Sunday, November 18, 2012

Seven Macaw's Last Day, Part 2.

The terrace was bordered with gardens full of flowering shrubs and trees laden with flowers and fruit: jacarandas, almond trees, oranges, pineapples and mangos. Countless birds perched in the trees, including several flocks of wild macaws who came to Seven Macaw's call as if they were tame. Seven Macaw sat down under the shade of a tree, arranging his writing materials beside him, in preparation for the serious thinking he needed to do.

He glanced out at the scene in front of him, and frowned slightly. Something seemed wrong. The street was empty of passerby, and the nearby houses all had their doors closed and windows shuttered. Nobody stopped by to offer him a friendly greeting or seek his advice, as the citizens were usuually wont to do. Everything was still and quiet, sombre, as if on the day of a funeral. Moreover, something was wrong with the sun. Its golden light was flickering erratically, casting a chiaroscuro of shifting shadows over the lonely street.

With a surge of magical power, Seven Macaw reached upwards to stabilize the sun, making it shine steady and clear. The effort left him drained again. Sighing, he slumped wearily, holding his head in his hands.

Then, from somewhere outside the burning blackness behind his closed eyes, he heard a voice call, "Mister Sun?"

He raised his head to look, and there in the street before him stood a small girl. She gazed up at him shyly, her hands tucked behind her back. "Hello, Mister Sun," she said.

"Well, hello there," said Seven Macaw. Even though it hurt, he made his mouth curve into a smile. "And whom do I have the honor of meeting today?" he inquired.

The girl blushed and giggled. "I'm Julia," she said. She pulled her hand out from behind her back, holding out a bouquet of flowers. "I saw you were sick, Mister Sun, so I brought you some flowers."

"Why, how kind of you, Julia," replied Seven Macaw. He had thousands of flowers in his gardens, many of them far more rare and exotic than the simple wildflowers she had brought. But her compassionate gesture touched him, nonetheless. He did not reach out to take the flowers, however. He didn't want to risk accidentally touching the girl, for he knew his illness could easily kill a mortal. "Just set them down there, Senorita," he said, pointing to a spot on the terrace near the front steps.

Julia looked puzzled, but she did as she was told, laying the flowers where he pointed. Then she skipped back to stand in the street below him, regarding him solemnly and earnestly. "Does it hurt really bad, Mister Sun?" she asked.

Seven Macaw thought of saying something reassuring. But when he saw the simple, clear honesty in her eyes, he knew he had to be honest too. "Yes," he nodded. "Really bad."

"Well, I'm sorry, Mister Sun," said Julia. "I hope you get better soon."

"Gracias, Senorita," said Seven Macaw, managing to smile again. He picked up the flowers and inhaled their sweet scent. It made him feel a bit more refreshed.

Just then, a pair of shutters across the street opened, and a woman leaned out of a window, her face strained with fear. "Julia, what are you doing?" she called anxiously.

"Its okay, mother, Senor El Sol and I are just talking," Julia called back.

Seven Macaw lifted his hand to the woman in a friendly wave. "Buenos Dias, Senora," he called to her. Then he leaned down to address Julia softly. "I think your mother wants you to go home now."

Giorgio de Chirico, The Mystery and Melancholy of a Street.

"I know," Julia nodded. "See you later, Mister Sun." She ran off across the street and went inside the house, and the frightened woman closed the door behind her with a sharp bang.

Seven Macaw rubbed his chin gingerly, wiping some of the oozing blood from his shattered face.  Why, he thought with astonishment, these people are afraid of me. But why? I have done nothing to threaten them.

He meditated on it for a moment. Then, with blinding clarity, he saw himself as others saw him, as if he were watching himself from a window on the other side of the street. He, the man whom these people revered as a living god, the one who lit up the Sun and Moon, was sitting there maimed and broken, groaning with pain, gasping with fever, putrid blood flowing from his lower jaw, the bright feathers falling from his wings like dead leaves in the dry season. Seeing their divine protector and benefactor in such desperate condition, how could they not feel that some terrible doom was overtaking the world?

