leonidemartinblog

Welcome to my Historical Fiction Blog

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Lennie at Palenque site, Chiapas, Mexico

As a lover of historical fiction, I started writing my own stories about 15 years ago.  Presently my focus is ancient Mayan culture.  My logo is a scribe depicted in a Maya codex as a rabbit; they also had monkey scribes.  As 13-Rabbit Scribe, “Ox Lahun Ub’aah,” my books tell stories of real and fictional ancient Mayans and relate information about their advanced civilization.  I’ve lived and traveled in Maya regions of southern Mexico, Belize and Guatemala learning from indigenous teachers.  My blog will focus on ancient Maya sites (called ruins), archaeology and anthropology, current and past research, and their amazing culture.  I’ll post updates on my writings and other Maya related books/articles.  Research and writing about the ancient Maya are my main creative passions, though I have other interests including gardening, locavore eating, wine tasting, enjoying nature and of course my charming husband David and our two magnificent white cats.

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The Writing Process: Inspiration for The Mayan Red Queen Story

Writing Process

Leonide Martin engrossed in The Writing Process

Exploring The Writing Process With Leonide Martin.

In this new series of posts, I’ll be taking a look at The Writing Process. Whenever I’ve done an author interview, one question always asked is how I navigate the process of writing. Every author follows a personal writing process, so no single formula fits for all. There are common steps we all go through in conceptualizing, developing, planning, researching, writing routine, revising, editing, and publishing. This series will explore each step in the writing process, using my own experiences as examples.

The book I most recently completed is The Mayan Red Queen: Tz’aakb’u Ahau of Palenque. This is the third book in the Mists of Palenque series Book Cover for The Mayan Red Queenabout four remarkable ancient Mayan women. Released in 2017 as an ebook, it’s now in the process of getting into print with publication date March 1, 2018. The Mayan Red Queen is the example through which I’ll dissect my journey through The Writing Process.

 

 

Inspiration for The Mayan Red Queen Story

My husband and I bought a house in Mérida, Yucatan, Mexico in 2005 and lived there for five years. Our main purpose was for me to become immersed in Mayan culture and history to better write historical fiction about this great civilization. Yucatan was a perfect location, peppered with Maya ruins and infused with a vibrant modern Mayan culture. I had already written my first historical fiction about the Mayas before we moved to Mérida, and now had a new book in mind. The first book, Dreaming the Maya Fifth Sun: A Novel of Maya Wisdom and the 2012 Shift in Consciousness, is a story of two women separated by centuries yet connected by

Writing Processa web of history, whose destinies intertwine as the end of the Maya Calendar on December 21, 2012 approaches. Of course, the Mayas never predicted the calendar—much less the world—would end in 2012. For them, one great cycle rolled over into the next. This perspective is dramatized in the story.

While visiting Mexico during the years before we moved there, I’d been captivated by the ancient city Palenque located in southern Chiapas. I’d already done considerable research to write the first book, but was spurred to delve more deeply into the archeology and history of Palenque. Several famous archeological things happened there:  John L. Stephens and Frederick Catherwood wrote their Incidents of Travel books that became international best-sellers in the mid-1800s and put Palenque on the map.  Alberto Ruz Lhuillier excavated the tomb of famous ruler K’inich Janaab Pakal in 1952; it compares in riches to King Tut’s of Egypt. The series of Mesa Redondas conducted by Linda Schele and Merle Green Robertson during the 1970s brought together Mayanists from several disciplines; their combined skills deciphered the “king list” of Palenque rulers. Excavations by Arnoldo Gonzalez Cruz and Fanny Lopez Jimenez uncovered the tomb of a royal woman in 1994, her skeleton permeated with red cinnabar; it was the first queen’s burial ever found among the ancient Mayas.

Enter The Red Queen

Here is where the inspiration for my next book about the Mayas began. As I stood in the narrow passageway and peered into the chamber holding her empty sarcophagus, I wondered who this woman was. Her bones had been removed to Mexico City in a museum for preservation and study. Her burial adornments were in the Palenque museum; a jadeite mask, jade diadem, jade and stone jewelry, ceramics, tools, symbols of status. The partially restored pyramid housing her tomb (Temple XIII) adjoined the huge burial monument for Pakal (Temple of the Inscriptions); this made researchers think there was a relationship. By pure luck, I was browsing through Dante Books in Mérida and came upon a book about her:  La Reina Roja by Adriana Malvido.  I’d never have found this book unless I was in Mexico; I’d never been able to read it unless I had continued studying Spanish while there.

