When creation begins, according to Popol Vuh, there is nothing but the sky and the darkness. The face of the earth is not yet formed and the seas cover the surface. The Gods are the only ones who exist at this point in time. “Whatever might be is simply not there: only murmurs, ripples, in the dark, in the night.” (Tedlock 72) This shows the emptiness of the universe and the need for creation by the Gods.
In the first decision about creation there are many aspects of the Gods present. Three of these, Thunderbolt Hurricane, Newborn Thunderbolt and Raw Thunderbolt are aspects of one God, Heart of Sky. Plumed Snake consisted of many entities: the Bearers, Begetters, Sovereign Plumed Snake, the Maker and the Modeler, all of which were the water. “So there were three of them, as Heart of Sky who came to Sovereign Plumed Serpent, when the dawn of life was conceived…” (Tedlock 73) So Heart of Sky along with Sovereign Plumed Serpent discusses the creation about to unfold and how they should go about it. They discuss the options and rules for creation before they begin. The Gods here represent the sky and the ultimate creator.
When the Mayans go to create the world they begin by speaking the word “Earth”. When they do this, the seas begin to recede and the mountains rise above the sea. Trees begin to grow on the mountainsides. “Now they planned the animals of the mountains, all the guardians of the forests, and creatures of the mountains: the deer, birds, pumas, jaguars, serpents, rattlesnakes, yellowbites, and guardians of the bushes…when this deed had been done, all of them had received a place to sleep and a place to stay.” (Tedlock 76, 77)
The motive for creating humans was to have someone to speak the names of the Gods and praise their works. They wanted to be “…invoked and remembered on the face of the Earth.” (Tedlock 79) The animals they had created could not speak and so could not sing their praises. Another motive was that someone was needed for the “time of planting and the dawn…So now let us try to make a giver of praise, giver of respect, provider, and nurturer.” (Tedlock 79)
The early humans were created out of earth and mud. They crumbled easily, could not turn their heads and spoke nonsense at first then not at all. They dissolved in water and had no mind of their own. The Gods dissolved them and started over. The next humans were made of wood and were humans in looks and speech. They multiplied with daughters and sons but, “There was nothing in their hearts and nothing in their minds, no memory of their mason and builder. They just went and walked wherever they wanted. The Gods were angry about this and destroyed them with a mighty flood.” (Tedlock 84)
The Popol Vuh is a representation of the Mayan culture and beliefs. This manifests that they are polytheistic in nature, where they believe in many gods, and that these gods were the ones that created them. According to the Popol Vuh, Mayans see destruction as a way of life, since it leads to the creation of new things. In the Popol Vuh, it can be seen that in order to come up with the “perfect human creation,” the gods underwent several destruction procedures at the times where their creations have gone wrong. The Mayan concept of creation was like other concept of creation of other cultures, where there was nothingness at first, only the gods exist. And out of their boredom, they decided to create living creatures, something that would keep them company, creatures that would acknowledge their power.
The Popol Vuh was able to serve two major purposes. The first one was before the year 1550 when it was written for the first time in a European language and therefore made available to the world. Thus, before 1550 it was a communication device that gave information and of course was used to entertain the native Indians when there was a gathering. More than that, it gave the natives of Central America a sense of identity. This then translates to unity, a backbone for nation building. It can be said that the magnificent Mayan civilization would not have been possible without having the social glue that holds people together and organize them into their social ranks. The myth contained in Popol Vuh allowed them to accept why things are the way they are. This also gave them a thing to look forward to since the Popol Vuh includes in its multiple books the exploits of their past leaders. This can serve as a motivational force for the present leadership of that time to do good for they are assured of immortality when historical accounts are handed down from generation to generation.
The second major purpose of the Popol Vuh is the rich information it provides for the people in the modern age. Specifically, it will surely help in peeling away the layers of the enigma that shrouds the sudden and total collapse of the Mayan civilization. By unlocking it by way of translation, the world is now privileged to look deeper and far into the ancient world of the Mayans. Ditchburn was able to trace back the connection between the Popol Vuh and that great Mayan civilization and he wrote, “In the sixteenth century, the territory immediately to the south of Mexico, which is now the Republic of Guatemala, was inhabited by various independent nations which were descended from the ancient Maya…”(2003). So whoever was the original author of the Popol Vuh manuscript was able to record what happened during the last days of the Mayan civilization. It is now up to the anthropologist to look at the evidence and offer some clue to finally solve the mystery. To give a clear perspective of why this is so important, Arthur Demarest put it succinctly, “The rise of civilization in a rainforest was baffling […] The rain forest setting of the Maya continues to challenge our interpretations and understanding of this environment (2004).
The Popol Vuh may have been created as a form of resistance to the Spanish, since at that time, Spanish invaders came and seized their lands. If you look closely at the text where the Mayan gods destroy the men they created because they weren’t doing what they wanted, it could be associated with how the invaders do things. They force the Mayans to do things, and when the Mayans resisted, they get harmed, and worse, they get killed.
The myth and saga found in the multiple books of Popol Vuh helps to see the ancient world in a different light. Together with the majestic temples and public structures built by the Mayans and the pieces of history found in the Popol Vuh it does not cease to amaze any serious student of history the capabilities of ancient peoples. This in turn inspires future anthropologist and archaeologist to not only continue digging but also to continue looking for lost treasures not only in terms of objects but also literary works such as the Popol Vuh.