The Maya Prophecies - Part II
The Prophecies of Chilam Balam - Introduction
Allen J. Christenson
David A. Freidel
Michael D. Carrasco
Brian M. Stross
Kerry M. Hull
Michael John Finley
Various other individuals
The Chilam Balam Books
After de Landa and other Catholic priests burned the body of literature that expressed the heart of the Mayan religious faith, written with Maya glyphs, the Maya attempted to recapture that body of knowledge with other written works. With the help of the Catholic priests, the Maya had learned to read and write their traditional literature in the Mayan language but in European script. This was part of a Catholic endeavor to convert the Mayan people to the Christian faith, founded on the assumption that the Maya would be more persuaded if they had to deal in Christian symbols. Unfortunately, the program was only partially successful. The Maya did not convert; they adapted to their religious framework. As a result we have some remnants of their old religious beliefs to this day, contained in manuscripts that stem from the 18th and 19th centuries. Many of the texts that found their way into these books date back before the Spanish conquest. The books show that in the earliest manuscripts the element of prophecy was highly important.
This effort resulted in several written works: The Book of Chilam Balam of Chumayel, Lizana, Codex Perez (Mani), Codex Perez (Oxkutzcab), and The Book of Chilam Balam of Tizimin. These texts are named after the towns in which they were found. They consist mostly of disparate texts in which Mayan and Spanish traditions have coalesced. These include texts of history (both pre-Spanish and colonial), calendrics, astrology and herbal medicine. Whereas the medical texts are quite matter-of-fact, the historical and astrological texts contain much Mayan mythology.
Importantly for our knowledge, these texts include prophecies called "U Tzol Than Ah Kinoob" (the interpretation (of visions) of the priests). This collection contains prophecy by the priest Chilam Balam, which were interpreted by the Spanish, and all subsequent generations, as statements of the coming of foreigners bringing with them a new religion. Naturally, everyone looked upon this prediction as pertaining to the Spanish conquest. Since the predictions had no other context, this seemed perfectly natural. But a careful and thorough examination of these prophecies shows that other events are predicted, referring not to the Spaniards, but to events of the future this world has not yet seen.
The texts included minor prophetical statements by other Mayan priests. When added to the statements of Chilam Balam this body of prophecy is the portion of colonial Yucatan Mayan literature which has received the most attention by outsiders, since these prophecies were well known to the Spanish friars. The archaic Yucatec idiom and the often allusive, metaphorical nature of the books offer a formidable challenge to translators. The outcome is sometimes heavily influenced by external assumptions about the purpose of the texts. As a result of these factors, the quality of existing translations varies greatly.
A portion of these prophecies was published by Lizana as early as 1633. Since the prophecy by Chilam Balam is the most important of these prognostications, it is from this prophet that the whole body of native Yucatan Mayan literature dealing with Mayan religion has received its name, namely "The Books of Chilam Balam".
A precise date when these prophecies might have been written is difficult. As David Bolles states it:
In the Cuceb the writer of that material, Ah Kauil Cħel, says that he went on a journey with Ah Na Puc Tun and Ah Xupan Nauat to Bacalar, Chetumal, and other places in that vicinity in the year 8 Muluc (probably 1510-1511). He states further that he finished writing down the Cuceb material in hieroglyphs with Ah Na Puc Tun on 11 Chuen, 18 Zac, which fell on the 15th of February, 1544. These three men are three of the six priest which have their prophecies given in "U Tzolan Than Ah Kinoob". The other three are Ah Natzin Yuban Chan, Ah Na Puc Tun, and of course Ah Kin Chilam Balam. It seems possible that in their journey to the east that the three Uxmal priests might have visited Chilam Balam in his house at Hol Ha (port) Ecab. This would be especially true if the three Uxmal priests traveled by boat along the coast of Yucatan. They would have had to pass Ecab on their journey to and from Chetumal.
Of course, this is strictly speculative groping for answers to the date of the prophecies.
Study of the various texts shows that much of the prophetic material in the Books of Chilam Balam has a uniformity in writing style (grammar, vocabulary, phraseology, etc.). This fact suggests that the prophecies come from one original source, remembered by different tribes as important for them to include it in the different manuscripts. David Bolles has suggested that this uniformity could be the result of an educational system in which much of the learning was done by rote, but this suggestion sidesteps the question of the original source of the material.