Red Queen sarcophagus Temple XIII

Sarcophagus of The Red Queen, Temple XIII

Jadeite Burial Mast of the Red Queen

Jadeite Burial Mask of The Mayan Red Queen

 

 

 

Temples of Inscriptions, XIII, XII at Palenque

Temple of the Inscriptions, Temple XIII, Temple XII at Palenque

 

La Reina Roja: El secreto de los mayas en Palenque was written in 2006 by a journalist from Mexico City, working in consultation with INAH, Mexico’s institute for preserving national culture and history. It read like a novel yet contained extensive factual information about the archeological excavation and historical background. I learned that the woman whose red bones were interred might be Pakal’s grandmother, mother, wife, or daughter-in-law. At that time, good techniques for analysis of teeth and bones were not available. It took over ten years for scientists to determine that the Red Queen’s skeleton and Pakal’s skeleton did not share DNA, and their teeth had different strontium isotope signatures. This eliminated his grandmother and mother; making his wife

Bust of K'inich Janaab Pakal, Palenque ruler

K’inich Janaab Pakal
Ruler of Palenque 615-683 CE
Portrait carved in limestone

most likely to receive such an honored and richly adorned burial.

Reading Malvido’s book, I learned about the other candidates for the burial and became fascinated by this lineage of royal women. Pakal’s grandmother Yohl Ik’nal was the first Mayan women to rule independently, causing a shift in dynastic succession. His mother assumed the throne after her brother was killed in Palenque’s worst defeat. She weathered opposition and chaos to keep the throne until her son Pakal came of age. His wife was from another city, lived many years in Palenque and bore him four sons. His daughter-in-law kept the dynasty going although she married his youngest son; the older sons had no surviving heirs.

 

The Nucleus of a Story Emerges

It was simply evident that I had to tell the stories of these four great Mayan queens. At first I conceptualized a single book in four parts, did lots more research and made an outline. While in Mérida I began writing about Yohl Ik’nal, but the writing process was difficult. Anyone who has lived the ex-pat life knows how many distractions abound. Eating out at fine restaurants was inexpensive;  there was abundant good wine; too many parties and musical performances; endless excursions to interesting sites around Yucatan; discussion groups and teas and local fiestas and carnivals. Serious writing had to wait until we returned to the States and then I discovered there was too much material for one book. The result: The Mists of Palenque series of four books, each dedicated to a queen.

Writing Process

Leonide Martin doing research in The Writing Process

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gift to you:

Sign up for my blog and receive PDF of my white paper “Why the World Didn’t End in 2012.”Pyramid at Chichen Itza 2012

Already signed up? Email me and request the white paper at lenniem07@yahoo.com

 

 

 

Resources

Precolumbian Art Research Institute. PARI Online Publication. Palenque Round Tables 1-8. (Mesas Redondas). 1973-1993.  http://www.mesoweb.com/pari/round_table.html

Precolumbian Art Research Institute. PARI Online Publication. The First Mesa Redonda of Palenque. 1973. http://www.mesoweb.com/pari/publications/RT01/RT01_00.html

Adriana Malvido.  La Reina Roja: El secreto de los mayas en Palenque. Conaculta/INAH, Mexico City, Mexico, 2006.

John L. Stephens. Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatan. Volume I.  With illustrations by Frederick Catherwood. Dover Pub., Inc., New York, 1969. Originally published in 1841 by Harper & Brothers, New York.

David Stuart & George Stuart.  Palenque: Eternal City of the Maya. Thames & Hudson Ltd, London, 2008.

