From The Popol Vuh
Spanish translation of the French version of Professor Georges Raynaud, Director of Studies on the Religions of Pre-Columbian America, at the School of High Studies in Paris, by the students holding it : MIGUEL ANGEL ASTURIAS and J.M. GONZELEZ DE MENDOZA.
English translation by Jared Aragona
Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Here’s the first story, the first description. There was not a single man, a single animal, bird, fish, crab, wood, stone, cavern, ravine, grass, jungle. Only heaven existed. The face of the earth did not appear; there was only the limited sea, all the space of heaven. There was nothing gathered together. Everything was invisible, everything was motionless in heaven. There was nothing built. Only limited water, only the calm sea, alone, limited. Nothing existed. Only immobility, silence, in darkness, at night. Only the Builders, the Trainers, the Dominators, the Mighty of Heaven, the Procreators, the Spawners, were on the water, scattered light. [His symbols] were wrapped in feathers, green ones; their names [graphics] were therefore Feathered Snakes. They’re great Wise Men. Such is heaven, [so] are the Spirits of Heaven; such are, like, the names of the gods. Then came the Word; came here from the Dominators, from the Mighty of Heaven, in darkness, at night: it was said by the Dominators, the Mighty of Heaven; they spoke: then they held counsel, then they thought, they understood each other, they joined their words, their wisdoms. Then they showed, they pondered, at the time of dawn; they decided to [build] man, while holding counsel on the production, existence, of trees, of vines, of the production of life, of existence, in darkness, at night, by the Spirits of Heaven called Giant Masters. Master Giant Lightning is the first. Footprint of the Flash is the second. Flash Splendor is the third: these three are the Spirits of Heaven. Then the Dominators, the Mighty of Heaven, met with them. Then they held counsel on the dawn of life, how germination would be done, how dawn would be done, who would sustain, nurture. “Let that be it. Get fertile. Let this water split, empty. Let the earth be born, be a firm land,” they said. “Let the germination be done, that the dawn be made in heaven, on earth, for [we] shall have neither worship nor manifestation for our built, our formed, until the built man, the formed man, is born”: thus they spoke, for which the earth was born Such was indeed the birth of the existing earth. “Earth, ” they said, and was soon born. Only a fog, only a cloud [was] the birth of matter. Then the mountains came out of the water: the great mountains instantly came out. Only by Magic Science, by Magic Power, was what had been decided [concerning] minds, [to] the plains; then the cypresses, the pine trees, were born simultaneously on the surface of the earth. And the Mighty of Heaven rejoiced thus: “Be the welcome, O Spirits of Heaven, O Giant Master [Flash], O Footprint of the Flash, O Splendor of the Flash.” “Let our construction, our formation, be completed, ” he was answered. First the earth, the mountains, the plains were born; the waters were set on the way; the streams walked among the mountains; thus the start-up of the waters took place when the great mountains appeared. Thus was the birth of the earth when it was born by [order] of the Spirits of Heaven, of the Spirits of the earth, for thus they are called those who first fertilized, being heaven in suspense, being the earth in suspense in the water; thus she was fertilized when they fertilized her: then her conclusion, her composition, were pondered by them.