Then another image flashed into his mind: a memory from long ago, of his parents lying dead with the plague.

So that's it, he thought. I am no longer their Saq Etal, their Bright Sign, symbol of joy and hope. I have become only a Kame, an emblem of death.

Then Seven Macaw felt ashamed. Enough! he thought. I have let this go on on long enough. It is no longer just I who suffer; I have also brought misery to others, to my good people who honor me and wish me only well. I must bring an end to this wretchedness; I must find someone to help me as soon as possible.

Chimalmat had been right, he realized; and as soon as he saw her again, he would tell her so -- not grudgingly, but gracefully.

As Seven Macaw thought of his wife, an idea came to him. Smiling softly to himself, as much as his sore jaw would allow, he picked up his bark paper and began to pen a note to Chimalmat. It was hard to write, because he couldn't see very well, but he managed to scrawl down a few rows of glyphs, then signed it with the numeral seven: :| Then, he wrapped the paper around the flower bouquet Julia had given him, and set it down gently at his side.

This task accomplished, he returned to pondering his situation.

At last, he clearly perceived the trap in which the Twins had caught him. They had damaged the very part of him which enabled him to channel his divine power. His magical teeth and eyes enabled him to heal and regenerate the rest of his body, even to resurrect himself; but they could not repair themselves. That must be the flaw that Itzamna had warned him about. And now he had nearly drained himself in his futile attempts at healing.

But, he thought proudly, I am still a god, and though they have hurt me, they shall not conquer me.

Indeed; his vast power was still spread out through all the sky-earth, keeping alight the Sun and Moon, holding off the dreadful wrath of Hurucan, and sending life-giving winds and rains where they were needed. But now he was so sick and weary that he could feel the weight of the heavens pressing down upon him, as if he alone held up the sky. And he dared not rest from his burden for even an instant, or the sky would fall and crush the world.

Well then, thought Seven Macaw, I will just have to endure until I can find help. And, should the Twins again attack me, I shall hurl the very power of the cosmos against them, no matter how much pain it costs me.

Thus Seven Macaw vowed in his heart. But he still could not see past the horizon, and he did not know what his enemies truly had planned for him.

The proudest man in the world sat in front of his beautiful house, gazing out at the fine street with the locked doors and shut windows, the smoothly paved road on which the shadow of no passerby fell. There came a strange, ominous hush, the wind was still, and the birds were silent in the elegant gardens. The sun flickered in the sky like a pale ghost. And Seven Macaw began to feel terribly, terribly alone.

Again, he felt the immense weight of the heavens looming over him. Lowering his head to his hands, he hid his stricken face. "Help me," he whispered. "Somebody, help me."

Then, as if in answer to his plea, he heard the sound of voices, old voices and young voices. He looked up. There, coming down the street, were an old man and woman, accompanied by two teenage boys.

[And, if you've read the Popol Vuh, you know that Seven's goose is about to be cooked....]

Friday, November 16, 2012

Seven Macaw's Last Day, Part 1.

[Late Third Age. This occurs immediately after the scene in Seven Macaw's vision in "Xibalba: The Room of Loneliness".]

As soon as his wife left the room, and he heard the door close, Seven Macaw turned back to his attempt to heal himself. Over the past three days, he had tried all the most powerful spells and rituals that he knew. Now, he was starting to feel desperate; although, he did not allow himself to acknowledge the feeling. He was the world's greatest shaman, after all; such doubts were unworthy of him. They simply hovered in the background, like Hurucan's stormclouds.

What he was going to try now was very dangerous. That was part of the reason he had asked Chimalmat to leave; he did not want her to know what he was doing. He would tell her about it afterward, of course, but there was no need to make her worry.

Taking his seating-mat with him, Seven Macaw ascended the steps to the roof of his house. The sick man paused to catch his breath; he looked out over his glorious city, and his heart swelled with pride. The city looked strong and peaceful, its red-painted pyramids and ornate stucco facades shining in the morning light of Seven Macaw's sun. Reassured, he spread out his mat on the flat rooftop terrace, sat down cross-legged, and closed his eyes to meditate. Soon, he was immersed deeply in a trance.

