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Title: Representation of Deities of the Maya Manuscripts

Papers of the Peabody Museum of American Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University, Vol. 4, No. 1

Author: Paul Schellhas

Release Date: March 18, 2006 [eBook #18013]

Language: English

Character set encoding: UTF-8



E-text prepared by Julia Miller
and the Project Gutenberg Online Distributed Proofreading Team


Transcriber’s Note

The original publication did not include a table of contents. The table of contents found in this HTML version of the book was generated from the contents of the book.

A number of typographical errors have been maintained in the current version of this book. They are marked and the corrected text is shown in the popup. A list of these errors is found at the end of this book.







Vol. IV.—No. 1









Miss Selma Wesselhoeft and
Miss A. M. Parker

Translation revised by the Author

Cambridge, Mass.
Published by the Museum
December, 1904.



Preface 5
The Material of the Manuscripts. 7
I. Representations of Gods. 10
II. Mythological Animals. 41
Summary. 46



In order to make more widely known and more easily accessible to American students the results of important researches on the Maya hieroglyphs, printed in the German language, the Peabody Museum Committee on Central American Research proposes to publish translations of certain papers which are not too lengthy or too extensively illustrated. The present paper by one of the most distinguished scholars in this field is the first of the series.

F. W. Putnam.

Harvard University
September, 1904.




Since the first edition of this pamphlet appeared in the year 1897, investigation in this department of science has made such marked progress, notwithstanding the slight amount of material, that a revision has now become desirable. It can be readily understood, that a new science, an investigation on virgin soil, such as the Maya study is, makes more rapid progress and develops more quickly than one pertaining to some old, much explored territory.

In addition to numerous separate treatises, special mention should be made of Ernst Förstemann’s commentaries on the three Maya manuscripts (Kommentar zur Mayahandschrift der Königlichen öffentlichen Bibliothek zu Dresden, Dresden 1901, Kommentar zur Madrider Mayahandschrift, Danzig 1902, and Kommentar zur Pariser Mayahandschrift, Danzig 1903) which constitute a summary of the entire results of investigation in this field up to the present time.

The proposal made in the first edition of this pamphlet, that the Maya deities be designated by letters of the alphabet, has been very generally adopted by Americanists, especially by those in the United States of America. This circumstance, in particular, has seemed to make it desirable to prepare for publication a new edition, improved to accord with the present state of the science.

Warmest thanks are above all due to Mr. Bowditch, of Boston, who in the most disinterested manner, for the good of science, has made possible the publication of this new edition.

P. Schellhas.

January, 1904.




The three manuscripts which we possess of the ancient Maya peoples of Central America, the Dresden (Dr.), the Madrid (Tro.-Cort.) and the Paris (Per.) manuscripts, all contain a series of pictorial representations of human figures, which, beyond question, should be regarded as figures of gods. Together with these are a number of animal figures, some with human bodies, dress and armor, which likewise have a mythologic significance.

The contents of the three manuscripts, which undoubtedly pertain to the calendar system and to the computation of time in their relation to the Maya pantheon and to certain religious and domestic functions, admit of the conclusion, that these figures of gods embody the essential part of the religious conceptions of the Maya peoples in a tolerably complete form. For here we have the entire ritual year, the whole chronology with its mythological relations and all accessories. In addition to this, essentially the same figures recur in all three manuscripts. Their number is not especially large. There are about fifteen figures of gods in human form and about half as many in animal form. At first we were inclined to believe that further researches would considerably increase the number of deities, but this assumption was incorrect. After years of study of the subject and repeated examination of the results of research, it may be regarded as positively proved, that the number of deities represented in the Maya manuscripts does not exceed substantially the limits mentioned above. The principal deities are determined beyond question.

The way in which this was accomplished is strikingly simple. It amounts essentially to that which in ordinary life we call “memory of persons” and follows almost naturally from a careful study of the manuscripts. For, by frequently looking attentively at the representations, one learns by degrees to recog[8]nize promptly similar and familiar figures of gods, by the characteristic impression they make as a whole, or by certain details, even when the pictures are partly obliterated or exhibit variations, and the same is true of the accompanying hieroglyphs. A purely inductive, natural science-method has thus been followed, and hence this pamphlet is devoted simply to descriptions and to the amassing of material. These figures have been taken separately out of the manuscripts alone, identified and described with the studious avoidance of all unreliable, misleading accounts and of all presumptive analogies with supposedly allied mythologies.

Whatever cannot be derived from the manuscripts themselves has been wholly ignored. Hypotheses and deductions have been avoided as far as possible. Only where the interpretation, or the resemblance and the relations to kindred mythologic domains were obvious, and where the accounts agreed beyond question, has notice been taken of the fact so that the imposed limitations of this work should not result in one-sidedness.

Since, for the most part, the accounts of Spanish authors regarding the mythology of the Mayas correspond only slightly or not at all with these figures of gods, and all other conjectures respecting their significance are very dubious, the alphabetic designation of the deities, which was tentatively introduced in the first edition of this work, has been preserved. This designation has proved to be practical. For the plate at the end of this pamphlet, examples as characteristic as possible of the individual figures of gods have been selected from the manuscripts.

It is a well known fact that we possess no definite knowledge either of the time of the composition or of the local origin of the Maya manuscripts. The objection might, therefore, be raised that it is a hazardous proceeding to treat the material derived from these three manuscripts in common, as if it were homogeneous. But these researches themselves have proved beyond a doubt, that the mythologic import of the manuscripts belongs to one and the same sphere of thought. Essentially the same deities and the same mythologic ideas are, without question, to be found in all the manuscripts.

The material of the inscriptions has been set entirely at one[9] side, because the style of representation contained in them, both of the mythologic forms and of the hieroglyphs, renders comparison exceedingly difficult. In this field especial credit is due to Förstemann and Seler, for the work they have done in furtherance of interpretation, and mention should not be omitted of the generosity with which the well known promoter of Americanist investigations, the Duke of Loubat, has presented to the Berlin Museum of Ethnology costly originals of reliefs and inscriptions for direct study. The representations on the reliefs from the Maya region, it is true, give evidence of dealing with kindred mythologic conceptions. Figures and hieroglyphs of gods, made familiar by the manuscripts, can also be found here and there. But on the whole so little appears in support of instituting a comparison with the manuscripts, that it seems expedient to leave the inscriptions for independent and special study.



A. The Death-God.

Figures 1 to 6

God A is represented as a figure with an exposed, bony spine, truncated nose and grinning teeth.10-1 It is plainly to be seen that the head of this god represents a skull and that the spine is that of a skeleton. The pictures of the death-god are so characteristic in the Maya manuscripts that the deity is always easily recognized. He is almost always distinguished by the skeleton face and the bony spine. Several times in the Dresden manuscript the death-god is pictured with large black spots on his body and in Dr. 19b a woman with closed eyes, whose body also displays the black spots, is sitting opposite the god. While the Aztecs had a male and a female death-deity, in the Maya manuscripts we find the death-deity only once represented as feminine, namely on p. 9c of the Dresden manuscript. Moreover the Dresden manuscript contains several different types of the death-god, having invariably the fleshless skull and (with the exception of Dr. 9c) the visible vertebrae of the spine. Several times (Dr. 12b and 13b) he is represented apparently with distended abdomen. A distinguishing article of his costume is the stiff feather collar, which is worn only by this god, his companion, the war-god F, and by his animal symbol, the owl, which will both be discussed farther on. His head ornament varies in the Dresden Codex; in the first portion of the[11] manuscript, relating in part to pregnancy and child-birth (see the pictures of women on p. 16, et seq.), he wears on his head several times a figure occurring very frequently just in this part of the Dresden Codex and apparently representing a snail (compare Dr. 12b and 13b), which among the Aztecs is likewise a symbol of parturition. In view of these variations in the pictures of the Dresden Codex, it is very striking that in the Codex Tro.-Cortesianus, there is only one invariable type of the death-god.

A distinguishing ornament of the death-god consists of globular bells or rattles, which he wears on his hands and feet, on his collar and as a head ornament. As can be distinctly seen in Dr. 11a, they are fastened with bands wound around the forearm and around the leg; in Dr. 15c these bells are black.

Among the symbols of the death-god a cross of two bones should be mentioned, which is also found in the Mexican manuscripts. This cross of bones seems to occur once among the written characters as a hieroglyph and then in combination with a number: Tro. 10.* The figure Death-god symbol is also a frequent symbol of the death-god. Its significance is still uncertain, but it also occurs among the hieroglyphs as a death-sign and as a sign for the day Cimi (death).