Arnoldo Gonzalez Cruz.  The Red Queen. Mesoweb Online Publications, 1994 excavations of Temple XIII, Palenque.  http://www.mesoweb.com/palenque/features/red_queen/text.html

Arnoldo Gonzalez Cruz.  La Reina Roja, una tumba real en Palenque, 2011. (Wikipedia)

 

 

 

 

 

Guest Blogpost by J. Mitchel Baker

Guest blogpost by J. Mitchel Baker

It’s my pleasure to host a guest blogpost by J. Mitchel Baker as part of his blog tour. He is featuring his book Journey Within, a lyrical mix of memoir, adventure, and philosophy as he follows his soul’s call to search for the higher design in his life. He embarks on a personal journey into the wilderness, encountering raw nature with its survival challenges and potential for spiritual revelation. This is the true story of a man whose career involves nature and animals, yet whose inner voice called him into the wilderness. After years of postponement, he embarked on his personal quest into the unknown. In raw nature, he encounters unexpected challenges and finds courage through his animals to forge onward. The book highlights “the duality between both the physical and the spiritual. It carries a message of courage and inspiration to connect with life and the inner self, taking the road less traveled, and living authentically.”

Below are Baker’s reflections on the mystical powers inherent in nature. My review of his book follows. — Leonide Martin 

 

J. Mitchel Baker

J. Mitchel Baker

The mystique of the wild

I rage over the discourtesies shown by other drivers on an overfilled urban stretch of road. I stress over the relentless looming of debt. I obsess with the needs of my children. My hypertension rises with the vagaries of office politics and oppressive timelines. This is an ordinary day, played over yet again and again. But is this the life we were truly meant to live? Oh how I wish I were back in the wilds. The wild is often in my dreams; memories acute with wisdom learned.

Find a place in nature: the ocean, the forest, a river, or a mountain top. Sit and simply listen.

It begins with absolute silence. An ear accustomed to too much input will resist the auditory vacuum. A body learned in the ways of constant motion and a full agenda will fight for purpose. But be utterly still. Do not speak. Breathe deeply. Allow the ego to quiet itself. And be mindful of all things internal and external. There you can find your true self. There you can hear your true inner voice. There, in that setting devoid of space and time, is where you find awareness.

The listless flapping of leaves and the slow sway of the trees in the breeze naturally aligns our rhythms to the earth. The colorful grandeur of a mountain range as the sun settles demands we feel small and insignificant, yet happy to be alive. The vastness and brilliance of the stars on a cloudless night remind us we are part of something greater than ourselves. Sacred moments such as these give us pause to reflect on what is truly important in our lives.

The mysticism of these singular moments is the self-realization that the separation between each of us and nature is an illusion. Everything in nature is connected. Her millions of component parts contribute to create a perfect whole. We are part of that whole. She guides us toward something larger than ourselves, forces us to exist in the moment. Not yesterday. Not tomorrow. Now.

“There came to me a delicate, but at the same time a deep, strong and sensuous enjoyment of the beautiful green earth, the beautiful sky and sun; I felt them, they gave me inexpressible delight, as if they embraced and poured out their love upon me.  It was I who loved them, for my heart was broader than the earth; it is broader now than even then, more thirsty and desirous. After the sensuous enjoyment always come the thought, the desire: That I might be like this; that I might have the inner meaning of the sun, the light, the earth, the trees and grass, translated into some growth of excellence in myself, both of the body and of mind; greater perfection of physique, greater perfection of mind and soul; that I might be higher in myself.”

–   Richard Jefferies, The Story of My Heart 

The mystique of nature is neither measurable nor empirical but rather a deep experience that heals and inspires; an understanding all indigenous people across the globe have acknowledged for thousands of years; each embracing the earth as their mother. The emotional connection is there if you sit and simply listen. But perhaps we have travelled too far into our urban sprawls.

 

A Journey WithinA Journey Within by J. Mitchel Baker

Review by Leonide Martin

This first person account of the author’s quest for his destiny and personal truth is both lyrical and intensely vivid.  Driven by an inner vision to seek the fullness of who he is, Baker plans an adventure on horseback into the wild country of New Mexico. With his dog and three companions, he braves uncharted mountain terrain along the Continental Divide, taking few supplies and depending on nature to provide most needs. The congenial group of men, horses and dog faces unforeseen obstacles and must use wits and instinct to surmount flooded rivers, steep craggy paths, and disappearing trails.