After anchoring himself firmly to the energy of the Earth, Seven Macaw stretched his awareness into the heavens, reaching out with the vast network of luminous fibers that was his divine self. He drew upon the powers of the moon and sun and sky, weaving them all together in a luminous braid of gold, silver and crystalline radiance, encoiled in sparkling rainbows. Then, he pulled the cosmic powers into himself, all at once. The eldritch energy, sufficient to kill a mortal thousands of times over, descended into him in a great column like a huge bolt of lightning striking downward, eerily silent.

Seven Macaw let the celestial fires flow through him as long as he could bear it, hoping to burn away the worms that infested his eyes, teeth and face, and repair the damage the Twins had done to him. But it was to no avail. The energy simply spilled out from his broken teeth like water through a sieve, leaving him more drained than before.

At last, Seven Macaw could endure the dreadful burning no longer. He sank down on the mat, feeling worse than ever. The unbalanced energies oscillated through his body, causing him to sweat with fever and then tremble with chills every few minutes. As for the demonic worms, they seemed only to feed on the energy he had provided them.

When he could stand up again, he climbed laboriously back down to his room. He knew he had failed, and the blow to his pride hurt him much more than the physical pain. Perhaps my wife is right, he thought. Perhaps it is time now to seek other solutions. But his jaw was throbbing so badly that he could not think clearly. What was he to do?

As he pondered confusedly, he happened to look down at his arm, and saw that small flames were beginning to lick out of his flesh, burning from the inside. He realized that he was in danger of catching fire. Hurriedly, he searched for something to put it out.

Fortunately, he found a pitcher of water on a table. Chimalmat had placed water jars in each room and made sure they were kept full, because she was concerned about his fever, and knew he would forget to drink if he did not have constant reminders. He drank it down, and began to feel better. The cool water soothed him, as did the beauty of the jar, painted with pink water lilies and adorned with hieroglyphs. He held the jar and turned it around, admiring the artwork. If I had burst into flames, he thought, it could have destroyed my whole art collection. He was more concerned for his treasures than for his own safety. He had, after all, set himself afire many times in the past, without harm. But, if it got out of control --

"Chima!" he called weakly, hoping that she was still somewhere in the house where she could hear. But there was no answer.

It serves me right, he thought ruefully. I asked her to leave me alone, when she was loathe to do so; now she must have gone out to while away the day in the marketplace.

But what was he to do now? He had to find answers to his dilemma, but he still couldn't think clearly due to the pain and sickness that ravaged him. I need air, he thought. He decided he would go out and rest on his front terrace for a while. Surely, the answers would come to him then.

So, Seven Macaw gathered up his sitting-mat, along with some pens, ink and bark paper, and a jug of water in case he started to burn again. Holding tightly to the ornate wooden railing, he stepped carefully down the outdoor staircase that led to the terrace.

[To be continued.]

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Xibalba: The Room of Loneliness.

[This episode answers the question: Where was Chimalmat while her husband was being killed? Why did she leave his side when she knew he was in such terrible danger? When I thought about it, I realized there could be only one possible answer.]

When the ghost reached the hills, he wandered through them until he found a cave opening. Entering it, he passed through a dark tunnel with doors on each side. Each door contained the answer to a different question.

The ghost knew, of course, that like everything here in Xibalba, each room contained trials and traps. He knew that the answer would come with a price.

There were many questions that he could have asked, but one in particular was at the top of his mind now. He focused on the inquiry, framing it clearly in his thoughts, and spoke: "I want to know why I am alone."

One of the doors slowly swung ajar. The ghost stepped through it.

Inside the small, dark cave, there was total blackness. The ghost waited quietly. Then, a torch flared into luminosity from out of the darkness, casting its light on a painting on the opposite cave wall. As the ghost watched, the picture grew more and more lifelike until it became a moving vision.

