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Gods & Goddesses #7: The Norse

“Before the beginning of time, there was Ginnungagap – a bottomless abyss, which separated the icy land of Niflheim and the fiery land of Muspelheim. These two realms rose in power and clashed; the burning frost turned into water drops and the water drops turned into life.

The first living being was Ymir, a hermaphroditic giant who was created from those life-giving drops of water and whose death was brought about by Odin and his brothers. Odin, Vili, and Vé, Ymir’s descendants, fashioned the Nordic mythological universe from his blood, bones, flesh, teeth, hair, eyelashes, brains and skull.

The Norse gods belong to two major clans: Æsir and Vanir. Odin, Frigg, Thor, Loki, Balder, Hod, Heimdall and Tyr are the most elevated representatives of Æsir and are known as the main gods. The second clan, Vanir, contains the fertility gods and count Njord, Freyr, and Freyja as their most notable members. Despite the antagonism between them, it was necessary for the two families to combine their powers and ideals for all to prosper.

The Norse Gods & Goddesses
The supreme deity of Norse mythology and the greatest among the Norse gods was Odin, the Allfather of the Aesir. He was the awe-inspiring ruler of Asgard, and most revered immortal, who was on an unrelenting quest for knowledge with his two ravens, two wolves and the Valkyries. He is the god of war and, being delightfully paradoxical, the god of poetry and magic. He is famous for sacrificing one of his eyes in order to be able to see the cosmos more clearly and his thirst for wisdom saw him hang from the World Tree, Yggdrasil, for nine days and nine nights until he was blessed with the knowledge of the runic alphabet. His unyielding nature granted him the opportunity to unlock numerous mysteries of the universe.

Odin’s wife, Frigg, was a paragon of beauty, love, fertility and fate. She was the mighty queen of Asgard, a venerable Norse goddess, who was gifted with the power of divination, and yet, was surrounded by an air of secrecy. She was the only goddess allowed to sit next to her husband. Frigg was a very protective mother, so she took an oath from the elements, beasts, weapons and poisons, that they would not injure her brilliant and loving son, Balder. Her trust was betrayed by Loki, a most deceitful god.

Frigg and Odin are the parents of Balder, who was described as living between heaven and earth. Balder was the epitome of radiance, beauty, kindness and fairness. He was believed to be immortal, but he was killed with mistletoe – the golden bough that contained both his life and his death.

Loki was a mischievous god who could shape-shift and can take up animalistic forms. He conceived a scheme to cause the death of Balder. Upon learning that mistletoe was the only thing that could hurt Balder, he placed a branch into the hands of the blind god, Hod, and tricked him into throwing it at Balder, killing him.

Thor was Odin’s most widely-known son. He was the protector of humanity and the powerful god of thunder who wielded a hammer named Mjöllnir. Among the Norse gods, he was known for his bravery, strength, healing powers and righteousness.

Freya was one of the most sensual and passionate goddesses in Norse mythology. She was associated with much of the same qualities as Frigg: love, fertility and beauty. She was the sister of Freyr.

Freyr was the god of fertility and one of the most respected gods for the Vanir clan. Freyr was a symbol of prosperity and pleasant weather conditions. He was frequently portrayed with a large phallus.

Heimdall, known as the ‘shiniest’ of all gods due to him having the ‘whitest skin’, was a son of Odin who sat atop the Bifrost (the rainbow bridge that connects Asgard, the world of the Aesir tribe of gods, with Midgard, the world of humanity) and remained forever on alert; guarding Asgard against attack.

Hel was the goddess and ruler of the Norse underworld of the same name (also known as Helheim). She has pale skin and appears to be death-like. She nurtures and houses any who enter her realm.

Vidar was another son of the supreme god and Grid (a giantess), and his powers were matched only by that of Thor.

Vale was the son of Odin who avenged Balder’s death by killing Hod, the god who pierced Balder with mistletoe.

The richness of the Norse mythology and folklore continues to mesmerise people of all ages and backgrounds. Immersed in the sagas, we let our imagination go wild, as we learn of old worlds and consider new and exciting interpretations.”

Source: https://www.centreofexcellence.com/norse-gods-goddesses/

Gods & Goddesses #5: The Mayan

“There were over 250 deities in the pantheon of the Maya and, owing to the mass burning of their books by Bishop Diego de Landa in 1562, much information about the gods (and Maya culture) was irretrievably lost. The Quiche Mayan religious text, the Popol Vuh, gives one set of names for the gods which the Yucatec Maya knew by other names.