Weaving through scary accounts of close calls with disaster are Baker’s inner reflections, revealing a profound philosophy and dedication to following his spiritual path. These deeply felt considerations are infused with an appreciation and honoring of nature that borders on the mystical. His love for animals and the natural world shines through. He is a man capable of enduring heart rending loss and yet remaining open to the richness of life’s experiences. Quotes at the beginning of each chapter frame the issues he grapples with, or provide inspirations drawn from a surprising range of teachers, from Jung and Freud to Mark Twain and Thoreau, Leo Tolstoy, Yogi Bera and modern mystic Caroline Myss.

Baker must make choices toward the journey’s end about following his own goals or keeping solidarity with his companions and ensuring safety. His selfless decision truncates the quest and he ponders what more might have been forthcoming had he continued. Feeling that the journey is incomplete and spiritual revelations remain, Baker ends the story setting off on another nature encounter with his horse, dog and one friend. The journey continues as he seeks to discover a greater design for his life.

Preconceptions commonly held about “cowboys” and outdoorsmen in the southwest are dismantled by this sensitive, eloquent memoir.

Continental Divide

Continental Divide

 

Changes for Leonide Martin Blog

Leonide MartinBroadening Perspectives: Historical Fiction, the Process of Writing, and the Author Community

“People say, ‘What advice do you have for people who want to be writers?’ I say, they don’t really need advice, they know they want to be writers, and they’re gonna do it. Those people who know that they really want to do this and are cut out for it, they know it.”
—R.L. Stine, Interview with Writers’ Digest 2011)

Leonide Martin Blog has focused on ancient Maya civilization since I started it over 5 years ago. The astonishing Mayan culture is still the focus of my writing, as I press forward to finish the final book in the Mists of Palenque series about four great Mayan queens. The first three books are published as ebooks, and the first two as print books. Book 3 is set for print publication in

Mists of Palenque: Four Great Mayan Queens

Mists of Palenque Series
Four Great Mayan Queens

March, 2018 and if I can keep on schedule Book 4 will come out in both print and ebook formats in November, 2018. After that, who knows? There is yet another Mayan queen in the ruling family of Pakal in Palenque, though little is known about her. Many fascinating stories remain to be told about the Mayas whose civilization lasted over two millennia and extended over a huge territory stretching from southern Mexico to Honduras. Yet, other historical subjects are starting to whisper their alluring promise. I might be tempted to write fiction drawing from my own family history:  French Catholics of south Louisiana, with branches coming from central France to New Orleans, and others migrating to Nova Scotia and New Brunswick to become Acadians. The Acadian story is dramatic, heroic, and tragic; a long tale of persecution and diaspora, until many arrived in south Louisiana bayou country to become today’s Cajuns.

 

 

 

Deportation of Acadians

Deportation of Acadians
The Canadian Encyclopedia

The Process of Writing 

I’m also planning to include more content about the process of writing, including background into the characters and story lines of the Mayan queens series. This will begin with exploring the

The Mayan Red Queen: Tz'aakb'u Ahau

Tz’aakb’u Ahau
The Red Queen

historic and fictional characters in The Mayan Red Queen: Tz’aakb’u Ahau of Palenque. Readers will get insight into these famous and not-so-famous Mayas, and how I shaped their characters from what is known and what I could imagine within context of the reasonable and the inferential. With the print book being published in six months, having background will enhance readers’ ability to put the people, places and story in context.

Author Community

Another new direction for Leonide Martin Blog is hosting guest blog posts and selected book reviews. Engaging with the author community is stimulating and informative; we learn so much from each other. I’ve done guest blog posts over the past few years, and always enjoyed the connections. I’m interested in author blog tours, a less grueling process than actual bookstore tours. So, I will be hosting an author in early November as part of his blog tour. Presently I’m reading his book and finding it heartfelt, lyrical, and gripping. Animal and nature lovers take note: this is a book about the deep spiritual connections we have with our environment and non-human companions. I will post my review here on my blog, and at online websites. In case you’re interested in reading the book here is the link:

