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Reply To: Returning to the Void,” with mythologist Norland Telléz, Ph.D.”

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Thank you for this work Norland and all the participants in this conversation. What a special little corner of the internet these MythBlasts are! I am so grateful.

First a little introduction to me as I haven’t commented on the MythBlast form yet! I have worked with Norland on creating a screenplay for a film re-imagining of the Popol Vuh story, as told by contemporary Mayans. So I went to film a Kaqchikel Mayan community in Guatemala, where the Popol Vuh is common cultural knowledge, and almost every part of life seems to reference the text. The birthing rituals often involve corn as Mayans are ‘people of the corn’ created by maize. Tepeu Gucumatz and the creator gods decorate altars and textiles. It was a delight to see the deep importance of the story of creation.

I also loved your MythBlast discourse about the flood stories (and there are so many flood myths worldwide!) as a justification and meaning-making for large natural disasters like this.

I also am fascinated by an almost identical progression ‘evolution’ type of narrative structure of these creation stories. ‘Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.’ – Genesis 1. Which of course sets the scene exactly the same eternal womb of darkness  as the Popol Vuh, as Norland’s reference above.

Then there is a sequence of building the land, vegetation, creatures, man – in that exact order – no additional or missing steps – the same order! Which directly mirrors the most popular creation story in the US (I think?) which is evolutionary theory. This makes it very easy to see these as a metaphor for the scientific.

One of the similarities I also love to explore is that in both the Popol Vuh and the Old Testament, humans are intended to have only limited power. Both the creations culminate with an event in which there is a final adjustment, either physical or geographical, to people based on them knowing or ‘seeing’ too much. It is interesting to note the differences in reactions of God (or the gods) to the power of their creation. In the Old Testament, Adam and Eve are told not to eat the apple of the tree of knowledge – God’s wishes are to not let them have as much knowledge. There is a breach in the contract and humans are thrown out to live in a ‘lesser’ world. (Which also contrasts quite interestingly to the Diné Bahaneʼ – a Navajo emergence myth in which humans crawl up and up to find better and better worlds, landing in our current one). In the Popol Vuh, the corn people can see too far – even through rocks. ‘Perfect was their sight, and perfect was their knowledge of everything beneath the sky. If they gazed about them, looking intently, they beheld that which was in the sky that which was upon the earth. Instantly they were able to behold everything’ (Christensen).  So the gods breathe mist in their eyes, which reduces their powers of sight to what we have today.

Finding some interesting parallels, I think perhaps one of the most interesting was the intention that humanity should be limited in its knowledge. In the Old Testament, we increased our knowledge to that of god-like (an unfavorable behavior) and in the Popol Vuh we were reduced. But why were the god(s) concerned about this? To stay in power? Could this also be a benefit to the ruling powers of both Mayan and Christian countries for people to hear this story? Perhaps not, but it does seem to place humanity squarely beneath the gods in a specific hierarchy. Creating an order from chaos, and giving a specific place to humanity.

Thank you Norland for brining this topic to us! The eternal return to creation! Gracias