The hieroglyphs of the death-god have been positively determined (see Figs. 1 to 4). Figs. 1 and 2 are the forms of the Dresden manuscript and Figs. 3 and 4 are those of the Madrid manuscript. God A is almost always distinguished by two hieroglyphs, namely Figs. 1 and 2 or 3 and 4. Moreover the hieroglyphs are always the same, have scarcely any variants. Even in Dr. 9c, where the deity is represented as feminine, there are no variations which might denote the change of sex. The hieroglyphs consist chiefly of the head of a corpse with closed eyes, and of a skull. The design in front of the skull in Figs. 2 and 4 and under it in Fig. 3 is a sacrificial knife of flint, which was used in slaying the sacrifices, and is also frequently pictured in the Aztec manuscripts. The dots under Fig. 1 are probably intended to represent blood.

The death-god is represented with extraordinary frequency in all the Maya manuscripts. Not only does the figure of the[12] god itself occur, but his attributes are found in many places where his picture is missing. Death evidently had an important significance in the mythologic conceptions of the Mayas. It is connected with sacrifice, especially with human sacrifices performed in connection with the captive enemy. Just as we find a personification of death in the manuscripts of the Mayas, we also find it in the picture-writings of the ancient Mexicans, often surprisingly like the pictures of the Maya codices. The Aztec death-god and his myth are known through the accounts of Spanish writers; regarding the death-god of the Mayas we have less accurate information. Some mention occurs in Landa’s Relacion de las cosas de Yucatan, §XXIII, but unfortunately nothing is said of the manner of representing the death-god. He seems to be related to the Aztec Mictlantecutli, of whom Sahagun, Appendix to Book III, “De los que iban al infierno y de sus obsequias,” treats as the god of the dead and of the underworld, Mictlan. When the representations of the latter, for example in the Codex Borgia, and in the Codex Vaticanus No. 3773, are compared with those of the Maya manuscripts, there can be hardly a doubt of the correspondence of the two god figures. In the Codex Borgia, p. 37, he is represented once with the same characteristic head ornament, which the death-god usually wears in the Maya manuscripts, and in the Codex Fejervary, p. 8, the death-god wears a kind of breeches on which cross-bones are depicted, exactly as in Dr. 9 (bottom).

Bishop Landa informs us that the Mayas “had great and immoderate dread of death.” This explains the frequency of the representations of the death-god, from whom, as Landa states, “all evil and especially death” emanated. Among the Aztecs we find a male and a female death-deity, Mictlantecutli and Mictlancihuatl. They were the rulers of the realm of the dead, Mictlan, which, according to the Aztec conception, lay in the north; hence the death-god was at the same time the god of the north.

It agrees with the calendric and astronomic character of the Maya deities in the manuscripts, that a number of the figures of the gods are used in connection with specified cardinal points. Since, according to the Aztec conception, the death-god was the god of the north, we might expect that in the Maya manu[13]scripts also, the death-god would be always considered as the deity of the north. Nevertheless this happens only once, namely in the picture at the end of Codex Cort., pp. 41 and 42. Elsewhere, on the other hand, this god is connected with other cardinal points, thus Dr. 14a with the west or east (the hieroglyph is illegible, but it can be only west or east), and in Dr. 27c with the west. It is interesting to note that once, however, in a series of cardinal points, the hieroglyph of the death-god connected with the numeral 10 stands just in the place of the sign of the north; this is on Tro. 24* (bottom).

In regard to the name of the death-god in the Maya language, Landa tells us that the wicked after death were banished to an underworld, the name of which was “Mitnal”, a word which is defined as “Hell” in the Maya lexicon of Pio Perez and which has a striking resemblance to Mictlan, the Aztec name for the lower regions. The death-god Hunhau reigned in this underworld. According to other accounts (Hernandez), however, the death-god is called Ahpuch. These names can in no wise serve as aids to the explanation of the hieroglyphs of the death-god, since they have no etymologic connection with death or the heads of corpses and skulls, which form the main parts of the hieroglyph. Furthermore, the hieroglyphs of the gods certainly have a purely ideographic significance as already mentioned above, so that any relation between the names of the deities and their hieroglyphs cannot exist from the very nature of the case.

The day of the death-god is the day Cimi, death. The day-sign Cimi corresponds almost perfectly with the heads of corpses contained in the hieroglyphs of the death-god.

A hieroglyphic sign, which relates to death and the death-deity and occurs very frequently, is the sign Fig. 5, which is probably to be regarded as the ideogram of the owl. It represents the head of an owl, while the figure in front of it signifies the owl’s ear and the one below, its teeth, as distinguishing marks of a bird of prey furnished with ears and a powerful beak. The head of the owl appears on a human body several times in the Dresden manuscript as a substitute for the death-deity, thus Dr. 18c, 19c, 20a and 20c and in other places, and the hiero[14]glyphic group (Fig. 5) is almost a regular attendant hieroglyph of the death-god.

A series of other figures of the Maya mythology is connected with the death-god. This is evident from the fact that his hieroglyphs or his symbols occur with certain other figures, which are thus brought into connection with death and the death-deity.

These figures are as follows:

1. His companion, god F, the god of war, of human sacrifice and of violent death in battle, apparently a counterpart of the Aztec Xipe, who will be discussed farther on.

2. The moan bird. See beyond under Mythological Animals, No. 1.

3. The dog. See the same, No. 3.

4. A human figure, possibly representing the priest of the death-god (see Dr. 28, centre, Dr. 5b and 9a). The last figure is a little doubtful. It is blindfolded and thus recalls the Aztec deity of frost and sin, Itztlacoliuhqui. A similar form with eyes bound occurs only once again in the Maya manuscripts, namely Dr. 50 (centre). That this figure is related to the death-god is proved by the fact that on Dr. 9a it wears the Cimi-sign on the middle piece of the chain around its neck. Furthermore it should be emphasized that the Aztec sin-god, Itztlacoliuhqui, likewise appears with symbols of death.

5. An isolated figure, Dr. 50a (the sitting figure at the right). This wears the skull as head ornament, which is represented in exactly the same way as in the Aztec manuscripts (see Fig. 6).

6. Another isolated figure is twice represented combined with the death-god in Dr. 22c. This picture is so effaced that it is impossible to tell what it means. The hieroglyph represents a variant of the death’s-head, Cimi. It seems to signify an ape, which also in the pictures of the Mexican codices was sometimes used in relation to the death-god.

The symbols of the death-god are also found with the figure without a head on Dr. 2 (45)a, clearly the picture of a beheaded prisoner. Death symbols occur, too, with the curious picture of a hanged woman on Dr. 53b, a picture which is interesting from the fact that it recalls vividly a communication of Bishop[15] Landa. Landa tells us, the Mayas believed that whoever hanged himself did not go to the underworld, but to “paradise,” and as a result of this belief, suicide by hanging was very common and was chosen on the slightest pretext. Such suicides were received in paradise by the goddess of the hanged, Ixtab. Ix is the feminine prefix; tab, taab, tabil mean, according to Perez’ Lexicon of the Maya Language, “cuerda destinada para algun uso exclusivo”. The name of this strange goddess is, therefore, the “Goddess of the Halter” or, as Landa says, “The Goddess of the Gallows”. Now compare Dr. 53. On the upper half of the page is the death-god represented with hand raised threateningly, on the lower half is seen the form of a woman suspended by a rope placed around her neck. The closed eye, the open mouth and the convulsively outspread fingers, show that she is dead, in fact, strangled. It is, in all probability, the goddess of the gallows and halter, Ixtab, the patroness of the hanged, who is pictured here in company with the death-god; or else it is a victim of this goddess, and page 53 of the manuscript very probably refers, therefore (even though the two halves do not belong directly together), to the mythologic conceptions of death and the lower regions to which Landa alludes.

7. Lastly the owl is to be mentioned as belonging to the death-god, which, strange to say, is represented nowhere in the pictures realistically and so that it can be recognized, although other mythologic animals, as the dog or the moan bird, occur plainly as animals in the pictures. On the other hand, the owl’s head appears on a human body in the Dresden manuscript as a substitute for the death-deity itself, for example on Dr. 18c, 19c, 20a and 20c and elsewhere, and forms a regular attendant hieroglyph of the death-god in the group of three signs already mentioned (Fig. 5).

Among the antiquities from the Maya region of Central America, there are many objects and representations, which have reference to the cultus of the death-god, and show resemblances to the pictures of the manuscripts. The death-god also plays a role, even today, in the popular superstitions of the natives of Yucatan, as a kind of spectre that prowls around the houses of the sick. His name is Yum Cimil, the lord of death.[16]

B. The God With the Large Nose and Lolling Tongue.

Figures 7 to 10

The deity, represented most frequently in all the manuscripts, is a figure with a long, proboscis-like, pendent nose and a tongue (or teeth, fangs) hanging out in front and at the sides of the mouth, also with a characteristic head ornament resembling a knotted bow and with a peculiar rim to the eye. Fig. 7 is the hieroglyph of this deity. In Codex Tro.-Cortesianus it usually has the form of Fig. 8.

