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"Of all the American people , the Quiché region of Guatemala have left us the richest mythological legacy. The story of creation, which appears in the Popol Vuh, which may be called the national book of the Quiché, in its rude and strange eloquence and poetic originality, is one of the most unique relics of indigenous thought". This is what reminds us the americanist Brancoft about a text that has become, over the time, the highest point, literarily and culturally speaking, about the knowledge of the ancient traditions, the history of the origins and history of the kings of the Quiché. Descendants of the Maya, the Quiché represented the most powerful and cultured people and in this volume is given full value to their culture. A precious contribution to understand the myths and stories of a people that have been one of the most advanced culture of that historical period (the book was composed between 1554 and 1558 ). And for all of us it becomes current as, through myths and stories that seemed so far away, we can understand our cultural relativity, appreciating a writing which, although coming from the other side of the world, challenges us today.Photo gallery at the end of the ebook.
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Collection L'educazione interiore
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Translation from the castillan original text by KKIEN Publishing International team.
First digital edition: 2014
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This is the beginning of the old traditions of this place called Quiché.
Here we shall write and we shall begin the old stories, the beginning and the origin of all that was done in the town of the Quiché, by the tribes of the Quiché nation.
And here we shall set forth the revelation, the declaration, and the narration of all that was hidden, the revelation by Tzacol, Bitol, Alom, Qaholom, who are called Hunahpú-Vuch, Hunahpú-Utiú, Zaqui-Nimá-Tziís, Tepeu, Gucumatz, u Qux cho, u Qux Paló, Ali Raxá Lac, Ah Raxá Tzel, as they were called. And [at the same time] the declaration, the combined narration of the Grandmother and the Grandfather, whose names are Xpiyacoc, and Xmucané, helpers and protectors, twice grandmother, twice grandfather, so called in the Quiché chronicles. Then we shall tell all that they did in the light of existence, in the light of history.
This we shall write now under the Law of God and Christianity; we shall bring it to light because now the Popol Vuh
This is the account of how all was in suspense, all calm, in silence; all motionless, still, and the expanse of the sky was empty.
This is the first account, the first narrative. There was neither man, nor animal, birds, fishes, crabs, trees, stones, caves, ravines, grasses, nor forests; there was only the sky.
The surface of the earth had not appeared. There was only the calm sea and the great expanse of the sky.
There was nothing brought together, nothing which could make a noise, nor anything which might move, or tremble, or could make noise in the sky.
There was nothing standing; only the calm water, the placid sea, alone and tranquil. Nothing existed.
There was only immobility and silence in the darkness, in the night. Only the creator, the Maker, Tepeu, Gucumatz, the Forefathers, were in the water surrounded with light. They were hidden under green and blue feathers, and were therefore called Gucumatz. By nature they were great sages and great thinkers. In this manner the sky existed and also the Heart of Heaven, which is the name of God and thus He is called.
Then came the word. Tepeu and Gucumatz came together in the darkness, in the night, and Tepeu and Gucumatz talked together. They talked then, discussing and deliberating; they agreed, they united their words and their thoughts.
Then while they meditated, it became clear to them that when dawn would break, man must appear. Then they planned the creation, and the growth of the trees and the thickets and the birth of life and the creation of man. Thus it was arranged in the darkness and in the night by the Heart of Heaven who is called Huracán.
The first is called Caculhá Huracán. The second is Chipi-Caculhá. The third is Raxa-Caculhá. And these three are the Heart of Heaven.
Then Tepeu and Gucumatz came together; then they conferred about life and light, what they would do so that there would be light and dawn, who it would be who would provide food and sustenance.
Thus let it be done! Let the emptiness be filled! Let the water recede and make a void, let the earth appear and become solid; let it be done. Thus they spoke. Let there be light, let there be dawn in the sky and on the earth! There shall be neither glory nor grandeur in our creation and formation until the human being is made, man is formed. So they spoke.
Then the earth was created by them. So it was, in truth, that they created the earth. Earth! they said, and instantly it was made.
Like the mist, like a cloud, and like a cloud of dust was the creation, when the mountains appeared from the water; and instantly the mountains grew.
Only by a miracle, only by magic art were the mountains and valleys formed; and instantly the groves of cypresses and pines put forth shoots together on the surface of the earth.
And thus Gucumatz was filled with joy, and exclaimed: “Your coming has been fruitful, Heart of Heaven; and you, Huracán, and you, Chipi-Caculhá, Raxa-Caculhá!”
“Our work, our creation shall be finished,” they answered.
First the earth was formed, the mountains and the valleys; the currents of water were divided, the rivulets were running freely between the hills, and the water was separated when the high mountains appeared.
Thus was the earth created, when it was formed by the Heart of Heaven, the Heart of Earth, as they are called who first made it fruitful, when the sky was in suspense, and the earth was submerged in the water.
