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The Popol Vuh, the Mayan bible

10 december 2015
3 min. de lectura
Codice MayaConsidered "the bible of the Mayas", it is one of their most important books, as it compiles the wisdom and tradition of the inhabitants of the Maya Quiché region of Guatemala.
  You can get it translated in several languages and in digital version very easily. It is worth reading and getting into this story that narrates events, myths and much more. Or if you prefer to enjoy it on video, it is also possible to watch animations that summarize the mythology of the origin of the world and the creation of man - first from clay, then from wood to the final version of corn. It also tells the story of the ball game and the defeat of the gods of the underworld at the hands of two brothers, which we will talk about later.  

Because of its historical content and its literary qualities that refer to The Iliad and The Odyssey, the Popol Vuh is a reference of religion, history, astrology, customs and teachings that governed the behavior of the Maya and provide us with more knowledge to understand their vision of the world. Its origin dates back to oral tradition; before the arrival of the conquistadors, these stories were transmitted by memory from generation to generation.  
Francisco Ximénez, of the Dominican order, who arrived in the town of Chichicastenango, Guatemala and received a first version of the book in Quiché Mayan with verses in Latin, transcribed by a Guatemalan Mayan. With great interest in its content, Ximénez made incomplete transcriptions into Spanish. The text passed through several hands and finally reached the abbot Charles Etienne Brasseur, who translated it into French and managed to give it coherence by dividing the story into parts, trying to respect the original meaning.  


The Popol Vuh as we know it today consists of three essential parts:

  - The first contains a description of the creation of the world and the origin of man made of corn, which formed the basis of the Maya diet.  

- The second part focuses on the narration of the adventures of the twins Hunahpú and Ixbalanqué, young gods who defeated the evil forces of Xibalbá, hell, through the ball game and various tests in which they demonstrated their intelligence and skill, later becoming the sun and the moon, respectively. The origin of these gods is similar to the birth of Jesus Christ as depicted in the Bible, in both cases they were born of a virgin; the mother of the twins becomes pregnant when she receives the saliva of a powerful god in her hands.  

- The third part is a detailed history that relates the origin of the indigenous peoples of Guatemala, their migrations, distribution in the territory, wars and the predominance of the Quiché race until shortly before the Spanish conquest.  

The great contributions of the Popol Vuh have served as inspiration for numerous artists, researchers and creators who have marveled at the Mayan culture, organization and mythology. Today we can appreciate illustrations made on amate paper by artists, animated stories, comics and of course, the final version of the text that we can read today and that continues to surprise on every page.
Violeta H. Cantarell

Author: Violeta H. Cantarell

“Meridana,” traveler, animal lover, passionate reader, commentator, and enthusiastic promoter of the natural and human beauty of Yucatán.

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