The scene showed a sumptuous room, filled with objects of art and beauty. On the opposite wall was a great mural painting showing a resplendent landscape, a city of stone terraces and pyramids rising out of lush forest, over which shone a brilliant sun with multicolored rays. Standing in the room was a man who seemed as ornately wrought as all the other things. He wore rich jewelry and a majestic headdress embellished with feathers and flowers; and, most wondrous of all, wings hung on his back, so cunningly fashioned that one could not tell if they were real or a feathered cloak.

But his face was not attractive..Although it, too, was covered with fine ornaments, the decorations seemed only to cover over the evidence of a hideous disease. Blood and pus dripped from a gaping wound in his lower jaw. His skin was puffy and inflamed, bulging in purple welts around the shining silver that covered his nose and ringed his eyes. The eyes themselves were strange to see: made of pure molten metal that shone like the sun. But they, too, were marred: their golden light flickered erratically with a feverish gleam.

If he was once as beautiful as he is now hideous --- thought the ghost.

The man in the picture seemed so ill and exhausted that he could barely keep standing. Yet his damaged face held an expression of stubborn, defiant will. As the ghost watched, the man turned to gaze into an obsidian mirror hanging on the wall. He lifted his hand to wipe at his jaw with a piece of cloth, and gave a muffled sob of pain. His eyes moved to meet the burning orbs in the reflection, and, for a few moments, he stared at the ruin he had become.

And, as the ghost watched the man watching himself in the mirror, a sudden shock of recognition came to him: He was the man in the vision. He, himself, was the man with the beautiful clothes and ugly face.

Before the ghost could recover from his shock,  the door opened, and a woman entered. She was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. If the man's glory was like the Sun and Moon, hers was like all of the stars put together. She had the wild, rugged beauty of the Wooden People; her skin was like fine mahogany, chiseled and polished to perfection. Her long, black hair hung down her back like a river of shining obsidian. Like the man, she was winged, with the radiant plumage of a macaw; and she was clothed only in living feathers that grew from her naked flesh.

And, just as the ghost had recognized himself, he suddenly knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that this marvellous woman was his wife.

In the vision, the feathered woman spoke, and her voice was as pure and melodious as a songbird's. "The household business is taken care of, husband. What do you wish now?" She regarded the man with tender concern

The man sighed wearily as he seated himself on a floor mat. "I wish to be left alone today," he replied. Alhough the words were spoken calmly, without anger, they still sent a chill through the ghost's heart.

As he watched, the woman knelt down beside her stricken mate. Her brow was furrowed with anxiety, but she spoke calmly and softly.  "My husband, I do not think it good that you should be alone now. You are still very ill, and your enemies might come after you."

"Do not worry, my dear." The man turned to take her hand reassuringly. "I can take care of myself. And I need  time to focus, to concentrate fully on healing myself." He let out another sigh of pain.

The woman bent over to lean her head against the man's shoulder, nestling in his feathers, holding him tightly as if he were a precious object. The ghost caught his breath; he was mesmerized by the clear, noble lines of her face, her long, straight hair flowing down her shoulders like a black waterfall. "My love," she pleaded, "is it not time that we seek the aid of other healers? It has been three days now since you were shot. It grieves me to see you suffer so."

But the man in the picture was deaf to her plea. He turned aside, saying, "I will not let the Twins say I am a lesser god than they. They may have wounded me, but they will not humiliate me." His molten eyes flared with anger, directed not toward his wife but toward his absent foes.

"Then do you truly wish me to leave?" the woman asked, her face still buried in the feathers of his wing.

The  man squeezed his wife's hand gently. "Just one day, my dear. Surely you can do without me that long?" he jested, as if trying to make light of the situation.

The woman raised her head with calm, stoical dignity. "If you wish it, my lord, then I shall."

"Until tomorrow, then, my lady, when I shall be well again, and the sun will rise golden and bright," the man said. He lifted her slender brown hand, as if about to kiss it; but, considering the condition of his mouth, he decided against it and simply pressed her hand between both of his own.