So it was that they made perfect the work, when they did it after thinking and meditating upon it.
Then they made the small wild animals, the guardians of the woods, the spirits of the mountains, the deer, the birds, pumas, jaguars, serpents, snakes, vipers, guardians of the thickets.
And the Forefathers asked: ‘Shall there be only silence and calm under the trees, under the vines? It is well that hereafter there be someone to guard them”.
So they said when they meditated and talked. Promptly the deer and the birds were created. immediately they gave homes to the deer and the birds. “You, deer, shall sleep in the fields by the river bank and in the ravines. Here you shall be amongst the thicket, amongst the pasture; in the woods you shall multiply, you shall walk on four feet and they will support you. Thus be it done!”. So it was they spoke.
Then they also assigned homes to the birds big and small. “You shall live in the trees and in the vines. There you shall make your nests; there you shall multiply; there you shall increase in the branches of the trees and in the vines.” Thus the deer and the birds were told; they did their duty at once, and all sought their homes and their nests.
And the creation of all the four-footed animals and the birds being finished, they were told by the Creator and the Maker and the Forefathers: “Speak, cry, warble, call, speak each one according to your variety, each, according to your kind.” So was it said to the deer, the birds, pumas, jaguars, and serpents.
“Speak, then, our names, praise us, your mother, your father. Invoke then, Huracán, Chipi- Caculhá, Raxa-Caculhá, the Heart of Heaven, the Heart of Earth, the Creator, the Maker, the Forefathers; speak, invoke us, adore us,” they were told.
But they could not make them speak like men; they only hissed and screamed and cackled; they were unable to make words, and each screamed in a different way.
When the Creator and the Maker saw that it was impossible for them to talk to each other, they said: “It is impossible for them to say our names, the names of us, their Creators and Makers. This is not well,” said the Forefathers to each other.
Then they said to them: “Because it has not been possible for you to talk, you shall be changed. We have changed our minds: Your food, your pasture, your homes. and your nests you shall have; they shall be the ravines and the woods, because it has not been possible for you to adore us or invoke us. There shall be those who adore us, we shall make other [beings] who shall be obedient. Accept your destiny: your flesh shall be tom to pieces. So shall it be. This shall be your lot.” So they said, when they made known their will to the large and small animals which are on the face of the earth.
They wished to give them another trial; they, wished to make another attempt; they wished to make [all living things] adore them.
But they could not understand each other’s speech; they could succeed in nothing, and could do nothing. For this reason they were sacrificed and the animals which were on earth were condemned to be killed and eaten.
For this reason another attempt had to be made to create and make men by the Creator, the Maker, and the Forefathers.
“Let us try again! Already dawn draws near: Let us make him who shall nourish and sustain us! What shall we do to be invoked, in order to be remembered on earth? We have already tried with our first creations, our first creatures; but we could not make them praise and venerate us. So, then, let us try to make obedient, respectful beings who will nourish and sustain us.” Thus they spoke.
Then was the creation and the formation. Of earth, of mud, they made [man’s] flesh. But they saw that it was not good. It melted away, it was soft, did not move, had no strength, it fell down, it was limp, it could not move its head, its face fell to one side, its sight was blurred, it could not look behind. At first it spoke, but had no mind. Quickly it soaked in the water and could not stand.
And the Creator and the Maker said: “Let us try again because our creatures will not be able to walk nor multiply. Let us consider this,” they said.
Then they broke up and destroyed their work and their creation. And they said: “What shall we do to perfect it, in order that our worshipers, our invokers, will be successful?”
Thus they spoke when they conferred again: “Let us say again to Xpiyacoc, Xmucané, Hunahpú-Vuch, Hunahpú-Utiú: ‘Cast your lot again. Try to create again.’” In this manner the Creator and the Maker spoke to Xpiyacoc and Xmucané.
Then they spoke to those soothsayers, the Grandmother of the day, the Grandmother of the Dawn, as they were called by the Creator and the Maker, and whose names were Xpiyacoc and Xmucané.
And said Huracán, Tepeu, and Gucumatz when they spoke to the soothsayer, to the Maker, who are the diviners: “You must work together and find the means so that man, whom we shall make, man, whom we are going to make, will nourish and sustain us, invoke and remember us.
“Enter, then, into council, grandmother, grandfather, our grandmother, our grandfather, Xpiyacoc, Xmucané, make light, make dawn. have us invoked, have us adored, have us remembered by created man, by made man, by mortal man. Thus be it done.
“Let your nature be known, Hunahpú-Vuch, Hunahpú-Utiú, twice-mother, twice-father, Nim- Ac, Nima-Tziís, the master of emeralds, the worker in jewels, the sculptor, the carver, the maker of beautiful plates, the maker of green gourds, the master of resin, the master Toltecat, grandmother of the sun, grandmother of dawn, as you will be called by our works and our creatures.
