FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

We Remember the Popol Vuh

by GREG MOSES

Crawling down below Meauan Mountain, where ground meets sea level, the first grandson of America whispers a plot that will bury a bad god forever.  The crawling insurrectionist is Hunahpu, Jr. and there on the whiteness of a giant pyramid stone at Mirador, Guatemala you can see the young genius at work, with the head of his father strapped tight to his sash.

If Hunahpu, Jr. does not get the words exactly right, if the crab that he conjures from flagstone and bromeliad does not obey precisely, then the arrogant clan of old gods will persist one day longer.  Zipacna, who calls himself the mountain maker, will not be buried under the weight of his own prideful production.  Hunahpu’s grandmother will have to mark the day wasted.

Because it falls now to the grandson to conquer the wicked gods in grandmother’s name, we watch this subterranean subterfuge through grandmother’s x-ray eyes.  That dirty god Zipacna must be teased into submission and buried face up.  Since this is the fifth time the good gods have experimented with the creation of humankind–if we count the chattering creatures, the mud people, the stick people, and the decapitated generation of Hunahpu, Sr.–we can see how grandmother is running out of options.

Of course we also know that Hunahpu Jr. is the star of a long and proud story that ends happily with our corn-fed existence above ground.  Like some 2,300-year-old serial drama, the story of the Popol Vuh wraps around the base of the Mirador pyramid, its images of hope reflected across the surface of a memoried waterwork.  Onward and upward the story unwinds, until life triumphs over death.  The ball-game episodes would play well on ESPN.

CNN dramatizes this year’s archaeological sensation by raising a specter of suspicion.  “Some say” that the Popol Vuh was never really handed down to us by Mayans.  “They say” it could be a post-conquest corruption.  True enough, Christian officials of Yucatan burned all the Mayan libraries during the 1570s.  Why would they not attempt to displace Mayan memory with fraud?  But there are all kinds of Christians making history, and the carving at Mirador seems to prove that the priest who made it his business to preserve the Popol Vuh circa 1701 wrote down authentic words.

Conflict and suspicion are good for a story and serve to sell the pictures that come with it.  But in the case of the Popol Vuh there was no need to worry very much about the authenticity of its ancient genius.  Raphael Girard after three decades of experience in the Mayan regions learned to see the Popol Vuh everywhere he looked.  It is the classic text of America and its heart beats behind the life of native cultures up and down the Western Hemisphere.  Corn, beans, tobacco, rubber balls, and spirits coming at you from six directions of every crossroads—don’t forget up and down.

In 1948 Girard argued that the Popol Vuh is like the Mayan encyclopedia of everything: astronomy, mathematics, zoology, agriculture, history, comprehensive sex education, and the ethics of The Hunahpu Code.  Get on the bus tomorrow at 5:30 am and see the industrious man of America for yourself–hombre trabajador–still growing the world against sinister odds.  On Thanksgiving we remember authentic words who refused to be forgotten.  And we try to remember how to be grateful for them.

Based on the plants and animals named in the Popol Vuh, Girard argued in 1948 that the epic must have been composed along the Pacific Coast of Guatemala.  In 2006 at La Blanca, archaeologist Michael Love unearthed a scooped-out four-leaf clover which he dated to 900-600 BCE.  Old as the books of Moses, that clover basin would have been filled with water six feet across for ritual re-enactment of the first creation when Heart of Sky conferred with Plumed Serpent and conceived the possibility of an existence that could count the days and keep them well: grandmother’s Hunahpu.

Therefore, we mark Thanksgiving Day to re-bury the gods of arrogance under the very stuff they claim to control.  We drink to underground genius that makes a day well made.  Messages in stone unbury themselves to whisper spirits unconquered.  We remember the Popol Vuh.

