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Popol Wuj. Antiguas Historias de los Indios Quichés de Guatemala. Ilustradas con Dibujos de los Códices Mayas (Sepan Cuantos, #36)

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Contiene la historias de los indios quichés acerca de la formación del mundo, de sus dioses, héroes y hombres, o sea que trata del origen mitológico de su pueblo, de sus creencias religiosas y de la genealogía de sus jefes. Esta tradición fue una de las que se conservaron debido a que los nativos que aprendieron el alfabeto con los misioneros españoles lo utilizaron para c Contiene la historias de los indios quichés acerca de la formación del mundo, de sus dioses, héroes y hombres, o sea que trata del origen mitológico de su pueblo, de sus creencias religiosas y de la genealogía de sus jefes. Esta tradición fue una de las que se conservaron debido a que los nativos que aprendieron el alfabeto con los misioneros españoles lo utilizaron para copiar sus libros de historias, ritos y hábitos de sociedad. Es posible que el antiguo escrito a que se refiere el Libro Nacional de los Quichés haya sido redactado con su sistema anterior: dibujos y jeroglíficos.


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Contiene la historias de los indios quichés acerca de la formación del mundo, de sus dioses, héroes y hombres, o sea que trata del origen mitológico de su pueblo, de sus creencias religiosas y de la genealogía de sus jefes. Esta tradición fue una de las que se conservaron debido a que los nativos que aprendieron el alfabeto con los misioneros españoles lo utilizaron para c Contiene la historias de los indios quichés acerca de la formación del mundo, de sus dioses, héroes y hombres, o sea que trata del origen mitológico de su pueblo, de sus creencias religiosas y de la genealogía de sus jefes. Esta tradición fue una de las que se conservaron debido a que los nativos que aprendieron el alfabeto con los misioneros españoles lo utilizaron para copiar sus libros de historias, ritos y hábitos de sociedad. Es posible que el antiguo escrito a que se refiere el Libro Nacional de los Quichés haya sido redactado con su sistema anterior: dibujos y jeroglíficos.

30 review for Popol Wuj. Antiguas Historias de los Indios Quichés de Guatemala. Ilustradas con Dibujos de los Códices Mayas (Sepan Cuantos, #36)

  1. 5 out of 5

    Lily

    Can you really rate something like the Popol Vuh?

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jenny (Reading Envy)

    "Here we will write. Here we will plant the ancient word of the beginning, the origin of all that was done in the citadel of K'iche', among the people of K'iche' nation." An epic poem of creation and culture from the K'iche' people of what is now Guatemala, newly translated into verse by Michael Bazzett. I found it breathtaking and intriguing throughout, but I especially liked the long period before the humans turn up, and how many elements of the culture are embedded into the creation story. "Sure "Here we will write. Here we will plant the ancient word of the beginning, the origin of all that was done in the citadel of K'iche', among the people of K'iche' nation." An epic poem of creation and culture from the K'iche' people of what is now Guatemala, newly translated into verse by Michael Bazzett. I found it breathtaking and intriguing throughout, but I especially liked the long period before the humans turn up, and how many elements of the culture are embedded into the creation story. "Surely, we await the dawn." I received an early copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review, but I was belated in reading it and it is already available.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Alex

    "We found a large number of books," says a conquistador, "and, as they contained nothing in them which were not superstitions and lies of the devil, we burned them all, which [the Maya] regretted to an amazing degree and which caused them much affliction." Maybe one of them was the original Popol Vuh, who knows. This doesn't seem to be it. Here are the Maya, killing some people It's close. How close depends on whose word you want to take. This version was probably written down in the 1550s, so wel "We found a large number of books," says a conquistador, "and, as they contained nothing in them which were not superstitions and lies of the devil, we burned them all, which [the Maya] regretted to an amazing degree and which caused them much affliction." Maybe one of them was the original Popol Vuh, who knows. This doesn't seem to be it. Here are the Maya, killing some people It's close. How close depends on whose word you want to take. This version was probably written down in the 1550s, so well after Spanish arrival, in Quiche, which is the language still spoken by the Maya. The Maya are a civilization dating back to 2600 BCE; they reached the apex of their power and influence around 300 - 900 CE; they built Chichen Itza and other cities between 900 and 1500 CE; the arrival of conquistadores in the 1500s caused a little genocide but they're still around today. This is Chichen Itza, in Mexico. This is more or less the Bible of the Maya, and either it shows how similar civilization origin stories tend to be, or it's been badly infected by the Bible. "There is the original book and ancient writing owned by the lords," says our narrator, "now lost." We don't know who that narrator is. This version, by Dennis Tedlock, is universally considered the definitive English one. It comes with tons of killer illustrations from Maya vases and cave paintings and other texts. Mayan art is super cool. The Biblical parallels start right away, with the word. "The earth arose because of (the gods), it was simply their word that brought it forth. For the forming of the earth they said 'earth.'" There's a flood to wipe out some incompetent early humans who don't praise the gods enough, which is really the only reason the gods made them. Flood myths are universal; there's one in Gilgamesh, which is well before the Bible. The Maya add their own flavor: the flood is accompanied by a good amount of eye gouging and face crushing. There's an awesome part where the people's own pots yell, like, "I crush your face!" at them and then crush their faces. The Maya were big on face crushing. The whole book is super violent. Later on the gods try again with people. This time it goes better, but they accidentally make them too good - they have limitless sight. The gods don't want the competition so they dim their gaze, but the Guatemalan lords of Quiche retained an instrument for seeing far; they called it the council book, or Popol Vuh. Ta-dah! This book doesn't contain prophecies, though, which again raises the question of exactly which version of the Popol Vuh we're reading. This is more of an origin story. So let's get back to it: two early heroes, One Hunahpu and Seven Hunahpu, visit the underworld Xibalba - just like Achilles and Gilgamesh did. There's a river of forgetfulness down there, like the Styx - and, this being the Maya, another river of pus. Gross! Here's the underworld. Skeleton guy in the middle is Xibalba, the lord of Xibalba. They're defeated by a test in a place called Dark House, where they're given cigars that have to burn without being consumed. But their children Hunahpu and Xbalanque (twins, born of a virgin and sacrificed and resurrected later) later pass that test; they put fireflies on the ends of the cigars. Clever! Then they defeat the lords of the underworld in a ball game. The ball game is a big part of Maya culture, btw, and the fun part is that the losing team gets decapitated. That didn't always happen. It did in the Popol Vuh. Here's a video of some dudes playing the game but not getting decapitated. Here's a mural from Chichen Itza's ball court, showing some dudes using a decapitated head for a ball. The thing in the middle is the head We move on to a story about how the Maya split up into different tribes, with different languages, which is bad news. There's some internecine fighting. There's an exodus deal, including a parting of the sea. One group - and you sortof lose track here of which group is which, the editors don't seem clear on it either - anyway, one group wants to trap the other group so they send the two hottest daughters in the land to seduce them, and they're like now don't fuck this up, hot daughters, you definitely have to actually fuck these dudes. And bring back proof, reverse 16 Candles style. Btw one of them is named Lust Woman which is sort of a Pilgrim's Progress kind of problem there, like you give your kid a name like that you gotta figure her adolescence is gonna be weird. Anyway the daughters do indeed fuck it all up so the tribes try direct war, but are defeated by a castle manned by puppets and booby trapped with wasps, which seem to be quite a thing for the Maya - they pop up a lot - which to be fair I am also scared of wasps. Have you ever been stung by a wasp? It hurts! And then there's a long list of various tribes and leaders, which has sortof the same effect as one of those "begat" lists from the Bible, in that you don't read it, and that's the end of the Popol Vuh. Aside from the begats, these are good stories. There are some really cool parts - like, in addition to that Dark House I mentioned, there are all these other houses, each containing a different trap - like that Cube movie, more or less. There's Blade House and Bat House and whatnot. "The visible sun is not the real one," we're told, and then the authors totally don't explain what they mean by that. They refer sometimes to an original text that they're quoting from, or transcribing. I feel like - and there's no evidence to support this at all - I feel like that's maybe what they're talking about here. This text, the visible sun, is not the real one. It illuminates some stuff anyway, and I like it. I do wonder what the real one was like. I made bookmarks. More of my weird bookmark project here.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Balam