Some gods remain unidentified while others’ provenance is unclear or has become conflated with still other deities or with Christian concepts. Scholars are hardly in agreement over the age and prestige of the `king’ of the gods, Hunab Ku, for example, whom some claim an ancient lineage for while others maintain a post-conquest status. Some scholars adamantly defend their definition of a certain god while other scholars maintain an opposing one and there is strong evidence for the truth of both sides. The following list, then, is by no means comprehensive as far as defining every god the ancient Maya worshipped in every region, village, or city but attempts to be comprehensive in detailing as much as is presently known about the gods and hopes to do so concisely.

A Maya god of death whose name is not yet known. He is depicted ruling a part of the underworld surrounded by the bones of his subjects.  His symbols are a skull and obsidian knife, both related to the practice of human sacrifice. 

The god of intoxication, wine, and the art of brewing Balche (a kind of strong mead). His name means either `belch’ or `groan’ and he is associated with the Lacandon Maya god of drunkenness Bohr (also known as Bol).

The god of the art of tattooing and patron of tattoo artists, Acat is also associated with the growth and development of fetuses. He is further designated by the names Acat-Cib and Ah – Kat.

The leaf-nosed god of agriculture (also known as Ah-Bolon-Dz’acab).



A god of hunting.

A tutelary deity, he provided protection at sunrise and sunset.

A minor god of war whose name means Fire Destroyer.

The god of solar eclipses.

A war god known as the Serpent Charmer.

The god of birth. His name means `Come to Life’ and he was responsible for the safe delivery of babies into the earthly realm, both physically and spiritually. After a birth he would wash his hands and then move on to the next one.

One of two great gods of medicine and healing (with Cit-Bolon-Tun) known as the Lord of the Magic Tooth.

The god of merchants and material wealth often depicted as a member of a triad, with the deities Chac and Hobnil.

A creator god who, according to the Chilam Balam creation story, covered the faces of the thirteen gods of the day and let them be captured by the nine gods of the night. During this captivity, he spread seeds and set boulders across the land which grew out of the darkness. This act of creation was later un-done and re-worked by the Becabs.

A minor god of water.

A deity who is an aspect of the sun god (Kinich Ahau) and controls drought and disease (also known as Ah-Kinchil).

These were minor water gods who attended to Cenotes and pools.

A god of fertility and protection who was also a personification of Maize.

The deities who presided over and cared for bees. They are also associated with air elemental spirits.

These deities were elemental gods of water.  They were the lords of the Eight Day Rain Ceremony during which they were celebrated.

A god of thunder.

A god of death, darkness, and disaster but also of regeneration, child birth, and beginnings. According to the Quiche Maya, he ruled over Metnal (Xibalba) while according to the Yucatec Maya he was one of many of the Lords of Xibalba. He is associated with Cizen, Yom Cimil/Yum Cimil (though Cizen seems to consistently be imagined more darkly).

The god of the hunt and protector of animals.

The goddess of sleep. She was especially helpful in putting men to sleep.

The god of natural healing.

A Chthonic deity.

A nature goddess who protected wild animals, she is associated with deer.

The god of poetry and music, he was an aspect of the sun god Kinich Ahau.

A god of medicine and healing.

An aspect of the sun god also known as Jaguar Lord and Lord of the Underworld.

A god of agriculture and cultivated crops.

A war god associated with archery and known as The Archer.

One of the thirteen gods who assisted in the creation of human beings from Maize following two previous failed attempts.

One of the thirteen gods involved in the attempts to create human beings.

The goddess of childbirth.

A title applied to Akhushtal, among other goddesses, which means `Our Mother’, and was closely associated with those deities concerned with fertility and childbirth.

The goddess of thought and intellect. She was also known as Ixtat-Ix.

One of the thirteen gods who participated in the creation of human beings. After the successful third attempt, he became known as Hunahpu-Guch.

The four gods of the winds and the directions who hold up the four corners of the world. In Yucatec Maya they are known as Muluc (of the east) Kan (of the south) Ix (of the north) and Cauac (of the west). Muluc and Kan generated positive energies while Ix and Cauac brought negative forces.  This confluence of negative and positive energy enabled the early gods to create human beings and the physical and non-physical worlds. They are associated with the deities Acat, Akna, Backlum Chamm, and Chin.

Backlum Chaam
One of the Bacabs or an aspect of the Bacabs, he is the god of male sexuality.

