As described in the sacred Popul Vuh the Mayan Creation Myth relates the story of the Mayan creation and the surprisingly colorful characters that bring it and the Mayan civilization to life. The story has filtered down through the centuries and is still told to Mayan children today. There are many interpretations, but generally it begins with the “first father” who is called One Ahuapu walking near the open mouth of a cave. The Maya believe that caves are gateways to the sacred underworld (Xibalba) where the gods dwell. When One Ahuapu strode too close to the cave, devilish gods of the underworld took notice and challenged him to a ball game. When he enters the cave to play the game the gods overpower him and cut off his head. For their amusement they hang his severed head in a Calabash tree near the cave. Sometime afterward a daughter of one of the gods happened upon the tree and stopped to converse with the hanging head of One Ahuapu. In the course of the conversation his head lures her closer and spits in her hand, making her pregnant. The angry gods banished her from the underworld and she eventually gave birth to twin sons who became known as the “Hero Twins.”

The Mayan Creation Myth and the Hero Twins

Mayan Creation Myth

Mayan Creation Myth

The “Hero Twins” of the Mayan Creation Myth grow to become strong athletic young men who set out in search of their father after learning of his fate. They return to Xibalba and challenge the gods to a ball game. The gods promptly defeat them and throw their ground up bones in a river where it would seem that they are lost forever. At length the river water nourishes their remains and they are reborn with a fierce determination to extract revenge from the gods who killed them. They return to the cave and re-challenge the gods, this time defeating them handily.

Afterward they perform a series of tricks for the god’s amusement as this creation myth continues. One brother beheads the other and then restores him to the delight of the amused gods. The other brother then repeats the trick which prompts the gods to demand that they perform the trick on them. The brothers oblige by beheading the gods and refusing to restore them; choosing instead to resurrect their dead father who then accompanies them back to the surface. Along the way, the father discovers corn and brings an ear with him, thus emerging from the underworld as the Maize (corn) god. The twin brothers emerge from Xibalba as the Sun and the Moon to inhabit the sky. Their rise marks the beginning of the Mayan civilization and the Mayans believe that they are all descendants from that single ear of corn brought to the surface by the first father One Ahaupu; hence the origin of the Mayan Creation Myth.