    I was taking aback by the amount of bad reviews the kiddies are giving this awesome book. Even as a kid myself I loved the stories and the characters. It transported me to a world full of heroes, powerful lords, Kings, and princesses. As an adult I could see the spirituality behind it. The beauty in the simplicity of the text, and the stories of how humans came into being according to Mayan mythology. Joseph Campbell, in his "Hero's Journey" draws parallels between the Twin brothers Hun Ah'pu an I was taking aback by the amount of bad reviews the kiddies are giving this awesome book. Even as a kid myself I loved the stories and the characters. It transported me to a world full of heroes, powerful lords, Kings, and princesses. As an adult I could see the spirituality behind it. The beauty in the simplicity of the text, and the stories of how humans came into being according to Mayan mythology. Joseph Campbell, in his "Hero's Journey" draws parallels between the Twin brothers Hun Ah'pu and Xbalam K'ej of the Popol Vuh with the heroes of many other mythologies. Harrelson Smart's seminal work "Religion of Small Societies" tries to explain (although not very successfully) the spirituality within the book. You can read this book many times and each time you can find something different that you did not see before or that you did not get the previous time. An excellent book if you ask me. I grew up with this edition and it may not be one of the best ones (newer editions come with better notes and even illustrations) but is a fine one to start with.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jeremy Orbe-Smith

    Allen J. Christenson has given us a brilliant translation (packed with very helpful notes) of the Popol Vuh, the Sacred Book of the Quiché Maya, the "book that pertains to the mat." The "mat" is the royal throne upon which the king gave counsel to his people, with the fibers symbolizing the interlaced community remembered in the text. This is a personal book for me, because if family legend is to be believed, the distant ancestors of my Ecuadorian relatives might have come through the area of Gua Allen J. Christenson has given us a brilliant translation (packed with very helpful notes) of the Popol Vuh, the Sacred Book of the Quiché Maya, the "book that pertains to the mat." The "mat" is the royal throne upon which the king gave counsel to his people, with the fibers symbolizing the interlaced community remembered in the text. This is a personal book for me, because if family legend is to be believed, the distant ancestors of my Ecuadorian relatives might have come through the area of Guatemala where the Popol Vuh was finally recorded by anonymous priests to survive the purges of the Conquistadors. We trace the family tree down from the Dawn of Creation; Tikib'a' is literally “to plant," and so "in the beginning" was literally “the planting," with xe', root, used here to describe the foundation of the authors’ words concerning the history of the Quiché people. The subsequent narrative is seen as growing like a plant from this “root." The Gods here are not the Neoplatonic abstractions of Christianity tainted by abstract Greek philosophy; instead they are explicitly anthropomorphic, the actual ancestors of our spirits, the shining Shapers and Modelers who descended from the darkness to organize the world out of preexisting material. The Divine Parents are Xmucane and Xpiyacoc - I'yom and K'ajolom in Quiche - the "Mother" and "Father". I'yom was "She Who Has Borne Children"; the title of the goddess implies that she assists in the “birth” of the world. There are five stages in their attempts to create humanity, with numerous false starts. Finally, life arises in the brackish waters, and agriculture supports the creation of humans. Maize in particular is shown to create our bodies, entering into the flesh of humanity by means of the descendants of She Who Has Borne Children and He Who Has Begotten Sons, the Framer and the Shaper. The daughters of Xmucane act as the creative power that prepares the maize dough and forms it into a suitable framework to contain the essence of mankind; the unique ability of the female to form living flesh is thus emphasized. Yet the man and woman are not described as carrying out separate roles; rather, they act in concert and speak with one voice. Their activities are remembered in the performance of the text of the Popol Vuh as a Ritual Drama: "Great is its performance and its account of the completion and germination of all the sky and earth - its four corners and its four sides. All then was measured and staked out into four divisions, doubling over and stretching the measuring cords of the womb of sky and the womb of earth." Indeed, the ancient Maya conceived of the universe as a great house. The four corners represent the cardinal directions while its walls and ceiling form the vault of the sky, with the foundation posts forming the boundaries of the underworld, much like a miniature version of the map made of a Temple. The maize plant is often depicted as a divine axis mundi standing at the center point of the universe with its roots extending downward into the underworld while its stalk reaches into the sky. "Behold us! Hear us! Do not abandon us. ... You are the god in the sky and on the earth, you, Heart of Sky, Heart of Earth. May our sign, our word, be given for as long as there is sun and light." (Etal [sign] and tzijel [word, as well as the act of lighting a candle or torch] when paired together refer to the posterity of children and grandchildren.) So when their children are sacrificed in the ballcourt to the Lords of Death, all of Xibalba (the "Place of Fear") perceived the greatness of the essence of the calabash tree which resurrected One Hunahpu's head. The virgin Lady Blood heard the story from her father and asked "Can I not come to know it by seeing the Tree that has been spoken of? I hear that its fruit is truly delicious." She goes to converse with One Hunahpu's Tree, which causes her to become pregnant; though her father tries to sacrifice her for the supposed sin, she escapes and bears the children of the Tree who travel to the Underworld to overcome mortality. Christenson notes: "The cycle of birth, death, and rebirth is one of the most prominent motifs in ancient Mesoamerican art and literature. The Maya saw death as a necessary part of life. For maize to grow and produce, a seed must first die and be buried in the earth. It was thus necessary for One Hunahpu to descend into the underworld to die before a new generation could appear and be capable of overcoming death. The maiden, Lady Blood, stood as an intermediary. As the daughter of one of the principal lords of death, she belonged to the darkness of the underworld. As the consort of One Hunahpu, she had the potential to create new life from death." Next comes a cycle of animal-stories in an allegorical sequence of louse, toad, serpent, and falcon, signifying decay, death, rebirth, and apotheosis as sun and moon. The corrupting louse is swallowed by the fertile underworld toad, swallowed by the regenerating snake, swallowed by the falcon who flies into the dawn. Death swallowed by Hunahpu and his brother Xbalanque, who triumph over the Lords of Xibalba, whose hidden names they have discovered, whose deadly ballgame they have won, and whose many houses of horrific trials they have passed through alive, only to knowingly die and be resurrected in various forms (chosen orphan-boys, fish-people), dancing in front of the Lords of Death. This fulfills the prophecy of Lady Blood, who told them that one day they would no longer be allowed to take human hearts in sacrifice, but would take the blood of trees rather than that of the Children of Light. The brothers come to dwell in the sky, arising as the central stars of a constellation. Their children cross the great sea from the land in the East, where the first People were conceived, and there they looked for the coming forth of the sun, when they had one common language and did not yet call upon wood or stone. "However many nations there are today, innumerable people, they all had but one dawn." The Dawn begins beautifully, but then descends once more into human sacrifice as if it were holy, with countless tribes which should be family attacking each other any way they can, including plagues of insects. After generations of horrific bloodshed, the Spaniards arrive in force, and officially establish Roman Catholicism against great protest in 1534 in order to wipe out whatever "idolatry" and "paganism" might have survived the purges of the conquest itself. (As a member of the LDS church, which believes in a Mother and Father God who have physical forms, just as the Maya did, I have great trouble thinking that the violence and book-burning of the conquest was exactly a Christian act; we believe that true Christianity was lost long before Arius and Athanasius occasioned the great Councils to establish the Creeds which focused on the disembodied abstractions of philosophers rather than the living Gods and the Divine Council formed of their family.) Thankfully, there were other Priests such as Bartolomé de las Casas who vigorously opposed the slaughters of Alvarado. The book ends in dark tragedy and tortures in which there are precious few good guys; the human sacrifices made in the name of a twisted version of the early Maya religion were hardly better than the slaughter brought by the conquistadors; take your pick as to which people were the worse transgressors in the name of their Gods. And so: "this is the essence of the Quichés, because there is no longer a way of seeing [the vision of] it. It was with the Lords at first, but it is now lost. There is only this. All is now completed concerning Quiché, called Santa Cruz."