God B is evidently one of the most important of the Maya pantheon. He must be a universal deity, to whom the most varied elements, natural phenomena and activities are subject. He is represented with different attributes and symbols of power, with torches in his hands as symbols of fire, sitting in the water and on the water, standing in the rain, riding in a canoe, enthroned on the clouds of heaven and on the cross-shaped tree of the four points of the compass, which, on account of its likeness to the Christian emblem, has many times been the subject of fantastic hypotheses. We see the god again on the Cab-sign, the symbol of the earth, with weapons, axe and spears, in his hands, planting kernels of maize, on a journey (Dr. 65b) staff in hand and a bundle on his back, and fettered (Dr. 37a) with arms bound behind his back. His entire myth seems to be recorded in the manuscripts. The great abundance of symbolism renders difficult the characterization of the deity, and it is well-nigh impossible to discover that a single mythologic idea underlies the whole. God B is quite often connected with the serpent, without exhibiting affinity with the Chicchan-god H (see p. 28). In Dr. 33b, 34b and 35b, the serpent is in the act of devouring him, or he is rising up out of the serpent’s jaws, as is plainly indicated also by the hieroglyphs, for they contain the group given in Fig. 10, which is composed of the rattle of the rattlesnake and the opened hand as a symbol of seizing and absorption. God B himself is pictured with the body of a serpent in[17] Dr. 35b and 36a (compare No. 2 of the Mythological Animals). He likewise occurs sitting on the serpent and in Dr. 66a he is twice (1st and 3d figures) pictured with a snake in his hand.

God B sits on the moan head in Dr. 38c, on a head with the Cauac-sign in Dr. 39c, 66c, and on the dog in Dr. 29a. All these pictures are meant to typify his abode in the air, above rain, storm and death-bringing clouds, from which the lightning falls. The object with the cross-bones of the death-god, on which he sits in Dr. 66c, can perhaps be explained in the same manner. As the fish belongs to god B in a symbolic sense, so the god is represented fishing in Dr. 44 (1). His face with the large nose and the tongue (or fangs) hanging out on the side in Dr. 44 (1)a (1st figure) is supposed to be a mask which the priest, representing the god, assumes during the religious ceremony.

Furthermore the following four well-known symbols of sacrificial gifts appear in connection with god B in the Dresden manuscript; a sprouting kernel of maize (or, according to Förstemann, parts of a mammal, game), a fish, a lizard and a vulture’s head, as symbols of the four elements. They seem to occur, however, in relation also to other deities and evidently are general symbols of sacrificial gifts. Thus they occur on the two companion initial pages of the Codex Tro.-Cortesianus, on which the hieroglyphs of gods C and K are repeated in rows (Tro. 36-Cort. 22. Compare Förstemann, Kommentar zur Madrider Handschrift, pp. 102, 103). God B is also connected with the four colors—yellow, red, white and black—which, according to the conception of the Mayas, correspond to the cardinal points (yellow, air; red, fire; white, water; black, earth) and the god himself is occasionally represented with a black body, for example on Dr. 29c, 31c and 69. This is expressed in the hieroglyphs by the sign, Fig. 9, which signifies black and is one of the four signs of the symbolic colors for the cardinal points.

God B is represented with all the four cardinal points, a characteristic, which he shares only with god C, god K, and, in one instance, with god F (see Tro. 29*c); he appears as ruler of all the points of the compass; north, south, east and west as well as air, fire, water and earth are subject to him.

Opinions concerning the significance of this deity are much divided. It is most probable that he is Kukulcan, a figure oc[18]curring repeatedly in the mythology of the Central American peoples and whose name, like that of the kindred deity Quetzalcoatl among the Aztecs and Gucumatz among the Quiches, means the “feathered serpent”, “the bird serpent”. Kukulcan and Gucumatz are those figures of Central American mythology, to which belong the legends of the creation of the world and of mankind. Furthermore Kukulcan is considered as the founder of civilization, as the builder of cities, as hero-god, and appears in another conception as the rain-deity, and—since the serpent has a mythologic relation to water—as serpent deity. J. Walter Fewkes, who has made this god-figure of the Maya manuscripts the subject of a monograph (A Study of Certain Figures in a Maya Codex, in American Anthropologist, Vol. VII, No. 3, Washington, 1894), also inclines to the belief that B is the god Kukulcan, whom he conceives of as a serpent-and rain-deity. This view has been accepted by Förstemann (Die Tagegötter der Mayas, Globus, Vol. 73, No. 10) and also by Cyrus Thomas (Aids to the Study of the Maya Codices, Washington, 1888). The same opinion is held also by E. P. Dieseldorff, who, a resident of Guatemala, the region of the ancient Maya civilization, has instituted excavations which have been successful in furnishing most satisfactory material for these researches (see Dieseldorff: Kukulcan, Zeitschrift für Ethnologie, 1895, p. 780). Others have considered god B as the first parent and lord of the heavens, Itzamná who has a mythologic importance analogous to that of Kukulcan. Itzamná is also held to be the god of creation and founder of civilization and accordingly seems to be not very remotely allied to the god Kukulcan. Others again, for example Brasseur de Bourbourg and Seler, have interpreted the figure of god B to represent the fourfold god of the cardinal points and rain-god Chac, a counterpart of the Aztec rain-god Tlaloc. The fact that this god-figure is so frequently connected with the serpent and the bird is strongly in favor of the correctness of the supposition, that we should see in god B a figure corresponding to the Kukulcan of tradition. Thus we see the god represented once with the body of a serpent and with a bird near by (Cort. 10b), while B’s hieroglyph appears both times in the text. God B is also pictured elsewhere repeatedly with a serpent body, thus for example on[19] Dr. 35b, 36a. On pages 4-6 of the Codex Cortesianus he is pictured six times and each time in connection with a serpent.

The accounts we have received concerning the mythology of the Maya peoples are very meagre and owing to the uncertainty respecting the origin of the Maya manuscripts, it cannot even be determined which of these accounts are applicable to the Maya manuscripts, or, indeed, whether they are applicable at all. For it is by no means positively proved that these manuscripts did not originate in regions of Maya culture, regarding which we have received no accounts at all. As our present purpose is purely that of description and determination, it remains quite unimportant which of these recorded figures of gods shall be regarded as god B.

God B is nearly allied to, but in no wise identical with, the deity with the large ornamented nose, designated by K, who will be discussed farther on. God K is an independent deity designated by a special hieroglyph, but like C he stands in an unknown relation to God B (for details see K).

Finally it should be mentioned, that god B never appears with death symbols. He is clearly a deity of life and creation, in contrast to the powers of death and destruction.

His day seems to be Ik (aspiration, breath, life). (Compare Förstemann, Die Tagegötter der Mayas, Globus, Vol. 73, No. 10).

C. The God with the Ornamented Face.

Figures 11 to 16

This is one of the most remarkable and most difficult figures of the Maya manuscripts, and shows, at the same time, how imperfect must be the information we have received in regard to the Maya mythology, since from the frequency of his representations he is obviously one of the most important deities and yet can be identified with none of the representations of gods handed[20] down to us. His hieroglyph is definitely determined (Figs. 11, 12). The circular design in front of the forehead of the hieroglyph head seems, as a variant from the Codex Tro. (Fig. 12) leads us to suppose, to denote the ideographic representation of pouring out or emptying a vessel, the contents of which flow into the mouth of the god. Another variant of this prefix occurs in Tro. 13*b; Fig. 15, the symbol of the sacrificial knife, and instead of the prefix the numeral 13 occurs in one instance! (Tro. 12*c). The head alone, without any accessory symbol whatever, is also found a few times, not in the text, however, but only in the pictures, for example Cort. 10 (bottom) and Tro. 13* (bottom). This deity does not occur very often in the Dresden manuscript, the places where it is depicted are: Dr. 5a, 6c, 13b, 35a, 68a, and as a subordinate figure on 8c, 42a. His hieroglyph occurs alone a few times, as in Dr. 4; it is more frequent in the Madrid manuscript. It appears on pp. 15 to 18 of the Paris manuscript.

In regard to the significance of this deity, he doubtless represents the personification of a heavenly body of astronomic importance, probably the polar star. In Codex Cort. 10 (bottom), his head is represented surrounded by a nimbus of rays, which can only mean a star (see Fig. 13). On the lower part of the same page, the third picture from the left, we again see the deity hanging from the sky in a kind of rope. Furthermore it appears in Codex Tro. 20, 22 and 23 (centre) Fig. 14, in the familiar rectangular planet signs. Tro. 17* (at the top) the head surmounts the cross-shaped tree of god B, which denotes the lofty, celestial abode. Indeed, these passages prove positively that a heavenly body underlies the idea of this deity.

Furthermore, the head of this god recurs in entire rows in the calendric group of tabular form on the so-called initial page of the Codex Tro. 36, with its continuation in the Cort. p. 22, and in exactly the same manner in the allied passage of Tro. 14 (middle and bottom). In addition, his head is contained in the symbol for the north (Fig. 16); the head contained in this sign is in fact nothing else than the head of god C.