The Jaguar deities who protect individual communities against external threat. They also guard and protect people in daily life.

The B’alams
In the Quiche Maya tradition the Balams were the four gods who made possible the creation of man after two previous failed attempts. They were known as B’alam Agab (Night Jaguar) B’alam Quitze (Smiling Jaguar) Iqi B’alam (Dark Jaguar) and Mahucatah (Not Right Now).  According to one myth, their fellow gods grew jealous of their abilities and so clouded their sight, rendering them mortal.

One of the thirteen gods who participated in the creation of human beings. After the successful third attempt, he became known as Ixmacane (he is the early version of Ixmacane, a later god).

The lightning god and patron of the harvest.

A group of nine chthonic beings of the underworld, they were associated with regeneration.

Also known as `God F’, this deity is the god of war, violence and death to whom human beings were sacrificed regularly. In the Dresden Codices he is depicted as being eaten by maggots. He is further depicted setting homes on fire, killing people, and roasting them on skewers over a fire.

One of the thirteen gods who assisted in the creation of human beings. His name means `Heart of the Sky’.

Also known as Caprakan, he was the god of earthquakes and mountains. He was the son of the gods Vucub Caquix and Chimalmat and plays a significant role early in the Popol Vuh where he is defeated by the Hero Twins as is his brother Zipacna.

A creator god who presides over creativity and communication (especially relating to divine communications).

A lesser god of lightning bolts who, with his brother Coyopa, assist the supreme god of lightning, Yaluk, in creating the storms sent by the rain god Chac.

The servant of Alom who, after the second attempt at creation, beheaded most of the people in the world in order that the gods could begin again. His name means `Sudden Blood-letter’.

The bat god of Xibalba who feeds on blood. In the Popol Vuh he tears off the head of one of the Hero Twins, Hun Hunahpu, who is then revived by his brother. Camazotz was then defeated and cast out of creation.

The Maya god of fate who was known to the Aztecs as Mixcoatl or Mixcoatl-Camaxtli. He was associated with war, hunting, and creation and was credited with bringing fire to earth.

See Cabrakan

One of the four Bacabs, Cauac controls the westerly direction and the west wind. Also known as Zac-Cimi.

The supreme god of storms and rain and associated with agriculture and fertility. He was known as the Lord of the Rains and Winds and maintained important water sources such as cenotes, wells, streams, and springs. He was widely popular and prayers and sacrifices were frequently offered to court his favor and that of the four, lesser, chacs. A lord of the sky, he was the sworn enemy of Camazotz of Xibalba and was thought of as a caring, if unpredictable, deity.

These were four weather spirits, located at each of the corners of the world, who were under the command of the great god Chac and did his bidding.

The protector of fish and patron of fisherman.

One of the gods of death and regeneration of Xibalba.

Also known as Chin, she was the goddess of maize, magic, and a councilor to the kings. She was also closely associated with homo-erotic relationships and homosexuality. According to the priest Las Cassas, she introduced homosexuality to the Maya nobles who encouraged their children to enter into homosexual marriages. She is associated with the moon and, sometimes, is depicted as a male deity.

These were four rain gods, from the four corners of the world, who were associated with the Bacabs.

Widely known as the Maya goddess of homosexuality. See Chen.       

A creator goddess who was formed out of four earlier creators and listed among the thirteen divinities who first engaged in the creation of human beings.

One of two great healer gods (with Ahau-Chamahez).

Also known as, or associated with, the names Kisen, Yom Cimil, Yum Cimil, and Ah Puch, he was a god of death who lived in Xibalba (Metnal to the Quiche Maya) and is often pictured as a dancing human skeleton smoking a cigarette. He is further identified by his `death collar’ of human eyes dangling from nerve endings. Cizin came upon one suddenly and without warning but was accompanied by a foul smell and so was called `The Stinking One’. Unlike the other death god aspects with whom he is associated, Cizin is not associated with regeneration or re-birth. He keeps the souls of evil people in the underworld where they are subjected to his torments and trickery. Post-conquest, he became closely identified with the Christian devil.

Colel Cab
An earth goddess who cares especially for the bees. She is still invoked by modern-day Maya Daykeepers in chants to ward off attacks on nests, remedy nest problems, and aid hive keepers with their bees.

God of the sky and particularly of eclipses.

A servant of Alom who followed after Camalotz after the failed second attempt at creation and devoured the bodies of the people who were beheaded. His name means`Crunching Jaguar’.

