Maya mythology

From Academic Kids

Maya mythology refers to the pre-Columbian Maya civilization's extensive polytheistic religious beliefs. These Mesoamerican people followed their religion from over 3,000 years ago until the 9th century, and some stories continue to be told by modern day Maya people as folk tales.

Only three complete Maya texts have survived through the years. The majority of their books were burned by Europeans during their conquest of Mesoamerica. Available knowledge of Maya mythology, as such, is rather limited.



Some gods had different aspects based on four directions. There were thirteen gods of thirteen heavens and nine gods of nine underworlds. Natural elements, stars and planets, numbers, crops, days of the calendar and periods of time all had their own gods.

The Quiché Maya creation story is the Popol Vuh. This has the world created from nothing by the will of the Maya pantheon of gods. Man was made unsuccessfully out of mud and then wood before being made out of maize and being assigned tasks which praised the gods — silversmith, gem cutter, stone carver, potter, etc. Some argue this story adds credence to the belief that the Maya did not believe in art per se; all of their works were for the exaultation of the gods.

After the creation story, the Popol Vuh tells of the adventures of the legendary hero twins, Hunahpu and Ixbalanque, in defeating the lords of Xibalba, the underworld. These two are focal points of Maya mythology and often found depicted in Maya art.

The Creation Myth

In Maya mythology, Tepeu and Gucumatz (The Aztec's Quetzalcoatl) are referred to as the Creators, the Makers, and the Forefathers. They were two of the first beings to exist and were said to be as wise as sages. Huracan, or the Heart of Heaven, also existed and is given less personification. He acts more like a storm, of which he is the god.

Tepeu and Gucumatz hold a conference and decide that, in order to preserve their legacy, they must create a race of beings who can worship them. Huracan does the actual creating while Tepeu and Gucumatz guide the process. Earth is created, along with animals. Man is created first of mud but falls apart. Other gods are summoned and man is next created of wood but has no soul. Finally man is formed of maize by even more gods and their work is complete.

Notable Gods


The Bacabs were four sons of Itzamna and Ixchel. They held the sky up in each of the four directions, and each was associated with a color. They were also believed to be jaguar gods.

  • Cauac - south, red
  • Ix - west, black
  • Kan (later replaced by Chac) - east, yellow
  • Mulac - north, white

The First Humans

The Men

B'alam Agab
Meaning "night jaguar," he was the second of the men created from maize after the Great Flood sent by Hurakan. He married Choimha.
B'alam Quitze
Meaning "jaguar with the sweet smile," was the first of the men created from maize after the Great Flood sent by Hurakan. The gods created Caha-Paluma specifically for him to marry. Alernative names: Balam Quitze, Balam Quitzé
Iqi B'alam
Meaning "moon jaguar," he was the third of the men created from maize after the Great Flood sent by Hurakan. The gods created Cakixia specifically to be his wife.
Meaning "distinguished name," he was the fourth of the men created from maize after the Great Flood sent by Hurakan. The woman Tzununiha was created just for him.

Their Wives

Meaning "falling water," she was a woman created specifically to be the wife of Balam-Quitzé.
Meaning "water of parrots," she was a woman created specifically to be the wife of Iqi-Balam.
Meaning "beautiful water", she was a woman created by the gods specifically to marry B'alam Agab.
Meaning "house of the water," she was a woman created specifically to be the wife of one of the first men, Mahucatah.