  6. 5 out of 5

    Tom

    I re-read this book with a writing group and still find it amazing. The hero twins on the road to Xibalba. It is a dark creation myth that partially follows Joseph Campbell's heroic journey, but there are corners of Mayan consciousness that remain impenetrable. It presents a fascinating world laden with imagery and symbolism that defy our comprehension. What a shame that this world was virtually destroyed first by European viruses and later by European arrogance in the guise of Christianity and I re-read this book with a writing group and still find it amazing. The hero twins on the road to Xibalba. It is a dark creation myth that partially follows Joseph Campbell's heroic journey, but there are corners of Mayan consciousness that remain impenetrable. It presents a fascinating world laden with imagery and symbolism that defy our comprehension. What a shame that this world was virtually destroyed first by European viruses and later by European arrogance in the guise of Christianity and greed. Fortunately, the Popol Vuh survived the Spanish inquisition in America to give us a glimmer of indigenous creativity.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Mercurio Cadena

    A very interesting cosmogony. There are some common points with Christianity, such as a virgin who gets pregnant by Spirits, and the fact that men were created from mud (yet, in the maya myth, this was just the first attempt from the gods to create mankind, which ended, by the way, as a failed attempt. Their final creation was made from corn). A must in cosmogony.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Kiernan

    Nearly every culture has an origin story, from the Garden of Eden to the sacred rock in Lake Champlain (some indigenous folk held that the world began when the Great Mother poked her finger above the surface of the waters that covered the Earth). The Popul Vuh is that sort of an origin story, derived from the thousands-of-years-old Mayan oral tradition, written on bark in the 1500s, and translated vividly and with great compassion by the poet Michael Bazzett. This book will not be for everyone. Nearly every culture has an origin story, from the Garden of Eden to the sacred rock in Lake Champlain (some indigenous folk held that the world began when the Great Mother poked her finger above the surface of the waters that covered the Earth). The Popul Vuh is that sort of an origin story, derived from the thousands-of-years-old Mayan oral tradition, written on bark in the 1500s, and translated vividly and with great compassion by the poet Michael Bazzett. This book will not be for everyone. It's odd, and the names are strange, and much of it seems to take place in a dreamland. Yet there are passages of great drama, as demi-gods battle for supremacy based on honor and strength and familial loyalty. Only very late in the story do humans appear, almost as an afterthought to the warfare. When they do, though, it is a moment of impeccable loveliness. Humility, too -- humans are mostly an afterthought in this creation myth, a busy byproduct. Somehow that diminutive role makes the arrival of our species all the more sweet. I didn't understand everything in this book, but I didn't need to. It brought me to a wonderful destination anyway.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Barbara Bradley

    I had the good fortune of reading the "Popol Vuh" under the tutelage of Dennis himself, and there really is no way to describe the detail and the power of the text. I highly recommend to pay special attention to every single symbol, every picture in the book (no matter how small or minor) because each one bears an important insight into the Mayan culture. For example, on page 107 there is a picture of a dancing monkey with quill pins bunched atop his head. The Maya consider monkeys to be their p I had the good fortune of reading the "Popol Vuh" under the tutelage of Dennis himself, and there really is no way to describe the detail and the power of the text. I highly recommend to pay special attention to every single symbol, every picture in the book (no matter how small or minor) because each one bears an important insight into the Mayan culture. For example, on page 107 there is a picture of a dancing monkey with quill pins bunched atop his head. The Maya consider monkeys to be their patrons, and quills indicate writing, so reflecting on the image and its placement in the story gives the reader an insight into how the Maya perceive themselves in relation to the world.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Sharidan

    I love reading Native creation stories, and this one is also amazing. The ways in which our ancestors tried to explain the world around them are so fascinating–– it really offers a great perspective into other cultures.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Kyle

    Of all the creation and hero myths in the world, this one has to be one of the most woefully neglected.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Justine

    I can summarize my reading experience of this book for my world literature class in one word: boring.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Alarie

    Pronounced “Poe-pol Voo,” this ancient creation myth dates to about 200 B.C.E. I had never heard of it and wouldn’t have been tempted to read it except for one thing: Michael Bazzett. I love his poetry, and trusted that he would make this good reading. He did. In parts it reminded me of the Bible, stories of the Greek gods, Aesop, African animal legends, and Native North American animal fables. That doesn’t mean I fully enjoyed it. Bazzett couldn’t, after all, change ancient text for the sake of Pronounced “Poe-pol Voo,” this ancient creation myth dates to about 200 B.C.E. I had never heard of it and wouldn’t have been tempted to read it except for one thing: Michael Bazzett. I love his poetry, and trusted that he would make this good reading. He did. In parts it reminded me of the Bible, stories of the Greek gods, Aesop, African animal legends, and Native North American animal fables. That doesn’t mean I fully enjoyed it. Bazzett couldn’t, after all, change ancient text for the sake of making it more enjoyable. There are some gaps in logic, just as there are in the Bible (who were those people in another valley for Adam and Eve’s children to marry?). The other difficulty I had following The Popol Vuh is that the time line jumped around like it does in most 21st c. novels. However, I enjoyed it enough to give it 4 stars for the reading and an extra star for being important in our attempt to understand humankind, history, and cultural difference, as well as cultural similarities. Bazzett's magic in making words sing is also a big plus. The similarities to the Bible are uncanny. There’s a flood to eliminate unworthy humans, for example, but it’s the opening that most impressed me. In “The Beginning,” “…These are the first words. This is the first speaking. There is not yet one person, one animal, bird, fish, crab, tree, rock, hollow, canyon, field, or woven forest…. When it was time to make the earth: it only took a word. To make earth they said, “Earth” and there it was: sodden as a cloud or mist unfolds from the face of a mountain, so earth was there…” Remind you of “Genesis”? There are also some striking differences from Judeo-Christian beliefs. The sharing of knowledge and personification of animals weaves in the beliefs of Native Americans. Many of the stories are brutal and violent like other ancient myths, but The Popol Vuh also has much more humor. There is not a single God the Father, but a male and female, the Framer and the Shaper. They seem to work more as a committee, consulting and working with other animals and lesser gods to create humans who will be worthy of a newly made world. They experiment with what materials to use. The first “people” made of wood are pretty useless. Later, they learn that using maize makes humans to their liking. They create four men as test models. Once they’re pleased with the results, they create four women as their mates. The women are made independently, not from ribs. That there were four struck me as interesting, since DNA websites tell us that we current humans are all descended from four Eves. If you're interested in hearing more, here's a podcast interview with Michael Bazzett by the National Review https://www.nationalreview.com/podcas...

