I recently saw The Fountain, which I’d been looking forward to for a long time. I’m not even going to attempt any deep thought on it until I’ve seen it at least one more time. However, in it Aronofsky weaves elements of Mayan myth – particularly with the Mayan realm of Xibalba.
I am not up to par on my Mayan history or myth, but after doing some light perusing on Wikipedia, some elements here really struck a chord with me.
In Maya mythology Xibalba (pronounced Shi-BAHL-bah) is the name of the underworld, ruled by the Mayan deities of death. The name roughly translates to “Place of Fear” or “Place of Phantoms”. The entrance to Xibalba was traditionally held to be a cave in the vicinity of Cob?n, Guatemala. To some of the Quich? descendants of the Maya people still living in the vicinity, the area is still associated with death. In the heavens, the Road to Xibalba was represented by the dark rift visible in the Milky Way.
Xibalba was described in the Popol Vuh to be a city or a realm that existed below the surface of the Earth. It is unclear if the inhabitants of Xibalba, referred to simply as Xibalbans, are the souls of the deceased or a separate race of people worshipping death, but they are often depicted as being human-like in form. The place Xibalba was often associated with death and it was ruled by 12 gods or powerful rulers known as the Lords of Xibalba. The first among the Lords of Xibalba were One Death and Seven Death. The remaining 10 Lords are often referred to as demons and are given commission and domain over various forms of human suffering: to cause sickness, starvation, fear, destitution, pain, and ultimately death. The remaining residents of Xibalba are thought to have fallen under the dominion of one of these Lords, going about the face of the Earth to carry out their listed duties.
The Popol Vuh (Quich? for “Council Book” or “Book of the Community”; Popol Wuj in modern spelling) is the book of scripture of the Quich?, a kingdom of the post classic Maya civilization in highland Guatemala. The K’iche’ (or Quich? in Spanish spelling), are a Native American people, one of the Maya ethnic groups. Their indigenous language, the K’iche’ language, is a Mesoamerican language of the Mayan language family. The highland K’iche’ states in the pre-Columbian era are associated with the ancient Maya civilization.
In the Popol Vuh is the account of the Mayan creation myth:
This is a very general summary; divisions depend on text version:
Gods create world.
Gods create first “wood” humans, they are imperfect and emotionless.
Gods destroy first humans in a “resin” flood; they become monkeys.
Twin diviners Hunahpu & Xbalanque destroy arrogant Vucub-Caquix; then Zipacna & Cabracan.
Diviners Xpiyacoc & Xmucane beget brothers.
HunHunahpu & Xbaquiyalo beget “Monkey Twins” HunBatz & HunChouen.
Cruel Xibalba lords kill the brothers HunHunahpu & VucubHunahpu.
HunHunahpu & Xquic beget “Hero Twins” Hunahpu & Xbalanque.
“Hero Twins” defeat the Xibalba houses of Gloom, Knives, Cold, Jaguars, Fire, Bats.
The first 4 “real” people are made: Jaguar Quiche, Jaguar Night, Naught, & Wind Jaguar.
Tribes descend; they speak the same language and travel to TulanZuiva.
The tribes language becomes confused; and they disperse.
Tohil is recognized as a god and demands life sacrifices; later he must be hidden.
Tohil affects Earth Lords through priests; but his dominion destroys the Quiche.
Priests tried to abduct tribes for sacrifices; the tribes tried to resist this.
Quiche found Gumarcah where Gucumatz (the feathered serpent lord) raises them to power.
Gucumatz instituted elaborate rituals.
Genealogies of the tribes.
There seem to be a lot of parallels, from my limited knowledge of the world history of myth and theology, but the “wood humans” are just as AD-AM from ancient myth, the first man or race of man.
Adam (“Earth” or “man”, Standard Hebrew ?????, Adam; “Soil” or “Light Brown”, Arabic ???, Adam) was the first man created by Elohim (Allah) according to the Abrahamic religious tradition. He is considered a prophet by the Jewish, Christian, Islamic, Mandaean and Bah?’? faiths.
While I don’t believe it to be takenliterally, that he was one man, the Semitic prophet of the yahoos, I’ve read before that AD-AM was an old Babylonian word that meant the new man, or new race, or something like that. The first term for the species was along the lines of AD-AD or AD-AT or something, the reborn race of man was then called AD-AM.
Part 3 of the Popol Vuh. we see the creation of the four Towers of Jerusalem, or the four elements or what we now know was the four suits in tarot, et al. The tribes suffer the same fate as the Biblical account of Babel. According to Genesis 11:1-9, mankind, after the deluge (which can be seen in Part 1), travelled from the mountain where the ark had rested, and settled in “a plain in the land of Shinar” (or Senaar).
I also wonder if Tohil is akin to the Demiurge, Ialdabaoth? Tohil is the Quich? name for Huracan and was their patron deity. Huracan (“one legged”) was a wind, storm and fire god and one of the creator deities who participated in all three attempts at creating humanity. He also caused the Great Flood after the first humans angered the gods. He supposedly lived in the windy mists above the floodwaters and repeated “earth” until land came up from the seas.
I also have more thoughts on the whole Babel concept, which I am more and more seeing in the works of modern linguists and philosophers. It has nothing to do with building a fucking tower to Heaven, it has to do with Wisdom. (The two may be synonymous in my world, but not to the Christian Army, it seems).
In the Chomskian tradition there is what is known as transformational grammar:
In the early to mid 1960s, Noam Chomsky developed the idea that each sentence in a language has two levels of representation – a deep structure and a surface structure. The deep structure represented the semantic relations of a sentence, and was mapped on to the surface structure (which followed the phonological form of the sentence very closely) via transformations. Chomsky believed that there would be considerable similarities between languages’ deep structures, and that these structures would reveal properties, common to all languages, which were concealed by their surface structures.
Michael Polanyi developed the idea of tacit knowledge:
By definition, tacit knowledge is not easily shared. One of Polanyi’s famous aphorisms is: “We know more than we can tell.” Tacit knowledge consists often of habits and culture that we do not recognize in ourselves. In the field of knowledge management the concept of tacit knowledge refers to a knowledge which is only known to you and hard to share with someone else, which is the opposite from the concept of explicit knowledge. The tacit aspects of knowledge are those that cannot be codified, but can only be transmitted via training or gained through personal experience. Tacit knowledge has been described as ‘know-how’ (as opposed to ‘know-what’ [facts] and ‘know-why’ [science]) . It involves learning and skill but not in a way that can be written down.
Or some of the stuff I was noticing in the works of R. Scott Bakker, a professor of ancient languages and writer of some good fiction. (I won’t post it all here, but worth the look-see.)
Or just the concept of occultism in general:
The word occult comes from the Latin occultus (clandestine, hidden, secret), referring to the ‘knowledge of the secret’ or ‘knowledge of the hidden’ and often popularly meaning ‘knowledge of the supernatural’, as opposed to ‘knowledge of the visible’ or ‘knowledge of the measurable’, usually referred to as science. The term is sometimes popularly taken to mean ‘knowledge meant only for certain people’ or ‘knowledge that must be kept hidden’, but for most practicing occultists it is simply the study of a deeper spiritual “reality” that extends beyond pure reason and the physical sciences.
The Tower of Babel, that which was being built to Heaven, I believe, was an effort by man to work back to that deeper, tacit knowledge. I wonder why there’s such a dire need for the gods to keep us here…