They immediately fertilized the animals of the mountains, guardians of all jungles, the beings of the mountains: deer, birds, pumas, jaguars, snakes, snakes, […] guardians of the vines. Then the Procreators, the Spawners, said, “Will there be nothing but silence, immobility, at the foot of the trees, of the vines? Well, it is, then, that there are guardians”; so they said, fertilizing, talking. Instantly the deer, the birds were born. Then they gave their abodes to the deer, to the birds. “You, deer, upon the way of the streams, in the ravine, will sleep; here you will live, in the herbs, in the weeds; in the jungles, you will fertilize; on four feet you will go, you will live.” It was done as it was said. Then they were also [given] the abodes of the birds, of the great birds. “Birds, ye shall nest upon the trees, upon the vines ye shall dwell; you will beget, multiply upon the branches of the trees, on the branches of the vines.” Thus it was said to the deer, to the birds, to do what they were to do; they all took their bedrooms, their abodes. Thus the Procreators, the Spawners, gave their houses to the animals of the earth. Being finished, deer, birds, it was said to the deer, to the birds, by the Builders, the Trainers, the Procreators, the Spawners: “Speak, shout; you can growl, scream. Let everyone make their language heard according to their clan, according to their way.” So it was said to deer, birds, cougars, jaguars, snakes. “From now on say our names, praise us, your mothers, us your fathers. From now on call Giant Master [Flash], Lightning Footprint, Lightning Splendor, Spirits of Heaven, Earth Spirits, Builders. Trainers, Procreators. Spawners. Talk to us, summon us, worship us,” they were told. But they could not speak as men: they only cackled, they only moaned, they only squawked; [no] form of language was manifested, each speaking differently. When the Builders, the Trainers, heard their helpless words, they said to each other, “They have not been able to say our names, of us the Builders, the Trainers.” “It is not right,” the Procreators, the Spawners, replied to each other, and said, “Behold, ye shall be changed because ye have not been able to speak. We will change our Word. Your livelihood, your food, your bedrooms, your abodes, you will have them: it will be the ravine, the jungles. Our worship is imperfect if you do not invoke us. Will there be, can there be worship, obedience, in the [beings] we will make? You will receive your bale: your flesh will be ground between your teeth; so be it, may it be your bale.” Thus it was then said, ordained, to the little animals, to the great animals of the surface of the earth; but they wanted to prove their luck, they wanted to tempt the test, they wanted to try the worship, but not understanding in any way the language of each other, they did not understand each other, they could do nothing. Such was, therefore, the bale of his flesh; so the bale of being eaten, if killed, was [imposed] here on all animals on the surface of the earth. Then were rehearsed constructed beings, beings formed, by the Builders, the Trainers, the Procreators, the Spawners. “Let it still be tested. Germination is coming, dawn. Let’s make our supporters and nourishers. How can we be invoked, commemorated, on the surface of the earth? [Already] we have rehearsed with our first construction, our formation, without our worship being made for her, our manifestation. So let us try to make obedient, respectful supporters, nourishers,” they said.
So it was the construction, the training. Iron made the meat. They saw that this was not right, but that it fell like mud, it was piled up, it softened, it got wet, it changed on the ground, it melted; his head did not move; face [turn] to one side; the view was veiled; they could not look behind them; at first they spoke, but without wisdom. Immediately, they were liquefied, they did not stand. Then the Builders, the Trainers, said again, “The more you work, the less these mud people can walk and beget.” “Let it be decided then, ” they said. They instantly destroyed once again, their construction, their formation, and then said, “How are we going to get born worshippers, summoners?”
Holding advice again, they said then, “Let’s say To Ancient Secret, Old Hideout, Master Wizard of Dawn, Master Wizard of the Day: “Try your luck again, your formation.” Thus they told each other the Builders, the Trainers, and spoke to Ancient Secret, Ancient Hider. Then the speech said to those augurs, to the Grandmother of the Day, to the Grandmother of Dawn by the Builders, the Trainers; here are their names: Ancient Secret, Ancient Hideout. And the Giant Masters spoke, just as the Dominators, the Mighty of Heaven. They then told the Lucky Ones, those of [their] Formation, to the augurs: “It is time to re-arrange on the signs of our built man, of our formed man, as our supporter, our nourisher, our summoner, our commemorator. So begin the Words [Magic], Grandma, Grandpa, our grandmother, our grandfather, Ancient Secret, Ancient Concealer. Let us therefore make germination, that there be dawn, that we may be invoked, that we may be worshipped, that we may be commemorated, by the man built, the man formed man, the mannequin, the molded man. Make it so. Declare your names: Master Wizard of Dawn, Master Wizard of the Day, Procreative Couple, Spawning Couple, Great Pig of Dawn, Great Tapir of Dawn. The Emeralds. Those of the Gems, The Ones of the Awl, The Ones in the Tables, Green Jadeite, The Green Cup, Resin, Artistic Works, Grandmother of the Day, Grandmother of Dawn. Be named after our built, our