"Until tomorrow," the woman replied. She got up, and turned to go, her tall form moving with the smooth, polished grace of a proud woman of Wood. She headed toward the door, turning to look back at him just once, with a sorrowful, lingering gaze in her dark eyes.

The sick man was oblivious to her now. He stared at the wall, huddled in his ruffled feathers, lost in his own misery.

The ghost watched the beautiful bird-woman turn back to the door. He saw her walk away with straight, proud steps. He saw the long line of her black hair hanging down her back. He saw her open the door. He saw her go through. He saw her straight back moving away. He saw the door close.

As he gazed at the closed door, the vision faded, along with the flame that cast it, leaving only empty blackness.

The ghost knelt in the cold darkness, covering his face. A wave of intense woe washed through him, too deep for words. For he knew that had been the last time he had ever seen his wife.

What have I done? he thought. I turned away from the one whom I should most have loved and trusted. I sent her away, when she wished only to care for me.

Would he ever find her again? the ghost wondered. And, more important, would she still want him?

The ghost got up shakily to his feet, and headed toward the door of the cave. He knew the answer to his question now: He was alone simply because he had chosen it, and the choice had led to his death.

The price of this knowledge was simply the knowledge itself.

And he knew one other thing: The punishments imposed by the gods are not always the worst ones.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Seven Macaw and Ta Hol Discuss Eclipses.

[A bit of dialogue, inspired by some thoughts on the relation between science & myth.]

Ta Hol was searching through a shelf of bark-paper books.

"What are you looking for, Ta Hol?" asked Seven Macaw.

"The date of the next lunar eclipse," the Vulture replied, "when the great Serpent will rise up from the Underworld and devour the Moon."

Seven Macaw joined Ta Hol at the shelf. "You know, Ta Hol," he remarked, "a lunar eclipse is not really caused by a great serpent. It is caused when the Earth passes between the Moon and Sun, casting its shadow on the Moon."

"But I know there is such a Serpent," protested Ta Hol. "I've seen it."

"So have I," Seven Macaw nodded. "I myself have pulled the Moon out of its jaws. But the Serpent is not  what causes the eclipse. It is caused by the Earth coming between the Sun and Moon."

"I don't understand it." Ta Hol shrugged, ruffling his red, brown and white feathers. "But, since you've been the Sun and Moon and all, I guess I'll take your word for it."

Monday, July 30, 2012

False Dawn, Part 2.

[Continued from "False Dawn, Part 1."]

The people stood on the cliff, waiting for the sun to rise.

They prayed, they sang and they danced. They adorned One-Hunahpu's statue with fresh flowers and corn-husks. But the statue remained silent, and the sky remained dark.

Then came two priests, bringing a young woman. Seven Macaw recognized her. She was the girl who sold flowers in the marketplace. He remembered her face, smiling amid the blooms.

But she was not smiling now. Her face held a look of grief, fear, and what Seven Macaw would later come to recognize as resignation.

The priests made her lie down on a stone altar. They bound her hands and feet.

Seven Macaw was still too young to understand what was going on. His mother covered his eyes so he couldn't watch. But he could still hear. He heard the priests chanting, the thud of a flint-kinfe, and a scream. He heard something trickling, the sound of something pouring down the stone and running to the ground.

When his mother let him look again, the woman was gone. The stone was sticky with something like tree sap. He knew, without having to be told, that she wouldn't be coming back.

Surely that would be enough to make the sun rise.

But there was nothing but darkness, and stillness, and a few lone bird-calls.

Then, the people felt a chill, as a strange presence began to fill the air. A cold wind poured out from the mouth of a cave. The wind swirled around, stirring the leaves and grass, and flying out of the cave-mouth came a monstrous bird. Its head and wings were like those of a horned owl, its eyes shone red in its grey face, and it had a long red tail like a macaw. Bits of fire and swirls of smoke spun from its tail and wings.

