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Flood Legends of the Maya

Ignatius Loyola Donnelly was a Congressman, populist writer, and amateur scientist. He is known primarily today for his theories concerning Atlantis and the role of Catastrophism. His book, Atlantis The Antediluvian World, popularized the idea of the lost continent of Atlantis as a real place that perished through a cataclysm as Plato suggested in Critias. The foundation of his thinking in part relied on the Great Flood legends that exist throughout the world, of which those from the Maya were one.

The suggestion of pattern and similarity to the Sumerian genesis cannot be easily dismissed, and his exploration of the Aztec tradition is intriguing and insightful.

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… the story of the Deluge as told in the “Popul Vuh” (the Sacred Book) of the Central Americans:

“Then the waters were agitated by the will of the Heart of Heaven (Hurakan), and a great inundation came upon the heads of these creatures…. They were ingulfed, and a resinous thickness descended from heaven; … the face of the earth was obscured, and a heavy darkening rain commenced—rain by day and rain by night…. There was heard a great noise above their heads, as if produced by fire. Then were men seen running, pushing each other, filled with despair; they wished to climb upon their houses, and the houses, tumbling down, fell to the ground; they wished to climb upon the trees, and the trees shook them off; they wished to enter into the grottoes (caves), and the grottoes closed themselves before them…. Water and fire contributed to the universal ruin at the time of the last great cataclysm which preceded the fourth creation.”

Observe the similarities here to the Chaldean legend. There is the same graphic description of a terrible event. The “black cloud” is referred to in both instances; also the dreadful noises, the rising water, the earthquake rocking the trees, overthrowing the houses, and crushing even the mountain caverns; “the men running and pushing each other, filled with despair,” says the “Popul Vuh;” “the brother no longer saw his brother,” says the Assyrian legend.

And here I may note that this word hurakan—the spirit of the abyss, the god of storm, the hurricane—is very suggestive, and testifies to an early intercourse between the opposite shores of the Atlantic. We find in Spanish the word huracan; in Portuguese, furacan; in French, ouragan; in German, Danish, and Swedish, orcan—all of them signifying a storm; while in Latin furo, or furio, means to rage. And are not the old Swedish hurra, to be driven along; our own word hurried; the Icelandic word hurra, to be rattled over frozen ground, all derived from the same root from which the god of the abyss, Hurakan, obtained his name? The last thing a people forgets is the name of their god; we retain to this day, in the names of the days of the week, the designations of four Scandinavian gods and one Roman deity.

It seems to me certain the above are simply two versions of the same event; that while ships from Atlantis carried terrified passengers to tell the story of the dreadful catastrophe to the people of the Mediterranean shores, other ships, flying from the tempest, bore similar awful tidings to the civilized races around the Gulf of Mexico.

The “Popul Vuh” tells us that after the migration from Aztlan three sons of the King of the Quiches, upon the death of their father, “determined to go as their fathers had ordered to the East, on the shores of the sea whence their fathers had come, to receive the royalty, ‘bidding adieu to their brothers and friends, and promising to return.’ Doubtless they passed over the sea when they went to the East to receive the royalty. Now this is the name of the lord, of the monarch of the people of the East where they went. And when they arrived before the lord Nacxit, the name of the great lord, the only judge, whose power was without limit, behold he granted them the sign of royalty and all that represents it … and the insignia of royalty … all the things, in fact, which they brought on their return, and which they went to receive from the other side of the sea—the art of painting from Tulan, a system of writing, they said, for the things recorded in their histories.”

This legend not only points to the East as the place of origin of these races, but also proves that this land of the East, this Aztlan, this Atlantis, exercised dominion over the colonies in Central America, and furnished them with the essentials of civilization. How completely does this agree with the statement of Plato that the kings of Atlantis held dominion over parts of “the great opposite continent!”

Source: Ignatius Loyola Donnelly, Atlantis: The Antediluvian World (1882)

Categories: Maya Maya Gods Maya History Maya Mythology Maya Religion

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The Orly

As Fray Bernardino de Sahagún observed: the Mexicans “are held to be barbarians and of very little worth; in truth, however, in matters of culture and refinement, they are a step ahead of other nations." We explore the history and legacy of the Nahua and Maya civilizations, both of which challenge our preconceptions.

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