J. Mitchel Baker, A Journey Within

“Animals hold great meaning in my soul. . . Shamans consider the swan totem to be a reminder: we are souls having a human a human experience. Their message is intended to awakenWhite swans flying our spiritual evolution, to develop and honor our intuition, to trust our instincts, to find our own inner strength.” – J. Mitchel Baker

“Until one has loved an animal a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.” – Anatole France (Ch. 11, A Journey Within)

 

 

 

I hope this expanded approach that Leonide Martin Blog is taking will create engagement with a wider range of readers and authors. You can connect with me through several platforms – I invite you to explore further and would greatly appreciate a closer relationship with you. Each platform has a “Follow” or “Friend” or “Like” button for you to click.

BookBub

Goodreads

Amazon

Facebook

Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway

“As a writer, you should not judge, you should understand.” ― Ernest Hemingway

Robert Frost

Robert Frost

 

 

“No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.”
– Robert Frost

Mayan Queens Kept Worlds in Balance

Mayan Queen

Mayan Queen Holding Effigies of Two Deities

Mayan Queens and Kings were Shaman-Rulers charged to Maintain Balance between the Three Worlds of the Maya Cosmos.

Mayan Queens were powerful leaders in ancient Maya culture. Women rulers are well-documented during the mid to late Classic Period, 300-900 CE. Called K’uhul Ixik, Holy Lady in classic Mayan language, their role included entering shamanic states to access spirit domains and drawn upon the powers of deities and ancestors. The rituals rulers performed, and the sacred architecture of pyramids and temples in which rituals took place, were symbols of creation in the cosmos.

 

Pyramid-Temples

Temple of Inscriptions – Temple XIII – Temple of Skull (c.700)

 

 

“They are all instruments for accessing spiritual power from the creative act . . . they are signposts on the Maya road to reality stretching across the landscape of history.”  ̶  Maya Cosmos

 

 

 

 

 

Mayan queens and kings did rituals of sacrifice and sympathetic magic.

Accessing powers of Otherworld Gods and Ancestors was not easily achieved. Mayan queens or kings had to make appropriate offerings and know how to call the deities’ names properly. The most common sacrifice was self-bloodletting, because blood was ultimately sacred as itz, sticky fluid that was ch’ulul, the life force energy, life-essence and creative substance. The shaman-ruler let blood from tongue, earlobes or genitals to concentrate and channel this life force from the Otherworld.

“In a sense, the shamans were like modern engineers. But instead of nuclear power plants and electrical grids they used pyramids and Vision Serpent portals. Instead of electron flows they used itz. The spilling of blood, like the throwing of a giant breaker switch, brought life giving energy pouring into the universe from the underlying force fields of the Otherworld.”  ̶  The Shaman’s Secret

Maya shamans

Mayan Shaman-Priests

 

Rituals for accessing spiritual powers propelled the shaman-ruler into altered states of consciousness, both by the act of self-bloodletting and use of mind-altering substances. The objective was to receive a tangible vision and an overwhelming experience of the deities; essentially a state of Divine Union or Communion. It is sympathetic magic through conjuring Divine beings, often intentional calling of a certain deity. Since all things mirror each other, in Mayan cosmology, when rituals re-enacted events from Creation Mythology, or conjured a warrior ancestor to guide a king through battle, these supernatural events were reactivated and manifested on earth.

 

Lady Kab’al Xoc Conjures an Ancestor Warrior

Lady Kab’al Xoc, first wife of Itzamnaaj Bahlam of Yaxchilan, was a famous Mayan queen. She is shown on carved lintels doing a bloodletting ritual, drawing a rope embedded with thorns through her tongue. As her blood fell on bark paper in a censer, it was set on fire and the rising smoke turned into the Vision Serpent. An ancestor warrior emerges from the snake’s open jaws, brandishing a shield and spear with Teotihuacan imagery (Tlaloc face mask, mosaic war helmet, double pointed spear). The ancestor brought important messages to guide the king during the upcoming battle.

