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Blog Tour – The Prophetic Mayan Queen

Join the Blog Tour for The Prophetic Mayan Queen: K’inuuw Mat of Palenque

Mists of Palenque Series Book 4.

Blog Tour Dates January 7 – 11, 2019.

 

Drawing of K'inuuw Mat Name Glyph

K’inuuw Mat Name Glyph

Journey back 1300 years to the splendor and intrigue of Mayan civilization, the most advanced in the Western World. K’inuuw Mat, a royal girl who wants to dedicate her life to serving Mother Goddess Ix Chel, instead finds her destiny is marriage into the Palenque royal family, overlords of her region. With her skills in scrying and prophecy, she seeks a vision of her future husband. But, upon arriving at his city, she realizes the face she saw is his older brother, Kan Bahlam. They are immediately attracted, though she resists and follows through with marriage to the younger brother. As family conflicts, regional politics, and high court dramas play out, K’inuuw Mat shares astronomical interests with Kan Bahlam while keeping her distance. He schemes to fulfill his passion for her, assisted by fateful events that bring them together in most unexpected ways. The Goddess gives K’inuuw Mat a mandate to preserve Mayan culture for future generations, as their civilization begins the decline her prophecy foresees. She rises to meet the challenge, aided by mystical connections with ancestor women rulers who give guidance through visions. Her children help carry out the mandate through surprising links with Kan Bahlam.

K’inuuw Mat was a real Mayan women who lived during the late 7th and early 8th Centuries CE. Her portrait appears on a panel in Palenque (Tablet of the Slaves),

Drawing of Tablet of the Slaves

K’inuuw Mat on right, her husband Tiwol Chan Mat on left, offering rulership symbols to their son.
Tablet of the Slaves

seated on the right, where she offers a symbol of royal status to her son. Her husband, Tiwol Chan Mat, is seated on the left. Not much is recorded about her life, but there is a lot of information about the men surrounding her–the ruling family of Palenque and their magnificent architectural and artistic creations. Many characters are from this family, their courtiers and warriors. Fictional characters help fill out the complex relationships and intrigues.

To the Mayas, spirituality merged with everyday life. They moved between dimensions to meet with star ancestors, sky Gods, Underworld demons, shamans, tricksters, and deities who influenced every aspect of life. Rulers and priests were trained as shamans, did vision quests, and used hallucinogens to alter consciousness. They interacted with deities, cast spells, and had visionary powers. During trance rituals where they offered their own blood, the most precious substance to the Gods, they saw incense smoke turn into the Vision Serpent. From its huge jaws they saw an ancestor or God’s head emerge, giving predictions or answering questions.

I hope you’ll want to read this book, and plunge into the Maya’s exotic, advanced, and astonishing culture full of passion, pageantry, and mysticism.

 

 

 

BUY BOOK

Pre-order now!  Ebook available Jan. 13, print book Jan. 22, 2019

The Prophetic Mayan Queen: K’inuuw Mat of Palenque.  Mists of Palenque Series, Book 4.

Each book in the series stands alone and tells the story of a real ancient Mayan Queen.

Mists of Palenque Series

BLOG TOUR SCHEDULE   January 7 – 11, 2019

Learn some little-known trivia about the Mayas, and find out some things you never knew about me.  On the blog tour I’m answering a variety of interview questions, and writing some guest blog posts. The interviews were lots of fun, asking such questions as “What made you want to be an author,” “What is your favorite part of this book.” ‘Which character would you go drinking with,” “What should readers expect from this book,” “Tell about the cover and the inspiration for it,” “What part of the book’s world would you want to visit for a day,” “If a dwarf challenged you to a duel what would you do,” and details about my writing habits and quirks. My answer to the last question might surprise you, and it gives insight into the Maya world.

Drawing of Vision Serpent

Vision Serpent
Head of Ancestor Emerging from Jaws

Visit each blog on the date listed below.  Be sure to enter Rafflecopter for a chance to win an Amazon or Barnes&Noble gift certificate!

Tour by Goddess Fish Promotions.

January 7: Mythical Books – review only
January 7: Lisa Haselton’s Reviews and Interviews
January 7: Candrel’s Crafts, Cooks, and Characters
January 8: Bookaholic
January 8: T’s stuff
January 9: Fabulous and Brunette
January 9: Edgar’s Books
January 10: Paranormal and Romantic Suspense Reviews
January 10: Kit ‘N Kabookle
January 11: All the Ups and Downs
January 11: Let me tell you a story – review

 

 

 

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What’s In A Name?

