It’s an odd thing with gods: Many people say they exist, because they know and believe it. Many people say, that there probably isn’t any god. Scientists often refer to god as made by man. So in the end, you probably can’t know if a god exists or not. If however you come to speak of a god in question, that was the god of an ancient culture in an originally pantheistic religion, it gets a lot harder.
Right now however, I want to present such a case to you: the case of the god Hunab Ku. Hunab Ku is said to be an high, invisible god of the Maya. In a 16th century dictionary, he’s described as: “the only living and true god, also the greatest of the gods of the people of Yucatan. He had no form because they said that he could not be represented as he was incorporeal”. Have a look at this depiction by José Argüelles, a Mexican-American author:
We see a very abstract symbol, which could be resembling a typical yin-yang and other elements of different symbolism. It has a smooth round shape and therefore might really stand for the greatest of the gods.
The problem with this god is: He did never exist, before the Spaniards came to the Maya! And I’m not speaking in a theological way here, but in a cultural way. In the 20th century the Mexican author Domingo Martínez Parédez published a book about Hunab Ku, interpreting the concept as a proof for Maya monotheism. He depicted a first symbol for the deity, which was very different to the one you see above; namely as a square withing a circle or a circle within a square. Even though José Argüelles talked about Martínez’ concept of Hunab Ku, he drew the symbol totally different. This sounds arbitrary and in fact it is – but so was Martínez’ original work, which has no historical evidence. There are just three historical sources, where Hunab Ku or a sign like above can be found:
– In the already mentioned Diccionario de Motul
– In the Chilam Balam of Chumayel, a famous post-conquest Maya book. There Hunab-Ku is mentioned with the same meaning in the Diccionario
– In the Codex Magliabechiano, a 16th century Aztec Codex, the only pictorial reference to Hunab Ku in the style as above.
If you just paused in wonder, you had all reason to do it: I wrote Aztec Codex. An Aztec Codex is the only graphic source for the symbol of a Mayan deity as depicted by José Argüelles. There is not only no evidence for that, but this is very far-fetched. Of course I also want to show you the corresponding picture of the Codex, which I can, thanks to the great site famsi.org, where the Codex is available. On Page 5v we can see the following:
What you see here is a depiction of a cloak, used for an Aztec ritual. The pages before and after show 45 different cloaks for different rituals. The readers of you, that are able to read Spanish, can see that the cloak is called the “mantle of spider water” here. There is no understandable reason, why the depiction of an Aztec cloak should be connected to the symbol of a Maya deity. What Argüelles did there was connecting things, that are not connectable at all.
It gets worse: As you saw from the sources, every single mention of Hunab Ku was created after the Christian missionaries came to the Maya, trying to convince them of the Christian god, which is the only living and true god, which has no form, and which could not be represented as he was incorporeal. If that sounds familiar, it’s because that is partially the definition from the dictionary of above. The fact is, that Hunab Ku only appeared, after the Christian god was inserted into the Mayan culture. It’s valid to presume a connection there, as there is no evidence for the existence of a principle of Hunab Ku in precolonial sources. If there is any deity in Maya culture, that is considered a creator god, then it’s God D Itzamna. It was a god like many others and is today often totally falsy understood as the son of Hunab Ku. One can also see the Christian influence here: Father and Son.
It gets even worse: In the past years, New-Age followers and followers of Mayanism – in contrary to Mayanists, which are the serious scholars – widely accepted the principle of Hunab Ku as the one upper deity of the Maya. If you dare, you can have a search for “Hunab Ku” in the search engine of your choice. You get thousands of results all repeating the same wrong things, presenting them as facts:
– “Hunab Ku, the force that creates life, as the Mayas call it…”
– “Hunab Ku prepares us for this cosmic awakening by presenting 77 sacred symbols…”
– “Hunab-Ku is god and goddess of time. It’s a giant, living organism…”
– “Hunab Ku is a Mayan glyph representing a “black hole” at center of our galaxy…”
– “Hunab Ku – scientific proof of signals from the Galactic Core”
Hunab Ku is most probably a representation of the Christian god introduced to Maya religion by Franciscan friars to arrange the conversion to Christianity a lot smoother. Everything else is mostly mere, modern, New-age influenced invention or imagination or speculation, without any foundation, be it scientific or of common-sense.
I want to close this entry with the depiction of two other cloaks from the Aztec Codex, showing similar, but slightly different versions of the same cloak. This shows, that it wasn’t even an outstanding symbol of all those different symbols.