A lesser god of sound and of thunder who works with his brother Cakulha under the guidance of the supreme god lightning, Yaluk, to create the storms sent by the rain god Chac.

A lord of Xibalba whose name means `Blood Gatherer’. He is the father of the goddess Xquic and grandfather of the Hero Twins, Hunahpu and Xbalanque.

Cum Hau
A god of death and regeneration who lived in Xibalba.

An agricultural god whose name is not yet known.

A god also known as Ek Ahau and, earlier, as only `God M’. He presides over and protects travelers, merchants, and warriors and is depicted as a dark-skinned male carrying a bag over his shoulder. He is also recognized as the patron and protector of cacao and cacao products.

El Gran Dios
`The Great God’ who was the god of the Christians and dwelled in the seventh level above the earth. In some stories he is associated with Hunab Ku. This figure is a late, post-conquest, addition to the Maya pantheon

A god of war associated with human sacrifice and repeated victories over Ekchuah. He is also known as Buluc-Chabtan. See Buluc-Chabtan.

Four Hundred Boys
Considered to be patron deities of alcohol and, later, the Pleiades. In the Popol Vuh, the Four Hundred Boys were youths who wished to build a hut on the beach but could not lift the massive tree they had cut down to use as the main support column. They asked the giant Zipacna, who was reclining nearby, for help. Zipacna agreed to use his great strength to move the tree but mocked the boys for their weakness and their inability to do so themselves. The boys agreed together that Zipacna should be killed but he overheard their plan, tricked them into thinking he was dead, and killed them. They ascended into the heavens and may be seen today as the star cluster known as the Pleiades. Zipacna was later killed by the Hero Twins.

This god is one of the most important, if not the most important, in the pantheon of the Maya. The name Gucumatz (also Gukumatz) is the Quiche Maya designation for the god known to the Yucatec Maya as Kukulcan and most famously, in the Nahuatl language, as Quetzalcoatl (`the plumed serpent’ or `the quetzal-featherd serpent’) who was worshipped as early as the first century BCE at the great city of Teotihuacan. Gucumatz is identified as one of thirteen deities who shaped the world and created human beings. From Gucumatz, humans learned the rules of law, agriculture, literacy, the arts, medicine, architecture, construction, hunting, fishing, and all other aspects of civilization. He is said to have come from the sea, conveyed to the people his gifts and ruled wisely over them, and then returned to the sea, promising to come back one day. The god of all four elements, he was also the representation of the co-mingling of good and evil, light and darkness, and so became a central figure in many of the myths of the Maya and popularly depicted, in various forms, in virtually every city-state. As Kukulcan, he is the great plumed serpent who glides down the steps of El Castillo at Chichen Itza on the spring and autumn equinoxes and is thought to bring positive energy to the earth and to those present at his descent.

Gucup Cakix
This deity, also known as Vucub-Caquix (which means `Seven Macaw’)  is depicted in the Popol Vuh as an arrogant bird demon who pretended to be both the sun and the moon and thus threw life out of balance until he was defeated by Hunahpu and Xbalanque, the Hero Twins. He was the father of Cabrakan and Zipacna who were also overthrown by the famous twins.

An astral god who created the stars by scattering sand into the sky. He was the patron deity of the Lacandon Maya.

An adversarial deity, Hapikern is the world-girdling serpent who is perpetually at war with his brother, Nohochacyum, the great god of creation and protection, and is fated to be destroyed by that god in a final battle. His other brothers are Usukun, Uyitzin, and Yantho,   all three of whom are haters of humanity, and also the brother of Xamaniqinqu, the god of merchants and travelers.

Hero Twins
Hunahpu and Xbalanque (also given as Ixbalanque) are the two great mythical heroes of the Maya whose story is preserved in the Quiche Maya work `The Popol Vuh’. They were born of the virgin goddess Xquic after the severed head of their father, Hun Hunahpu, spit into her hand from a calabash tree in the underworld of Xibalba. Raised by their mother and grandmother the twins became great ball players, excelling at `the game of the gods’, Poc-a-Toc. Once attaining manhood, they avenged themselves on the Lords of Xibalba, who had murdered their father and uncle, by accepting their invitation to the underworld where a series of traps and tests awaited them. They escaped the traps and snares set for them and defeated the forces of chaos and darkness. They then attempted to bring Hun Hunahpu back to life and, though they succeeded in putting his body back together and reanimating him, he could not return to the earth above. The twins promised him, however, that humans would pray to him for hope and comfort and he would be remembered and honored. The promise was kept as Hun Hunahpu became the Maize god, a dying-and-reviving god figure, who appears on earth as corn. Ascending from Xibalba, they meant to stop in the middle world of the earth but continued climbing up the World Tree and into paradise where, even then, they desired to climb higher and so became the sun and the moon (in another version the gods reward them for their victory by turning them into the sun and the moon). The Hero Twins have been thought to represent the legitimacy of the Maya ruling class, though this theory has been disputed. There is no doubt that their story was very popular among the Maya as the twins are depicted in art work throughout the region, often playing their famous game. Based upon these paintings, it seems clear there were many tales concerning the hero twins which have been lost and the Popol Vuh is the only surviving text of their story.