Romeo and Juliet

Romeo and Juliet

In Shakespeare’s play about the eternal love story Romeo and Juliet she asks:

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.” Juliet was referring to their last names, for she was a Capulet and Romeo was a Montague, two feuding families of medieval Verona. As we know, things did not end well for the star-crossed lovers. It appears there is more to a name than Juliet imagined.

Names are important when writing historical fiction. They conjure personalities, attitudes, strengths and weaknesses, traits and inclinations. Can you imagine King Melvin of the Round Table instead of King Arthur? Mildred instead of Joan of Arc? Consider how much mystery would be lost if we mourned over the travails of Sam and Sally rather than Heloise and Abelard.

In historical fiction, names convey a sense of time and place. Names are part of creating the “imagined world” in which the story takes place. When the characters’ names are discordant with the period and culture, it creates a jarring dissonance for readers. How characters are named adds to mood and theme, as well as signaling qualities that shape their personalities.

That said, what if you’re writing about a culture and time that is far removed from the experience of most Western-educated people? How do names then figure into the construction of world and characters? Herein lies a difficulty for writers of ancient worlds fiction, set in cultures that are vastly different than those of historic Europe. Consider the complexity of names from ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Asia, Polynesia, and my area:  the ancient Mayas of Mesoamerica.

Picture of hanging gardens of Babylon

Babylon in Mesopotamia

 

 

Picture of Palenque in Chiapas, Mexico

Palenque in Mesoamerica
National Geographic

Names in ancient languages vs names translated into English.

My approach to naming characters has been to use actual ancient Mayan names as phonetically spelled by researchers and epigraphers. Since conventions for these spellings have changed over the years, I had to choose which to use and selected those that seemed friendliest to English-speakers. Not all writers of ancient Mayan historical fiction do this; several use English translations of Mayan names, or a combination of translated and phonetically spelled names. I feel it’s important to use historic characters’ actual names phonetically spelled in Arabic letters. This preserves the cadence and qualities of ancient Mayan speech and helps create the feeling tone of their “imagined world.” To me, saying their names creates a vibration that resonates with their personality and attitudes. If I used English translations of their names, an essential quality would be lost, a sense of different place and culture that puts the reader into the aura of ancient Mayan civilization.

For example, these are the actual Mayan names of the four queens in my “Mists of Palenque” series, with the English translations. The Mayan names are pronounced using romance language vowel sounds: a = ah, e = eh, i = ee, o = oh, u = ooh.

Mayan name                           English translation

Yohl Ik’nal                               Her Heart/Center of North Wind

Sak K’uk                                   White Resplendent Quetzal

Tz’aakb’u Ahau                       Accumulator/Producer of Lords

K’inuuw Mat                           Sun-Possessed Cormorant

To me, a great deal is lost when these Mayan names are not used. I’ve read other books where the Maya characters have names such as Jeweled Skirt, Red Flint, Snake Jaguar, Tree Orchid, Iguana Wind, and Big Deer. These are easier for English-speakers to remember and pronounce, but lack cultural ambiance that sets mood and tone.

What’s In a Name is a Great Deal.

To disagree with Juliet, I believe names matter a lot in stories. My choice to use Mayan names for characters and places has led to bad reviews by some readers, who give low ratings with complaints that they couldn’t get past the difficult names. I wonder if they feel the same way about fiction set in ancient Egypt or Biblical times, with long and complex names but more familiar to

Picture of Toltec king on throne

Toltec City in Mesoamerica
Iztaccaltzin on Throne

European-based cultures. Moving beyond one’s comfort zone is essential to appreciate cultures that are very different from your own. Indigenous Mesoamerican cultures have some of the most complex names I’ve found, yet are rich in history and accomplishments. Recently I read a book about the pre-Aztec cultures around Lake Meztliapan, the Toltecs and Chichimecs. Many actual names were used—Ihuitimal, Eloxochitl, Topiltzin, Citlallotoc, Tlazolteotl—and I preferred these to translated names that were also used, such as Black Otter, Spear Fish, and Jade Flower.

 

One Concession to Difficult Names.

Of the four queens in my series, the third has the most difficult name:  Tz’aakb’u Ahau. This name does not roll easily off the tongue. To make reading (and writing) go more smoothly, I gave this queen the childhood name Lalak. There was no information about what her actual childhood name might have been, for she only appears in hieroglyphs after being granted her royal name. Since the love story between her and the ruler of Palenque is a dominant theme in the book, I found nice parallelism in the pairing of their names:  Lalak and Pakal—eternal Mayan lovers but with a happier ending than Romeo and Juliet.