The bird flew around over the gathered populace. "Greetings, puny mortals," it croaked in a  mocking tone. "I am Macaw-Owl, messenger of the Lords of Xibalba. I have a message to deliver. To whom shall I give it?" The bird swooped down to where Seven Macaw was standing with his family. "What about you, little macaw-boy?" the bird asked him, its piercing red eyes staring into his small, frightened face. "Shall you be the bearer of ill tidings? Maybe they will stone you," it jeered.

Seven Macaw clutched his mother's skirt tightly. "Mommy," he said.

Seven Macaw's mother stood straight, gazing back firmly at the bird-messenger. "If the message is for all of us, then speak to all of us," she said.

Seven Macaw's father, Hun Caquix, put his arm on his wife's shoulder, standing like a strong tree beside her. "Yes," he said. "It's easy enough to frighten children. If you have a message, then speak. We already know that someone is going to die. That is the only kind of news you ever bring."

"Not going to die," the bird laughed mockingly. "Already dead." It landed on the head of the statue, perching there affrontingly. "Here is my message, people of earth: The Lords of Xibalba say to you: 'One Hunahpu, who was a god, has died like a mortal. He and his brother came to the Underworld and played a ball game with us, and they lost. Your Sun belongs to us now. Even now the Lords of Xibalba are paying ball with his head.' " The Macaw-Owl flicked its tail, sending out a shower of sparks. "And soon, say the Lords, all the rest of you will join him."

Murmurs, and groans, and cries of dismay went up from the crowd.

The Macaw-Owl flew into the air, hooting as it circled over the crowd amid clouds of smoke and fire. "What do you say to that, People of Wood? How will you live without a sun? You will starve, you will freeze in the cold, you will stumble in the dark, you will fall off cliffs, you will be eaten by wild beasts."

It hooted with malignant glee.

"You have lost your god of light and maize, and even now the other gods are also deserting you. Hurricane Thunderbolt, Heart-of-the-Sky, has already grown tired of you, like a child who is now longer amused with his toys. He has seen that you are not as pretty to look at as he once imagined you. You are rough and crude; your skin is like bark, your heads do not turn, and your limbs lack grace. You do not remember the gods well enough, you do not shower  them with enough praise for the gift of life they gave you." The bird seemed to think this was very funny. "Not only that, but you do not kill each other enough, to pour out sacrificial blood for the gods' nurture and sustenance."

More cries of gloom and misery arose from the gathering. The people stirred together in a tide of fear.

But Seven Macaw's parents, Hun Caquix and his wife, stood firm together like a pair of straight, unbending trees. "What do we say, O Bird of Ill Omen?" retorted Hun Caquix. "Well, I will speak for myself and my family. We say this: If the gods do not help us, we will help ourselves, with our own minds and muscles. We will not lie down and die as long as we can work. We have survived this long without a Sun, and if One Hunahpu does not come, we will mourn him -- and go on living." He planted his hoe firmly on the ground beside him, with his other arm around his wife. And she took the hand of their eldest son, One Macaw, and he took the hand of his brother Seven Macaw, and they all stood together as one before the Messenger of Xibalba.

And when the rest of the people saw this, they too joined hands, and stood together defiantly. Only a few of the priests, and those who were most devout, held back out of fear. But all the rest of them, the farmers and workers, the hunters and craftspeople, the elders and sages, from the oldest to the youngest they all gathered and stood together in resistance against the Lords of Xibalba and the wrathful gods.

The Macaw-Owl shrieked out, "So brave, and so proud! You will only make the gods more angry." Again, it seemed to find this very amusing. "Very well -- I will leave you to your doom. The halls of Xibalba are awaiting all of you."

Cackling and hooting, the Macaw-Owl swooped away in a gust of smoke and sparks.

And so the Wooden People were left standing, proud and sad, in the darkness. They placed a wreath of flowers on One Hunahpu's statue, and they wept for him. And so the Ritual of Waiting became the Ritual of Mourning, and the statue became his tombstone.

And, slowly and sadly, the people turned and walked home in the darkness, knowing there would be no light except the fires they made for themselves, and no morning except in their dreams. And as the years went on, the people turned away from Hurucan and the Sky Gods and no longer remembered them, forgetting the One who had made them and left them to starve.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

False Dawn: Part 1.