  14. 5 out of 5

    Caroline

    They spoke then, the ones called She who has borne children And He who has planted them, The Framer and the Shaper, Sovereign and Quetzal Serpent: Soon it will be dawn, yet our work is not done. There are not yet those who will provide for this world, And those who will sustain it: children of light, born in the light. Note that my rating is for Michael Bazzett’s new translation published by Milkweed. Beautiful both poetically and visually, this edition of the captivating creation myth delights. Bazzett They spoke then, the ones called She who has borne children And He who has planted them, The Framer and the Shaper, Sovereign and Quetzal Serpent: Soon it will be dawn, yet our work is not done. There are not yet those who will provide for this world, And those who will sustain it: children of light, born in the light. Note that my rating is for Michael Bazzett’s new translation published by Milkweed. Beautiful both poetically and visually, this edition of the captivating creation myth delights. Bazzett truncated the full work to eliminate a lot of apparently tedious genealogical information after the creation of people (as distinct from earlier gods and mythic creatures). So if the complete work is important to you, you should find a different translation. But I loved this one. David Shook of Phoneme Media wrote an informative review in World Literature Today: https://www.worldliteraturetoday.org/...

  15. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    This was a joy to read. I have very little knowledge or history of this part of the world, much less the Mayans, but it was absolutely fascinating. The translation is welcoming, and the parallels to other myths and archetypes gave me chills. There are connections to philosophy that surprised and tickled me. My favorite lines might be: However many nations live in the world today, however many countless people, they all had but one dawn.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Sonnet Fitzgerald

    I first read the Popol Vuh when I was a Spanish undergraduate at the University of Oregon. I remember being absolutely enchanted by it, as well as surprised that I had never heard of it before. I spent an entire semester digging into the details and context of the book, but that was over twenty years ago. I confess I had pretty much forgotten the Popol Vuh until a chance encounter gave me a reason to enjoy it again, and I’m so pleased. You’ll find many people who compare the Popol Vuh to the Bibl I first read the Popol Vuh when I was a Spanish undergraduate at the University of Oregon. I remember being absolutely enchanted by it, as well as surprised that I had never heard of it before. I spent an entire semester digging into the details and context of the book, but that was over twenty years ago. I confess I had pretty much forgotten the Popol Vuh until a chance encounter gave me a reason to enjoy it again, and I’m so pleased. You’ll find many people who compare the Popol Vuh to the Bible, and at first glance it’s easy to see why (especially if you are a Western reader steeped in a culture of Christianity and Biblical stories.) There are a number of really fascinating similarities, and it can be fun to read the Popol Vuh from this viewpoint. That said, PV in whole is really nothing like the Bible. I think it makes more sense to approach it as being a bit more like Greek mythology, where stories of the adventures of the gods, demigods, and first humans are told. We learn how the world came to be, but also get exciting stories about fooling the demons of the underworld or getting animals to take pity on a poor girl and do her farm work for her or talking heads that grow on trees. It’s fantastical, and fun, and it inspires. Considering how incredibly ancient these stories are (millennia older than the Bible and the Odyssey) they’re truly precious. I was lucky enough to read Michael Bazzett’s new translation of the text, which is a delight. (It’s unfortunate that Goodreads lumps the reviews for all translations.) I’d recommend it to anyone. He preserves not only the beating heart of each story but the very sound in his word choices, giving the Popol Vuh a beautiful rendering here. It reads as though English was the original language, and I believe there are linguistic nuances here that are missed in earlier translations. Especially if you will be reading the book for pleasure, I’d definitely suggest Bazzett’s work, as it’s just so enjoyable to lose yourself in.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Quentin Crisp

    I realised, looking at this book today, that I'd finished it and not made a record of my having done so, therefore I don't know on what day I finished it, and will simply record it as today's date. The edition I read (in case this review shows up under different editions), is that of Lewis Spence, published by The Book Tree. A warning for those looking for a definitive edition of the text: this isn't it, being not a translation, as such, but more a summary of the text with background cultural and I realised, looking at this book today, that I'd finished it and not made a record of my having done so, therefore I don't know on what day I finished it, and will simply record it as today's date. The edition I read (in case this review shows up under different editions), is that of Lewis Spence, published by The Book Tree. A warning for those looking for a definitive edition of the text: this isn't it, being not a translation, as such, but more a summary of the text with background cultural and anthropological material. It was first published in 1908, it seems, and so might be called a 'monograph'; not exactly a textbook and not exactly an essay, but a scholarly piece of writing on one particular subject. Much of the summary is highly poetic, and, indeed, the source material is full of deeply strange and resonant imagery. The background cultural/anthropological material suffers from being too terse, not dwelling on the material in enough depth to allow the reader to distinguish the ideas, images, names and so on, to let them take shape in the mind. However, those who enjoy the slightly stuffy scholarly style of the period will still find interesting passages here. I also wonder how up-to-date the material is. In particular, the last sections dwell on human sacrifice. In a podcast (In Our Time, inevitably), on the Mayans, one of the guests (an expert, etc.) denied that there had been human sacrifice among the Mayans, but there was absolutely no elaboration on this most interesting point on the programme. Did he mean that these reports should attach to other peoples in the same general geographic area, or that all such reports are entirely false, and, in either case, on what was his claim based? Perhaps all I need to do in order to answer these questions is undertake a few minutes of research (I don't know), but I have not got round to it. In any case, this did make me wonder if modern scholars would dispute the facts as presented by Spence.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Bryn Donovan

    I guess most ancient mythologies are crazypants, and this one seems even more so because the culture is so unfamiliar. So things happen like: a guy gets killed and they bury his skull, and a calabash tree grows up from the skull but one of the calabashes is actually this guy's head, and a lady comes by and this head spits into her hand and she gets pregnant with twins. It's pretty amazing. The creation of humans in this book begins with a few failed attempts, which wind up being monkeys and othe I guess most ancient mythologies are crazypants, and this one seems even more so because the culture is so unfamiliar. So things happen like: a guy gets killed and they bury his skull, and a calabash tree grows up from the skull but one of the calabashes is actually this guy's head, and a lady comes by and this head spits into her hand and she gets pregnant with twins. It's pretty amazing. The creation of humans in this book begins with a few failed attempts, which wind up being monkeys and other animals. When they try to make a person out of mud, it doesn't work out as well as in Genesis: he doesn't look right and then he disintegrates, which is more what you would expect. The beings in these stories are very into playing their ball game. That part is more familiar. They also really like their incense. A few blithe references to cutting open enemies for the pleasure of the gods were startling, but not as weird as what goes on in the Old Testament with stoning and foreskins and such. This volume has a great long introduction that gives you a good sense of the context for the book. Overall, definitely an interesting read.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Brett Williams

    With delightful insight this book provides a grasp of not only the Maya but the common human condition and response to our short existence seen in all mythic documents. Conforming to Joseph Campbell’s prescription, the Popol Vuh intends the same goal as any other, clothed in local dress. While ancestors of the Maya stretch back to the Olmecs who were in full swing by 1200 B.C. (about the time ancient Hebrews claim to have organized) the Popol Vuh did not appear until significant Mayan city-state With delightful insight this book provides a grasp of not only the Maya but the common human condition and response to our short existence seen in all mythic documents. Conforming to Joseph Campbell’s prescription, the Popol Vuh intends the same goal as any other, clothed in local dress. While ancestors of the Maya stretch back to the Olmecs who were in full swing by 1200 B.C. (about the time ancient Hebrews claim to have organized) the Popol Vuh did not appear until significant Mayan city-states were in decline around 900 A.D. By 1200 the kingdoms of Mayapan and Quiche were on the rise. Apparently the Quiche (living on the Pacific coast of Guatemala) retrieved its Popol Vuh from the Atlantic coast. Despite book burnings by the Spanish and their indoctrination, much like native American eradication, their creations could not be erased completely—ditto Dead Sea Scrolls, Gnostic Gospels, etc. Four copies of the Popol Vuh survived and the alphabetic version was, like the Rosetta Stone, translated with columns of Quiche side-by-side with Spanish. The Popol Vuh begins with the creation of things. The gods make humans, but not very good ones, so these become the animals we see. Like the experience of Noah and his antecedent, Upnapishtim several thousand years earlier in Gilgamesh, the Popol Vuh also has a flood myth, and again like others the flood is the fault of humans angering the gods. Interestingly the Popol Vuh, like ancient Egypt, place souls of the departed as stars in the sky: “sparks of light in the darkness.” Likewise, the natural mythopoetic human mind has a reason for every occurrence in our world, expressed as causes for the way the world is simply by claiming it. E.g. the moon goes dark because it is an eye of god that swells shut each month due to battles in the underworld after it sets each night. A fun read for comparing myths so much the same across time, place and cultures. Another example of those human universals.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Sam Tornio