Brinton also accepts this interpretation of god C. According to Förstemann (Die Mayahieroglyphen, Globus, Vol. 71, No. 5),[21] the fact that the figure of god C in the Tonalamatl in Dr. 4a-10a occurs on the day Chuen of the Maya calendar, which corresponds to the day Ozomatli, the ape, in the Aztec calendar, seems to indicate that the singular head of C is that of an ape, whose lateral nasal cavity (peculiar to the American ape or monkey) is occasionally represented plainly in the hieroglyph picture. Hence it might further be assumed that god C symbolizes not the polar star alone, but rather the entire constellation of the Little Bear. And, in fact, the figure of a long-tailed ape is quite appropriate to the constellation, at any rate decidedly more so than the Bear; indeed, it suggests the prehensile tail by means of which the ape could attach himself to the pole and in the form of the constellation swing around the pole as around a fixed point.

These astronomical surmises seem to be contradicted by the fact that god C, as already stated, is represented with all the four cardinal points (compare for example Cort. 10 and 11, bottom), which would certainly seem to harmonize ill with his personification of the north star, unless we assume, that in a different conception of the polar star he is ruler of the cardinal points, which are determined from him as a centre.

It has already been remarked of B, that the deity C appears to stand in some sort of relation to him. In fact, we find on those pages of the Dresden manuscript, where B is represented with the four cardinal points, that the hieroglyph of C almost always occurs in the text also (for example Dr. 29, et seq., especially Dr. 32c). Indeed, C’s hieroglyph is connected even with the signs of the symbolic colors of the cardinal points, already mentioned in connection with B.

Finally, it should be borne in mind, that god C also seems to be connected in some way with the serpent (compare Dr. 36b, 1st and 3d pictures).

According to Förstemann, the day ruled by C seems to be Chuen.[22]

D. The Moon- and Night-God.

Figures 17 to 20

This is a deity who is pictured in the form of an old man with an aged face and sunken, toothless mouth. He is frequently characterized by a long, pendent head ornament, in which is the sign Akbal, darkness, night, which also appears in his hieroglyph before the forehead of the deity, surrounded by dots as an indication of the starry sky. His name-hieroglyph is Fig. 17, and a second sign almost always follows (Fig. 18) which evidently serves likewise as a designation of the god, just as god A also is always designated by two hieroglyphs. The second sign consists of two sacrificial knives and the sign of the day Ahau, which is equivalent to “king”.

The head of this deity appears in reduced, cursive form as the sign of the moon (Fig. 20). This character also has the significance of 20 as a number sign in the calendar. The association of these ideas probably rests upon the ancient conceptions, according to which the moon appearing, waxing, waning and again disappearing, was compared to man, and man in primeval ages was the most primitive calculating machine, being equivalent, from the sum of his fingers and toes, to the number 20. Twenty days is also the duration of that period during which the moon (aside from the new moon) is really alive. Moreover the sign (Fig. 20) appears in many places as a counterpart of the sign for the sun.

God D occurs once as feminine in the same passage mentioned above, in which the death-deity is also pictured as feminine (Dr. 9c). In a few other places the god is, curiously enough, depicted with a short beard, as Dr. 4c, 7a, 27b. He seems to stand in an unknown relation to the water-goddess I (see this deity) with the serpent as a head ornament, compare Dr. 9c, where apparently this goddess is represented, though the text has D’s sign; still it is possible that god D is pictured here with the attributes of goddess I.[23]

God D is not connected with the grim powers of destruction; he never appears with death symbols. In Dr. 5c and 9a he wears the snail on his head. He seems, therefore, like god A to be connected with birth. In Dr. 8c he is connected with god C, and this is quite appropriate, if we look upon these gods as heavenly bodies. The aged face, the sunken, toothless mouth are his distinguishing marks. In the Madrid manuscript, where god D occurs with special frequency, his chief characteristic, by which he is always easily recognized, is the single tooth in his under-jaw (see Fig. 19), compare too Dr. 8c, where the solitary tooth is also to be seen. In Dr. 9a (1st figure) the god holds in his hand a kind of sprinkler with the rattles of the rattlesnake, as Landa (Cap. 26) describes the god in connection with the rite of infant baptism (see also Cort. 26, Tro. 7*a and 13*c)

A very remarkable passage is Tro. 15*; there a figure is pictured carving with a hatchet a head, which it holds in its hand. Above it are four hieroglyphs. The first shows a hatchet and the moon; the second probably represents simply a head, while the third and fourth are those of god D, the moon-god. This passage, the meaning of which is unfortunately still obscure seems to contain a definite explanation of god D.

J. Walter Fewkes has made god D the subject of a special, very detailed monograph (The God “D” in the Codex Cortesianus, Washington, 1895) in which he has treated also of gods B and G, whom he considers allied to D. He believes D to be the god Itzamná, as do also Förstemann, Cyrus Thomas and Seler, and sees sun-gods in all three of these deities. Whether god D is to be separated from G and B as an independent deity, Fewkes thinks is doubtful. Brinton again holds that god D is Kukulcan. These different opinions show, at all events, on what uncertain grounds such attempts at interpretation stand, and that it is best to be satisfied with designating the deities by letters and collecting material for their purely descriptive designation.

According to Förstemann the calendar day devoted to D is Ahau.[24]

E. The Maize-God.

Figures 21 to 27

This god bears on his head the Kan-sign and above it the ear of maize with leaves (Fig. 23); compare Dr. 9b (left figure), 11b, 12a, etc. The hieroglyph is definitely determined (Fig. 21). The god is identical with the figures recurring with especial frequency in the Madrid manuscript, the heads of which are prolonged upward and curved backward in a peculiar manner; compare Cort. 15a, 20c, 40 (bottom), Tro. 32*b (Figs. 25-27) and especially the representation in Dr. 50a (Fig. 24), which is very distinct. This head was evolved out of the conventional drawing of the ear of maize; compare the pictures of the maize plant in the Codex Tro., p. 29b (Fig. 22) with the head ornament of the god in Dr. 9b (Fig. 23), 9a, 12a; what was originally a head ornament finally passed into the form of the head itself, so that the latter appears now as an ear of maize surrounded by leaves. Compare the pictures, Figs. 25-27. That these gods with elongated heads are, in point of fact, identical with E is plainly seen from the passage in Dr. 2 (45)c (first figure). There the figure represented, which is exactly like the pictures in the Madrid manuscript, is designated explicitly as god E by the third hieroglyph in the accompanying writing.

The hieroglyph of this deity is thus explained; it is the head of the god merged into the conventionalized form of the ear of maize surrounded by leaves. When we remember that the Maya nations practised the custom of artificially deforming the skull, as is seen in particular on the reliefs at Palenque, we may also regard the heads of these deities as representations of such artificially flattened skulls.

God E occurs frequently as the god of husbandry, especially in the Madrid manuscript, which devotes much attention to agriculture. He seems to be a counterpart of the Mexican maize-god Centeotl. The passages in the Madrid manuscript[25] (Tro. 29a and Cort. 39a, 40a) are very remarkable, where the deity E is represented in the position of a woman in labor with numerals on the abdomen; perhaps the underlying idea is that of fruitfulness.

In the Codex Cort., p. 40, this grain-deity is pictured with a tall and slender vessel before him, which he holds in his hands. It is possible that this is meant to suggest a grain receptacle; to be sure, in the same place, other figures of gods likewise have such vessels in their hands. At any rate, it is interesting to note that in the passage already mentioned (Dr. 50a) god E also holds a similar tall and slender vessel in his hands.

According to all appearances the scene pictured in Dr. 50a has reference to the conflict of the grain-god with a death-deity. The latter, the figure sitting on the right, is characterized by a skull as a head ornament (see Fig. 6) and seems to address threats or commands to god E, who stands before him in the attitude of a terrified and cowed individual.

Furthermore god E has nothing to do with the powers of the underworld; he is a god of life, of prosperity and fruitfulness; symbols of death are never found in connection with him. Brinton calls this god Ghanan, equivalent to Kan; it is possible, too, that he is identical with a deity Yum Kaax who has been handed down to us and whose name means “Lord of the harvest fields”.

According to Förstemann the day dedicated to this god is Kan.

F. The God of War and of Human Sacrifices.

Figures 28 to 34

This is a deity closely related to the death-god A, resembling the Aztec Xipe, and may, I think, without hesitation be regarded simply as the god of human sacrifice, perhaps, even more generally, as the god of death by violence. His hieroglyph[26] is Figs. 28-30; it contains the number 11. A variant of this occurs on Dr. 7b, where instead of the 11 there is the following sign: Glyph

The characteristic mark of god F is a single black line usually running perpendicularly down the face in the vicinity of the eye. This line should be distinguished from the parallel lines of C’s face and from the line, which, as a continuation of god E’s head resembling an ear of maize, frequently appears on his face, especially as in the variants of the Madrid manuscript (compare Figs. 25-27). These pictures of E can always be unfailingly recognized by the peculiar shape of the head and should be distinguished from those representing F. The black face-line is the distinguishing mark of god F, just as it is of the Aztec Xipe. It sometimes runs in a curve over the cheek as a thick, black stripe, as Cort. 42. Sometimes it encircles the eye only (Dr. 6a) and again it is a dotted double line (Dr. 6b). The hieroglyph of god F likewise exhibits this line and with the very same variants as the god himself. See the hieroglyphs of the god belonging to the pictures in Dr. 6a, 1st and 3d figures, in which the line likewise differs from the other forms (Figs. 30-34).

