Moving boldly forward with 1 Ben

The Mayan Calendar day-sign Ben

On Wednesday 24 August 2022 at local sunset we move into the new thirteen day cycle of 1 Ben in the sacred Tzolkin Mayan Calendar .

The Mayan day-sign Ben is the fresh green corn which symbolises youth and children’s growth. Ben is associated with Hunahpu and Xbalanque, the two young, bold hero twin from the Popol Vuh story who went to confront the lords of the underworld. The next 13 days are therefore marked by an adventurous move forward. It is appropriate that this cycle is currently occuring during ‘the Twins’ Gemini month! As a red sign of the East direction, Ben further opens a cycle of 52 days.

The Popol Vuh, the Maya Creation Epic

The Popol Vuh or “Council Book” in Quiche Maya, was written in the Guatemala Highlands in the 16th century after the conquest in order to preserve traditional cosmology, mythology and ancestry. Originally there may have been an ancient hieroglyphic text transcribed in roman alphabet but most certainly oral recitation from the Quiche language. The Spanish friar Francisco Ximenez wrote the earliest version of the Popol Vuh text which has now been translated many times.

The Popol Vuh presents the Maya creation story described as various attempts with the animals first, then men of mud, men of wood and finally men of corn or true humans. This last successful attempt occurs after the central episode of the Popol Vuh which covers two generations. This part is the tale of the Hero Twins’ victory over the lords of the underworld after their forefathers’ defeat. The last section of the Popol Vuh text concerns the founding of the Quiche Maya dynasties.

The two Mayan hero twins

In the main story the two hero twin ball players Hunahpu and Xbalanque journey to confront the lords of the underworld and succeed to their various tests where their father Hun Hunahpu and uncle Vucub Hunahpu had previously failed: the cigars to be lit all night, the cut flowers, the cold house, the jaguar house and the house of bat. There the challenge peaked and the head of Hunahpu is cut off. The intricate tale carries on with the last ball game where the twins let themselves be defeated, cooked in an oven, their bones ground and put into the river. They reappear 5 days later as magicians and trick the underworld lords. They then dig up the bodies of their father and uncle and finally become the Sun and the Moon.

Young maize god

Young maize god

As shown with the central maize symbol The Popol Vuh is the story of regeneration of life. The twins themselves were conceived from the head of their father like the fruit or head of corn. Indeed at the time of their defeat their father and uncle were buried except for the head of Hun Hunahpu which was hanged in a calabash tree. Ixkik the daughter of an underworld lord notices the fruit/head which magically impregnates her by spitting into her hand. She later conceives the twins who turn out to be better game players and tricksters than their father and uncle.

Mayan Cosmology

The story also has astronomical and cosmological perspectives. It relates to creation cycles as well as to the underworld night journey of the luminaries and of Venus.

The twins initially get rid of the arrogant false sun Vucub Caquix or 7 Macaw. In the end the twins become the sun and the Moon, heralding the dawn of this world.

The mythic themes from the Popol Vuh story have been featured in Maya art from a very early time in the classic period (250 to 950) and even before.

Mayan hero twin with jaguar

Mayan hero twin with jaguar

To consult the dates for our next Mayan Calendar Workshops at Stargaia, Glastonbury, go to Events.

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