most frequent from August to October, the hurricane season extends from June to November.
Accompanied by thunderbolts and torrential rains, they usually sweep across the Maya low-
lands from the east and northeast. The hurricanes that bypass Yucatan still produce heavy rains
that descend on the peninsula from the north. North is also the direction of storms during the
dry season. In addition to the immediate devastation and deaths cased by wind, rain and flood-
ing, hurricanes flatten large tracts of forest, and the entire area becomes a fire hazard during
the dry season when this uprooted vegetation drys out (Konrad 1985). Either through lightning
strikes or careless human activity, uncontrolled fires then sweep across the landscape. These
conditions imitate on a massive scale the annual burning of the corn field.
The first member of the Heart of the Sky triad was Lightning Bolt Juraqan, and he is referred
to as the sage in the sky who provided the brains for Hunahpu’s replacement head (Edmonson
1971:124). When the creator deities decided to destroy the wooden men, Juraqan flooded the
world with a darkened rain, and this indicates that he was associated with storms of great mag-
nitude. Juraqan means “one his leg” in Quiché (Hunt 1977:242, D. Tedlock 1985:343). One-
legged beings are visually associated with both whirling winds and lighting bolts because these
phenomena generally have the form of a single leg (Hunt 1977). The Spanish word huracan is
believed to be a loan word from Taino, and in the cultures of the Caribbean and north coast of
South American many of the words for hurricane are homonymous with this term. It has been
suggested that people of the Caribbean likely had contact with the Maya and that huracan and
Juraqan are cognates (Foster 1945:195, Hunt 1977:242, Tedlock 1985:343, 1996:223). Although
some researchers doubt there is a semantic connection between these words, lame or one-
legged gods are associated with hurricanes in Mesoamerica, and Juraqan has been identified as
such (Foster 1977, Hunt 1977:242; D. Tedlock 1985:343, 1996:224, 344, Christenson 2000).
A hurricane identification for the most senior of the Popol Vuh lightning bolts is appropriate
because hurricanes are the most powerful storms. The name Lightning Bolt Juraqan conjures up
the image of a deity who could destroy the entire world, and that is exactly what Juraqan did.
Whirlwinds are closely associated with hurricanes by the Maya. Both Yucatec keh ik’ and
mozon ik’ refer to a fleeting hurricane and a strong whirlwind (Barrera Vasquez 1980:309,
490). Whirlwinds are frequently created during the burning of the corn field. These swirl-
ing winds take on dark form when they move across the field, picking up ash, smoke and fire
(Perera and Bruce 1982:31), and this is not unlike the dark conditions associated with hurri-
canes. In Yucatan, these whirlwinds are called k’ak’al mozon ’ik’ “fiery whirlwind”, and they
are viewed in a positive way as they are thought to fan the fire of the milpa and create a good
burn (Redfield and Villa Rojas 1934:119). In contemporary Tzeltal Pinola, the whirlwind is
also closely associated with fire. A man with Whirlwind for a nagual can create a whirlwind by
blowing on fire, and he can eat live coals (Hermitte 1964).
In the colonial-period documents of the Tzeltal, it is noted that a person could have thirteen
animal counterparts or naguals, and that whirlwinds and lightning bolts were the most power-
ful (Calnek 1988:56). In Tzeltal Pinola, Whirlwind is thought to be less powerful that either
Thunderbolt or Meteor (Hermitte 1964). However, in the adjacent Tojolabal area, Whirlwind
is considered to be equally powerful but evil. The Tojolabal believe there are three evil dei-
ties who can take the lives of people and animals: Bitus (“tornado” or “whirlwind”), Chakaxib
(“hurricane”) and Takin Chawuk (“dry lightning”) (Spero 1987). In the Chorti area, Whirlwind
is seen as the head of all the evil beings and he is identified with the Devil (Wisdom 1940:397).
The most important Lacandon deity is called Nohotsakyum or Hachacyum “our true lord”.
Nohotsakyum has an assistant called Ah K’uklel who is manifested as a fiery whirlwind and
who is thought to bring him the ashes from the burning milpa and from the firing of the clay
god idols (Perera and Bruce 1982:31). Nohotsakyum is also called Yurika’an (Davis 1978:78).