trained. Make your enchantments for your corn, for your tzité [an instrument for telling the future]. Will it be done, it will happen, that we sculpt in wood his mouth, his face?” That’s what it was said to the Lucky People. Then [the throwing of the grains] was made, the prediction of the enchantment for maize, the tzité. “Good luck, stay, ” said a grandmother, a grandfather. Now, this grandfather was The Tzité, called the Old Secret; this grandmother was The One of Luck, that of [her] formation, called Old Concealer with Giant Opening. When luck was decided, it was spoken like this: “Time is to be arranged. Speak; that we hear and talk, say, if the wood needs to be carved, be sculpted by the Construction, the Formation, whether she will be the supporter, the nourisher, when germination is done, the dawn.” “O corn, O tzité, O luck, oh [his] formation, eyes, adjust” was said to corn, to tzité, to luck, to [his] formation. “Come and sting there, O Spirits of Heaven. Don’t put your mouth down, the face of the Dominators, the Mighty of Heaven,” they said. Then they said the straight thing: “So be your mannequins, the [dolls] built of wood, speaking, chatting on the surface of the earth.” “So be it, ” he answered his words. Instantly the mannequins were made, the [dolls] built of wood; men came, men spoke; humanity existed on the surface of the earth. They lived, begat, made daughters, made sons, those mannequins, those [dolls] built of wood. They had neither wit nor wisdom, no memory of their Builders, of their Trainers; they walked, they walked without object. They did not remember the Spirits of Heaven; that’s why they decayed. Just an essay, just an attempt at humanity. At first they spoke, but their faces were desiccated; his feet, his hands, [were] without consistency; no blood, no humors, no moisture, no fat; dry cheeks [were] their faces; dry his feet, his hands; compressed their flesh. Therefore [there was] no wisdom in their heads, before their Builders, their Trainers, their Procreators, their Animators. These were the first men to exist on the surface of the earth.
Then [it] came to an end, the loss, the destruction, the death of those mannequins, [dolls] built of wood. Then the flood was swollen by the Spirits of Heaven, a “great flood was made: it came above the heads of those mannequins, [dolls] built of wood. The tzité [was the] flesh of man: but when by the Builders, the Trainers? The woman was carved, the sassafras [was the] flesh of the woman. This entered them by the will of the Builders of the Trainers. But they didn’t think, they didn’t talk to the Construction. Those of the Formation, their Doers, their Life Givers. And his death was this: they were submerged; came the flood, came from the sky an abundant resin. The so-called Face Digger came to rip out their eyes: Death Bat, came to cut off their heads: Sorcerer-Turkey came to eat their flesh: Sorcerer-Owl came to crush, to break their bones, their nerves: they were crushed, they were pulverized, in punishment of their faces, because they had not thought before their Mothers, before their Fathers, the Spirits of Heaven called Giant Masters. Because of this darkened the face of the earth, began the dark rain, rain by day, rain at night. The small animals, the large animals, came: the wood, the stone, manifested their faces. His grinding stones [metals], his clay dishes, his spits, his pots, his dogs, his turkeys, all spoke; all, so many as there were, manifested their faces. “You hurt us, you ate us; It’s your turn; you will be sacrificed,” their dogs, their turkeys, told them. And behold [what they said unto them] their grinding stones: “We had daily complaints of you; daily, at night, at dawn, always: “Cut, cut, rip, tear” on our faces, for you. Behold, to begin with, our charge to your face. Now that you have ceased to be men, you will taste our strength: we will knead, we will bite, your flesh,” their grinding stones told them, and behold, speaking in turn, their dogs said unto them, “Why did ye not give us our food? Ever since we were seen, you were chasing us, you were kicking us out: your instrument to hit us was ready while you ate. Then you spoke well, we didn’t talk. Without it, we wouldn’t kill you now. How could you not reason? How could you not think of yourselves? It is we who will erase you [from the beam of the earth]; now you will suffer the bones of our mouths, we will eat you”: [so] they were told by their dogs, showing “their faces. And behold, in turn their pots, their clay dishes, spoke to them, “Damage, pain, you did us, charring our mouths, charring our faces, always putting us before the fire. You burned us without us thinking wrong; you will suffer it at your turn, we will burn you,” all the pots said, manifesting their faces. Likewise the stones of the home strongly lit the fire placed near their heads, they hurt them. Pushing [men] ran, full of despair. They wanted to go up to their mansions, but falling, their mansions made them fall. They wanted to climb the trees; the trees shook them in the distance. They wanted to get into the holes, but the holes despised their faces. Such was the ruin of those built men, of those men formed, men to be destroyed, men to be annihilated; their mouths, their faces, were all destroyed, annihilated. It is said that their posterity [are] those monkeys who currently live in the jungles; these were his posterity because only wood had been put in his flesh by the Builders, the Trainers. That’s why he looks like man that monkey, posterity of a generation of men built, of men formed, but [who were only] mannequins, [dolls] built of wood.
