Mesoamerican and South American Mythologies: Maya, Aztec, Inca

The Mayan Gods and Heroes

Who were the Maya heroes?

The primary Maya heroes were the “hero twins,” Hunahpú and Xbalanque (Hunter and Jaguar Deer). The heroes were miraculously conceived when the dead skull of a figure known as Hun Hunahpú spits into the hand of Xquic. Hun Hunahpú had been summoned to the Underworld for making too much noise while playing the Maya ball game and had been sacrificed there. Threatened in childhood by jealous older brothers, the twins turned these brothers into monkeys. The hero twins sought revenge for their father’s sacrifice. As did he, they played the ball game noisily and were called to the Underworld, thus following the path taken there by so many heroes of myth. There they defeated the Underworld lords in the ball game and eventually killed them, decisively undermining the power of the lords of death. As did other heroes, they became monster slayers, defeating in particular the bird demon, Vucub-Caquix. And as did other heroes, they eventually achieved apotheosis as the sun and moon in the heavens.

A drawing of the Mayan hero twins Hunahpá and Xbalanqué based on the Izapa Stela.


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