Mayan Queen Sacrifice

Lady Kab’al Xoc Performing Self-Bloodletting

 

 

Mayan Queen Vision

Lady Kab’al Xoc Invoking Warrior Ancestor

Equinox Rituals Brought the Worlds Into Balance

An important responsibility of Mayan queens and kings was to perform rituals at key times according to their calendars. The Mayas had numerous calendars and many rituals were needed. Solar calendar events were especially potent: equinoxes, solstices, zenith, and eclipses. Each mid-fall and mid-spring, the sun reaches a point in its ecliptic when day and night come into balance. The concept of balance was critical to the Mayas; rulers were charged to keep the three worlds—Underworld, Middleworld, and Upperworld—in harmonious relationship. Only when the needs of deities of each realm were satisfied, and communion with deities was performed correctly, would humans enjoy lives of peace and abundance on earth.

Mayan solar priests, K’inob, used techniques to track the sun’s movement and predict accurately when the day of perfect balance arrived.  On the equinoxes, rulers would undertake the prescribed rituals, making offerings to the Gods of the calendar periods and drawing their blessings into the world. Rulers conjured the Vision Serpent and sought prophesy for the coming calendar period.

There were dire consequences if balance was not maintained between the worlds. When balance was lost, the natural world was in danger. If this world, the Middleworld of earth , remained out of balance with the other two worlds long enough, it could bring destruction to a city, a region, or perhaps the entire Maya lands. Many experts believe that losing balance in the natural world is what led to the collapse of Maya civilization. The “Maya Collapse” is a complex phenomenon, not readily explained by any single factor, following different courses and timelines in various parts of the Maya lands. Beyond doubt environmental changes played a major role.

 

El Mirador

El Mirador in Guatemala
300 BCE – 150 CE

El Mirador Out of Balance

The collapse of El Mirador is reasonably well explained. It was a thriving Pre-Classic city of about 100,000, surrounded by satellite cities in northern Guatemala that flourished between 300 BCE and 150 CE. Perhaps the largest Maya city, its main pyramid sat on plazas covering 45 acres, on a platform 980×2000 feet, rising 230 feet tall. Toward the end of its occupation, extravagant building programs using inordinate amounts of plaster were carried out; some of the thickest plaster coatings ever found. To create lime plaster and cement, the Mayas burned massive amounts of wood, causing deforestation in surrounding areas. The swampy regions that supplied water and rich mud for agriculture were destroyed by clay runoff from damaged forest floors. With no close-by rivers, and perhaps a time of relative drought, the once great city faced declining water, food, and wood for fire. Between 100-200 CE, El Mirador and other cities of Mirador Basin were abandoned. Archeologist Richard Hanson, prime investigator of El Mirador, says the underlying reason for its decline was a loss of balance with the natural environment. The rulers and elite became immersed in “conspicuous consumption” through over-building using excessive resources, trying to sustain an image of wealth and progress. This lack of foresight and judgment—an imbalance between the worlds—led to the collapse of civilization in the region.

Mayan queens and kings were successful at keeping the worlds in balance for over a millennium. Thousands of large cities thrived in a difficult tropical jungle climate. The Mayas learned to adapt agriculture and conserve natural resources, and created the most brilliant, artistically and technologically advanced civilization in the Americas. While they upheld their expansive cosmology and properly honored the Gods and Ancestors, their culture succeeded. They lived an ongoing re-creation of their worlds by mutual Divine-human interaction; in essence, shaman-rulers became “mothers” of the Gods even as the Gods gave birth to humanity and the worlds.

Around 900-1000 CE that creative partnership dissolved. Not only environmental factors, but an internal spiritual dissonance led to abandonment of Maya cities. The Holy Lords and Ladies lost ability to fulfill their mandate, the deities were no longer satisfied, and the common people left for better livelihoods elsewhere. But this is yet another story.

 

Read about how Mayan queens kept worlds in balance in my book series about Mayan Queens in the ruling lineage of Palenque.

Click Links Below:

Mayan Queens Books

Mists of Palenque
Series About Mayan Queens

 

The Visionary Mayan Queen: Yohl Ik’nal of Palenque

The Controversial Mayan Queen: Sak K’uk of Palenque

The Mayan Red Queen: Tz’aakb’u Ahau of Palenque

 

 

 

Resources

Chip Brown. El Mirador, the Lost City of the Maya. Smithsonian Magazine, May 2011.

