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Mayan Creation Myth

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Autor:   •  December 9, 2010  •  2,181 Words (9 Pages)  •  561 Views

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From the dawn of the first civilization to the bustling nations of modern day, great gatherings of people have tried to interpret their surroundings and justify their experiences in a spiritual and mystical way. Their experiences drive them to figure out the origin of nature and time and space. These so called "creation myths" varied in complexity and origin but each held similar views that a "greater power" ultimately began humanity and its domain. People interpreted what they observed in their surroundings and applied their knowledge to create these notions on what happened. Even though creation myths appeared all around the world and at different times, many of these tales follow a basic series of events. Many similarities occur and overlap from creation myth to creation myth. But why didn't a god or many gods reach out to different regions of the world? Did each civilization get its own tailored existence? An even more intriguing difference within these "creation myth patterns" separated one tale from another. In exploring this phenomenon, there is evidence to support the argument that these myths evolved not by chance or by godly intervention but by the every day life and surroundings of each individual culture.

There are many similarities between the Mayan Popol Vuh, but the many differences are what explain the history and the conditions of each civilization. From the dawn of the first civilization to the bustling nations of modern day, great gatherings of people have tried to interpret their surroundings and justify their experiences in a spiritual and mystical way. These so called "creation myths" varied in complexity and origin but each held similar views that a "greater power" ultimately began humanity and its domain of "earth". People interpreted what they observed in their surroundings and applied their knowledge to create these accounts of what happened. Even though creation myths appeared all around the world and at different times, many of these tales follow a basic series of events. One of the most prominent and detailed creation myths was the Popol Vuh, which was created by ancient Mayan authors called "Quiche" (Quiche, 63). By far, the Popol Vuh explained in great detail why certain animals behaved the way they do and why certain plants exist and even mention stars and planets. The Mayan story is separated into chapters with each detailing a specific story about the earliest events that took place. In the beginning, the cosmic realms brought ancient entities that discussed the creation of human beings to act, speak, worship and work. The gods had mysterious names like the Maker and Heart of Sky (Tedlock, 30). Four tries were required to create the humans of today. Their first experiment resulted in creatures that had no limbs and couldn't speak. This resulted in the form of animals and insects. On the second try, they created beings of mud but they were unable to move or stay solid and eventually, they withered away (Tedlock, 32). The third try resulted in the existence of monkeys and eventually they became successful on the fourth.

We focus on the Mayan civilization and their vivid explanation of the earth's creation in the fabled Popol Vuh. The Mayans were an advanced civilization that incorporated higher language, literature and politics with a strong influence of religion, art and science. The Mayans originated from the ancient Olmecs and resided within the rainforests and mountains of the Chiapas and Guatemala regions (Bulliet, 310). The original authors of Popol Vuh were thought to have originated in the Guatemala region and they were considered the "Quiche". The Mayan creation myth had obvious correlations with their societal behaviors and cultural traditions. Many scenes depict arms and legs being dismembered as well as characters showing violent and jealous emotions. The story of Popol Vuh began with a gathering of different godly beings that wanted to create inhabitants that would reside on "earth". They had a certain idea for humans. The Gods wanted beings that would be able to talk and work, give offerings and praise. It took the Gods four times to create humans. The first three attempts in creating humans resulted in the appearance of animals and insects. In the fourth attempt, they create successful beings and the story focuses on the events of two separate twins that encounter Gods and spirits of all sorts (Tedlock, 32). In the Mayan's case, corn became a very integral part of the creation myth of Popol Vuh because the origin of the story was in a region where corn was abundant and vital to the inhabitants. In the story, the idea of corn comes up many times. Corn in Popol Vuh seems to stand for the beginning of life and seems to be valued greatly. There value of corn could be seen in this passage: "the making, the modeling of our first mother-father, with yellow corn, white corn alone for the flesh..." (Quiche, 145). According to the myth, the Gods created the first people out of corn. This relationship between corn and people is greatly connected to the societal times the Mayans lived in. Without corn, the Mayans would not have grown into an empire. A bad season of corn yield would result in starvation and suffering. So it would have seemed natural that the integration of corn into the beginning of creation was an obvious tendency. In the Egyptian creation myth, the Nile plays a very cosmic and mystical role. Their myths derived straight from their observations of how the Nile acted. The annual flooding of the Nile played a vital part in replenishing exhausted minerals from the soils. Every year the Nile would flood systematically and the Egyptians viewed this as a gift from the Gods (Bulliet, 41). Unlike Popol Vuh's gods that feuded with people and became jealous and treacherous, the Egyptian gods were all about cooperation and being one with humanity. The Egyptian area was a very nice piece of real estate when it came to building a systematic civilization. They revered gods and spirits because they were always blessed with growth and production.

Many cultures like the Japanese, explain their surroundings with creation myths. The most prominent factor in determining the myth differences in each culture was the climate and type of ecosystem that the civilization inhabited. In the Japanese tale of creation, the two parent Gods Izanagi and Izanami had three offsprings of which one was evil (Murtagh, NA). Because of his actions the parents sentenced the misbehaving god child to the sea so that he could not harm the islands but in his rage he still terrorized the coasts with tidal waves and hurricanes. This explanation is pretty adequate for the formation of the Japanese islands. When you look at the Popol Vuh, gods are as plentiful as number of species

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