In a few places god F is pictured with the same black lines on his entire body, which elsewhere he has only on his face, the lines being like those in Fig. 31, namely Tro. 27*c. Indeed, in Tro. 28*c, the death-god A likewise has these black lines on his body and also F’s line on his face; a clear proof of the close relationship of the two deities. These lines probably signify gaping death-wounds and the accompanying rows of dots are intended to represent the blood.

Since god F is a death-deity the familiar sign (Fig. 5), which occurs so frequently with the hieroglyphs of A, also belongs to his symbols. F is pictured in company with the death-god in connection with human sacrifice (Cort. 42); an exactly similar picture of the two gods of human sacrifice is given in Codex Tro. 30d; here, too, they sit opposite one another. The identity of this attendant of death with the deity, designated by the hieroglyph with the numeral 11, is proved by the following pas[27]sages: Tro. 19, bottom (on the extreme right hand without picture, only hieroglyph, see Fig. 29), Dr. 5b, 6a, b, and c and many others. In some of the passages cited (Dr. 5a and b) he is distinguished by an unusually large ear-peg. His hieroglyph occurs with the hieroglyph of the death-god in Dr. 6c, where he is himself not pictured.

As war-god, god F occurs combined with the death-god in the passages mentioned above (Tro. 27*-29*c), where he sets the houses on fire with his torch and demolishes them with his spear.

God F occurs quite frequently in the manuscripts and must therefore be considered as one of the more important deities.

According to Förstemann his day is Manik, the seizing, grasping hand, symbolizing the capturing of an enemy in war for sacrificial purposes.

F’s sign occurs once, as mentioned above, in fourfold repetition with all the four cardinal points, namely in Tro. 29*c. In ancient Central America the captured enemy was sacrificed and thus the conceptions of the war-god and of the god of death by violence and by human sacrifice are united in the figure of god F. In this character god F occurs several times in the Madrid manuscript in combat with M, the god of travelling merchants (see page 35). Spanish writers do not mention a deity of the kind described here as belonging to the Maya pantheon.

G. The Sun-God.

Figures 35 to 36

God G’s hieroglyph (Fig. 35) contains as its chief factor the sun-sign Kin. It is one of the signs (of which there are about 12 in the manuscripts), which has the Ben-ik prefix and doubtless denotes a month dedicated to the sun. There is, I think, no difference of opinion regarding the significance of this deity, although Fewkes, as already stated, is inclined to identify G with B, whom, it is true, the former resembles. It is surprising[28] that a deity who from his nature must be considered as very important, is represented with such comparative infrequency. He occurs only a few times in the Dresden manuscript, for example 22b, 11c, and in the Codex Tro.-Cortesianus none can be found among the figures which could be safely regarded as the sun-god; in no manuscript except the Dresden does a deity occur wearing the sun-sign Kin on his body. But once in the Codex Cort. the figure of D appears with the sun-sign on his head, as pointed out by Fewkes in his article entitled “The God ‘D’ in the Codex Cortesianus”. G’s hieroglyph, to be sure, is found repeatedly in the Madrid manuscript, for example Codex Tro. 31c.

God G seems to be not wholly without relation to the powers of death; the owl-sign (Fig. 5) occurs once in connection with him (Dr. 11c). Besides the sun-sign Kin, which the god bears on his body, his representations are distinguished by a peculiar nose ornament (Fig. 36) which, as may be seen by comparison with other similar pictures in the Dresden manuscript, is nothing but a large and especially elaborate nose-peg. Similar ornaments are rather common just here in the carefully drawn first part of the Dresden manuscript. Compare Dr. 22b (middle figure), 21 (centre), 17b, 14a, b; occasionally they also have the shape of a flower, for example 12b (centre), 11c (left), 19a. Lastly it is worthy of note, that god G is sometimes represented with a snake-like tongue protruding from his mouth, as in Dr. 11b and c.

H. The Chicchan-God.

Figures 37 to 40

The figure of a deity of frequent occurrence in the Dresden manuscript is a god, who is characterized by a skin-spot or a scale of a serpent on his temple of the same shape as the hieroglyph of the day Chicchan (serpent). Moreover the representations of the god himself differ very much, so that there are almost[29] no other positive, unvarying characteristic marks to be specified. His picture is plainly recognizable and has the Chicchan-mark on the temple in Dr. 11a, 12b and 20b.

The hieroglyph belonging to this deity likewise displays the Chicchan-sign as its distinguishing mark. Furthermore several variants occur. The Chicchan-sign has sometimes the form of Fig. 37 and again that of Fig. 38. The prefix likewise differs very much, having sometimes the form of Fig. 37, and again that of Fig. 38 or of Figs. 39 and 40. Thus there are, in all, four different forms of the prefix. It is to be assumed that all these hieroglyphs have the same meaning, notwithstanding their variations. Taking into consideration the frequency of the variations of other hieroglyphs of gods and of the hieroglyphs in the Maya manuscripts in general, it is quite improbable from the nature of the case, that a hieroglyph, which displays so great an agreement in its essential and characteristic elements, should denote several different gods. The dissimilarity which Seler thinks he finds between the forms of the Chicchan-sign in Figs. 37 and 38 and which leads him to assume that Fig. 37 is not a Chicchan-sign at all, but that it denotes another face ornament, cannot be satisfactorily proved, and must be regarded as an arbitrary assumption. The Chicchan-mark in the sign of the day Chicchan also differs very much from that on the bodies of the serpents pictured in the manuuscripts, so that variations of this kind by no means make it necessary to assume that the hieroglyphs actually denote different things. Observe, for example, the different Chicchan-spots on the serpent’s body in Tro. 27a. The crenelated, black border of the Chicchan-spot in Fig. 38 passes in rapid cursive drawing almost of itself into the scallops of Fig. 37, a transition to which there are distinct tendencies on the serpent’s body in Tro. 27a. Nor does the fact, that under H’s hieroglyph different personages are very often pictured, whom we cannot positively identify, compel the assumption that we have here not one, but two or more mythical figures, for the same is true of other hieroglyphs of gods. There are many places in the manuscripts where the text contains a definite well-known hieroglyph of a god, while the accompanying picture represents some other deity or some other figure not definitely characterized, perhaps merely a human form (priest, warrior, woman and the like).[30] Thus in Dr. 4a we see H’s hieroglyph in the text, but the picture is the figure of god P while in other places we miss the characteristic Chicchan-spot on the figure represented, for example Dr. 4c, 6a, 7b, 7c, 14a, 21c. In the Madrid manuscript, it is true, H’s hieroglyph also occurs often enough, but not in a single instance is a deity represented displaying the Chicchan-spot. This fact is, I think, to be explained by the coarser style of the drawing, which does not admit of representing such fine details as in the Dresden manuscript. In the Paris manuscript H’s hieroglyph occurs but once (p. 8, bottom).

Seler thinks he recognizes in some of the figures represented under H’s hieroglyph in the manuscripts, a so-called “young god”. Such a deity is unknown and the assumption is entirely arbitrary. Apparently this “young god” is an invention of Brinton. The purely inductive and descriptive study of the manuscripts does not prove the existence of such a personage, and we must decline to admit him as the result of deductive reasoning. In this so-called “young god”, we miss, first of all, a characteristic mark, a distinct peculiarity such as belongs to all the figures of gods in the manuscripts without exception and by which he could be recognized. Except his so-called youthfulness, however, no such definite marks are to be found. Furthermore there is no figure of a god in the manuscripts which would not be designated by a definite characteristic hieroglyph. No such hieroglyph can be proved as belonging to the “young god”. The figures, which are supposed to have a “youthful appearance” in the Madrid manuscript, often convey this impression merely in consequence of their smallness and of the pitiful, squatting attitude in which they are represented. Furthermore real children do occur here and there, thus, for example, in the Dresden manuscript in connection with the pictures of women in the first part and in Tro. 20*c in the representation of the so-called “infant baptism.”

That god H has some relation to the serpent must be conjectured from what has been said. Thus, for example, on Dr. 15b, we see his hieroglyph belonging to the figure of a woman with the knotted serpent on her head, in Dr. 4a to the god P, who there bears a serpent in his hand, and in Dr. 35b in connection with a serpent with B’s head. What this relation is, cannot now be stated.[31]

The day dedicated to god H is Chicchan, and the sign for this day is his distinguishing hieroglyph.