[Early Third Age.]

When Seven Macaw was born, there was only one village in the whole world. The two oldest people, First Father and First Mother, were still living. He had been made from a coral tree and she from the heart of bullrushes, and they lived as long as trees; but like trees, they too grew withered and old. As time went on, they spoke and moved less and less, until they became two wooden statues. But when Seven Macaw was young, Coral and Bullrushes still spoke and walked; and all of the people, the People of Wood, lived there together with them.

In those days, there was no sun or moon. It was dark and cold in the world. The only light came from a thin crack at the horizon's edge, spilling out from underneath the earth where the unborn essence of moon and sun lay swirling in formless, cloudlike nebulae. When those rays shone through faintly, like the first light of dawn, the roof of the sky-earth was dark grey, like slate; it never got brighter than that. At other times, the sky turned pitch-black, and then sometimes strange signs could be seen. That is was what the day-nights were like.

Back then, the magic of Creation was still strong in the Earth, and it was possible for things to grow even without a sun. But it took great toil and labor to bring forth food from the earth; toil and labor, and the blood of sacrifice. The first people had been created in the warmest part of the world, near the earth's very center. But without a sun, it was still often very cold. When the day-nights were at their coldest and darkest, the animals shivered in the forest, and the people huddled around their house-fires.

It was said that in those days before the sun, the lands to the North and South were all locked up with ice. And, as time went by, groups of people went across the ice and crossed over to other masses of land, and that was how the Wooden People spread all over the world.

The Wooden People knew little besides hard work and hunger, and the constant fear of death. But they had been made strong and tough, like wood; and as they struggled to survive in the cold, hostile world, they became even more hard and stiff, stubborn and proud. They stood straight and tall and unbending like trees in the harsh winds, and their hardness was counted for virtue and beauty among them. But the gods, who had made them, found them rough and ungainly and too slow to obey, and cared for them less and less.

Yet the people remained faithful to one hope: they had been promised there would be a Sun. They made a statue in his image: One Hunahpu, the shining, smiling young man clothed in green corn-husks, whose hair was cornsilk, whose bright teeth shone like golden kernels of maize. And on the appointed day-nights, they gathered to watch the eastern horizon, and wait for him to rise. They waited, and prayed, and sacrificed. They came and waited for years, for decades, for generations. And still there was no sun; but their hope burned in their hearts like burning resin, a bright flame that would not be quenched.

One day-night, when Seven Macaw was a very small boy, he went with his family to the Ceremony of Waiting. All the people of the village climbed up a mountain where they could see far to the horizon. There they stood, looking out over the cliff, in the black day-night. Coral and Bullrushes stood hand in hand near the cliff's edge, and the people stood behind and around them. Everything was hushed and solemn. Long, black bars of cloud came up the horizon; then there came a pale, yellow light between the bars. The people waited, hushed, their breath bated. They could see only the streaks of black and yellow. They waited, praying silently, for the light to grow brighter, for the great glowing yellow orb to rise at last.

But there was nothing more than the pale streaks between the horizon and clouds.

[To be continued.]

Friday, July 13, 2012

Note: Beware the Landlords of Xibalba!

If you found this blog through an "Apartment Ratings" site, please note: I am not really renting out rooms in Xibalba. I have no idea how my site got on that page -- maybe someone listed it as a joke.

Xibalba, the "Place of Fear", is the ancient Mayan Underworld. It's populated with deadly death gods, demons, & skeletal shades.

If you're looking for a place to stay, I'm sure the Lords of Xibalba would be happy to have you move in. But I wouldn't recommend it. The terms of lease can be rather... permanent.

Hun Came (One Death) waves "Hi!"

And on that note... I made a few Mayan myth icons:

Here's Seven Macaw:
  ( ;>
/// ^

The "Seven Fire Macaw" glyph:

:| ?~  <;)"

And Hunahpu with his blowgun:

 ^ ^  /
  o /

Feel free to copy & paste 'em.