 

Newly released print version–March 1, 2018!

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

The Mayan Red Queen

 

Join me for book release events:

March 8, 7-8 pm         Another Read Through in Portland, OR

March 23, 7-8 pm       The Book Bin in Salem, OR

April 7, 4-6 pm           Silverton Grange in Silverton, OR

Photo of Leonide Martin at El Mirador, Guatemala

Leonide Martin at El Mirador, Guatemala

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

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…)

Palenque Goes International: Stephens & Catherwood

Catherwood Drawing of Palenque

Catherwood Drawing of Palenque

 

Excerpts from The Visionary Mayan Queen: Yohl Ik’nal of Palenque

 

Incidents of Travel Vol-1_

The Travel Writers of Their Time

Thanks to the remarkable four-volume books Incidents of Travel, by John L. Stephens and Frederick Catherwood, we are given much insight into the hardships of travel and the impact of this splendid and high civilization on these explorers.

 

John Lloyd Stephens

John Lloyd Stephens

John Lloyd Stephens is a masterful storyteller and Frederick Catherwood a fine artist.  Their first two-volume book, featuring Central America, Chiapas and Yucatan, was published in 1841.  It became an instant success, with publisher Harper and Brothers in New York making 11

Frederick Catherwood

Frederick Catherwood

printings of 20,000 copies each in only three months.  I keep a copy with me to enjoy comparing their impressions with present-day Palenque.  Although his prose is typical for that period, it’s richly descriptive and amusing.  Stephens weaves details of their harrowing adventures, gives astute character profiles, evocative descriptions and levelheaded reasoning, spiced with wry humor.  Catherwood provides distinctive drawings and quality architectural designs with floor plans, elevations and outside views of Palenque’s major structures.  Thirty-one of his Palenque drawings were converted to engravings and published in the two Central American volumes.

You get a real sense of travel in the mid-1800s in the back-country of Mexico and Central America. 

Stephens and Catherwood came from Guatemala to Ocosingo and followed the same route Dupaix took thirty years earlier, an ancient Indian path over mountains giving “one of the grandest, wildest, and most sublime scenes I ever beheld.” They made the trip in five days to reduce nights in the wild during the rainy season.  Clambering along steep paths hovering over thousand-foot precipices, they mostly walked leading mules and occasionally risked being carried in a chair by an Indian using a tumpline across his forehead.  The chair-bearer’s heavy breathing,

Trek over mountains Catherwood carried in "silla" by Maya bearer

Trek over mountains
Catherwood carried in “silla” by Maya bearer

dripping sweat and trembling limbs failed to inspire confidence and made them feel guilty, so they used the chair very little.  The descent was even more terrible than the ascent, and the sun was sinking.  Dark clouds and thunder gave way to a violent rainstorm, men and mules slipping and sliding.  Stephens admits “. . . it was the worst mountain I ever encountered in that or any other country, and, under our apprehension of the storm, I will venture to say that no travelers ever descended in less time.”

Once on the plains below and camped for the night, they suffered an onslaught of “moschetoes as we had not before experienced.”  Even fire and cigars could not keep the vicious insects at bay.  After a sleepless and much-bitten night, Stephens went before daylight to the nearby shallow river “and stretched myself out on the gravelly bottom, where the water was barely deep enough to run over my body.  It was the first comfortable moment I had had.”

“Moschetoes” and rainstorms continued to plague the explorers after they arrived at the ruins of Palenque.  They no sooner got their wood frame beds and stone slab dining table set up, with a meal of chicken, beans, rice and cold tortillas prepared proudly by their mozo Juan, than a loud thunderclap

Catherwood Drawing Palenque Palace Interior

Catherwood Drawing
Palenque Palace Interior

heralded the afternoon storm.  Though located on the upper terrace of the palace and covered by a roof, the fierce wind blasted through open doors followed instantly by a deluge that soaked everything.  They moved to an inside corridor but still could not escape the rain, and slept with clothes and bedding thoroughly wet.

Rather, they tried to sleep but “suffered terribly from moschetoes, the noise and stings of which drove away sleep. In the middle of the night I took up my mat to escape from these murderers of rest.”  Finding a low damp passage near the foot of the palace tower, Stephens crawled inside and spread his mat as bats whizzed through the passage.  However, the bats drove away the mosquitoes, the damp passage was cooling and refreshing, and “with some twinging apprehensions of the snakes and reptiles, lizards and scorpions, which infest the ruins, I fell asleep.”