John Clark and Richard Hansen.  The Architecture of Early Kingship. In Royal Courts of the Ancient Maya, Vol. 2 (Eds. Takeshi Inomata and Stephen Houston. Westview Press, Boulder, CO, 2001.

David Freidel, Linda Schele, and Joy Parker.  Maya Cosmos. Three Thousand Years on the Shaman’s Path. William Morrow and Co., New York, 1995.

Douglas Gillette.  The Shaman’s Secret. Bantam Books, New York, 1997.

 

The omnipresent Mayan deity, that didn’t exist

The Complete MesoAmerica... and more

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…

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Solar Eclipse–Potent Time for the Mayas

Solar Eclipse Was a Potent Time for the Mayas.

The ancient Mayas were the most advanced astronomers of their time. They calculated the solar year, lunar cycles, periodicity of the planets, solstices and equinoxes with amazing accuracy. They were able to readily predict lunar eclipses, and had calculated a pattern of dates for solar eclipses, including predicting the solar eclipse of 1991. (Bricker & Bricker)

Solar eclipses were known as chi’ ibal kin to ancient Mayas, translated as “to eat the sun.”

Glyph for Solar Eclipse – Serpent Eating the Sun

Dresden Codex
Solar Eclipse Tables with Serpent Eating the Sun

This phenomenon was depicted in the Dresden Codex as a serpent with huge open jaws about to devour the solar eclipse glyph. Although modern experts believe eclipses were a cause of distress for ancient peoples, terrifying because they did not understand the science behind such phenomena, this was not true for the Mayas. With their sophisticated knowledge of astronomy, the Mayas understood the movements of celestial bodies and how the moon moving between the sun and earth caused a brief blacking out of sunlight. To the Mayas, this held profound symbolic meaning, signaling a major shift of cosmic influences upon earth. Such potent occasions were prime time for ceremonies and invoking celestial powers into human actions.

In the story of K’inich Janaab Pakal, most famous Maya ruler who reigned in Palenque from 615-683 CE, the power of a solar eclipse was used to increase potency of a most important ritual. His prophesied mission was to restore the spiritual charter of his city, and resurrect the Jeweled Sky Tree that formed a portal to communicate with the Gods and ancestors. This version of a World Tree, called Wakah Chan Te by the Mayas, had its roots in the Underworld, its trunk rose through the Middleworld of earth, and its

Wakah Chan Te
Jeweled Sky Tree from Cross Group, Palenque

branches soared into the Upperworld of the cosmos. In Palenque, Pakal built a new temple in which to raise the Jeweled Sky Tree, since the original shrine was destroyed and desecrated in an enemy attack by Kalakmul during his childhood.

 

Although the history of Palenque’s defeat by Kalakmul is well known (Stuart & Stuart), and Pakal’s mandate to restore the damaged portal to the Upperworld has been described (Aldana), the actual process of resurrecting the Tree is a mystery. My task as an author of historical fiction was to use informed imagination to envision this process. This I did through the character of Pakal’s wife, Tz’aakb’u Ahau (Lalak in my story, called The Red Queen), whose training in sexual alchemy brought the immense power of life creation to join with Pakal in “conceiving and birthing” a new Wakah Chan Te. (Martin) To further enhance the potency of this event, the ceremony was enacted during a solar eclipse.

Historical records show there was a solar eclipse that crossed over Guatemala and southern Chiapas on February 2, 650 CE. Palenque, located in Chiapas, would have experienced at least partial solar eclipse between 1:00-4:00 pm that day, which worked perfectly for the ceremony done by Pakal and Lalak and resulted in the climactic moment of their story.

Read the historical fiction story of Pakal, his wife Lalak–The Red Queen, and the solar eclipse ritual to resurrect the Wakah Chan Te:

 

The Mayan Red Queen:  Tz’aakb’u Ahau of Palenque  

 

 

 

Mayan Priests Gathering at Chichen Itza Observatory

How the Mayas predicted solar eclipses.