“Cast the lot with your grains of corn and tzité. Do it thus and we shall know if we are to make, or carve his mouth and eyes out of wood.” Thus the diviners were told.
They went down at once to make their divination, and cast their lots with the corn and the tzité. “Fate! Creature!” said an old woman and an old man. And this old man was the one who cast the lots with Tzité, the one called Xpiyacoc. And the old woman was the diviner, the maker, called Chiracán Xmucané.
Beginning the divination, they said: “Get together, grasp each other! Speak, that we may hear.” They said, “Say if it is well that the wood be got together and that it be carved by the Creator and the Maker, and if this [man of wood] is he who must nourish and sustain us when there is light when it is day!
“Thou, corn; thou, tzité; thou, fate; thou, creature; get together, take each other,” they said to the corn, to the tzité, to fate, to the creature. “Come to sacrifice here, Heart of Heaven; do not punish Tepeu and Gucumatz!”
Then they talked and spoke the truth: “Your figures of wood shall come out well; they shall speak and talk on earth.”
“So may it be,” they answered when they spoke.
And instantly the figures were made of wood. They looked like men, talked like men, and populated the surface of the earth.
They existed and multiplied; they had daughters, they had sons, these wooden figures; but they did not have souls, nor minds, they did not remember their Creator, their Maker; they walked on all fours, aimlessly.
They no longer remembered the Heart of Heaven and therefore they fell out of favor. It was merely a trial, an attempt at man. At first they spoke, but their face was without expression; their feet and hands had no strength; they had no blood, nor substance, nor moisture, nor flesh; their cheeks were dry, their feet and hands were dry, and their flesh was yellow.
Therefore, they no longer thought of their Creator nor their Maker, nor of those who made them and cared for them.
These were the first men who existed in great numbers on the face of the earth.
Immediately the wooden figures were annihilated, destroyed, broken up, and killed.
A flood was brought about by the Heart of Heaven; a great flood was formed which fell on the heads of the wooden creatures.
Of tzité the flesh of man was made, but when woman was fashioned by the Creator and the Maker, her flesh was made of rushes. These were the materials the Creator and the Maker wanted to use in making them.
But those that they had made, that they had created, did not think, did not speak with their Creator, their Maker. And for this reason they were killed, they were deluged. A heavy resin fell from the sky. The one called Xecotcovach came and gouged out their eyes; Camalotz came and cut off their heads; Cotzbalam came and devoured their flesh. Tucumbalam came, too, and broke and mangled their bones and their nerves, and ground and crumbled their bones.
This was to punish them because they had not thought of their mother, nor their father, the Heart of Heaven, called Huracán. And for this reason the face of the earth was darkened and a black rain began to fall, by day and by night.
Then came the small animals and the large animals, and sticks and stones struck their faces. And all began to speak: their earthen jars, their griddles, their plates, their pots, their grinding stones, all rose up and struck their faces.
“You have done us much harm; you ate us, and now we shall kill you,” said their dogs and birds of the barnyard.
And the grinding stones said: “We were tormented by you; every day, every day, at night, at dawn, all the time our faces went holi, holi, huqui, huqui, because of you. This was the tribute we paid you. But now that you are no longer men, you shall feel our strength. We shall grind and tear your flesh to pieces,” said their grinding stones.
And then their dogs spoke and said: “Why did you give us nothing to eat? You scarcely looked at us, but you chased us and threw us out. You always had a stick ready to strike us while you were eating.
“Thus it was that you treated us. You did not speak to us. Perhaps we shall not kill you now; but why did you not look ahead, why did you not think about yourselves? Now we shall destroy you, now you shall feel the teeth of our mouths; we shall devour you,” said the dogs, and then, they destroyed their faces.
And at the same time, their griddles and pots spoke: “Pain and suffering you have caused us. Our mouths and our faces were blackened with soot; we were always put on the fire and you burned us as though we felt no pain. Now you shall feel it, we shall burn you,” said their pots, and they all destroyed their [the wooden men’s] faces. The stones of the hearth, which were heaped together, hurled themselves straight from the fire against their heads causing them pain.
The desperate ones [the men of wood] ran as quickly as they could; they wanted to climb to the tops of the houses.
And the houses fell down and threw them to the ground; they wanted to climb to the treetops, and the trees cast them far away; they wanted to enter the caverns, and the caverns repelled them.
So was the ruin of the men who had been created and formed, the men made to be destroyed and annihilated; the mouths and faces of all of them were mangled.
And it is said that their descendants are the monkeys which now live in the forests; these are all that remain of them because their flesh was made only of wood by the Creator and the Maker.
