Ek.

123:6 X-oc cut chupan qui bix. Here the verb oc means "to cry."

123:7 Las Casas (Apologética Historia de las Indias, Chap. CLXXIV, p. 459) says that, next to the sun, whom they had as their principal lord, they honored and worshiped the Morning Star "more than any other heavenly or earthly creature, because they believed it as true that their god Quetzalcoatl, when he died, had been changed into that star." And Las Casas adds that each day they waited for it to rise in order to venerate it, offering it incense and shedding their own blood to honor it.

Next: III. Chapter 7