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|Mayan culture - The hearth stones of Creation|
Three stones were set. They planted [the first stone], Jaguar Paddler, Stingray Paddler. . . . He planted the [second] stone, First Black Chak(?) . . . . The [third] stone was set [by] Great Itzamna. . . . It happened at Lying Down Sky.
The beginning of the long count in 3114 BC, long before the rise of Maya civilization, marks the date of Creation. But on the handful of Classical monuments that memorialize events of the mythic age, Creation is written 18.104.22.168.0, the completion of 13 baktuns, a period of about 5125 years. This suggests that the present age followed an earlier world that endured 13 baktuns. An inscription at Coba records even earlier epochs, counting back for some 13 x 2021 years.
The Popol Vuh preserved this tradition of successive creations or world orders. According to the Popol Vuh, the gods created humans to honour them: There would be "no high days and no bright praise for our work, our design, until the rise of the human work, the human design". But their first three efforts were failures. The third failed race, people fashioned from wood, were destroyed in a universal flood.
The antediluvian world was lorded over by Vukub-Cakix, "Seven Macaw," who took the place of the sun. To prepare for the creation of the true humans, the rule of Seven Macaw had to be ended. This was achieved by the Hero Twins of the Popol Vuh, who shot Seven Macaw from his tree.
The Quiche still identify the seven stars of the Big Dipper with Seven Macaw. At sunset on August 13, the Milky Way is nearly erect, and the Dipper is visible in the the northern sky in the Maya area. But as the heavens rotate, the Milky Way turns away from its upright position, and the Dipper dives toward the horizon. About two hours after sunset, the Dipper sets: Seven Macaw is knocked from his perch atop the World Tree. Dennis Tedlock reports that among the Quiche, the mid-summer descent of the Dipper just after sunset marks the beginning of the hurricane season, the time of flooding.
The sky of the old order fell when Seven Macaw was knocked from his perch and the deluge destroyed the wooden people. The sky of the new world could only be raised by an act of sacrifice. The gods created the new world through their sacrifice. Their blood nourished the World Tree. Ritual renews the world, recapitulating the ordering of the cosmos at Creation. The Maya, like other Mesoamerican peoples, believed that blood sacrifices offered by humans repay their debt to the gods.
Although Maya creation accounts differ in detail, most tell of the defeat and sacrifice of one or more gods by the lords of the Underworld. In the Books of Chilam Balam, the gods of the thirteen heavens are captured and sacrificed by the nine gods of the Underworld. In the Popol Vuh, the maize god, Hun Hunaphu, the father of the hero twins, journeys to the Underworld, where he is defeated by its rulers in a ritual ball game and sacrificed. In the Dresden Codex, sacrifice of the maize god appears to be the very act that raises the sky of the new world. In the Popol Vuh, he is rescued by his sons, and it is his resurrection that renews of the world.
The Milky Way/World Tree is the route between the heavens, earth, and Underworld. On the sarcophagus of Pakal at Palenque, the dead king is shown falling along the World Tree, named here sak be, "white road." The Quiche still call the Milky Way Xibalba be "road to the Underworld;" The Chorti Maya call it Camino de Santiago.
By midnight on August 13, the Milky Way runs across the sky from east to west. It now represents the fallen sky. A great dark bite is visible in the Milky Way, which Schele sees as the maw of the crocodile at the foot of the Izapa World tree, a gateway to the Underworld. This is the "cross-roads" at which Hun Hunaphu disappeared when he took the "Black Road" to Xibalba.
We have learnt through experience that when an electrical ray strikes the surface of an atom, an electron, and in some circumstances a second and even a third electron, can be detached.