Mircea Eliade "From Primitives to Zen": THE MAYA-QUICHÉ GENESIS


('Popol Vuh,' chapter 1)


The 'Popol Vuh' is the most important surviving work of Mayan literature. It was first written down after the introduction of Christianity.

Admirable is the account-so the narrative opens- admirable is the account of the time in which it came to pass that all was formed in heaven and upon earth, the quartering of their signs, their measure and alignment, and the establishment of parallels to the skies and upon the earth to the four quarters thereof, as was spoken by the Creator
and Maker, the Mother, the Father of life and of all existence, that one by whom all move and breathe, father and-sustainer of the peace of peoples, by whose wisdom was premediated the excellence of all that doth exist in the heavens, upon the earth, in lake and sea.
Lo, all was in suspense, all was calm and silent; all was motionless, all was quiet, and wide was the immensity of the skies.
Lo, the first word and the first discourse. There was not yet a man, not an animal; there were no birds nor fish nor crayfish; there was no wood, no stone, no bog, no ravine, neither vegetation nor marsh; only the sky existed.
The face of the earth was not yet to be seen; only the peaceful sea and the expanse of the heavens.
Nothing was yet formed into a body; nothing was joined to another thing; naught held itself poised; there was not a rustle, not a sound beneath the sky. There 'was naught that stood upright; there were only the quiet waters of the sea, solitary within its bounds; for as yet naught existed.
There were only immobility and silence in the darkness and in the night. Alone was the Creator, the Maker, Tepeu, the Lord, and Gucumatz, the Plumed Serpent, those who engender, those who give being, alone upon the waters like a growing light.
They are enveloped in green and azure, whence is the name Gucumatz, and their being is great wisdom. Lo, how the sky existeth, how the Heart of the Sky existeth-for such is the name of God, as He doth name Himself!
It is then that the word came to Tepeu and to Gucumatz, in the shadows and in the night, and spake with Tepeu and with Gucumatz. And they spake and consulted and meditated, and they joined their words and their counsels.
Then light came while they consulted together; and at the moment of dawn man appeared while they planned concerning the production and increase of the groves and of the climbing vines, there in the shade and in the night, through that one who is the Heart of the Sky, whose name is Hurakan.

The Lightning is the first sign of Hurakan; the second is the Streak of Lightning; the third is the Thunderbolt which striketh; and these three are the Heart of the Sky.
Then they came to Tepeu, the Gucumatz, and held counsel touching Civilized life; how seed should be formed, how light should be produced, how the sustainer and nourisher of all.
'Let it be thus done. Let the waters retire and cease to obstruct, to
the end that earth exist here, that it harden itself and show its sur. face, to the end that it be sown, and that the light of day shine in the heavens and upon the earth; for we shall receive neither glory nor honour from all that we have created and formed until human beings exist, endowed with sentience.' Thus they spoke while the earth was formed by them. It is thus, veritably, that creation took place, and the earth existed. 'Earth,' they said, and immediately it was formed.
Like a fog or a cloud was its formation into the material state, when, like great lobsters, the mountains appeared upon the waters, and in an instant there were great mountains. Only by marvelous power could have been achieved this their resolution when the mountains and the valleys instantly appeared, with groves of cypress and pine upon them.
Then was Gucumatz filled with joy. 'Thou art welcome, 0 Heart of the Sky, 0 Hurakan, 0 Streak of Lightning, 0 Thunderbolt!'
'This that we have created and shaped will have its end,' they replied.

Translation by H. B. Alexander in his Latin-American Mythology (Boston, 1920), PP. 160-2

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