Itzamna

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In Yucatec Maya mythology, Itzamna was the name of an upper god and creator deity thought to be residing in the sky. Little is known about him, but scattered references are present in early-colonial Spanish reports (relaciones) and dictionaries. Twentieth-century Lacandon lore includes tales about a creator god (Nohochakyum or Hachakyum) who may be a late successor to Itzamna. In the pre-Spanish period, Itzamna, represented by the aged god D, was frequently depicted in books and in ceramic scenes derived from such books. The Aztec deity corresponding to Itzamna is Tonacatecuhtli.

Contents

Name

Eric Thompson originally interpreted the name Itzamna as "lizard house", itzam being a Yucatecan term for an iguana and naaj meaning "house".[1] However, Thompson's translation has gradually been abandoned. While there is no consensus on the exact meaning of the name Itzamna, it may be significant that itz is a root denoting all sorts of secretions (such as dew, sap, and semen) and also sorcery. The otherwise unattested, agentive form itzam could thus mean "asperser" or "sorcerer".[2] Although one finds God D's Classic name glyph commonly rendered as "Itzamnaaj", this reading still awaits confirmation.

Early-colonial reports

The early colonial sources variously connect, and sometimes identify, Itzamna with Hunab Ku (an invisible high god), Kinich Ahau (the sun deity), and Yaxcocahmut (a bird of omen).

The most reliable source on Itzamna, Diego de Landa, mentions him several times in the framework of his description of the ritual year. In the month of Uo, a ritual aspersion of the books took place under invocation of Kinich Ahau Itzamna, "the first priest". In the month of Zip, Itzamna was invoked as one of the gods of medicine, and in the month of Mac, he was venerated by the very old on a par with the Chaacs, the rain deities. In the cycle of four years, one year was under the patronage of Itzamna.

Itzamna was an active creator god, as is shown by the following. Confirming Landa's description of the book ritual above, (Hun-)Itzamna is stated by Diego López de Cogolludo to have invented the priestly art of writing. According to this same author, Itzamna (now written Zamna) had been a sort of priest who divided the land of Yucatan and assigned names to all of its features. More generally, Itzamna was the creator of mankind, and also the father of Bacab (Francisco Hernández), a fourfold deity of the interior of the earth. In an alternative tradition, Itzamna begot thirteen sons with Ixchel, two of whom created the earth and mankind (Las Casas).

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