GREG MOSES is editor of the Texas Civil Rights Review and author of Revolution of Conscience: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Philosophy of Nonviolence. He is a contributor to Red State Rebels: Tales of Grassroots Resistance in the Heartland, published by AK Press. He can be reached at: gmosesx@gmail.com

 

Greg Moses writes about peace and Texas, but not always at the same time. He is author of Revolution of Conscience: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Philosophy of Nonviolence. As editor of the Texas Civil Rights Review he has written about racism faced by Black agriculturalists in Texas. He can be reached at gmosesx@gmail.com

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

January 19, 2017
Melvin Goodman
America’s Russian Problem
Dave Lindorff
Right a Terrible Wrong: Why Obama Should Reverse Himself and Pardon Leonard Peltier
Laura Carlsen
Bringing Mexico to Its Knees Will Not “Make America Great Again”
John W. Whitehead
Nothing is Real: When Reality TV Programming Masquerades as Politics
Yoav Litvin
Time to Diss Obey: the Failure of Identity Politics and Protest
Mike Whitney
The Trump Speech That No One Heard 
Conn Hallinan
Is Europe Heading for a “Lexit”?
Stephen Cooper
Truth or Twitter? Why Donald Trump Is No John Steinbeck
Binoy Kampmark
Scoundrels of Patriotism: The Freeing of Chelsea Manning
Ramzy Baroud
The Balancing Act is Over: What Elor Azaria Taught Us about Israel
Josh Hoxie
Why Health Care Repeal is a Stealth Tax Break for Millionaires
Kim C. Domenico
It’s High Time for a Politics of Desire
Shamus Cooke
Inauguration Day and Beyond
Clark T. Scott
More and More Lousy
David Swanson
Samantha Power Can See Russia from Her Padded Cell
Kevin Carson
Right to Work and the Apartheid State
Malaika H. Kambon
Resisting the Lynching of Haitian Liberty!
January 18, 2017
Gary Leupp
The Extraordinary Array of Those Questioning Trump’s Legitimacy (and Their Various Reasons)
Charles Pierson
Drone Proliferation Ramps Up
Ajamu Baraka
Celebrating Dr. King with the Departure of Barack Obama
David Underhill
Trumpology With a Twist
Chris Floyd
Infinite Jest: Liberals Laughing All the Way to Hell
Stansfield Smith
Obama’s Hidden Role in Worsening Climate Change
Ron Leighton
Trump is Not Hitler: How the Misuse of History Distorts the Present as Well as the Past
Ralph Nader
An Open Letter to President-Elect Donald Trump
Binoy Kampmark
NATO and Obsolescence: Donald Trump and the History of an Alliance
Zarefah Baroud
‘The Power to Create a New World’: Trump and the Environmental Challenge Ahead
Julian Vigo
Obama Must Pardon the Black Panthers in Prison or in Exile
Alfredo Lopez
The Whattsapp Scandal
Clancy Sigal
Russian Hacking and the Smell Test
Terry Simons
The Truth About Ethics and Condoms
January 17, 2017
John Pilger
The Issue is Not Trump, It is Us
John K. White
Is Equality Overrated, Too?
Michael J. Sainato
The DNC Hands the Democratic Party Over to David Brock and Billionaire Donors
John Davis
Landscapes of Shame: America’s National Parks
Andrew Smolski
Third Coast Pillory: Politicians and Rhetorical Tricks
Chris Busby
The Scientific Hero of Chernobyl: Alexey V. Yablokov, the Man Who Dared to Speak the Truth
David Macaray
Four Reasons Trump Will Quit
Chet Richards
The Vicissitudes of the Rural South
Clancy Sigal
“You Don’t Care About Jobs”: Why the Democrats Lost
Robert Dodge
Martin Luther King and U.S. Politics: Time for a U.S. Truth and Reconciliation Commission
Jack Sadat Lee
I Dream of Justice for All the Animal Kingdom
James McEnteer
Mourning Again in America
January 16, 2017
Paul Street
How Pure is Your Hate?
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
Did the Elites Have Martin Luther King Jr. Killed?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail