Gukumatz

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Q'uq'umatz was not directly equivalent to the Mexican Quetzalcoatl, he combined his attributes with those of the Classic Period Chontal Maya creator god Itzamna and was a two headed serpentine sky monster that carried the sun across the sky.[28] Sculptures of a human face emerging between the jaws of a serpent were common from the end of the Classic Period through to the Late Postclassic and may represent Q'uq'umatz in the act of carrying Hunahpu, the youthful avatar of the sun god Tohil, across the sky.[29] After midday, Q'uq'umatz continued into the west and descended towards the underworld bearing an older sun.[30] Such sculptures were used as markers for the Mesoamerican ballgame.[31] Since Q'uq'umatz acted as a mediator between Tohil and Awilix and their incarnations as the Maya Hero Twins Hunahpu and Ixbalanque, the positioning of such ballcourt markers on the east and west sides of north-south oriented ballcourts would represent Q'uq'umatz carrying the sun to the zenith with the east marker carrying Hunahpu/Tohil in its jaws, while the west marker would represent the descent of the sun into the underworld and would be carrying Ixbalanque/Awilix in its jaws.[32]

No ballgame markers are known from the heart of the K'iche' kingdom and investigators such as Fox consider it significant that these images of Q'uq'umatz carrying the sun are found in the eastern periphery facing the underworld due to the use of the ballgame in mediating political conflict.[33]

Modern belief

The various Feathered Serpent deities remained popular in Mesoamerican folk traditions after the Spanish Conquest but by the 20th century Q'uq'umatz appeared only rarely among the K'iche'.[34] A tradition was recorded by Juan de León that Q'uq'umatz assisted the sun-god Tohil in his daily climb to the zenith.[35] According to De León, who may have gathered the information from elders in Santa Cruz del Quiché, the feathered serpent gripped Tohil in his jaws to carry him safely up into the sky.[36]

The Popol Vuh

In the beginning of the Popol Vuh, Q'uq'umatz is depicted as afloat in the primordial sea with Tepeu, wrapped in quetzal feathers.[37] Nothing yet existed, only the sea at rest under the sky.[38] Soon Q'uq'umatz and Tepeu discussed the creation of man and it was decided between them to raise the earth and create mankind.[39] The gods spoke the word "Earth" and the earth was formed as if from a mist.[40] They then called forth the mountains from the water and the mountains rose at their command.[41] Forests of pine and cypress then sprung up among the newly formed mountains and valleys.[42] Q'uq'umatz was pleased with their collaborative creation of the earth and thanked the other gods that were present.[43] The gods created animals such as the deer, the birds, pumas, jaguars and different types of snakes.[44] They instructed each animal where it should live.[45] The gods then commanded that the animals should give them praise and worship them.[46] But the animals could not speak and simply squawked, chattered and roared in their own manner.[47] Q'uq'umatz soon realized that their first attempt at the creation of beings was a failure as they could not give them praise and so they condemned the animals to live in the forests and ravines.[48] Their animals were ordered to live in the wild and to let their flesh be eaten by the ones who will keep the days of the gods and show them praise.

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