Gods and Supernatural Beings

Ac Yanto
Considered responsible for the creation of European immigrants and their products. He appeared in the latter days of Maya civilization. His brother is the creator god Hachacyum and his name means 'our helper.'
The god of wine. His name means 'groan.'
The god of tattoo artists.
Ah Bolom Tzacab
Meaning "the lead-nosed god," he was a god of agriculture, thunder and rain. He was depicted with a leaf in his nose. Alternative names: Ah Bolon Dz'acab, God K
Ah Cancum
A god of hunting.
Ah Chun Caan
The patron deity of the city of T'ho, modern Mérida, Yucatán.
Ah Chuy Kak
A god of war.
Ah Ciliz
A god of solar eclipses.
Ah Cun Can
A god of war.
Ah Cuxtal
A god of childbirth.
Ah Hulneb
Associated with the island of Cozumel, he was a god of war. Ah Hulneb means "he the spear thrower."
Ah Kin
Meaning "he of the sun," he was a solar deity and controlled disease and drought.
Ah Kumix Uinicob
Minor water gods.
Ah Mun
A maize god.
Ah Muzencab
The gods of bees.
Ah Patnar Uinicob
Minor water gods.
Ah Peku
The god of thunder.
Ah Tabai
The god of the hunt.
Ah Uincir Dz'acab
A god of healing and medicine.
Ah Uuc Ticab
A chthonic god of the Earth.
Ahau Chamahez
A god of medicine and good health.
Meaning "lord of the sun face," he was a sun god and moon god; he had two manifestations. At night, he became a jaguar god and lord of the underworld.
An agriculture god who protected crops from the wind.
A war god, also called the archer. The island Cozumel was the location Ahulane's shrine.
One of the thirteen creator gods who helped construct humanity from maize.
One of the thirteen creator gods who helped construct humanity from maize.
The goddess of childbirth.
Meaning "mother," she was a goddess of fertility and childbirth.
Alaghom Naom
A goddess of wisdom, consciousness, education and the intellect. Also known as Alaghom Naom Tzentel and the Mother of Mind.
A sky god and one of the creator deities who participated in the last two attempts at creating humanity.
Backlum Chaam
The god of masculine sexual prowess.
Any of a group of jaguar gods who protected people and communities against threats.
Meaning "night jaguar," he was the second of the men created from maize after the Great Flood sent by Hurakan. He married Choimha.
A sky god and one of the creator deities who participated in the last two attempts at creating humanity.
A group of underworld gods.
Buluc Chabtan
Sometimes referred to as "God F," he was a war god who received human sacrifices.
A sky god.
A god of mountains and earthquakes. He was a son of Vucub Caquix and Chimalmat. He had six children, though only the name of one survives: Chalybir.
A creator god.
A lightning god, an underling of Yaluk. His brother was Coyopa.
A god of hunting, war, fate and fire (which he invented). He was one of the four creator gods, who made the Earth. The Chichimec considered him their tribal deity.
A bird that ate the heads of the first men.
A water deity.
Chac Uayab Xoc
A fish god and the patron deity of fishermen. He blessed their catches, yet also ate them if they drowned.
The son of Cabrakan. He is only mentioned once in the surviving literature, in the epic "On the Shores of the Dead".
A god of death, particularly popular in Guatemala. He was married to Ixtab.
The four wind gods.
A goddess of the earth.
A group of four rain gods who live in lakes and make rain clouds from the water in those lakes. Each of the rain gods was associated with a cardinal direction, similar to the Bacabs. Chiccan was also the name of a day in the Tzolkin cycle of the maya calendar.
A fertility goddess.
A boar-headed god of medicine and healing.
A giant who, by Vucub Caquix, was the mother of Cabrakan and Zipacna.
A god of death who lived in Metnal.
Colel Cab
A mother and fertility goddess.
Colop U Uichkin
A god of the sky.
The god of thunder and brother of Cakulha.
Cum Hau
A god of death and the underworld.
Also spelled Ek Chuah, the "black war chief" was the patron god of warriors and merchants, depicted carrying a bag over his shoulder. In art, he was a dark-skinned man with circles around his eyes, a scorpion tail and dangling lower lip. In early modern studies of Maya art and iconography, he was sometimes referred to as God M before his idenity was firmly established.
