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Mayan Mythology: Gods and Goddesses

With deities that look like serpents with feathers and others depicting everyday occurrences in life, the Mayans worshipped gods and goddesses that often took the shape of animals. In this article, you will encounter some with reptilian features, as well as some that take on a more gruesome appearance.

Kukulkan

In Mayan mythology, the name of the god Kukulkan (also known as K’uk’ulkan or K’uk’ul-chon) translates into the ‘feathered serpent’ , often compared to what Quetzalcoatl was to the Aztecs. In many circles, the Mayans believed that Kukulkan was responsible of creating three versions of mankind alongside other Creators. Interestingly, myths state that the first two attempts ending in failure.

When taking a look at Mayan artifacts, the significance and placement of Kukulkan throughout historical accounts is often blurred. At times, it seems that his existence is often interchanged or mistaken for other gods and in some cases , Quetzalcoatl himself.

Bolon-Tiku

When it comes to the Underworld, it was the Nine Lords (Bolon-Tiku) who preferred to act under disguise and without any recognition. No one ever mentions his or her real names in writing. Each of the Lords was in charge of their own day within the nine-day week Mayan calendar.

Chac

Known as a benevolent god, Chac was responsible for agriculture, rain and lightning.  Always associated with life, he was the fertility god and often depicted as an old man with reptilian features. In Aztec accounts, he is linked to their god Tlaloc.

Ixtab

The Mayans worshipped a goddess of the hanged and suicide, and of the noose and the gallows. Ixtab is seen in artwork and other depictions with a rope around her neck. She is also seen as a protector of people who have committed suicide. Ixtab is sometimes connected to warriors who have died in battle, victims of sacrifice, priests, and women who lost their lives during childbirth. Myths show her gathering their souls and bringing them to an eternal place of rest. It is not uncommon to see an image of Ixtab with a partially decomposed body, closed eyes, and handing from a tree with a noose around the neck.

Huracan

Also known as Hurakan or Jurakan, the Mayans saw Huracan as the god of the storm. He also played a role during the three attempts to create mankind. Taking direction from Kulkulkan, he did a great deal of the legwork associated with bringing man to life. While the Mayans heavily personified the other Creators, Huracan was not and was mostly looked upon in the same manner as the winds or the storms themselves. If it isn’t obvious enough , his name gave birth to the word ‘hurricane.’