They solved the mosquito problem by bending sticks over their wood beds and sewing their sheets together, draping them over the sticks to form a mosquito net.  Not all insects were odious.  At night the darkness of the palace was lighted by huge fireflies of “extraordinary size and brilliance” that flew through corridors or clung to walls.  Called locuyos, they were half an inch long and had luminescent spots by their eyes and under their wings.  “Four of them together threw a brilliant light for several yards around” and one alone gave enough light to read a newspaper.

Exploring the Ruins

To explore the heavily forested ruins they hired a guide, the same man employed by Waldeck, Walker and Caddy.  It’s hard now to imagine how dense the jungle was then, trees growing on top of every structure and filling plazas.  Without the guide, they had no idea where other structures lay and “might have gone within a hundred feet of all the buildings without discovering one of them.”  The palace was most visible and could be seen from the northeast path leading to the ruins.  Stephens described its many rooms, stuccos, tablets, and ornaments while Catherwood rendered detailed floor plans and copied images.  Stephens hoped their work would give an idea of the “profusion of its ornaments, of their unique and striking character, and of their mournful effect, shrouded by trees.”  Perhaps readers could imagine the palace as it once was “perfect in its amplitude and rich decorations, and occupied by the strange people whose portraits and figures now adorn its walls.”

Catherwood Sketch of Palace

Catherwood Sketch of Palace

Catherwood Drawing Principle Court of Palace

Catherwood Drawing
Principle Court of Palace

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

According to the guide, there were five other buildings that Stephens numbered, but none could be seen from the palace.  The closest was Casa 1, a ruined pyramid that apparently had steps on all sides, now thrown down by trees that required them to “clamber over stones, aiding the feet by clinging to the branches.”  From descriptions and drawings, this structure is the Pyramid of the Inscriptions Bas-relief stuccos on the four piers of the upper temple were reasonably well preserved, depicting four standing figures holding infants.  The famous hieroglyphic tablets covering the interior wall were also in good condition.

Catherwood Sketch and Architectural Floor Plan Temple of Inscriptions

Catherwood Sketch and Architectural Floor Plan
Temple of Inscriptions

Casas 2, 3 and 5 are part of the Cross Group.  Stephens and Catherwood were deeply impressed by the stuccos and tablets that we now know belong to the Temple of the Cross and Temple of the Foliated Cross.  The fantastic tablets from the first temple were incomplete and only the left tablet containing glyphs was in place.  The middle tablet with two figures facing a cross had been removed and carried down the side of the pyramid, but deposited near the stream bank below.  A villager intended to take it home, but was stopped by government orders forbidding further removal from the ruins.  The right tablet was broken and fragmented, but from remnants they saw it contained more glyphs.

The second temple contained another tablet in near-perfect condition.  It had a central panel with two figures facing a large mask over two crossed batons, flanked on each side by panels of glyphs.  The four piers of the temple’s entrance once contained sculptures; the outer two adorned with large medallions were still in place.  The other two panels had been removed by villagers and set into the wall of a house.  Copied earlier by Catherwood, these panels depicted two men facing each other.  One was richly dressed and regal, the other an old man in jaguar pelt smoking a pipe.  Later these famous sculptures were moved to the village church, and again later to the Palenque museum.

Temple of Foliated Cross L. Schele drawing, FAMSI

Temple of Foliated Cross
L. Schele drawing, FAMSI

Smoking Lord, Temple of the Cross L. Schele drawing, FAMSI

Smoking Lord, Temple of the Cross – L. Schele drawing, FAMSI

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Casa 4 was farthest away, southwest of the palace.  It sat on a pyramid 100 feet above the bank of the river with the front wall entirely collapsed.  The large stucco tablet inside showed the bottom half of a figure sitting on a double-headed jaguar throne, the lovely Beau Relief partially destroyed by Waldeck.  Stephens regretted this loss greatly (as do I) because it appeared to be “superior in execution to any other stucco relief in Palenque.”  This small structure is now called Temple of the Jaguar.

The Beau Relief drawn by Jean-Frederic Waldeck

The Beau Relief

 

This story is told in my post:

The Palenque Beau Relief: A Maya Beauty Vanishes.