I now present the Chilam Balam prophecies from the three most important English translation sources. The reader may compare them for consistency and disparity in translation. David Bolles offers the Mayan text. This gives an opportunity for other persons acquainted with the Mayan language to compare the quality of the translation.
Other papers will discuss the details of the prophecies.
My sources are:
A Grammar of the Yucatecan Mayan Language by David & Alejandra Bolles, The Prophecy of Chilam Balam, which may be found at:
This is a general discussion of the various Maya sources. The exact text may be found at:
The Book of Chilam Balam of Chumayel [translated by] Ralph L. Roys, with an introduction by J. Eric S. Thompson, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, 1967.
Since the original text is out of copyright, and because of its popularity, this text may be found various places from various publishers.
I obtained my copy from the Internet:
The Codex Perez and the Book of Chilam Balam of Mani, [translated by] Eugene R. Craine and Reginald C. Reindorp, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, 1979.
I have removed all section and line numbers used by the translators to reference the original text.
David Bolles does not give a citation for his material. It appears that he used the Chumayel text as his source, since it replicates the Roys material one-on-one. The Book of Mani translation by Craine and Reindorp is an abbreviated version, with less than fifty percent of the parallel texts.
Regardless of the town in which these texts were found, they all give Mani as their original source. This reinforces a proposal that these texts all come from one source, that found its way around the Mayan countryside to appear historically at different locations.
This Chilam Balam prophecy given here does not contain the several small prophecies whose authenticity is debatable. From examination of the several versions we can see that the translators used some literary license in the renderings.
|Line #||Maya (David Bolles)||David Bolles||Ralph Roys||Craine and Reindorp|
|1||U THAN AH KIN CHILAM BALAM||THE PROPHECY OF THE PRIEST CHILAM BALAM||THE PROPHECY OF CHILAM BALAM OF CHUMAYEL||WORDS OF CHILAM BALAM OF MANI|
|2||U than Chilam Balam, ah kin ti Ix Kayum Cabal Cħeen Mani||The prophecy of Chilam Balam, the priest to the chanter of Cabal Cħeen Mani||The prophecy of Chilam Balam, the singer, of Cabal-chen, Mani.||The words of the true God which Chilam understood.|
|3||Oxlahun Ahau u hidzil uil katun||On 13 Ahau the katun will end||On <the day> 13 Ahau the katun will end||At the conclusion of the Katun 13 Ahau,|
|4||ualac uil Itza, ualac uil Tancahe, yume,||in the time of the Itza, in the time of Tancah, lord,||in the time of the Itzá, in the time of / Tancah <Mayapan>, lord. dawn in the north, in the west.||the Itza will see, perhaps in Tancah,|
|5||u chicul Hunab Ku caanal.||the sign of one and only god on high.||There is the sign of Hunab-ku on high.||the sign symbols of the one God [Hunab Ku],|
|6||Ulom uaom che. Etzahom ti cahe.||The cross shall return. It shall be shown in the towns.||The raised wooden standard shall come. It shall be displayed to the world,||the erect tree which will be shown|
|7||Uchebal u zazhal yokol cabe, yume.||Light (enlightenment) shall happen in the world, lord.||that the world may be enlightened, lord.||so that the world will be enlightened. Lords,|
|8||Dzuni moctamba, dzuni zauinal||Quarreling returns, jealousy returns||There has been a beginning of strife, there has been a beginning of rivalry,||console ourselves, discord and confusion will be finished,|
|9||ca talom ti pul chicul ku.||when the bearers of the sign of god shall come.||to bring the sign <of God> in time to come||when the bearer of the cross [sign] comes to us. in the future,|
|10||Uchmal ah kin uinice, yume.||Then there shall be priests, lord.||when the priestly men shall come, lord.||priests everywhere will be enlightened.|
|11||Hun auat, hun lub u tal.||One shout away, one league away they come.||A quarter of a league, a league <away> he comes.|