I. The Water-Goddess.

Figure 41

In the Dresden manuscript the figure of an old woman, with the body stained brown and claws in place of feet, occurs repeatedly. She wears on her head a knotted serpent and with her hands pours water from a vessel. Evidently we have here a personification of water in its quality of destroyer, a goddess of floods and cloud-bursts, which, as we know, play an important part in Central America. Page 27, of the Codex Troano contains a picture, in which this character of goddess I may be distinctly recognized. In accordance with this character, also on Dr. 74, where something resembling a flood is represented, she wears the cross-bones of the death-god.

The goddess is pictured in the manner described in the following places: Dr. 39b, 43b, 67a and 74. The figure corresponding to her in the Madrid manuscript, in Tro. 27 and 34*c, displays some variations, in particular the tiger claws on the feet and the red-brown color of the body are lacking. But the agreement cannot be questioned, I think, when we recall that the Maya manuscripts doubtless originated in different ages and different areas of civilization, circumstances which readily explain such variations. The goddess distinguished in the Madrid manuscript by symbols of flood and water is doubtless the same as goddess I of the Dresden manuscript described above; her unmistakable character of water-goddess in both manuscripts is in favor of this. In both manuscripts she is invariably distinguished by the serpent on her head, which, as we know, is a symbol of the water flowing along and forming waves.

Strange to say, a fixed hieroglyph of this goddess cannot be proved with certainty. There is some probability in favor of the sign given in Fig. 41. The well-known oblong signs, which[32] Förstemann (Drei Mayahieroglyphen, published in the Zeitschrift für Ethnologie, 1901, pp. 215-221) interprets as the sign for evil days, frequently occur with her. This would be appropriate for the goddess of floods.

In the Dresden manuscript a few similar figures of women are found, who, like goddess I, wear a knotted serpent on the head. Representations of this kind occur in Dr. 9c, 15b, 18a, 20a, 22b and 23b. Whether they are identical with goddess I is doubtful, since there is no symbolic reference to water in these passages. Besides, the hieroglyphs of other known deities occur each time in the above-mentioned places, so that definite mythologic relations must be assumed to exist here between the women repsented and the deities in question. Thus in Dr. 9c we find D’s sign, in 15b that of H; on 18a, 22b and 23b we see only the general sign for a woman. In Dr. 20a the signs are effaced.

In the Codex Troano goddess I occurs on pp. 25b and 27; there is also a woman with the knotted serpent on her head in Tro. 34*c. In the Codex Cortesianus and in the Paris manuscript these forms are wholly lacking.

K. The God with the Ornamented Nose.

Figures 42 to 43

This god, as already mentioned in connection with B, is not identical with the latter, but is probably closely related to him. His hieroglyph is Fig. 42; Fig. 43 is the form in the Madrid manuscript. He is closely related to god B. He is represented in Dr. 25 (centre) where he is perhaps conceived of as a priest wearing a mask with the face of the god, also in Dr. 7a, 12a (with his own hieroglyph and that of E!), 26 (bottom) with a variant of the sign. His figure without the hieroglyph occurs in Dr. 3. Very frequently the well-known group, 3 Oc, is given with him and in connection with his hieroglyph (in Dr. 3, 7a, 10b (right); without picture, 12a). Förstemann (Drei Maya[33]hieroglyphen, Zeitschrift für Ethnologie, 1901. pp 215-221) sees in this the sign for good days, a proof that we have to do here with a benevolent deity well disposed to mankind, his kinship with B being also in favor of this interpretation. His hieroglyph alone without his picture occurs in Dr. 10b, 49 (middle and bottom), 58 (bottom, left), and Tro. 8*b; with a variant of the attribute in Dr. 24 (third vertical row). A slight variation appears also in Dr. 69 (top, right).

In Dr. 65a (middle) B is pictured. But in the text we see K’s hieroglyph presented by a hand. The next figure on the same page at the right represents god B with the head of K on his own and the same head once more in his hand. Agreeing with this, we find in the accompanying text the signs of B and K, the latter in a hand. K seems to be pictured again in Dr. 46 (bottom); the passage, however, is somewhat obliterated. The hieroglyph is lacking in this place; it is found, however, on the preceding page 45 (middle).

In addition to the passage already mentioned, which represents god K together with B, such double deities again occur in the Paris manuscript, p. 13, where B holds K’s head in his hand; in Dr. 34b, where he carries this head on his own and in Dr. 67a where he appears to carry it in a rope. Once, how ever, a variation of these plainly synonymous representations occurs, namely in Dr. 49 (at the top), where we see a feminine form above whose head rises the head of god K. In the Paris manuscript, so far as its defaced condition permits us to recognize the representation, K occurs very frequently, as for example, in Per. 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 9 (in part only his head is given, presented by god B, as in the Dresden manuscript).

Brinton considers this figure simply as a special manifestation of B and identical with that god. Förstemann thinks that god K is a storm-deity, whose ornamental nose, according to the conventional mode of drawing of the Central American peoples, is intended to represent the blast of the storm.

Apparently, however, the deity has an astronomic significance and seems to symbolize a star. In favor of this is the fact, that on the so-called initial pages of the Madrid manuscript (Cort. 22-Tro. 36) a row, composed of repetitions of his sign, occurs below the signs of the cardinal points and parallel[34] to a row composed of signs of god C, the god of the polar star and the north. The hieroglyphs of C and K are the only hieroglyphs of gods, which are repeated 13 times on these pages with the 13 days enumerated there. The two gods must, therefore, have either a parallel or an opposite astronomic and calendric meaning. The fact that in Dr. 25 and 26 K appears as regent of the year, is an argument in favor of his astronomic significance.

According to Förstemann, Muluc is the day dedicated to god K.

In the head of god K we recognize the ornament so common in the temple ruins of Central America—the so-called “elephant’s trunk.” The peculiar, conventionalized face, with the projecting proboscis-shaped nose, which is applied chiefly to the corners of temple walls, displays unquestionably the features of god K. The significance of god K in this architectural relation is unknown. Some connection with his character as the deity of a star and with his astronomic qualities may, however, be assumed, since, as we know, the temple structures of Central America are always placed with reference to the cardinal points.

L. The Old, Black God.

Figure 44

God L’s features are those of an old man with sunken, toothless mouth. His hieroglyph is Fig. 44, which is characterized by the black face.

God L, who is also black, must not be confounded with M whose description follows. L is represented and designated by his hieroglyph in the accompanying text, in Dr. 14b and 14c and Dr. 46b; the figure has the characteristic black face. He appears entirely black in Dr. 7a. The hieroglyph alone occurs in Dr. 21b and 24 (third vertical line in the first passage) with a variation, namely without the Ymix-sign before the head. This deity does not occur in the Madrid and Paris manuscripts.[35]

The significance of god L does not appear from the few pictures, which are given of him. In Dr. 46b the god is pictured armed and in warlike attitude. Both in Dr. 14b and 14c he wears a bird on his head and has a Kan in his hand.

According to Förstemann, his day is Akbal, darkness, night.

Cyrus Thomas (Aids to the Study of the Maya Codices, in the 6th Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology, Washington, 1888, p. 358) thinks he is the god Ekchuah, who has come down to us as a black deity. God M seems, however, to correspond to Ekchuah (see the description of M).

M. The Black God with the Red Lips.

Figures 45 to 48

God M’s hieroglyph is Figs. 45, 46; it seems to represent an eye rimmed with black, though the figure of the god himself displays an entirely different drawing of the eye (see Fig. 47).

The god is found in the Dresden manuscript only three times, namely in Dr. 16b (with a bone in his hand) in picture and sign, in Dr. 13c grouped with an animal, without the hieroglyph, and in Dr. 43a (with his sign) while finally his hieroglyph alone appears in Dr. 56 (top, left) in a group and of a somewhat different form.

On the other hand, god M appears with special frequency in the Madrid manuscript, which treats of this deity with great fullness of detail. While he is represented in the Dresden manuscript (16b) with his body striped black and white, and on p. 43a entirely white, he is always entirely black in the Codex Troano. His other distinguishing marks are the following:

1. The mouth encircled by a red-brown border.

2. The large, drooping under lip. By this he can be recognized with certainty also in Dr. 43a.

3. The two curved lines at the right of the eye.[36]

His significance can be conjectured. He seems to be of a warlike nature, for he is almost always represented armed with the lance and also as engaged in combat and, in some instances, pierced by the lance of his opponent, god F, for example in Tro. 3c, 7a, 29*a. The peculiar object with parallel stripes, which he wears on his head is a rope from which a package frequently hangs. By means of a rope placed around his head the god frequently carries a bale of merchandise, as is the custom today among the aborigines in different parts of America. On 4b and 5a in the Cod. Tro. this can plainly be seen. All these pictures lead us to conclude, that we have here to do with a god of travelling merchants. A deity of this character called Ekchuah has been handed down to us, who is designated explicitly as a black god. In favor of this is also the fact, that he is represented fighting with F and pierced by the latter. For the travelling merchant must, of course, be armed to ward off hostile attacks and these are admirably symbolized by god F, for he is the god of death in war and of the killing of the captured enemy. The god is found in the Codex Troano in the following places and on many pages two or three times: pp. 2, 3, 4, 5, always with the hieroglyph, then without it on pp. 6, 7, 19, 4*c, 14*b, 17*a, 18*b and again with the hieroglyph on pp. 22*a, 23*a, 25*a; finally it is found again without the hieroglyph on pp. 29*a, 30*a, 31*, 32*, 33*, 34*. In the Codex Cortesianus god M occurs in the following places: p. 15, where he strikes the sky with the axe and thus causes rain, p. 19 (bottom), 28 (bottom, second figure), 34 (bottom) and 36 (top). M is always to be recognized by the encircled mouth and the drooping under-lip; figures without these marks are not identical with M, thus for example in Tro. 23, 24, 25, 21*. Tro. 34*a shows what is apparently a variant of M with the face of an old man, the scorpion’s tail and the vertebrae of the death-god, a figure which in its turn bears on its breast the plainly recognizable head of M. God M is also represented elsewhere many times with the scorpion’s tail, thus for example on Tro. 30*a, 31*a.

