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The Maya Moon Goddess

In traditional Mayan circles, the moon was considered the embodiment of a female, where the phases of the celestial body corresponded to the different stages in a woman’s life. The sources of Maya lunar mythology have evolved during more contemporary times with the Popol Vuh serving as one of the oldest texts to mention the Mayan beliefs concerning the moon. Various kinship roles regarding the moon have appeared throughout time, including the following distinctions:

The Male Counterpart

Although the moon is seen as female, she appears as a male sibling in times when celestial power is mentioned. During the 16th century, the Popol Vuh refers to the Maya Hero Twins, who represented the sun and the moon. While the primary Maya tradition states that the moon was entirely female, the Hero Twins implied that there was a male moon as well. Considered the mythical ancestors associated with Mayan royalty, the Twins have appeared in a variety of art pieces dating back between 200 and 900 AD , known as the Classic Mayan period.

The Origin of Menstruation

The moon is often seen as the wife and represents the origin of menstruation. A lunar myth that involves the concept of menstruation sees the Moon Goddess (Po) being punished by her father , the Earth God. After being swept off her feet by the Sun, she is captured and ultimately sleep together. When the twosome is discovered, they flee to avoid the wrath of Po’s irate father. However, he still destroys his daughter. It is this tale that links to the origin of menstruation as a form of punishment onto women. It is meant to represent the “evil blood” of a disobedient daughter as it colors the sea water and lakes red. The menstrual blood was stored in 13 jars that were used to first create creatures in the world, like insects and snakes. Poison and disease came as a result. Some of the jars contained medicinal plants, while the 13th jar was called the ‘lunar’ jar, and when it was opened , the Moon was reborn from it.

The Grandmother Role

It is commonly thought that the Moon was the wife of the Sun, but in the case of the Mayas residing in Chiapas and the Northwestern Highlands of Guatemala, she represented his mother or grandmother. She served as a protector when the Sun was young, as his elder siblings often harassed him. In this particular myth, the lunar rabbit emerges, as either one of his elder relatives that was turned into wild animals and caught by his mother, or as a creature that causes a boom in wild vegetation throughout the cornfield of the Sun. In one variation, Sun catches the rabbit and brings it to his mother, which is then placed into the sky. In a Northwestern Guatemala variation, the rabbit in the moon is sometimes switched with the deer in the moon.