A god of agriculture and prosperity and a member of a triad with the deities Ahluic and Chac.  

A god of the south, associated with the Bacab Cauac and the color yellow. He is a son of the
great couple Itzamna and Ixchel. 

One of the two stepbrothers of the Hero Twins (the other being Hun-Chowen) also known as `One Howler Monkey’ and depicted as a howler monkey. Along with his brother, he is the patron god of artists and writers.

Also known as Hun-Cane, he is a lord of the underworld who, along with Gucup Cakix, kill Hun Hunahpu, the father of the Hero Twins. He is later killed by them.

One of the two stepbrothers of the Hero Twins (the other being Hun-Batz) he is depicted as a howler monkey. Along with his brother, he is the patron god of artists and writers.

While Gucumatz was the most popular god, Hunab-Ku is considered the supreme deity of the pantheon of the Maya, known as `Sole God’. While some scholars have asserted his antiquity, he seems most likely a concept which arose following the Christianization of the Maya during the Spanish Conquest and closely resembles the Christian god. He is invisible and without form but can be apprehended through his aspect in the god Itzamna, referred to as his son. Hunab-Ku is the husband of Ixazalvoh, the divine mother, associated with water, life, and weaving. Some inscriptions refer to him as `The Eyes and Ears of the Sun’ in substantiating the claim that, like the Christian god, he is ubiquitous and knows all.

Also known as The Maize God, Huh Hunahpu died but was regenerated by his sons, and returns to life as maize (corn) and so is identified as a dying-and-reviving god figure. The father of the great Hero Twins Hunahpu and Xbalanque. Hun-Hunahpu and his twin brother, Vucub Hunahpu, were demi-gods who, after the creation of the world, became proficient in the `ball game of the gods’, Poc-a-Toc.  The lords of Xibalba, beneath the earth, became enraged by the noise of the twins and so devised a plan to get rid of them. They invited the young men to the underworld to play a game of Poc-a Toc. Before the game could begin, however, the twins were tricked by the Xibalbans and killed. Hun-Hunahpu’s head was placed in the axis of a calabash tree which grew heavy with strange fruit. The young virgin Xquiq came upon the tree and, reaching for the fruit, was asked by the head to open her palm. Hun Hunahpu’s head spat into the maiden’s hand and she became pregnant with  Hunahpu and Xbalanque. The head then sent the girl to live with his mother, Xumucane.

One of the great Hero Twins who feature prominently in the myths of the Maya and in the text of the Quiche work, the Popol Vuh. Son of Hun Hunahpu amd Xquiq, Hunahpu is the god of the evening who restores the stars to the sky and, with his brother, Xbalanque, defeated the lords of Xibalba and created order on the earth. He is associated with the sun and, in some myths, is the sun himself.

The name which the god Alom took after the successful third attempt at creating human beings.

A deity among the original thirteen who assisted in the creation of human beings.

A god of salt water and the sea who was the patron of sharks. 

Also known as `Heart of the Sky’ and `One-Leg’, Huracan is a storm god. In the Popol Vuh he is the supreme creator of earth who thinks existence into being, participates in the creation of human beings, and sends the great flood to destroy his inferior creations. He is further referred to as Lord of the Whirlwind and credited as one of the gods (sometimes the sole god) to give fire to humans.  

An early goddess of water presiding over the sea, springs, and wells whose name is unknown but is thought possibly to be `Ixik’.

Considered the founder of the Maya culture, patron and protector of priests and scribes, Itzamna is an extremely important and popular god. Like Gucumatz, he taught the people the arts of literacy, medicine, science, art, sculpture, and agriculture. He created and ordered the calendar and instructed humans in the proper cultivation of maize and cacao. He is a creator and healer who can resurrect the dead. In later, post-Colombian writings, he is referred to as the son of Hunab-Ku and takes on many of the characteristics associated with the Christ figure. He is associated with the prophet Zamna, who brought the sacred writings to the city of Izamal on the command of the great goddess and also with Kinich Ahau, the sun god. In one myth he is the father of the Bacabs.