Besides his hieroglyph mentioned above, Figs. 45 and 46, another sign seems to refer to god M, namely Fig. 48 (compare for example Tro. 5a and Cort. 28, bottom). The head in this sign has the same curved lines at the corner of the eye as appear[37] on the deity himself. Förstemann mentions this sign in his Commentary on the Paris Manuscript, p. 15, and in his Commentary on the Dresden Manuscript, p. 56. He thinks the hieroglyph has relation to the revolution of Venus, which is performed in 584 days. A relation of this kind is, I think, very possible, if we bear in mind that all the god-figures of the manuscripts have more or less of a calendric and chronologic significance in their chief or in their secondary function.

It should be mentioned that God M is represented as a rule as an old man with toothless jaw or the characteristic solitary tooth. That he is also related to bee-culture is shown by his presence on p. 4*c of the Codex Troano, in the section on bees.

Besides gods L and M, a few quite isolated black figures occur in the Codex Troano, who, apparently, are identical with neither of these two deities, but are evidently of slight importance and perhaps are only variants of other deities. Similar figures of black deities are found in the Codex Tro. 23, 24 and 25 (perhaps this is a black variant of B as god of the storm?) and on 21*c we twice see a black form with the aged face and the solitary tooth in the under jaw (perhaps only a variant of M). In the Codex Cortesianus and in the Dresden manuscript no other black deities occur, but in the Paris manuscript a black deity seems to be pictured once (p. 21, bottom).

According to Brinton (Nagualism, Philadelphia 1894, pp. 21, 39), there is among the Tzendals in addition to Ekchuah, a second black deity called Xicalahua, “black lord”.

N. The God of the End of the Year.

Figures 49 to 51

We have here a deity with the features of an old man and wearing a peculiar head ornament reproduced in Fig. 50, which contains the sign for the year of 360 days. The god’s hieroglyph is Fig. 49, which consists of the numeral 5 with the sign of the month Zac. Förstemann has recognized in god N the god of the five Uayeyab days, which were added as intercalary[38] days at the end of the original year of 360 days, and were considered unlucky days. N is, therefore, the god of the end of the year. Förstemann has discussed him in detail under this title in a monograph published in Globus, Vol. 80, No. 12. It is still open to question whether god N actually occurs in all the places of the Dresden manuscript, which are mentioned by Förstemann. He can be recognized positively on Dr. 17a, 21c (grouped with a woman) and 37a; also on 12c, but in this latter place with pronounced deviations from the usual representations. The figures in Dr. 23c (first group) and 43a (third picture) are doubtful, especially since the hieroglyph of the god is lacking in both instances. The third group in Dr. 21c is equally dubious. Here a woman is pictured sitting opposite a god. The latter seems to be god N, yet in the text we find instead of his sign the hieroglyph given in Fig. 51. It is not impossible that this sign likewise denotes god N.

God N is found a few times in the Paris manuscript, for example on p. 4, where he holds K’s head in his hands, and on p. 22.

O. A Goddess with the Features of an Old Woman.

Figure 52

This goddess occurs only in the Madrid manuscript and is distinguished by the solitary tooth in the under jaw, as a sign of age, the invariable characteristic of aged persons in the manuscripts. She is pictured in the following places: Tro. 5*c, 6*b, and 11*b, c and d, Cort. 10b, 11a, 38a. In Tro. 11* she is represented working at a loom. She does not appear at all in the Dresden and Paris manuscripts. The figures of women mentioned under I with the serpent on their heads, are especially not to be regarded as identical with goddess O, for she never wears the serpent, but a tuft of hair bound high up on her head and running out in two locks.

Her hieroglyph is Fig. 52; it is distinguished by the wrinkles of age about the eye. Owing to the limited number of her pictures, there is little to be said concerning the significance of this goddess.[39]

P. The Frog-God.

Figure 53

We call him the frog-god because in the Codex Tro. 31, he is pictured in the first and second lines with the club-shaped fingers of a frog, which occur only on this figure. The blue background, which is his attribute twice in the same passage, likewise points to a connection with water, and that the god also has something to do with agriculture may be deduced from the fact that he is pictured sowing seed and making furrows with the planting-stick. The two black parallel stripes at the corner of the eye seem to be folds of skin or marks on the skin, which may represent a peculiarity of this particular species of frog. His head ornament is very characteristic and contains the sign for the year of 360 days. He therefore bears some unknown relation also to the computation of time. It should be recalled in this connection that one of the Maya months is called Uo, frog. The god is pictured again in Tro. 30a and b, Tro. 22 (top, scattering seed) and Cort. 5 (at the very bottom, the figure lying down). Finally his neck ornament must be mentioned, which, as a rule, consists of a neck-chain with pointed, oblong or pronged objects, probably shells.

In the Dresden manuscript he occurs but once, Dr. 4a (first figure), with some variations it is true. The text at this place contains H’s hieroglyph. God P does not occur in the Peresianus.

His hieroglyph is Fig. 53. It occurs in Tro. 31 (top) and can be unerringly recognized by the two black parallel stripes at the corner of the eye; which correspond exactly to the same marks on the face of the picture of the god himself.

This is all that can be said respecting this deity from the pictures in the manuscripts. Its meaning is obscure. Seler’s assumption that god P is Kukulcan (Zeitschrift für Ethnologie, 1898, p. 403) has certainly very slight foundation, and in view[40] of the material from the manuscripts described in the preceding pages, it is in the highest degree improbable.

Three asterisks

The foregoing is an almost complete enumeration of the god-figures proper in the Maya manuscripts. Whatever other figures of gods occur in the manuscripts are details of slight importance. This is especially true of the Dresden manuscript, which is well nigh exhausted by the types enumerated here; there may be, I think, a few figures still undescribed in the Madrid manuscript, the careless drawing of which renders the identification very difficult. An isolated figure of the Dresden manuscript still remains to be mentioned, concerning which it is doubtful whether it is intended to represent a deity or only a human personage.

This is the figure characterized by a peculiar head ornament in Dr. 20b. It is designated in the text by two hieroglyphs, which belong together, Figs. 54 and 55, the latter occurring once with K (Dr. 7a). It seems to represent blowing from the mouth, screaming or speaking.

Figures 54 to 55

10-1 See Plate for representations of the gods, A-P




Figures 56 to 59

This bird41-1 belongs to the death-god as his symbol and attendant. Its hieroglyph (Fig. 56) contains the numeral 13; other forms are Figs. 57-59. It is pictured in Dr. 7c, 10a, 11a, 16c, 18b, and its hieroglyph without the picture is seen in Dr. 8b. A realistic representation of the whole figure of the moan as a bird, occurs on the head of the woman in 16c (1st figure) and 18b. God B sits on the head of the moan in Dr. 38c; the third hieroglyph of the accompanying text refers to this representation. Just as in Dr. 16 and 18, the moan bird appears in Tro. 18*c on the head of a woman. Its character as an attribute of the death-god is expressed by the Cimi-sign, which it wears upon its head (e. g., Dr. 10a), and also by the regular occurrence of symbols of the death-god in the written characters, which refer to the moan bird. In the same manner the sign of the owl, Fig. 5, also occurs frequently with it.

The moan confers name and symbol alike on one of the eighteen months of the Maya year, and thus, as Förstemann conjectures (Die Plejaden bei den Mayas, in Globus, 1894), has an astronomic bearing on the constellation of the Pleiades.