 

 

 

Difficult Working Conditions

Temple of the Inscriptions in 1985 Maudslay photo from Meosweb

Temple of the Inscriptions in 1895
Maudslay photo from Meosweb

Stephens complains that artists of former expeditions failed to reproduce the detailed glyphs in Casas 1 and 3, and omitted drawings of Casa 2 altogether.  He believes these artists were “incapable of the labour, and the steady, determined perseverance required for drawing such complicated, unintelligible, and anomalous characters.”  Catherwood used a camera lucida to project a light image of the glyphs and sculptures onto paper, and then drew the images to accurate scale and detail.  He divided his paper into squares for copying glyphs to give accurate placement, reducing these large images and hand correcting the later engravings himself.

One must admire these two men, working under terrible conditions with limited equipment, yet providing such a thorough account of the Palenque structures they saw.  They needed to scrape off green moss, dig out roots, clean away layers of dissolved limestone, use candles to light dark inner chambers, build scaffolds to access high places, and endure a plethora of climate and insect assaults.  They paid the price of multiple mosquito bites, for both men contracted malaria and suffered repeated episodes of illness.

They left us a few astute conclusions.  Stephens proved more insightful than later Mayanists by writing, “The hieroglyphics doubtless tell its history” and “The hieroglyphics are the same as were found at Copan and Quirigua . . . there is room for belief that the whole of this country was once occupied by the same race, speaking the same language . . .”

Itzamna Painted on Vase Performing Ritual

Itzamna Painted on Vase Performing Ritual

“Here were the remains of a cultivated, polished, and peculiar people, who had passed through all the stages incident to the rise and fall of nations; reached their golden age, and perished, entirely unknown . . . wherever we moved we saw the evidences of their taste, their skill in arts, their wealth and power.”  John Lloyd Stephens

 

 

 

 

Excerpts from The Visionary Mayan Queen: Yohl Ik’nal of Palenque

These excerpts from the Archeological Field Journal of Francesca Nokom Gutierrez, a fictional archeologist in my books, describe the history of archeological exploration at Palenque. I’ll be doing several posts taken from her journal in the first 3 books in my “Mists of Palenque” series.

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Click here: 13 Rabbit Scribe

Rabbit scribe

 

Mists of Palenque

In dense tropical forests of southern Mexico, the “Mists of Palenque” drape 1300-foot mountain peaks behind the ancient Mayan city called Lakam Ha – Place of Big Water.Mists_Temple of Inscriptions  Ruins of pyramids, temples, palaces and wide plazas cluster on a narrow plateau about a quarter of the way up the steep mountains; the northern edge of the Chiapas highlands.  Tall trees with draping lianas form a rain forest canopy, bathed by 120 inches of rain annually.  Nine streams drain across the plateau and empty into rivers that snake across the plains below, flowing northwest to the Gulf of Mexico.

Palenque is the most mystical and magical of Mayan sites.  Its architecture is unique with delicate filigreed roofcombs on temples perched on hilltops, decorated with exquisite bas relief panels of splendidly attired rulers and deities, carved with glyphs in an elegant incursive style.  Looking north across the wide plains far below, the city is surrounded by lush tropical forests rich in edible fruits, plants, flowers and wildlife.  The mountains rise dramatically to the south, their peaks often draped in mist.

The “Mists of Palenque” – their swirling fingers furrow through mountain crevices, hover like silvery drapes over hillsides, seep across plazas to lap at the base of stone stairways.  The mists hide more than palaces and pyramids and temples.  For centuries they obscured from view the lives of those ancient Maya people who once lived in this magnificent city.  Now their story is told in my new novel:  Mists of Palenque, Four Great Mayan Queens of Lakam Ha.  Coming as an ebook Book Cover_MOP-smallseries in December, 2013.

The Spaniards gave this ancient Mayan city the name Palenque, after the colonial town nearby.  By 500 BCE early Mayans had settled the western area.  Plentiful water and rich soil, natural protection and rivers for travel made it a desirable area.  The abundant forests provided food, feathers and skins, and wood for building.  The fresh mountain streams were channeled through buildings for bathing and toileting, burst into fountains in plazas, pooled in deep wells for drinking, and cascaded over boulders and down ravines bringing lyrical beauty to the environment.

By 400 CE, Lakam Ha (Palenque) had grown into a complex city that interacted with numerous others located along the mighty Usumacinta River, in the Chiapas highlands and the Peten lowlands (northern Guatemala).  The Bahlam dynasty that ruled the city for 12 generations over 500 years, was founded by K’uk Bahlam I who acceded to rulership in 431 CE.  Their lineage goes back over 2000 years to mythological time and divine beings in the sky.  Rulers were the earthly embodiment of these ancestor gods, and kept harmony between humans and deities.

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