The close sound of this name to hurricane is reinforced by the nature of Nohotsakyum. This
deity makes the wind that brings the lightning, thunder and rain. It is also said that at the end
of the world, Nohotsakyum will wear a snake as a belt and that this snake will suck people to
it with its breath and then kill them (Tozzer 1907:94). The image of a wind serpent wrapped
around the body of Nohotsakyum is reminiscent of the whirling hurricane. In another destruc-
tion myth recorded by Bruce and interpreted by McGee (1989), Nohotsakyum destroys the
world with a hurricane flood.
The southern Lacandon refer to Nohotsakyum as U Yolika’an “the heart of the sky”. Other
names recorded for him are Humbrikam (Cline 1944:109), Yumbirihka’an (Davis 1978:78)
and Yumbilika’an (Bruce 1977:191). Bruce translates this latter term as “lord of heaven (sky)”
or “lord heart of heaven (sky)”. Bruce identified Nohotsakyum with Juraqan of the Popol
Vuh based on these heart of sky names, and the fact that both deities were powerful sky gods
involved in the creation of the earth. Nohotsakyum directs the water gods to bring the rain,
thunder and lightning, and as noted above he is associated with whirlwinds and hurricanes.
The Central Mexican god Tezcatlipoca had his foot bitten off by a crocodile deity. Because of
his one-footed nature, he has been associated with Juraqan, and both Juraqan and Tezcatlipoca
have been identified with God K based on this common feature (see Taube 1992:69-79 for an
overview of these identifications). While God K is frequently shown with one of his legs in the
form of serpent which might be construed as one-legged, the portrait glyphs of GII show him
with two legs. On the other hand, as the oldest of the triad brothers and as the one who was
always named first, GI represented the most senior of the thunderbolts, and his association with
powerful hurricanes would be natural.
Some of GI’s traits are associated with winds, storms and hurricanes. Hurricanes blow in from
the sea and GI’s fish barbel, shark’s tooth, stingray spine and shell are all marine elements. The
standing water traits of GI may be related to hurricanes, for these storms bring the most inten-
sive rains followed by widespread flooding. His water bird form is also related to flooded envi-
ronments. As noted, the orientation of the Temple of the Cross indicates that GI was associated
with the north, and this is the direction of heavy rainstorms in the lowlands. GII’s title com-
posed of the signs hun ye nal is similar to the Yucatek phrase hunyecil used by Diego Lopez
Cogolludo in 1688. He referred to “an inundation or hurricane which they (the Yucatec Maya)
call hunyecil or submersion of the forest” (Tozzer 1941:41).
A place name associated with GI is also related to wind. It is composed of a number six, two
phonetic ah signs and a sky sign. The juxtaposition of the six (wak) and ah signs has been
read as the word wakah “stand up or erect” and the whole place name has been read as “the
raised up sky place” (Hopkins cited in Schele 1992:129, Freidel Schele and Parker 1993:53).
The reading and its meaning is debatable, and I will simply refer to it as the “Six Sky” place.
In the Alfardas texts of the Cross Group, the small interior sanctuary in each temple replicates
the mythological sweatbath/cave where its respective deity was born, and each sweatbath is
given an individual name (Stuart 1987:38, Bassie-Sweet 1991:257, Houston 1996). The sanctu-
ary of GI is called Six Sky. In the Temple of the Inscriptions text, the Six Sky place is referred
to as GI’s seat (Schele 1992:186). On the Tablet of the Cross, there is a mythological event (5
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February, 3112 B.C.) in which GI “enters” the sky and the Six Sky place is “dedicated” (Schele
1992:129, Freidel, Schele and Parker 1993:69-71). GI is also associated with Six Sky on the
Hauberg Stela. This monument illustrates GI, or a lord dressed as GI, with a serpent undulating
around him. The glyph Six Sky is attached to the serpent’s head. On Quirigua Stela C, the text
says that a god called Six Sky Lord oversaw events at the beginning of the current era.
Schele et al (1993) believe that each Cross Group sanctuary name refers to the central icon
found on its respective tablet. The central icon of the Tablet of the Cross is a stylized tree in the
form of a cross, hence, their identification of this tree as “wak ah chan” (what I call Six Sky
place). They have further argued that this tree is the Milky Way (Freidel, Schele and Parker
1993:76). While I question the specifics of their argument, I believe that the identification of
the Tablet of the Cross imagery with constellations on or adjacent to the path of the Milky Way
is valid and that GI was associated with this celestial pathway.