Also known as Itzam-Yeh, The Serpent Bird, The Celestial Bird, and The Way of Itzamna, Itzam-Ye was a deity in bird form which nested in the axis of the great Ceiba tree, the World Tree, which connected the underworld with the middle world (earth) and upper world. From its perch, Itzam-Ye could see all of creation and knew all the secrets of all three planes of existence. Images of the bird god in the sacred tree have been found throughout many Maya sites and, usually, engraved on temples and shrines where the Daykeepers would chant and cast the spells which protected the world from chaos and maintained order. Itzam-Ye was considered a master of the spiritual world and well versed in what, today, would be considered sorcery and magical arts.

A goddess associated with water and weaving.

The Divine mother and consort of Hunab-Ku, Ixazalvoh is the goddess of water, life, and weaving. She also presides over female sexuality and childbirth and is known for her powers in healing. Her oracles were considered important conduits for divine messages for the people.

One of the great Hero Twins whose adventures are told in the Popol Vuh. See Xbalanque.

Known popularly today as `the rainbow goddess’ because her name could be translated as `Lady Rainbow’, Ixchel is associated with many different aspects of life and cosmology. Although images of her in modern times almost universally depict her as an attractive young woman with long, dark hair seated on, or near, a rainbow, ancient Maya images consistently portray her as an old, plump woman with sharp features and jaguar ears, often wearing a headpiece with a live serpent springing forth and carrying a water jug. Ixchel has been associated with the so-called `goddess O’ of the Dresden Codex, obviously a rain deity, and so is thought to be a goddess of the rain, perhaps a consort of Chac. She is, however, also associated with war as she is sometimes depicted in ancient images with claws and surrounded by or adorned with bones. Diego de Landa reported that she was the “goddess of making children” and also of medicine. Evidence suggests that Daykeepers and physicians consulted with Ixchel in their arts but, at the same time, she is associated through other evidence with the moon and mutability and, further, with weaving and the arts. According to a Verapaz myth, she was the consort of Itzamna and bore him thirteen sons. Whatever her main provenance was, it is certain that she was greatly venerated by women and, especially, those who were pregnant or wished to become so. Her shrine on the island of Cozumel was extremely popular and became one of the most important pilgrimage sites for the ancient Maya. The island which Cortez named the Isla Mujeres (Island of women) was so designated because of the number of goddess statues found there, Ixchel among them. Shrines to Ixchel may still be seen throughout the Yucatan today, especially on Cozumel, where her image has become conflated with that of the Virgin Mary and the two now share the veneration and prayers of the women who continue to make the pilgrimage to the island.

The goddess of the four ages of womankind (though whether this means four time periods in which women have existed or the four stages in a woman’s life of child, maiden, mother, crone is unclear). Her name is interpreted as `Four Sisters’ or `Four Faces’. She has been associated with the four creator gods Alom, Bitol, Qaholom, and Tzacol and, through this relationship, became known as Chirakan-Ixmucane, one of the thirteen deities who created human beings.

One of the thirteen gods who participated in the creation of human beings, his name is the final form of the deity originally called Bitol (although the same name has been applied to other gods in their `final form’ following creation).

One of the thirteen gods who participated in the creation of human beings according to one version of the myth. Also a version of the name Xumucane, the grandmother of the famous hero twins, who, with her husband, Xpiayoc, created humans from maize and are considered the oldest and wisest deities in the Maya pantheon.

The name of the creator god  Tzacol who, after the successful third attempt at creating human beings split into two separate entities and became both Tzacol and Ixpiyacoc. Also a variant spelling of Xpiayoc, the husband of Xumucane, who helped in creating humans from maize.

Also known as `Rope Woman’, Ixtab was the goddess of suicides and, particularly, those who died by hanging. She is depicted as the rotting corpse of a woman hanging from a noose in the heavens which appears in the Dresden Codex. As suicide was considered an honorable alternative to living among the Maya, self-inflicted death guaranteed one an instant passage to paradise, by-passing the dark and dangerous underworld of Xibalba. Ixtab would escort the souls of suicides to paradise where they would enjoy eternal pleasure surrounded by other blessed souls such as those who died in battle, in childbirth, as sacrificial victims, or on the ball court playing Poc-a-Toc. 