According to Brinton the moan is a member of the falcon family and its zoological name is Spizaetus tyrannus.[42]


This is one of the most common and most important mythological animals, and is closely related to different deities, as has already been more fully discussed in connection with the individual cases. Apparently it has no independent significance as a deity. Its most important personification is that in god B, Kukulcan, the feathered serpent. Hence a fixed hieroglyph designating the serpent as a deity, as a mythologic form, does not occur, though there are numerous hieroglyphs which refer to serpents or represent individual parts of the serpent, as its coils, its jaws, the rattles of the rattlesnake, etc. The serpent appears in the mythologic conceptions of the Mayas chiefly as the symbol of water and of time. In the great series of numbers of the Dresden manuscript, certain numbers occur which are introduced in the coils of a large serpent (compare in regard to this, Förstemann, Zur Entzifferung der Mayahandschriften, II, Dresden, 1891). The serpent is very frequently represented in all the manuscripts, sometimes realistically and sometimes with the head of a god, etc. In the Dresden manuscript it occurs in the following places: 1a, 26, 27, 28c, 35b, 36a, 36b, 37b 40, 42a, 61, 62, 65c 66a and 69. It is prominent also in the Madrid manuscript, occurring for example in Cort. 4-6, 12-18, Tro. 25, 26, 27 and elsewhere.


Figure 60

Fig. 60 is its hieroglyph. It is the symbol of the death-god and the bearer of the lightning. The latter follows quite clearly from the picture in Dr. 40b where the god is distinguished by its hieroglyph. This animal is again represented in Dr. 7a, 13c on the right, 21b with its hieroglyph, 29a, 30a (forming a part of 31a, where god B holds the bound dog by the tail), and 39a without the hieroglyph, 47 (bottom) with a variant of the hieroglyph.

In Dr. 36a the dog bears the Akbal-sign on its forehead. The writing above it contains a variant of the hieroglyph for the[43] dog; this is the third of the rubric. It shows (somewhat difficult of recognition) the Akbal-sign on the forehead of the dog’s head occurring in it, and on the back of the head the Kin-sign, as symbols of the alternation of day and night. The same sign occurs again with adjuncts in Dr. 74 (last line, 2nd sign) and once with the death-god in Dr. 8a. The dog as lightning-beast occurs with the Akbal-sign in the eye instead of on the forehead in Codex Tro. 23*a; here again its hieroglyph is an entirely different one (the third of the rubric).

That the dog belongs to the death-god is proved beyond a doubt by the regular recurrence in the writing belonging to the dog, of the hieroglyphs, which relate to this deity, especially of Fig. 5. According to Förstemann his day is Oc.


Figure 61

This bird is distinctly pictured as a mythological figure in Dr. 8a. It appears again, in feminine form, together with the dog, in Dr. 13c and also in 19a. In the first passage, its hieroglyph is almost effaced; the hieroglyph is very striking and occurs nowhere else in the whole collection of manuscripts. The body of this animal-deity is striped black and white; in Dr. 38b it is almost entirely black. The same passage displays a second hieroglyph for this figure (Fig. 61); this hieroglyph also occurs with the numeral 4 in Dr. 56b. In Dr. 36b this bird of prey is pictured fighting with the serpent; its hieroglyph occurs in the second form; the serpent is designated by the Chuen, the gaping jaws of the serpent (first character of the rubric).

Finally it should be mentioned that the head of this bird occurs frequently as a head ornament, thus in Dr. 11a, 11b, 12b and 14b. Mention should also be made of the realistic representations of the vulture, eating the eye of a human sacrifice (Dr. 3, Tro. 26*a and 27*a).

According to Förstemann his day is Cib.[44]

5. The Jaguar.

Figure 62

The jaguar is likewise an animal with mythological significance. It is represented in Dr. 8a, where its hieroglyph is the third sign in the writing; it also occurs in Dr. 26 (at the top). It occurs in Tro. 17 (at the end) with a hieroglyph which represents the jaguar’s head and contains the numeral 4 (Fig. 62); again it appears without a hieroglyph on p. 20 (bottom) and on 21 and 22 (bottom).

Its day is Ix, and hence it also relates occasionally as year regent to the Ix years, for example in Dr. 26a.

6. The Tortoise.

Figures 63 to 65

This animal, like the dog, appears as a lightning-beast (see Dr. 40b, middle). Its hieroglyph is Figs. 63, 64. This sign also is connected with the numeral 4, which occurs so often with animals (but not alone with quadrupeds) as to be worthy of attention. The sign of the tortoise without the numeral is seen in Cort. 17a, where the tortoise itself is also represented. It must have reference to the 17th month of the Maya year, for the month Kayab (and apparently also Pop) contains the head of the tortoise (compare Fig. 65). It occurs several times in the Cortesianus, thus on pp. 13, 19, 37, 38; on p. 19 with the hieroglyph (on the top of the lower half of the page, 1st line and at the right of the margin). In Dr. 69 (at the top) we see the sign of the tortoise with the Kin-sign as its eye and the numeral 12; under this group B, with a black body, is seated on the serpent; on the same page the sign occurs again; each time, moreover, apparently as a month-hieroglyph.[45]

According to Förstemann the tortoise is the symbol of the summer solstice, as the snail, which occurs only as a head ornament in the manuscripts and not independently, is the symbol of the winter solstice; both, as the animals of slowest motion, represent the apparent standstill of the sun at the periods specified. This explains why the month Kayab, in which the summer solstice falls, should be represented by the head of a tortoise, which has for its eye the sun-sign Kin (Förstemann, Zur Entzifferung der Mayahandschriften III, Schildkröte und Schnecke in der Mayaliteratur, Dresden 1892).

According to Förstemann its day is Cauac.


Finally the owl and the ape (or monkey) must be mentioned as animals of mythologic significance, of which we have already spoken in connection with gods A and C. The scorpion also seems to have an important mythologic significance, and appears in the manuscripts in connection with figures of gods, as, for example, in Cort. 7a and Tro. 31*a, 33*a, 34*a (god M with a scorpion’s tail). In addition to those discussed in this paper, there are a few animals in the manuscripts, which probably also have a partial mythologic significance, but which have been omitted because they are represented in a naturalistic manner, thus, for example, the deer on Tro. 8, et seq., while idealization (with human bodies, with torches, hieroglyphic character on the head, etc.) should be considered as an unmistakable sign of mythologic meaning.

A mythologic significance also seems to belong to the bee which plays so prominent a part of the Codex Troano. Probably the section in question of the Madrid manuscript (1* et seq.) treats of bee-keeping, but incidentally it certainly has to do also with the mythologic conceptions connected with the culture of bees.

The bat which is found as a mythological figure on pottery vessels and inscriptions from the Maya region (compare Seler, Zeitschrift für Ethnologie, 1894, p. 577) does not occur in the manuscripts. It is true, however, that hieroglyphic signs, which seem to relate to the head of the bat, occur in isolated cases in the manuscripts.

41-1 See plate for representations of the Mythological Animals, 1-6.



An enumeration of the most important deities in the manuscripts gives the following results, in connection with which it is to be noted that, of course, the numbers cannot be absolutely correct, because one or another of the pictures occasionally remains doubtful. As far as possible, however, only the positively determined representations have been considered.

The deity occurring most frequently in the Dresden manuscript is god B, who is pictured there 141 times. Following him in point of number in the same manuscript are the death-god A pictured 33 times, god D 19 times, and gods C and E 17 and 14 times respectively.

In the Madrid manuscript, god D, with 84 pictures, is of most frequent occurrence. He is followed by the maize-god E with 76 pictures, god B with 71, god A with 53, C with 38 and M with 37 pictures.

In the Paris manuscript, god E’s picture can be verified 8 times, those of C and B 6 times each and that of god A twice; N and K are also frequently represented.

An enumeration of all the pictures in all the manuscripts shows that the following deities occur most frequently and are therefore to be considered the most important:

1. God B: pictured 218 times.
2. D: 103
3. E: 98
4. A: 88
5. C: 61
6. M: 40
7. F: 33

Furthermore, interesting conclusions can be arrived at, by means of a list of those deities, who occur in the representations of the manuscripts, so united or grouped together as to make it evident that they must stand in some relation to one another. Mythologic combinations of this kind occur among the following deities and mythological animals:[47]

1. In the Dresden manuscript: D and C, B and C, dog and vulture, bird and serpent, B and K.

2. In the Madrid manuscript: F and M, B and M, C and M, E and M, A and E, A and D, A and F, B and C, D and C, D and E.

3. In the Paris manuscript: N and K, B and K.

The most common of these combinations are those of the deities A and F, M and F, A and E, D and C. These groups are entirely intelligible, consisting of death-god and war-god, god of the travelling merchants and war-god, death-god and maize-god (as adversaries: meaning famine), night-god and deity of the polar star.


I. Gods and II. Mythological Animals
Plate 1

Transcriber’s Note

The following errors and inconsistencies have been maintained.

Misspelled words and typographical errors:

Page Error
10(40) Footnote 1 missing final period (the footnote has been moved to page 40 in this version of the text)
17 serpent-and rain-deity should read serpent-and-rain-deity
23 Sentence ending with “and 13*c)” does not have a period
29 manuuscripts should read manuscripts
32 repsented should read represented
33 pp 215-221 should read pp. 215-221
42 comma missing following 37b
42 comma missing following 65c


The placement of punctuation at the end of a word or phrase surrounded by quotation marks is inconsistent, usually it is placed outside the final close quotation mark but occasionally is found inside the mark.




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