    Sturdy magic.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jacques Coulardeau

    EPIC, HEROIC, SPIRITUAL, INSPIRING ADVENTURE Some compare this book to the Christian or Jewish Bible. I guess some compare it too to the Quran. Such comparisons are unfair to this book because they cast it into a mold that has little to do with the Mayas and Mayan religion, mythology or culture. We could definitely compare some motifs or patterns in the story with those of the Bible or the Quran, but the patterns only have the meaning the general architecture in which they are cast provide them w EPIC, HEROIC, SPIRITUAL, INSPIRING ADVENTURE Some compare this book to the Christian or Jewish Bible. I guess some compare it too to the Quran. Such comparisons are unfair to this book because they cast it into a mold that has little to do with the Mayas and Mayan religion, mythology or culture. We could definitely compare some motifs or patterns in the story with those of the Bible or the Quran, but the patterns only have the meaning the general architecture in which they are cast provide them with and this meaning is not the same in the three books concerned here. First of all, this book does not state at any time there is only one God. There are many Gods in this story even if maybe Quetzalcoatl is the main one, even if we could consider this is the beginning of the emergence of monotheism in this book, but really nothing but a sketchy beginning, especially when we know Quetzalcoatl is dead, he was sacrificed for the Maya world to stabilize and develop, though it is not clear whether it is a self-sacrifice or a formal heart-rending sacrifice performed by a priest of some kind. Note this sacrificed God, not son of God, of course, is supposed to come back from the East. The second element is about the creation of the world, or rather the creation of the human species. The least we can say is that the creator who is maybe one, maybe several, was or were very sloppy and had to start all over again several times. These gods are not almighty far from it. But the most surprising element is that God appears to have many qualities, or names, and at times these qualities or names are seen as separate maybe even over several entities. Over the total watery world, “in the dark, in the night” (translation problem or fair translation? The dark is a clear characteristic that is defined easily as the absence of light, but the night is nothing but the other side of the day, night implying day from which it has been discriminated: so how can it be before daylight has been provided to differentiate day from night), “only the Maker, Modeler alone, Sovereign Plumed Serpent, the Bearers, Begetters are in the water, a glittering light. They are there, they are enclosed in quetzal feathers, in blue-green.” (p. 64 This is a beautiful story but is the Maker one or many? But is darkness defined as opposed to already existing light? But how come quetzal feathers exist before the creation of life? And the next sentence is even more mysterious: “Thus the name, ‘Plumed Serpent.’ They are great knowers, great thinkers in their very being.” (p. 64) We then come to an essential element of the cosmic vision of the Mayas. Their cosmos, their universe is vertical and going up you get into the sky and you consider the Heart of the Sky which is the Sovereign Plumed Serpent again. We will find later an underworld, Xibalba, and the emergence of humanity will come from a rebellion of the first humans against the lords of this underworld with the support of the Gods of the Sky, of the Heart of the Sky. And this Heart of the Sky has many names: “named Hurricane. Thunderbolt Hurricane comes first, the second is Newborn Thunderbolt, and the third is Sudden Thunderbolt. So they were three of them at Heart of Sky who came to the Sovereign Plumed Serpent.” (p. 65) This ternary pattern is typical of all religions before Judaism (a binary vision: “God and his Spirit” of Genesis) and Islam (God is one and only one and Mohammed is only his Prophet). Judaism emerged from various religions whose pattern was ternary. Christianity reintroduced the trinity but we can wonder if it was a reintroduction by Jesus himself or if it was a rewriting of the Jewish reference of Jesus to his Father and the Holy Spirit (only two, and father is a normal metaphor for God in Judaism), a rewriting introduced later by some disciples, apostles or not. What is interesting is that this book cannot be reduced to a single numerical pattern. Note however that Hurricane refers to the wind and in the Maya tradition, there are four winds corresponding to the four cardinal directions. We will find them later represented as a crossroads of four roads with four colors, “red, black, white, yellow,” (p. 95). Traditionally they are red for east, black for west, white for north, and yellow for south, and along with the upwards (Sky) and downward (Xibalba) directionality of the center, then heart, brings the cosmic vision to six, though traditionally again this center is reduced to a point, and then the four directions and the center form a “quincunx,” the oldest glyph found in Mesoamerica, similar to the eighth day, Lamat/Rabbit, and the eighteenth day, Flint/Etz’nab, of the Tzolk’in calendar. It is also an aerial view of a pyramid. The full six-directional vision is that of a textile shuttle, and note this vision will be recaptured by William Blake though Blake will redesign it inside out and outside in. But that’s another story. Note here that the “heart” is really sacred, divine, and that must bring in our minds two remarks. Blood is sacred and divine and blood is the best offering to this Heart of the Sky with self-sacrifice generally by puncturing one’s penis with a jade sacrificial knife. No women can do that. Women are side-tracked. At best you can also puncture your tongue or your ears, but that is a second choice. This simple fact is a sign of a post-Ice-Age agricultural society that has pushed women out of the picture, or at best on its side. The second remark is that the heart itself is sacred and divine and the best act of subservience and obedience to the Gods is to offer one’s heart to him or them with ritual sacrifice. This centering cult on self-sacrifice and sacrifice is the very starting point and center of the vision. God is not seen as going along with his Spirit, but as the heart of the sky and we have to take this word literally. And this multiple-facetted god is redefined again this time as a nonary entity: “Hurricane, Newborn Thunderbolt, Sudden Thunderbolt, Heart of Sky, Heart of Earth, Maker, Modeler, Bearer, Begetter.” This male figure is all-male up to its seventh characteristic. But his last two features are female. A male cannot bear or cannot beget any child. Note though, in spite of what some may think, this Plumed Serpent is not the first creator in this cosmos because he is himself a newborn and to be born he has to come from a bearer, and this bearer has to be impregnated with the future newborn. Of course, we are working on a translation but these are intriguing and there is no possible comparison with the Bible. In the Bible, God is introduced as existing in the watery dark world along with his spirit without any mention or allusion to any origin at all. Here the main multiple-facetted god has been born to existence and is himself the bearer and begetter, hence he is both the newborn and the bearer, or shouldn’t it be the bearer and the newborn. He is the mother, the father and the son all in one multiple facetted God we are dealing with here. This chaotic creation starts a series of pairs of humans. In a group of four, Xpiyacoc, Xmucane, Hunahpu Possum and Hunahpu Coyote. The mason and sculptor who invoke the first two, ask them to count days and to count lots, meaning to attach fate and the future to the days of the calendar. But at once they enter that very future. Xpiyacoc and Xmucane are declared to be respectively the grandfather and the grandmother (note the text gives the other order first and then specifies the order the way I have just given it. They invoke then the other two, Hunahpu Possum and Hunahpu Coyote with a long series of pairs of words ending with “Grandmother of Day, Grandmother of Light. Yet these people were manikins, woodcarvings and “there was nothing in their hearts and nothing in their minds.” (p. 70) So the decision was taken to destroy them. And yet Seven Macaw survives in his vanity: “I am their sun and I am their light, and I am also their months.” (p. 73) That’s when the manikins were destroyed by a flood, the famous flood that is the rising of the water after the Ice Age: 120 meters altogether submerging the coastal platform that had been open, inhabited and covered with vegetation for more than 20,000 years. It pushed humans away from the eastern coast (a fundamental migration stated in this book, and later on recalled as an initiating rite to the rising sun, to dawn as a metaphor for the development of modern humanity. Seven Macaw survives, but not for long. I will jump now to the second part, the story of Seven Macaw and his descendants. This Seven Macaw has a wife, Chimalmat and they had two sons, Zipacna and Earthquake. Let them define themselves “Here I am: I am the sun,” said Seven Macaw. “Here I am: I am the maker of the earth,” said Zipacna. “As for me, I bring down the sky, I make an avalanche of all the earth,” said Earthquake.” (p. 77-78) That’s when Hunahpu and Xbalanque come into the picture. The first encounter with Seven Macaw makes Hunahpu lose one arm, ripped off by Seven Macaw. Then the two boys invoke a grandfather and a grandmother, Great White Peccary and Great White Coati, to approach Seven Macaw. He and his wife die because the grandfather and grandmother take care of his broken jaw and teeth and they deprive him of his metal. His wife dies too. Zipacna during that time is bathing on the coast when 400 boys come along. He helps them carry a log but they are suspicious. So they make him dig a deep hole and they bury him in it though they are mistaken as for his