Popol Vuh: the Creation

Popol Vuh: the Creation

Popol Vuh (Poopol Wuuj) is a corpus of mytho-historical narratives of the Post Classic K’iche’ kingdom in Guatemala’s western highlands. The title translates as “Book of the Community”, “Book of Counsel”, or more literally as “Book of the People”.

Popol Vuh’s prominent features are its creation myth, its diluvian suggestion, its epic tales of the Hero Twins Hunahpú and Xbalanqué, and its genealogies. The myth begins with the exploits of anthropomorphic ancestors and concludes with a regnal genealogy, perhaps as an assertion of rule by divine right.

As with other texts a great deal of Popol Vuh’s significance lies in the scarcity of early accounts dealing with Mesoamerican mythologies. Popol Vuh’s fortuitous survival is attributable to the Spanish 18th century Dominican friar Francisco Ximénez.

What follows is the creation portion of the Popol Vuh Sacred Book of the Quiché Maya People Translation and Commentary by Allen J. Christenson. The translation is a wonderful work of sensitivity that adds serenity and grace to the Popol Vuh.
— Orly

THE PRIMORDIAL WORLD

THIS IS THE ACCOUNT of when all is still silent and placid.

All is silent and calm. 

Hushed and empty is the womb of the sky.

THESE, then, are the first words, the first speech. There is not yet one person, one animal, bird, fish, crab, tree, rock, hollow, canyon, meadow, or forest. All alone the sky exists. The face of the earth has not yet appeared. Alone lies the expanse of the sea, along with the womb of all the sky. There is not yet anything gathered together. All is at rest. Nothing stirs. All is languid, at rest in the sky. There is not yet anything standing erect. Only the expanse of the water, only the tranquil sea lies alone.

There is not yet anything that might exist. All lies placid and silent in the darkness, in the night. All alone are the Framer and the Shaper, Sovereign and Quetzal Serpent, They Who Have Borne Children and They Who Have Begotten Sons.

Luminous they are in the water, wrapped in quetzal feathers and cotingafeathers. Thus they are called Quetzal Serpent. In their essence, they are great sages, great possessors of knowledge.

Thus surely there is the sky.

There is also Heart of Sky, which is said to be the name of the god.

 

THE CREATION OF THE EARTH

Maya Trumpeters

THEN came his word. Heart of Sky arrived here with Sovereign and Quetzal Serpent in the darkness, in the night. He spoke with Sovereign and Quetzal Serpent. They talked together then. They thought and they pondered. They reached an accord, bringing together their words and their thoughts. Then they gave birth, heartening one another. Beneath the light, they gave birth to humanity. Then they arranged for the germination and creation of the trees and the bushes, the germination of all life and creation, in the darkness and in the night, by Heart of Sky, who is called Huracan.  First is Thunderbolt Huracan, second is Youngest Thunderbolt,63 and third is Sudden Thunderbolt. These three together are Heart of Sky. Then they came together with Sovereign and Quetzal Serpent. Together they conceived light and life:

“How shall it be sown? When shall there be a dawn for anyone? Who shall be a provider?  Who shall be a sustainer? 

“Then be it so. You are conceived. May the water be taken away, emptied out, so that the plate of the earth may be created — may it be gathered and become level. Then may it be sown; then may dawn the sky and the earth. There can be no worship, no reverence given by what we have framed and what we have shaped, until humanity has been created, until people have been made,” they said.

Then the earth was created by them. Merely their word brought about the creation of it. In order to create the earth, they said, “Earth,” and immediately it was created. Just like a cloud, like a mist, was the creation and formation of it. Then they called forth the mountains from the water. Straightaway the great mountains came to be. It was merely their spirit essence, their miraculous power, that brought about the conception of the mountains and the valleys. Straightaway were created cypress groves and pine forests to cover the face of the earth.

Thus Quetzal Serpent rejoiced: “It is good that you have come, Heart of Sky — you, Huracan, and you as well, Youngest Thunderbolt and Sudden Thunderbolt. That which we have framed and shaped shall turn out well,” they said. First the earth was created, the mountains and the valleys. The waterways were divided, their branches coursing among the mountains. Thus the waters were divided, revealing the great mountains. For thus was the creation of the earth, created then by Heart of Sky and Heart of Earth, as they are called. They were the first to conceive it. The sky was set apart. The earth also was set apart within the waters. Thus was conceived the successful completion of the work when they thought and when they pondered.

 

FINIS

 

For an early attempt at translation of the Popol Vuh, see our Lewis Spence's version.

 

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