Art & Culture

Maya Almighty Yum Kaax: God Of Wildlife

Meet the Maya protector of the jungle

02-rgbYum Kaax was the son of Itzamná and Ixchel and one of the youngest Maya gods.

The name Yum Kaax comes from the Maya words Yum, which means “lord” and Kaax, which stands for “forest” or “the wild”, therefore, his name literally means Lord of the Forest. This constitutes a Mayan phrase more than a proper name, a feature that has probably helped this name survive all these years, along with the presence and importance of the god himself.

Some people mistake Yum Kaax for a god of corn because he was represented as a young man holding three corn cobs. In actuality, he was the guardian of the forest and all the wildlife, and protector of those animals hunted by men, a reason for which during the Maya splendor, a particular ritual took place. Every man would have to say a prayer asking for permission before going into the jungle to hunt. In the prayer, the hunter would have to specify the species he was after and the number of animals needed, as well as commit to growing crops in reposition of the lives taken.

Yum Kaax today.

Although the religious cult to many Maya deities has disappeared, Yum Kaax still enjoys some recognition in modern days. While the Maya gods aren´t worshipped like they once were, modern-day Maya hunters keep the ritual prior to their hunting alive. The name Yum Kaax isn’t heard anymore, but there is a legend which says that if a hunter gets deep into the jungle without asking for permission to the spirit known as Juan T’ul, he may get lost or worse. In some cases, they may return safe to their homes, but will experience some losses in their food, water and other resources until Juan T’ul thinks the lives taken from the wild are covered. Names for the spirit and even legends vary from region to region, but while talking to local elders, one may find a lot of references to their fear to Yum Kaax and his protective labour.

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