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Hun Hunahpu

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Title: Hun Hunahpu  
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Subject: Awilix, Navbox K'iche' mythology, Jacawitz, K'atun, Annals of the Cakchiquels
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Hun Hunahpu

According to the Popol Vuh, Hun-Hunahpu(pronounced ) 'One-Hunahpu' (a calendrical name) is the father of the Maya hero twins, Hunahpu and Xbalanque. As their shared calendrical day name suggests, Hun-Hunahpu is first and foremost the father of Hunahpu. He is also stated to be the father of the twins' half-brothers, the patrons of the artisans and writers, Hun-Chowen and Hun-Batz (see Howler Monkey Gods). Hun-Hunahpu 'One-Hunahpu' is paired with his brother, Vucub-Hunahpu 'Seven-Hunahpu'. The brothers were tricked in the Dark House by the lords of the Underworld (Xibalba) and sacrificed. Hun-Hunahpu's head was suspended in a trophy tree and changed to a calabash. Its spittle (i.e., the juice of the calabash) impregnated a daughter of one of the lords of Xibalba, Xquic. She fled the underworld and conceived the Twins. After defeating the lords of the Underworld, the Twins recovered the remains of their father and father's brother, but could not resuscitate them.

Hun-Hunahpu and the Maize Deity

Although, in the Popol Vuh, Hun-Hunahpu does not revive, it has been asserted that the Mayas of the Classical Period took a more optimistic view, and believed the sad paternal figure to have been reborn as the maize. In this theory, the scene of the Tonsured Maize God rising from a turtle carapace (the 'tomb' of the earth) is interpreted as Hun-Hunahpu resurrected, and the flanking Hero Twins assisting him are accordingly taken to be the maize deity's sons. In consequence of this view, Hun-Hunahpu is often referred to as a 'maize deity', and the maize deity as a 'first father'. In support of the Maize Deity theory, reference is often made to a pottery scene showing a cacao tree assimilated to the Tonsured Maize God, and having a trophy head suspended among its branches. The trophy head is taken to be that of Hun-Hunahpu, and the head of the Tonsured Maize God as its transformation.

The identification of Hun-Hunahpu with the Classic Mayan Maize Deity has become popular, but is still to be treated as a theory in need of corroboration. It remains problematic that the hieroglyphic name of the Tonsured Maize God (although including the prefix 'One') is not recognizable as that of Hun-Hunahpu. Moreover, the tree with the suspended trophy head in it is not a calabash tree, as in the Popol Vuh, but a personified cacao tree.


  • Dennis Tedlock, Popol Vuh. New York: Simon and Schuster 1986.
  • Karl Taube, Aztec and Maya Myths. The British Museum / University of Texas Press 1997.
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