death and he kills them all. But he then encounters the two boys and these trick him into chasing a crab in some cave or crack in the mountain and he is turned into stone. During that time Earthquake is enjoying his earth-quaking power. He comes across the two boys who pretend they are going hunting in the mountains. He joins them and they get some birds. The two boys prepare one for him with gypsum on top. Earthquake eats it but after that, he cannot walk anymore and the boys bury him. That’s how Hunahpu and Xbalanque defeated Seven Macaw and his two sons. What is interesting here is the pattern of two sons against two sons. The first pair have a father and they are a triad of bad people, the mother being totally marginal. The second pair invoke two grandparents when necessary but they are not really part of this quartet because the grandparents are there to kill Seven Macaw, thus saving the mission of the two boys. We assume they are twins. But it is not said that clearly. That binary pattern is going to continue. Xpivacoc and Xmucane have two sons, One Hunahpu and Seven Hunahpu. One Hunahpu has two sons too, One Monkey and One Artisan. Seven Hunahpu has no children, he remains a boy. One Hunahpu and Seven Hunahpu just throw dice and play ball every day in pairs, we assume with One Monkey and One Artisan. The triple God Hurricane-Newborn-Thunderbolt-Sudden-Thunderbolt sends a falcon as a messenger. The four of them go on playing but along the road to Xibalba, the underworld. They are met by One Death and Seven Death, two lords of Xibalba. This underworld is governed by twelve Lords that go in pairs. By their names and by their functions they are entirely dedicated to killing people and making them suffer. The six pairs are One and Seven Death; Scab Stripper and Blood Gatherer; Demon of Pus and Demon of Jaundice; Bone Scepter and Skull Scepter; Demon of Filth and Demon of Woe; and Wing and Packstrap (who make people die in the road, meaning by sudden death). One and Seven Hunahpu go on to Xibalba, whereas One Monkey and One Artisan stay behind. The latter pair will be defeated by Hunahpu and Xbalanque later. The Lords of Xibalba send four messengers, four owls: Shooting Owl, One-Legged Owl, Macaw Owl and Skull Owl. One and Seven Hunahpu accept to follow them. They are submitted to extreme tests, when they arrive, in the Dark House, Rattling House, Jaguar House, Bat House, Razor House. They had received a lit up cigar and torch and they were supposed to bring them back at the end in the same original state they had received them, which of course they could not do. So they were sacrificed and buried. One Hunahpu’s head is hanged in a tree along the road. Then we have the story of Blood Moon, a maiden whose father is Blood Gatherer. She gets pregnant from the skull/head of One Hunahpu by just talking to it. Her father who is connected to the Lords of Xibalba wants to know the father. She refuses to tell. She is sent to sacrifice by her father. The Military Keepers of the Mat have to do the sacrifice, but Blood Moon reveals the identity of the father to them. So they cheat and she finds refuge with the grandmother of One Monkey and One Artisan. Blood Moon explains her situation to the woman who is now her grandmother-in-law. After a first refusal, she accepts the grandchildren who are Hunahpu and Xbalanque. These get into some rivalry with their brothers, One Monkey and One Artisan. The two older ones climb in a tree but can’t get down. The two younger ones tell them to let the tail of their loincloth hand behind and they are turned into monkeys and they skip away in the forest. The mother-in-law asks the younger ones to call the older ones back by playing the song Hunahpu Monkey. They come back three times but the grandmother laughs each time. They try a fourth time to call them back but they do not come back. They became animals. Hunahpu and Xbalanque, while trying to cultivate a garden unsuccessfully, capture and torture a rat who tell them they have to recuperate what belongs to their father One Hunahpu. And that is the last leg of this binary story. Their descent to Xibalba and their vengeance. Having learned from their predecessors the tricks of the Lords of Xibalba, they can respond, mostly with magic, to the various houses Their grandmother sends them a message via a louse that is swallowed by a toad that is swallowed by a snake and that is swallowed by a falcon who delivers those it has swallowed to the two boys who can thus get the message. This quaternary pattern is emphasized by the swallowing process and then by the delivering spitting out or vomiting. Before leaving, they plant two ears of corn in the middle of the grandmother’s house for them to dry to show their death in due time. They cross the two rivers Pus River and Blood River on their blowguns. They came to the crossroads of the four roads, Black Road, White Road, Red Road, Green Road. There they summoned a mosquito spy who went first to bite the people he met there in order to make the Lords of Xibalba who were there speak their names. The first two people were wooden manikins and they did not respond, but then the twelve Lords responded to the bites and from one to the last they reveal their names. So when the boys meet them they can greet them by names, the twelve of them. They refuse to sit on the cooking stone slab presented as a bench. Then they defeat every house they enter. Dark House first where they accept to deliver, after letting themselves be defeated in the ballgame, four bowls full of red petals, white petals, yellow petals, and whole flowers before the end of the night. Then Razor House where they pacify all the knives and call for the ants which get into One and Seven Death’s garden and steal the petals and the flowers they deliver in four bowls as requested. In Cold House, they simply shut the cold out and survive. In Jaguar House they pacify the jaguars by giving them a pile of bones. In the Midst of the Fire, in a house of fire, they are only toasted and simmered, not burned. Inside Bat House they sleep in their blowguns. Hunahpu though sticks his head out to see if dawn is coming and a bat snapped his head off. Xbalanque then summons all the animals and ask them to bring their food. They bring rotten wood, leaves, stones, earth, and then unspecified food till the last one brought by the coati: a squash that becomes the simulated head of Hunahpu with brains provided by the Heart of Sky, Hurricane. To finish the simulated head a possum makes four streaks that make the early dawn red and blue. In the ball game then the rabbit is supposed to lure the Xibalbans away after Hunahpu’s real head is kicked into the game as if it were a ball that, after two rebounds, ends up among the ball bags. The rabbit runs away after the ball suppposedly, the Xibalbans run after him and Hunahpu can recuperate his real head. The squash becomes the ball and the game can start again and they make equal plays on both sides. But two knowers are called in, Xulu and Pecam who describes the death of the two brothers in an oven. The two brothers walk hand in hand into the oven and die there together. Their bones are ground and spilled in the river. “They just sank to the bottom of the water. They became handsome boys; they looked just the same as before when they reappeared.” (p. 132) And yet on the fifth day they reappear. Seen in the river as two catfish first, then they become two vagabonds dressed in rags. They dance, the Dance of the Poorwill, the Dance of the Weasel and Armadillos, Swallowing Swords and Walking on Stilts, performing miracles. They mutually sacrifice themselves one for the other, and yet get back to life. The Lords of Xibalba invite them and ask them to perform a show for them. To entertain the Lords, the two vagabonds sacrifice a dog that comes back to life after dying. They set fire to the home of the lord, with all the Lords inside. They are not burned and the house is reconstructed. Then they perform a human sacrifice, hold up the human heart and then bring the person back to life. Then Xbalanque sacrifices Hunahpu. Legs and arms are cut off. The head is decapitated. The heart is dug out and presented in a leaf to the Xibalbans. Xbalanque dances and orders his brother to come back to life and he does. That’s when the trap works. One and Seven Death ask them to sacrifice them both. Which they do but this time the two Lords do not come back to life. Then all the Lords submit and accept their defeat. And the two vagabonds reveal their names, Hunahpu and Xbalanque. They reveal their fathers’ names, One Hunahpu, killed by the Xibalbans who then lose their greatness and brilliance. During that time the ears of green corn they left in their grandmother’s house dried up when they died in the oven but then the corn plants grew again. “Then the ears were deified by their grandmother, and she gave them names: Middle of the House, Middle of the Harvest, Living Ears of Green Corn, and Bed of Earth.” (p. 139) Note the binary quartet. That’s the mention of a Maize God who is in fact associated to the resurrected father of the two brothers, a father who is one but as a member of a pair since he is One Hunahpu and is associated to Seven Hunahpu. This One-Seven pair that appears too in One and Seven Death, is mysterious, except that 1 + 7 = 8, bringing us back into the binary pattern 2-4-8. But this final renascence is concluded by a last miracle: “And then the Four Hundred Boys climbed up, the ones who were killed by Zipacna.” (p. 142) We have to note that this 400 is the only mention of the vigesimal counting base of the Mayas in the form of 20 x 20 = 400. The writing of numbers by the Mayas would clearly show this complexity. So in a way we have to consider the resurrection of the 400 Boys is the institution of Mayan mathematics which is also the basis of the Mayan Calendar. Note here the second figure of this calendar, 13, has never appeared in this story. The closest was the set of twelve lords in Xibalba emphasized when the two brothers met the Lords . . . [FULL REVIEW ON AMAZON)