Here is the beginning of when council was held about man, [of] when he sought what would enter the flesh of man. The so-called Procreators, Spawners, Builders, Trainers. Powerful dominators of Heaven, they spoke like this: “The dawn spreads, the construction is over. Behold, the supporter becomes visible, the nourisher the son of dawn, the begat of dawn. Behold, man is seen, humanity, on the surface of the earth,” [so] they said. They gathered, they came, they came to hold counsel in the darkness, in the night. Then here they searched, argued, pondered, deliberated. Thus they came, to celebrate Council on the appearance of dawn: they got, they found, what [should] enter the flesh of man. However, it was not lacking for the sun, the moon, the stars to manifest; above, the Builders, the Trainers. In Houses on Pyramids, in Fish Mansion, so called, were born the yellow cobs, the white cobs. Here are the names of the animals that brought the food: Fox. Coyote,Torra. Raven, the four animals announcing the news of the yellow cobs, the white cobs born in Houses on Pyramids, and the path of Houses on Pyramids. Behold, at last the substance which was to enter into the flesh of the constructed man, of the man formed: this was his blood: this became the blood of man: this cob entered into end [in man] by the Procreators, the Begeters. They rejoiced, therefore, to have come to the country excellent, full of tasty things; many yellow cobs, white cobs; a lot of cocoa [currency], cocoa [fine]; innumerable red zapotillos [candies], anonas [a kind of fruit], fruits, Paternoster beans, slaughterhouse zapots [a small fruit], [wild] honey; fullness of exquisite food [had] in that city called Houses on Pyramids [near the] Fish Mansion. Subsistence of all kinds, small subsistence, great subsistence, small plantings, great plantings, [of all this] was taught the way through animals. Then yellow corn, white corn, and Hideer Antigua made nine drinks were ground. Food was introduced [into the flesh], the fat, fat, became the essence of the arms, [of man’s muscles. Thus did the Procreators, the Spawners, the Dominators, the Mighty of Heaven, as they say. Immediately the Word of Construction was [pronounced], of formation of our first mothers, [first] parents; only yellow cobs, white cobs, [entered] their flesh: only feeding of the legs, of the arms of man. Such were our first parents, [such] were the four men built: that one food [entered] their flesh.
Here are the names of the first men who were built, who were formed. Here is the first man: Sorcerer of the Wrapping; the second: Night Witch; then the third: Loot Guard; and the fourth: Lunar Warlock. Such were the names of our first mothers, [first] parents. Only built, only formed; they had no mothers, they had no parents; we call them simply Men. Without [the woman] they were procreated, without [the] woman were begat, by the Built, the Formed, the Procreators, the Spawners. Only by Power [Magic], only by Science [Magic], [was] its construction, its formation, by the Builders, the Trainers, the Procreators, the Spawners, the Dominators, the Mighty of Heaven. Then they looked human, and men they were; they spoke, they said, they saw, they heard, they walked, they roasted: good, beautiful men; his appearance; men’s faces. The memory was. It existed. They saw; instantly his gaze rose. They saw everything, they knew the whole world; when they looked, at the same instant their sight looked around, I saw everything, in the vault of heaven, on the surface of the earth. They saw everything hidden without first moving. When they looked at the world, they also saw everything that exists in it. Numerous was his knowledge. His thought went beyond wood, stone, lakes, seas, mountains, valleys. In truth, men who [should] be loved: Wrapping Warlock, Night Witch, Loot Guard, Lunar Warlock. They were then questioned by the Construction, The Ones of Formation. “What do you think of your being? Don’t you see? Can’t you hear? Your language, your walk, aren’t they good? Look then and see the flood, if the mountains do not appear, the valleys: see the instructing,” they were told. They saw the whole world right away, and then they thanked the Builders, the Trainers. “Truly twice thank you, three times thank you. We were born, we had a mouth, we had a face, we talked, we heard, we