A serpent deity who spits precious stones and is associated with rain.

The name by which the god K’awi (or K’awiil) was formerly known. K’awai is the patron god of royalty, kingship, and the nobility.

One of the principal Becabs, Kan known as the Upholder of the South.

A patron god of cities, guardian of urban communities.

One of the creator gods who is sometimes mentioned as one of the original thirteen who created human beings. Probably originally a local fertility deity who was included as a creator-god, he does not appear on all lists of the thirteen.

Also known as Kiant, he is the god of unwelcome influences which were designated primarily as disease and foreigners.

In the  Quiche Maya tradition, Kichigonai is the creator of day and the god of light.

Kinich Ahau
The sun god known as `Face of the Sun’ and sometimes referred to as Kinich Ajaw. He was a god of healing and medicine. The later god, Hunab Ku is thought to be a conflation of Kinich Ahau and the Christian God. In some early myths, Kinich Ahau is the consort of the goddess Ixazalvoh whereas post-conquest stories place the divine mother with Hunab Ku. 

Kinich Kakmo
The patron god of the city of Izamal, a solar deity who was represented by a macaw.

Another name for Cisin, the most commonly depicted god of death, but also the name of an earthquake god associated with the ongoing enmity between Nohochacyum and Hapikern and  the Yantho Triad.

See Gucamatz

A god of the evening, of darkness and night whose name is not yet known.

Maize God
A dying-and-reviving god figure in the form of Hun Hunahpu who was killed by the Lords of Xibalba, brought back to life by his sons, the Hero Twins, and emerges from the underworld as corn. The “Tonsured” Maize god or “Foliated” Maize god are common images found throughout the region. He is always pictured as eternally young and handsome with an elongated head like a corncob, long, flowing hair like corn silk, and ornamented with jade to symbolize the corn stalk.

A title of respect meaning `Grandfather’ and applied to a number of different Maya deities including earth spirits, mountain spirits, and the four Bacabs. The god known as Mam Maximon is a post-conquest god of travelers, merchants, witchcraft, and bad luck that was conflated with the Christian figure of Judas and in modern times is part of the celebrations surrounding Holy Week.

The god of sacrifice, of sacrificial victims, and of purifying suffering.

Also known as `Metnal’ , this is the Quiche Maya word for the Underworld and corresponds with the Yucatec Maya vision known as Xibalba. According to the Popl Vuh, Mitnal was a dark land flowing with rivers of blood.”

Source: https://www.ancient.eu/article/415/the-mayan-pantheon-the-many-gods-of-the-maya/

Creation Myths #6: The Japanese

“Long ago all the elements were mixed together with one germ of life. This germ began to mix things around and around until the heavier part sank and the lighter part rose. A muddy sea that covered the entire earth was created. From this ocean grew a green shoot. It grew and grew until it reached the clouds and there it was tranformed into a god. Soon this god grew lonely and it began to create other gods. The last two gods it made, Izanagi anf Izanami, were the most remarkable.
One day as they were walking along they looked down on the ocean and wondered what was beneath it. Izanagi thrust his staff into the waters and as he pulled it back up some clumps of mud fell back into the sea. They began to harden and grow until they became the islands of Japan.

The two descended to these islands and began to explore, each going in different directions. They created all kinds of plants. When they met again they decided to marry and have children to inhabit the land. The first child Izanami bore was a girl of radiant beauty. The gods decided she was too beautiful to live in Japan, so they put her up in the sky and she became the sun. Their second daughter, Tsuki-yami, became the moon and their third and unruly son, Sosano-wo, was sentenced to the sea, where he creates storms.

Later, their first child, Amaterasu, bore a son who became the emperor of Japan and all the emperors since then have claimed descent from him.”

Source: https://www.cs.williams.edu/~lindsey/myths/myths_17.html

Thalidomide: A Worldwide Tragedy

Thalidomide is a sedative drug discovered at the end of the 50s, which caused a worldwide tragedy. The drug has been prescribed to many pregnant women in order to relieve pregnancy nausea. It was later found that thalidomide caused irreversible damages to the fetus and thousands of children were born with severe congenital malformations. Many of them did not survive more than a few days after they were born.

The chemical formula for thalidomide is C13H10N2O4. It is also known under the scientific more scientific name α-(N-Phthalimido)glutarimide.