Predicting lunar and solar eclipses is more complex than determining sunrise, sunset, solstice, and equinox. Movements of the earth, the sun, and the moon all must be taken in to account because this involves correlating the synodic lunations with the solar calendar. Because the orbital plane of the moon is inclined by 5 degrees to the plane of earth’s orbit, eclipses do not happen at every full and new moon. Rather, they take place only when the moon enters the ecliptic plane at the same time that it is in correct position between the sun and earth.

Maya astronomer priests were able to determine the nodes when the paths of moon and sun cross, which occurs every 173.31 days. In this time period, eclipses may occur within 18 days of the node. Most would result in lunar eclipses; the Dresden Codex contains eclipse tables made of columns and rows based on the numbers 177 (6 lunations), and 148 (5 lunations). The Codex is a

Dresden Codex
Eclipse Tables

folding bark-paper book with pages coated in thin stucco, with glyphs painted in red and black and many symbolic figures. There are tables containing predictions of the phases of Venus over a 104-year interval, and predictions of lunar phases for 33 years. The Mayas used these to calculate solar eclipses.

The average interval between solar eclipses is 153.79 days. They had calculated a synodic lunar period as 29.533 days (modern value 29.530 days). Since the Mayas did not use decimals, they varied between 28 and 29 days for lunations. A grid of dates in the Codex linked Venus phenomena with lunar nodes to predict solar eclipses. Using the derived multipliers they were able to determine solar eclipse intervals that varied by +7 and +8 days. Combining an inferior conjunction of Venus with the predicted solar eclipse gave better accuracy.

The Dresden Codex is one of only four Mayan manuscripts that escaped destruction by the Spaniards when they invaded Mexico in the 16th century. The surviving codices are 11-12th century copies of older Mayan books. When researchers recently compared dates of Mayan calendars with our current one, then used modern data on planetary orbits and cycles, they found the Maya’s data was surprisingly accurate. The Maya astronomical calendar correctly predicted a solar eclipse to within one day in 1991, centuries after Classic ancient Mayan civilization ended. (Bricker & Bricker)

Mural of Maya Astronomy
Mexicolore

 

Solar Eclipse

 

Had the Classic Mayan civilization continued, undoubtedly they would have predicted our current eclipse occurring on August 21, 2017.

 

 

 

 

More about Leonide Martin’s Mayan Queen books: www.mistsofpalenque.com

References

Aldana, Gerardo.  The Apotheosis of Janaab’ Pakal. University of Colorado Press, 2007.

Bricker, Harvey & Bricker, Victoria.  Astronomy in the Maya Codices. American Philosophical Society, 2011.

Martin, Leonide.  The Mayan Red Queen: Tz’aakb’u Ahau of Palenque. Made for Success Pub., 2015.

Stuart, David & Stuart, George.  Palenque: Eternal City of the Maya. Thames & Hudson, 2008.

 

 

 

Poetry of Creation Myth Recited by Yohl Ik’nal

Palenque’s Creation Myth Recited by Yohl Ik’nal.

 

Yohl Ik’nal
Side of Pakal’s Sarcophagus

 

In her transformation to adulthood ceremony, Yohl Ik’nal recited the creation myth of B’aakal, her people and land. She correctly recited from memory, and was acknowledged as “bearer of the sacred royal blood” by the ruler of Lakam Ha. She became the first woman ruler of Palenque, ruling successfully for 22 years.

From The Visionary Mayan Queen: Yohl Ik’nal of Palenque. Book 1, Mists of Palenque Series.

 

 

Glyph of Muwaan Mat

“It was before the Fourth Creation, in times long ago

Ix Muwaan Mat was born.

Of her birth it is said, she entered the sky

On the Day of Lord (Ahau), Month of Conjuring (Tzek),

For she was to bring the new creation.

Seven tuns after her birth came the new Creation,

When all counts of the long calendar returned to zero.

The Gods of the sky, of the earth, of the underworld

Knew what they must do.

They did three stone-bindings in the sky:

The Jaguar Throne Stone at the 5 Sky House;

The Water Lily Throne Stone at the Heart of the Sky;

The Serpent Throne Stone at the 13 Sky Earth-Cave.

These three stones formed the First Hearth Place,

Patterned the stars so homes on earth would have hearthstones.

(more…)

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