Art & Culture

Maya Almighty: Hunab Ku

Mysterious and ancient, the gods and beliefs of the Maya are explored in our new series

A considerable amount of information about the Maya was destroyed with Spanish colonization. However, thanks to well-preserved archaeological sites and painstaking research, archaeologists have been able to piece together the Maya culture and their beliefs. In our new section, Maya Almighty, we will explore how the Maya explained the creation of the universe by presenting their gods and beliefs.

1-mayas-hunab-kuHUNAB KU

Considered the supreme figure in the creation of the universe, it was said that Hunab Ku could create life, as all dualities were granted to him: male and female, order and chaos. In texts such as El Chilam Balam, he is referenced as The Only God. Even the name suggests it. Hun-ab meaning the only one, and Ku meaning God.  But wait! Were the Maya monotheist, then?

The oldest references you will find of him are in El Diccionario de Motul, written in the 16th century after the Spanish conquest. So, it makes sense to think that this god was introduced by Christianity to propitiate a transition from polytheism to monotheism. The lack of a symbolic representation of him is consistent with the Christian concept of god. This is by no means a new concept. It is called religious syncretism, and it is seen with the Romans and their conversion of Greek mythology.

If you do a Google search, you may find a very popular representation of Hunab Ku. The author is José Argüelles, one of the authors who defends the existence of Hunab Ku in the pre-Columbian Maya era. This image became particularly famous in 2012, the year when some believed the Maya predicted the end of the world.

Although we don’t have a significant amount of written history on him, Hunab Ku has managed to remain relevant and is still credited with the creation of the universe. But the Maya god Itzamná may not be very happy about this, and he may come to claim his throne in our next issue.

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