Thalidomide was first synthesized in 1954 in Western Germany by the firm Chemie Grünenthal, who found out that thalidomide had interesting sedative effects. Thalidomide appeared as a promising alternative to barbiturates that were then used as sedatives, because it didn’t seem to be toxic nor have any side effects. An overdose would only cause deep sleep, as opposed to barbiturates which could cause death if taken in excessive quantity.

Thalidomide was marketed in 1956 by Chemie Grünenthal in Western Germany, first as an anti-flu, then in 1957, as an hypnotic drug. It was then available without prescription. In April 1958, thalidomide was marketed in the United Kingdom by Distillers Company. Several countries followed suit and thalidomide was put into circulation under many different brands. Overall, thalidomide was sold under about 40 different names around the world, principally in Western countries and in Japan. Important advertising campaigns were led by its fabricants, starting with Chemie Grünenthal and Distillers Company. Thalidomide was described as a miracle drug. Thousands of samples were distributed to doctors, who were encouraged to prescribe it to pregnant women in order to alleviate pregnancy nausea. Everyone was told that this drug represented no risk at all for pregnant women.

The following excerpt, from the website of the documentary “NO Limits” addressing the thalidomide tragedy, describes particularly well how negligent Grünenthal was regarding the safety of thalidomide:

“What the public did not know is that Grünenthal had no reliable evidence to back up its claims that the drug was safe. They also ignored the increasing number of reports coming in about harmful side-effects as the drug was being used. In fact, starting in 1959 Grünenthal was flooded with complaints from doctors about mild to severe and sometimes permanent nerve damage, especially by elderly people who had used the drug as a sleeping aid.


The company was equally dismissive of concerns related to deformed babies. The drug was widely promoted as an anti-nausea drug for pregnant women experiencing morning sickness. When the company was confronted with reports on malformed babies and suggestions that the malformations could be possibly linked to Thalidomide, they didn’t react. Instead of taking all those reports seriously Grünenthal responded with measures to keep the drug on the market.”

As early as 1960, unsuspected side effects on the nervous system started to be attributed to thalidomide by some doctors. The first concerns about teratogenic hazards were raised in Western Germany in October 1961. We had to wait more than six weeks after that for the drug to be withdrawn from the british and german markets, at the end of November and in early December. But it was already too late: thousands of babies around the world would be born with severe malformations. Other authorities were even slower to withdraw thalidomide from the market, so that in some countries, it was available until the end of 1963.

It is hard to tell with precision how many thalidomide victims there is, because a lot of babies were dead before birth, stillborn or died soon after birth due to the severity of their malformations. Not all of these births were registered in proper form, especially considering that several thalidomiders infants are believed to have been infanticide victims. It is estimated that 15,000 children were born worldwide with malformations attributable to thalidomide. The victims also include the families of all these children, whose life were severely impacted by this tragedy.

Not so long after that, new therapeutical effects were discovered to thalidomide, for treating or alleviating leprosy, systemic lupus erythematosus and some cancers, among others. The drug is currently available in many countries for these uses. To know more about the actual uses of thalidomide, click here.

Peripheral neuritis is a type of nerve injury that may happen when one takes thalidomide. Peripheral neuritis can manifest anywhere in the body. It begins with a tingling sensation in hands and feet, followed by numbness and sensations of cold. The numbness expands and is followed by severe muscular cramps, a weakness of the limbs and a lack of coordination. Some of these symptoms can improve or disappear, but in some cases, the damages are irreversible.

Patients on thalidomide are recommended to cease treatment immediately and contact their doctor if they experience nerve injury symptoms such as: a burning sensation, numbness or pins and needles in the arms, hand, legs or feet.

Fetal impairment
Here is a non-exhaustive list of the impacts that thalidomide may have on the fetus when taken by pregnant women: bilateral limb atrophy (legs, arms or both) – a condition known as phocomelia, bilateral limb absence (amelia), missing fingers or toes, palmature of the fingers or toes, extra fingers or toes, total or partial hearing loss, partial or total vision loss, paralysis (usually facial muscles), malformation of the digestive tube, malformation of the duodenum (most of the time lethal, before or not long after birth), malformation or absence of the anus, vital organs injury (most of the time lethal, before or not long after birth), death.
Because of the aforementioned devastating effects, thalidomide is strictly contraindicated on pregant women or women and women at risk of becoming pregnant.

You can find more detailed information about congenital malformations linked to thalidomide in the Congenital malformations section of our website.

For more information on the hazards and side effects of the drug thalidomide, visit Health Canada’s page on THALOMID.”

Source: https://thalidomide.ca/en/what-is-thalidomide/