  22. 5 out of 5

    Basel

    Ever since humans developed language, no matter what region from Earth they are from, they told stories. They told stories about the sky, the stars, what’s above, what’s below, what’s near them, what’s beyond them, what’s around them and tried their best, generation after generation, narrator after narrator, to preserve these stories. Even now, with all of our modern technology, we try to put what we know into stories. We speak, for instance, of a chaotic universe’s rapid expansion from the infi Ever since humans developed language, no matter what region from Earth they are from, they told stories. They told stories about the sky, the stars, what’s above, what’s below, what’s near them, what’s beyond them, what’s around them and tried their best, generation after generation, narrator after narrator, to preserve these stories. Even now, with all of our modern technology, we try to put what we know into stories. We speak, for instance, of a chaotic universe’s rapid expansion from the infinitely small to the infinitely grand, and how the giant explosions and starts, billions of years later, are connected to us. They made us star stuff reading these words. We’ve always yearned to understand the world in order to understand ourselves. This right here is the story of the K’iche people, the Maya people who ended up living in the highlands of what we call now Guatemala. The Popol Vuh translates to, more or less, “the Book of The Community” from the K’iche language. It is the story of the early universe and its cosmogony, then we are meant to be hearers of a sacred narrative that traces the lineage of the K’iche people from the early universe to the foundation of the modern kingdom. Such sacred narrative was carried out through oral tradition, passed down generation by generation. However, out of fear of losing such sacred history, the Popol Vuh was written down around the middle of the 16th century out of fear from the purges of the Spanish conquistadores. How many stories were lost and histories erased! You see, the Popol Vuh as we read it isn’t just a story of the K’iche universe, it is a sacred embodiment of the K’iche soul. The words hear as we speak them evoke the spirit K’iche. The Spanish translation I read tried its best to preserve the original meter and rhythm of the original text, but I can see now I have I glimpse that was known to me of a civilization that was almost erased. How many stories are there on Earth? How many do we know? It was not an easy read for me as I have much to learn and more stories to learn about the Mesoamerican region, but that gives me more inspiration to learn and to read more, to know more stories! Your stories and those of the people around aren’t the only ones on Earth. So, if you ever want to learn more not only about the Mayas, but also human history in general, don’t forget to read such stories. This story has no known writer but its people.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Michael Bazzett

    I'll simply say that I did the best I could & I truly hope you enjoy it, that it serves as a gateway. I will add, however, that I think it imperative that we, as contemporary readers, begin connecting/reconnecting with indigenous stories, stories that arose from a profound connection between people & the land that held them for hundreds of generations. We need these stories. We need art & the imagination it feeds. Our impoverished relationship with the world & each other stems from our inability, I'll simply say that I did the best I could & I truly hope you enjoy it, that it serves as a gateway. I will add, however, that I think it imperative that we, as contemporary readers, begin connecting/reconnecting with indigenous stories, stories that arose from a profound connection between people & the land that held them for hundreds of generations. We need these stories. We need art & the imagination it feeds. Our impoverished relationship with the world & each other stems from our inability, quite literally, to imagine it otherwise. Stories such as the Popol Vuh help point the way. Calling things what they are matters. Knowing that the world moves in cycles & that we exist in a river of time matters. Understanding that being fully human is a state that can be achieved, yet also lost, matters. Realizing that the smallest viable unit of humanity is not the individual, but the relationships between and among people - this, too, matters.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Cristina López

    Are uxe‘ ojer tzij waral K‘iche‘ ub‘i‘. Waral xchiqatz‘ib‘aj wi xchiqatikib‘a‘ wi ojer tzij, utikarib‘al uxe‘nab‘al puch rnojel xb‘an pa tinamit K‘iche‘ ramaq‘ K‘iche‘ winaq. "This is the root of the ancient word of this place called Quiché. Here we shall write, we shall plant the ancient word, the origin the beginning of all what has been done in the Quiché Nation country of the Quiché people." Are uxe‘ ojer tzij waral K‘iche‘ ub‘i‘. Waral xchiqatz‘ib‘aj wi xchiqatikib‘a‘ wi ojer tzij, utikarib‘al uxe‘nab‘al puch rnojel xb‘an pa tinamit K‘iche‘ ramaq‘ K‘iche‘ winaq. "This is the root of the ancient word of this place called Quiché. Here we shall write, we shall plant the ancient word, the origin the beginning of all what has been done in the Quiché Nation country of the Quiché people."

  25. 5 out of 5

    Glauber Ribeiro

    I had no idea this existed. A kick-butt pre Colombian creation myth in glorious, deep, and sometimes silly verse, with an amazing origin story, itself. An ode to flute players and soccer players. It stands well with the better known classics like Genesis and Gilgamesh. A must read.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Albert

    Both biblical and atmospheric verse in a great creation/origin story. I now get the references to Xibalba in Aronofsky's underappreciated film "The Fountain". Both biblical and atmospheric verse in a great creation/origin story. I now get the references to Xibalba in Aronofsky's underappreciated film "The Fountain".