|12||A uiliceex mute u tippil yetel uaom che.||You see the prognostication which appears with the cross.||You see the mut-bird surmounting the raised wooden standard.|
|13||Ahom cab hun xaman, hun chikin.||It shall dawn in the north, in the west.||A new day shall dawn|
|14||Ahom Itzam Na Kauil.||Itzam Na Kauil shall awaken.||Itzamná Kauil shall rise.||Mighty Itzamna, your master, will come.|
|15||Talel u caah c' yum ah Itza.||Our lord is coming, men of the Itza.||Our lord comes, Itzá.||Itza, the true God will come to enlighten you.|
|16||Talel u caah c' zucun Tantune.||Our older brother is coming, men of Tantun.||Our elder brother comes, <oh> men of Tantun.|
|17||Kam a uulaob, ah mexoob, ah likin caboob,||Receive your guests, the bearded ones, the ones from the||Receive your guests, the bearded men,||Receive your guests, the bearded ones,|
|18||ah puloob tu chicul kue yume.||eastern lands, the bearers of the sign of god, lord.||the men of the east, the bearers of the sign of God, lord.||who will be the bearers of the standard of the true God|
|19||Utz ka u than ku cu talel c' icnale.||Will the word of god which comes amongst us be good?||Good indeed is the word of God that comes to us.||who shall come|
|20||Talel u caah u kin c' cuxtale.||The day is coming when we will live.||The day of our regeneration comes.||to arrange the day of resurrection.|
|21||Ma a zatic uay yokol cabe, yume.||Do not get lost here on earth, lord.||You do not fear the world, Lord,|
|22||Tech Hunab Ku cħab ti coon.||You one and only god created us.||you are the only God who created us.|
|23||Utz tun ua u than ku yume,||Will the word of god be good, lord,||It is sufficient, then, that the word of God is good, lord.|
|24||yah canul c' pixan?||the guardian of our souls?||<He is> the guardian of our souls.|
|25||Hemac bin kamic hach ocaan ti yole ti caan||Whoever is going to receive the true belief in heaven is going||He who receives him, who has truly believed, he will go to heaven|
|26||u bin tu pach, heuac u chun ca kin uinicil.||with him, but there is the beginning of the two-day men.||with him. Nevertheless <at> the beginning were the two-day men|
|27||Ca uacunto u chicul caanal.||Then the sign should be set up on high.||Let us exalt his sign on high,|
|28||Ca uacunto c' pacte hele.||Then should our vision be set there.||let us exalt it <that we may gaze upon it today>|
|29||Ca uacunto u uaom che.||Then the cross should be set up on high.||with the raised standard.|
|30||Numtetah u kexac hokol helele,||Misery of the change comes forth today,||Great is the discord that arises today.|
|31||u hel tu pach u yaxcheil cab.||the change of the bark of the ceiba (first tree) of the world.||The First Tree of the World is restored;|
|32||Etzahom helel ti balcahe.||It shall be shown today to the world.||it is displayed to the world.|
|33||Lay u chicul Hunab Ku caanal.||Thus is the sign of the one and only lord on high.||This is the sign of Hunab-ku on high.|
|34||Lay a kulteex Ah Itzaexe.||Thus shall you worship Itza.||Worship it, Itzá.|
|35||Ca a kulte hele u chicul kulil ku caanale.||Then you shall worship today the sign of the godly god on high.||You shall worship today his sign on high.|
|36||Ca a kulte to tu hahil oc olal.||Then you shall worship thus to the true belief.||You shall worship it furthermore with true good will,|
|37||Ca a kulte to c' hahal kue.||Then you shall worship thus our true god.||and you shall worship the true God today, lord.||The Itza will accept and worship the one True God|
|38||Ocez ta uol tu than Hunab Ku.||Believe in the word of the one and only god.||You shall be converted to the word of Hunab-ku, lord;|
|39||Tali ti caan a uah thanule.||Your commandment came from heaven.||it came from heaven.||who comes from heaven.|
|40||Cuxcint a uol Ah Itzaexe.||Console yourselves Itza.||Oh it is he who speaks to you! Be admonished indeed, Itzá.|
|41||Ahom uil cab tiob.||Dawn shall come to them.||They will correct their ways|
|42||Oczicoob ti yol ichil u yanal katun uale.||They believe during the next katun it seems.||who receive him in their hearts in another katun, lord.|