And therefore the monkey looks like man, and is an example of a generation of men which were created and made but were only wooden figures.
It was cloudy and twilight then on the face of the earth. There was no sun yet. Nevertheless, there was a being called Vucub-Caquix, who was very proud of himself.
The sky and the earth existed, but the faces of the sun and the moon were covered.
And he [Vucub-Caquix] said: “Truly, they are clear examples of those people who were drowned, and their nature is that of supernatural beings.
“I shall now be great above all the beings created and formed. I am the sun, the light, the moon,” he exclaimed. “Great is my splendor. Because of me men shall walk and conquer. For my eyes are of silver, bright, resplendent as precious stones, as emeralds; my teeth shine like perfect stones, like the face of the sky. My nose shines afar like the moon, my throne is of silver, and the face of the earth is lighted when I pass before my throne.
“So, then, I am the sun, I am the moon, for all mankind. So shall it be, because I can see very far.”
So Vucub-Caquix spoke. But he was not really the sun; he was only vainglorious of his feathers and his riches. And he could see only as far as the horizon, and he could not see over all the world.
The face of the sun had not yet appeared, nor that of the moon, nor the stars, and it had not dawned. Therefore, Vucub-Caquix became as vain as though he were the sun and the moon, because the light of the sun and the moon had not yet shown itself His only ambition was to exalt himself and to dominate. And all this happened when the flood came because of the wooden-people.
Now we shall tell how Vucub-Caquix was overthrown and died, and how man was made by the Creator and the Maker.
This is the beginning of the defeat and the ruin of the glory of Vucub-Caquix brought about by two youths, the first of whom was called Hunahpú and the second, Xbalanqué. They were really gods. When they saw the harm which the arrogant one had done, and wished to do, in the presence of the Heart of Heaven, the youths said:
“It is not good that it be so, when man does not yet live here on earth. Therefore, we shall try to shoot him with our blowgun when he is eating. We shall shoot him and make him sicken, and then that will be the end of his riches, his green stones, his precious metals, his emeralds, his jewels of which he is so proud. And this shall be the lot of all men, for they must not become vain, because of power and riches.
“Thus shall it be,” said the youths, each one putting his blowgun to his shoulder. Well, now Vucub-Caquix had two sons: the first was called Zipacná, the second was
Cabracán; and the mother of the two was called Chimalmat, the wife of Vucub-Caquix.
Well, Zipacná played ball with the large mountains: with Chigag, Hunahpú, Pecul, Yaxcanul, Macamob, and Huliznab. These are the names of the mountains which existed when it dawned and which were created in a single night by Zipacná.
In this way, then, Cabracán moved the mountains and made the large and small mountains tremble.
And in this way the sons of Vucub-Caquix proclaimed their pride. “Listen! I am the sun!” said Vucub-Caquix. “I am he who made the earth!” said Zipacná. “I am he who shook the sky and made the earth tremble!” said Cabracán, In this way the sons of Vucub-Caquix followed the example of their father’s assumed greatness. And this seemed very evil to the youths. Neither our first mother nor our first father had yet been created.
Now we shall tell how the two youths shot their blowguns at Vucub-Caquix and how each one of those, who had become arrogant, was destroyed.
Vucub-Caquix had a large nantze tree and he ate the fruit of it. Each day he went to the tree and climbed to the top. Hunahpú and Xbalanqué had seen that this fruit was his food. And they lay in ambush at the foot of the tree, hidden among the leaves. Vucub-Caquix came straight to his meal of nantzes.
Instantly he was injured by a discharge from Hun-Hunahpú’s blowgun which struck him squarely in the jaw, and screaming, he fell straight to earth from the treetop.
Hun-Hunahpú ran quickly to overpower him, but Vucub-Caquix seized his arm and wrenching it from him, bent it back to the shoulder. In this way Vucub-Caquix tore out Hun- Hunahpú’s arm. Surely the two youths did well in not letting themselves be defeated first by Vucub-Caquix.
Carrying Hun-Hunahpú’s arm, Vucub-Caquix went home, and arrived there nursing his jaw. “What has happened to you, my lord?” said Chimalmat, his wife.
“What could it be, but those two demons who shot me with blowguns and dislocated my jaw? For that reason my teeth are loose and pain me very much. But I have brought it [his arm], to put it on the fire. Let it hang there over the fire, for surely these demons will come looking for it.” So said Vucub-Caquix as he hung up the arm of Hun-Hunahpú.
Having thought it over, Hun-Hunahpú and Xbalanqué went to talk with an old man who had snow-white hair and with an old woman, really very old and humble, both already bent, like very old people. The old man was called Zaqui-Nim-Ac and the old woman, Zaqui-Nima- Tziís. The youths said to the old woman and the old man:
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