  27. 5 out of 5

    Reece Carter

    This book is based on an oral creation story of the Maya that was later transcribed, eventually translated into prose, and has now been reorganized into verse. As creation stories go, this was quite an interesting one and a pleasure to read. It touches on various themes of Maya ontology, culture, and religion. This translation by Michael Bazzett was especially nice because of the Reader's Companion and Introduction which provide context to the work. One of the more interesting facets of this poe This book is based on an oral creation story of the Maya that was later transcribed, eventually translated into prose, and has now been reorganized into verse. As creation stories go, this was quite an interesting one and a pleasure to read. It touches on various themes of Maya ontology, culture, and religion. This translation by Michael Bazzett was especially nice because of the Reader's Companion and Introduction which provide context to the work. One of the more interesting facets of this poem is the way that the forward progression of the story relies on regression in time. We start with the Framer and Shaper trying to populate the world and their reaction to a god-pretender called Seven Macaw. He is arrogant and must be done away with for the creation to continue. Seemingly out of nowhere, Hunahpu and Xbalanque emerge onto the scene to solve this problem. The story then folds in on itself, telling the birth story of Hunahpu and Xbalanque. After describing their trials in the underworld and how they became the moon and sun, the story then folds back again to a time just before this where the Framer and Shaper finally make humans. Finally, as a modern reader, we must unfold the initial fold that was made, transporting us back to the time of creation. This 4-fold structure is interesting from a narrative standpoint, but also echoes the Maya conception of the universe as 4-cornered. So as Bazzett notes, it is as though time, the world, and the page condense into one, 4-sided object, in a magnificent act of metaphor. The way the Popol Vuh address mortality is unique and is quite out of sync with modern Western notions of the concept. Contrary to the topsy-turvy structure of the poem, mortality is envisioned as a line. Vitality exists to perpetuate itself and the great imperative is that the line must continue. As One Hunahpu and Seven Hunahpu (the fathers of Hunahpu and Xbalanque) are confronted with death, they store their life force symbolically in the rubber ball used to awaken the lords of the underworld, hiding it for safekeeping. As their sons are faced with death, they provide instructions for how their bodies should be handled so as to regenerate themselves after they are killed. From an ethical perspective, it seems that the imperative is Life Itself, rather than individual lives. Finally, I greatly enjoyed the use of duality and echo that is present throughout. The gods that generate the world are described by a series of pairs: "Framer and Shaper", "She who has borne children and He who has planted them", "Soverign and Quetzal Serpent". Interestingly, the dualities are multiplied as the descriptions are distinct from one another, but are describing the same entity. It is in this sense that "duality" maybe isn't the best term because it implies simply two. Maybe "quadratic" is a better word. Each term is a consequence of the mirroring of previous terms. So in what is really a multiplicity (many names), there is a mirror, a doubling (this and this). A similar trend is seen in the story of Hunahpu and Xbalanque who essential repeat the trial of their fathers through the underworld. However, out of the echo, the story multiplies and pushes the narrative along. It is a fascinating, albeit abstract, look at how the Self is not just one thing and neither are the consequences of our actions. Overall, this was a fairly quick read due to it's poetic structure and modern diction. I would highly recommend for anyone who enjoys religion or is interested in learning more about early American culture.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jena

    How do you rate an entire culture's mythology? You can't, really, which is why I've left off a rating. This is my first time reading this work. In the Popol Vuh we follow the creation of the universe and some of the adventures of the hero twins. We also spend a great deal of time in Xibalba, along with the death gods who live there. On a personal note, anything involving death gods or an underworld I'm extremely invested in, so I really enjoyed those parts of the story in particular. I read Micha How do you rate an entire culture's mythology? You can't, really, which is why I've left off a rating. This is my first time reading this work. In the Popol Vuh we follow the creation of the universe and some of the adventures of the hero twins. We also spend a great deal of time in Xibalba, along with the death gods who live there. On a personal note, anything involving death gods or an underworld I'm extremely invested in, so I really enjoyed those parts of the story in particular. I read Michael Bazzett translation. This translation presents the story in a more poetic format - while it doesn't rhyme, the structure of the story is broken out in a very poetic way and the translation is more focused on evoking the same feelings as the original vs being a direct one-to-one translation. This translation only includes the mythology portion of the Popol Vuh, not the chronicle at the end. Overall I found this version to be really readable. The format makes it easy to scan and the language is simple, but descriptive. I do have some minor nitpicks, namely that this edition tries to make connections to Christianity. This is primarily done in the intro/outro of the book, where the translator draws parallels between some of the events in the Popol Vuh and the bible. However, I noticed it in the actual translation as well - namely, the word "hell" appears in the text, which I'm gonna assume was one of those creative translation choices and not a literal translation as it's referencing Xibalba. I get the intent here....but no. It's already frustrating enough that Christianity is inescapable in the west and every other world religion and mythology has to be compared to it, but it's also tasteless considering that so much Mayan folklore was consciously destroyed by missionaries. That just left a sour taste in my mouth having to read about how this religion is similar to Christianity. Can we just look at a non-Judeo-Christian mythology and NOT have to forcibly point out parallels to Christian mythology? Can we just do that? Thanks.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Eric Norris

    This is an amazing little book. I would say that it should be added to every survey class on world literature—but then nobody would read it. Read it. It is an absolutely riveting account of the creation of the world. It's as if you took primordial elements from a dozen other core myths from cultures across the planet—cataclysmic floods, dismembered heroes made whole, talking animals, virgin births, fiery pits—and blended them together into some kind of indigenous tapestry: unique and totally new. This is an amazing little book. I would say that it should be added to every survey class on world literature—but then nobody would read it. Read it. It is an absolutely riveting account of the creation of the world. It's as if you took primordial elements from a dozen other core myths from cultures across the planet—cataclysmic floods, dismembered heroes made whole, talking animals, virgin births, fiery pits—and blended them together into some kind of indigenous tapestry: unique and totally new. Calabash heads, strange forms of dentistry, vengeful pottery, helpful ant colonies filling bowls with flower petals, you never know what you are likely to encounter next. The story principally revolves around the adventures of ingenious twin boys, Hunahpu and Xbalanque, their deadly blowguns, their athletic skill on the Mayan ballcourt, their visit to Hell and the defeat of the gods of Death, and the final transfiguration of the twins into the Sun and Moon, with 400 attendant stars. Although the book forms a full and complete circle, when I was finished I found myself wanting to read more by this author, and this civilization. But there really isn't much more left. Only ruined ballcourts and fugitive fragments of stories in carvings. And a wary look in the eyes of their creators' descendants. And the Sun and the Moon and the stars.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Therese Broderick

    Oral creation myth, hero/trickster tale, community Council Book, illustrated epic, foundation story of the K'iche' (Maya) people -- the famed Popol Vuh poem is as integral to the history of the Western Hemisphere as the Homeric poems are to the history of Western civilization. By turns eloquent and crude, entertaining and sacramental, cartoonish and horrifically violent, Logos and fable, this English translation by Michael Bazzett is delivered in a contemporary and lively diction. Short "chapter Oral creation myth, hero/trickster tale, community Council Book, illustrated epic, foundation story of the K'iche' (Maya) people -- the famed Popol Vuh poem is as integral to the history of the Western Hemisphere as the Homeric poems are to the history of Western civilization. By turns eloquent and crude, entertaining and sacramental, cartoonish and horrifically violent, Logos and fable, this English translation by Michael Bazzett is delivered in a contemporary and lively diction. Short "chapters" facilitate easy reading of the narrated episodes as well as rhythmic reading-aloud of the formulaic verse. Find out how the rear-ends of toads got their peculiar shape. And don't miss the tale of the traveling (pretender) dentists!

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