Maya Favorite

28 May

I’ve been reading up on football (soccer) and the history of chocolate.  If you think that’s odd then wait until I tell you that they have a shared history involving the Mayans. 

Don't sit under the calabash tree with anyone else but me!

Last week I read in the Ball is Round by David Goldblatt that the Mayans were likely the inventors of the game of football.  The author described a Mayan legend where two hero twins got into trouble with the gods because they played too loudly.  I cannot pronounce either name but the brothers were called Hun Hunahpu and Vucub Hunahpu.  Anyway, they were tricked into entering the realm of the Dark Lords of Xibalba for some sort of grudge match.  Like some punk rockers being invited to sit in with the banjo players.  The mortals, naturally, lose the game.  Their bodies were buried in the underworld court and Hun’s head was displayed on a calabash tree.  The Mayans and their decorating schemes.  Wacky, wild stuff.  One day the goddess Xquic walked by, Hun spit’s in her hand, or rather his head does, and she becomes preggers.

Xquic becomes the mother of twin boys and names them Hunahpu and Xbalanque.  Turns out that they like football too and when they get really good they decide that it’s on with the bad guys downstairs.  They challenge them to a game and when they win, they are rewarded with the corpses of their father and uncle.  They place what’s left in the sky and there you have the sun and moon.  You probably saw that coming.

Now it’s chocolate’s turn.  I’m also reading the True History of Chocolate by Sophie D. and Michael D. Coe.  Chocolate is also a discovery of the Mayans though it’s often credited to the Aztecs.  In this Mayan story the original set of twins are the sons of the god and goddess that built the world in the first place.  They also visit the underworld but this time there isn’t a Hades Cup or anything.  They just get stuck down there… oh, and beheaded.  And they put the head of one of the twins (identified as the Maize God) on a tree.  Again, it’s a calabash tree in the story but the pictures that archeaologist find?  Yeah, it’s a cacao tree.  You know, where the heavenly manna called chocolate comes from.

This time the goddess holds her hand up to the severed head but the results are the same.  She’s knocked up with the dead guy’s kids, twins again, and when those in charge find out she is sent upstairs to live.  The twins then eventually return to fight for their father and uncle’s honor.  They win out and celebrate by resurrecting dad, the Maize God.  Their reward?  They get launched into the sky to become the sun and the moon.

I find it really interesting that the same creation story is applied to both football and chocolate.  It not only relates some of the Mayan’s culture but how important chocolate and football were to them.  It’s one of life’s little mysteries that I should read these stories within days of each other.  I doubt that I would have made the connection otherwise.  In my research about all things European I find that I learn a lot about the rest of the world, too. 

… and like so many other things I’ve learned about there is a beer named after Hunahpu.  Now it could be the Mayan god from the twin stories above or it could be named after one of the men who were named after this same twin.  But you get the picture.  In this case, Hops + Mayan legend = Beer.


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