|43||Yaabtuba in than cen Chilam Balam.||My word shall augment itself. I Chilam Balam, I have||Believe in my word itself, I am Chilam Balam, and I have|
|44||Ca tin tzolah u than hahal ku tuzinile yokol cabe.||interpreted the word of the true god everywhere here on earth,||interpreted the entire message of the true God <of> the world;|
|45||Licil in binel hunac tzuc ti cab.||because I go everywhere in the world.||it is heard in every part of the world,|
|46||U than hahal ku, yumil caan yetel luum.||The word of the true god, lord of heaven and earth,||lord, the word of God, the Lord of heaven and earth.|
|47||Tu bolonpiz haabil Ah Hun Ahau Katun uale.||in the ninth year of One Ahau Katun it seems.||[But those to whom <the word> is brought, lord:]|
|48||Hach utz ka u than ti caan yume?||Will the word from heaven be very good lord?||Very good indeed is his word in heaven, lord.|
|49||C' okol yahaulil, c' okol ix c' pixan hahal ku.||We cry the rule, we cry our souls true god.||He is ruler over us; he is the true God over our souls.|
|50||Heuac ti ulez lae yume ox alam ukil,||But thus returns lord the three children of lice,||thrice weighed down is their strength,|
|51||ix cuch luum idzinil.||the younger sisters of the natives.||the younger brothers native to the land. Their hearts are submerged <in sin>.|
|52||Dzaman yol! Cimen ix u puczikal tu nicteob xan||Be alert! Dead is their heart towards the flower also||Their hearts are dead in their carnal sins.|
|53||ah uaua tulupoob, ah uatan zinaob.||those who back talk, the captain of the fighters.||They are frequent backsliders, the principal ones who spread <sin>,|
|54||Nacxit Xuchit tu nicte u lakoob,||Nacxit Xuchit is the plumeria of the others,||Nacxit Xuchit in the carnal sin of his companions,|
|55||ca kin yahauliloob.||the two day rulers.||the two-day rulers.|
|56||Coilac te tu dzamoob,||They will be rabid on their daises,||<They sit> crookedly on their thrones;|
|57||coilac te tu nicteob,||they will be rabid in their plumeria flowers,||crookedly in carnal sin.|
|58||ca kin uinicil cu thanoob.||two day men they say.||Two-day men they call them.|
|59||Ca kin u xecoob, u luchoob, u ppocoob,||Two day their chair, their cups, their hats,||For two days <endure> their seats, their cups, their hats.|
|60||u coil kin, u coil akab, u maxiloob yokol cab.||the rabid day, the rabid night, the hobgoblins of the world.||They are the unrestrained lewd ones of the day, the unrestrained lewd ones of the night, the rogues of the world.|
|61||Kuy u cal, mudz u uich,||They twist their necks, they close their eyes,||They twist their necks, they wink their eyes,|
|62||pudz u chi ti yahaulil caboob yume.||they spit out on the rulers of the world lord.||they slaver at the mouth, at the rulers of the land, lord.|
|63||He cu talel minaan hah tu thanoob||Then it comes that there is no truth in the words||Behold, when they come, there is no truth in the words|
|64||u dzuliloob cah.||of the lords of the towns.||of the foreigners to the land.|
|65||Bin yaloob hach talaniloob,||They shall say very mysterious things,||They tell very solemn and mysterious things,|
|66||u mehen Uuc Tocoy Naob,||the children of the men of Seven Deserted Houses,||the sons of the men of Seven-deserted-buildings,|
|67||yaloob Uuc Tocoy Naob yume.||the children of the women of Seven Deserted Houses lord.||the offspring of the women of Seven-deserted-buildings, lord.|
|68||Mac to ah bobat?||Who will be the prophet?||Who will be the prophet,|
|69||Mac to ah kin bin tohol cantic||Who will be the priest who will correctly speak||who will be the priest who shall interpret truly|
|70||u than uooh lae?||the words of the hieroglyphs thus?||the word of the book?|
|71||Oh, Itza! thus enlightened you will believe in Him in the next Katun. Believe my message. I, Chilam Balam, have explained the word of the True God, in the ninth year of the Katun 11" Ahau." The commandments of the true God will be good and the new truth will be substituted for the old one) (In the old books we are taught that the world will change.)|