The Milky Way visually appears to be a band of mist or cloud with various stars along its path.
It is a continuous band, but only a section of it is visible at any given time and the Maya refer
to different sections by different names and different metaphors. The Milky Way was viewed as
a pathway or river associated with lightning, rain and wind. Given its mist/cloud-like appear-
ance this is not surprising. The sections of the Milky Way that are overhead during the rainy
season are referred to by the Tzotzil as the be vo’ “road of water or rain” while those sec-
tions overhead during the dry season are called be taiv “road of frost” (Laughlin 1975:469).
It is also called be ’ik’ “road of wind” (Vogt 1997:113). The Jacaltec refer to the Milky Way
as the road of dew (s-be lente’y’u) (La Farge and Byers 1931:130). The Quiché believe the
Milky Way is the ultimate source of mist and fog (B. Tedlock 1985:81). The modern Chorti
believe the Milky Way brings the rain, and they use it to anticipate the change of seasons
(Fought 1972:267, 431, 435). Like many contemporary Maya, they associate the Milky Way
with Santiago who they view as a lightning deity. The Lacandon call the Milky Way the road
of Hachakyum (Nohotsakyum) (Duby and Blom 1969:295) who, as noted above, was associ-
ated with storms. The Milky Way was also associated with winds and rain in Central Mexican
belief. Quetzalcoatl-Ehecatl was a wind god who brought the rain clouds, and the Milky Way
was thought to be his path. Although they were not the same deity, Quetzalcoatl-Ehecatl shares
the same birth date as GI (9 Wind).
The association of GI with a numbered sky location is reminiscent of his younger brother
GIII who was called a lord of Na Ho Chan (First Five Sky). This suggests that the Six Sky/
Milky Way may have been in the sixth layer of the sky. In the Central Mexican Historia de
los Mexicanos por Sus Pinturas, the sixth layer of the sky was a place of winds and storms
(Coe 1975:8). In the mythology of the early twentieth century, Tozzer (1907:93, 155) recorded
a Yucatec belief that the sky was composed of seven layers and that in the sixth layer lived
the Nukutsyumtsakob (Great Father Lightning Bolts) or Yumtsakob (Father Lightning Bolts)
which indicates that this zone was associated with lightning bolts. Tozzer also noted that the
name Nukutsyumtsakob is similar to the Lacandon deity Nohotsakyum. As discussed above,
Nohotsakyum was associated with winds and hurricanes.
In summary, GI was a lightning bolt god with wind and Milky Way associations. As the oldest
and most senior of the triad of lightning bolt brothers, his identification with powerful storms
and with hurricanes in particular is logical. Some of the contemporary deities associated with
whirlwinds, storms and lightning bolts are similar to both GI and Juraqan of the Popol Vuh, and
this supports the argument that these two deities were parallel.
The striking parallels between the Palenque Triad and the Heart of the Sky triad suggests that
these deities represented fundamental, core beliefs about storm, lightning and fire gods and
their role in creation. The identification of the Palenque triad of brothers with hurricanes, light-
ning bolts and meteors does not negate their association with Jupiter, Mars and Saturn, but
enhances the beliefs associated with these planets.
One final comment is in order regarding the kinship relations between the creator grandfather
and the lightning bolt gods of the sky. Hun Hunahpu was the son of the creator grandfather,
and his Classic Period parallel was the Corn God. The first wife of Hun Hunahpu was Bone
Woman, and I have argued that she was parallel to the Corn Goddess (the wife of the Corn
God). The parentage of Bone Woman is not recorded in the Popol Vuh, but in some contempo-
rary communities the corn goddess is the daughter of the lightning bolt deity or mountain god.
For example, in a Tzotzil myth the lightning bolt god called ’Anhel rewards a man for helping
him by giving the man his virgin daughter X’ob (the soul of corn) for a wife (Guiteras-Holmes
1961:191-92, 218). My identification of GI as the supreme lightning bolt deity, coupled with
the contemporary beliefs, suggests the possibility that GI was the father of the Corn Goddess.
This has implications for the identification of Muwan Mat which will be addressed in a future
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