An agricultural and fertility god.
Worshipped by the Lacandon people, he was their patron deity.
Hun Came
A demonic lord of the underworld Xibalba who, along with Vucub Caquix, killed Hun Hunahpu. They were killed by his sons, the Maya Hero Twins.
Hun Hunahpu
The father of the Maya Hero Twins Ixbalanque and Hun-Apu by a virgin. He was beheaded in Xibalba, the underworld, by the rulers of Xibalba, Hun Came and Vucub Caquix. His sons avenged his death.
Hunab Ku
The highest god. He rebuilt the world after three Great Floods, which came from the mouth of a sea monster. He is father of Itzamna and husband of Ixazalvoh. Hunab Ku is the symbol the ancient Mayans said is the gateway to other galaxies beyond our sun. Gazing upon this symbol allows you to transcend the barriers of perception and time. It has all the balance and symmetry of the Asian yin-yang symbol, and so much more. (This information contradicts information given in the Popol Vuh.)
One of the thirteen creator gods who helped construct humanity.
The founder of the Maya culture, he taught his people to grow maize and cacao, as well as writing, calendars and medicine. With Ixchel, he was the father of the Bacabs. He was associated with snakes and mussels. His father was Kinich Ahau or Hunab Ku. The city of Izamal was sacred to him.
The patron god of the Lacandon people.
One of the thirteen creator gods who helped construct humanity.
One of the thirteen creator gods who helped construct humanity.
A goddess of water and weaving.
A protector of cities.
A creator god.
The god of foreign aliens, and the disease they brought with them.
Meaning "Sun" or day, he was a solar deity.
Kinich Ahau
A solar deity and father of Itzamna.
Kinich Kakmo
A solar deity represented by a macaw.
A god of war.
The god who invented the mind and consciousness.
A creator god, he is the most important deity of the Lacandon. His name means "Our True Lord".
one of the second set of creator gods.
A bird that dearly injured the first men.
A sky god and one of the creator deities who participated in all three attempts at creating humanity.
A god of evildoers and villains.
Tohil is the Quiché name for Huracan and was their patron deity. There was a great temple to him at their ancient capital of Rotten Cane (Q'umaraq aj or Gumarcaj).
An earth and drum god (originally a human hero who was deified), married to Ixchel.
Vucub Caquix
A powerful ruling demon in the underworld, Xibalba, and, by Chimalmat, the father of the demonic giants Cabrakan and Zipacna. He and his children were arrogant and the divine twins Hunahpu and Ixbalangue killed Vucub Caquix and Zipacna, along with Vucub Caquix's co-regent in the underworld, Hun Came, as revenge for the beheading of their father Hun Hunahpu.
Xaman Ek
A god of travelers and merchants, who gave offerings to him on the side of roads while traveling.
A bird which tore the eyes out of the first men.
Xmucane and Xpiayoc
A deific creator god couple who helped creat the first humans. They are also the parents of Hun Hunahpu (one hunahpu) and Vucub Hunahpu (seven hunahpu). They were called Grandmother of Day, Grandmother of Light and Bearer twice over, begetter twice over and given the titles midwife and matchmaker.
The chief lightning god, and ruled over the lesser ones, such as Cakulha.
Yum Caax
The personification of maize and a god of agriculture and nature. Alternative names: Yum Kaax, God E
The god of bats, caves and the patron of the Tzotzil people. Zotz was also the name of one of the months of the Maya calendar. Alternative name: Zotzilaha, Sotz'


The lowest and most horrible of the nine hells of the underworld. It was ruled by Ah Puch. Ritual healers would intone healing prayers banishing diseases to Metnal.
Also known as Xibalbá or Xibalbay, is a dangerous underworld ruled by the demons Vucub Caquix and Hun Came. The road to it is said to be steep, thorny and very forbidding. Much of the Popol Vuh describes the adventures of the Maya Hero Twins in their struggle with the evil lords of Xibalba.da:Mayaernes mytologi

es:Mitología maya ja:マヤ神話


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