meditated, we moved: we know well, we know far, close. We see the great, the small, in the sky, on earth. Thank you [we] to you! We were born, O Those of the Built, the Formed: we exist, O our grandmother, O our grandfather,” they said, thanking them for their construction, for their formation. They just knew everything, looking at the four corners, at the four angles, in the sky, on earth. The Ones with the Built. Those of the Formed, they did not hear this with pleasure. “It is not right what our built, our trained ones say. They know everything, the big, the small,” they said. Therefore, they held council The Procreators, the Begets. “How are we going to work with them now? May his gazes come only within walking distance! Let them see nothing but the face of the earth! It’s not right what they say. Aren’t they just called Built, Formed? They will be like gods, if they do not beget, [if] they do not propagate, when germination is done, when dawn exists; alone, they don’t multiply. Let that be it. We only undo a little what we wanted them to be: is it not right what we say, Would they match those who have done them, those whose science extends in the distance, to those who see it all?”, was said by the Spirits of Heaven, Giant Master [Flash], Lightning Footprint, Lightning Splendor, Dominators. Mighty of Heaven. Procreators. Spawners. Ancient Secret, Ancient Concealer, Builder, Trainers. That’s how they spoke when they re-made the being of their construction, of their formation. Then [of the four] eyes were petrified by the Spirits of heaven, which covered them like breath on the face of a mirror; his eyes were troubled; saw nothing but the next thing, this was just clear. Thus was lost the Wisdom and all the Science of the four men, their beginning, their beginning. So first they were built, they were formed, our grandparents, our parents, by the Spirits of Heaven, the Spirits of the earth. Then there were also their wives, their wives lived. The gods held advice. Thus, during their dream, [the four] received truly beautiful women, who existed with Enveloping Warlock, Night Witch. Treasure Guard, Lunar Warlock. When they awoke, their women existed: their hearts rejoiced instantly because of their wives.
Behold, therefore, the dawn, the appearance of the sun of the moon, of the stars. Wrapping Warlock, Night Witch, Booty Guard, Lunar Warlock, rejoiced a lot when they saw Luna-Sol; first she came out; [with] her face illuminated, she came out first, before the sun. They immediately unrolled their copales [amber-like, aromatic tree resin burned as incense], come from there far away, from the East, for to use them was immediately in their spirit. The three unrolled what their hearts offered. Copal de Mixtán, name of the copal that carried The Envoltory Sorcerer. Copal de Caviztán, the name of the copal worn by Night Mister. Divine Copal was called the one wearing Treasure Guard. These three were his copales; this is what they burned when they came dancing, back in the East. Pleasant [were] their screams when they danced burning precious copales. They immediately groaned not to see, if not contemplated, the birth of the day. Then, when the sun came up, the small animals, the large animals, rejoiced; they had just risen on the paths of the waters, in the ravines; stood on the tips of the mountains, together their faces to where the day comes out. There roared the cougar, the jaguar. The bird named Queletzu sang the first. Actually, all the animals rejoiced. The eagle, the white zopilot, the small birds, the big birds, they were full. Now, the Thorns, the Sacrifices, had knelt down, rejoiced greatly with The Thorns, the Sacrifices, the Tams, the Ilocs, and the Rabinal, the Cakchequel, the Tziquinaha, and [the] Tuhalha, Uchabah, Quibah, Batenha’ and the Dominators Yaquí [all descendants of the original K’iche’]; as many tribes as they are now. Countless [were] men. The dawn was made upon all the tribes together. The face of the earth was immediately dried up by the sun. Like a man [was] the sun when it was shown. His burning face drying the face of the earth. Before the sun came up, soft, wet, [it was] the surface of the earth, before the sun came up. Entirely like a man came out the sun; without force [was] its heat; It was only shown when he was born; and remained but as a mirror. […]