The Palenque Revelations
The Temple Side and Inscription Panels
Allen J. Christenson
David A. Freidel
Michael D. Carrasco
Brian M. Stross
Kerry M. Hull
Michael John Finley
Various other individuals
The Foliated Cross Panel
I was stunned when I read the translations of the glyphs on the panels of the temples in Palenque. The translations are shown at
under the title Unaahil B’aak. The contributors are Michael D. Carrasco and Kerry M. Hull (hereafter CH). Refer to their Credits page.
In my previous paper I discussed information given to us by the Popul Vuh and the Chilam Balam. This information came through the hazards of time and place, of writing and rewriting, from Mayan original glyph text, to Mayan transliterations, to Spanish versions, to English. As a consequence it was subject to manifold dilutions and pollutions, errors and corruptions. Still, in spite of that torturous route, we are able to glean important knowledge and understanding from those texts. Unseen forces were at work to preserve essential content for our enlightenment. Clearly apparent, without reservation, were statements about world destiny, and about the hand of God in our future. We were told, in no uncertain terms, of our social fate.
In contrast, we are extremely fortunate to be able to decipher the original Mayan script as it now appears on monuments and in temples in Mesoamerica. This is especially true for the wall panels at Palenque, which contents are lengthy. Although we may not be totally accurate in our decipherment, we can recognize to a great extent what the original Mayan writers intended to say in their strange glyph signs. This fact has left us with depth of understanding of the original Mayan mind we could not obtain from the Popul Vuh or the Chilam Balam.
That is why I was so stunned. I found it incredible that the ancient Maya were able to give descriptions of a religious belief that duplicates Christian belief in vital details. This striking correspondence between Jesus and Kauil has gone completely unnoticed, as far as I can determine.
In order that there be no doubt of the context of these passages I offer the translation exactly as given by Carrasco and Hull. I select pieces from the published inscription to draw attention to text important to our understanding of the hand of God in our human affairs. For comparison purposes a translation of the nearly complete text of the Palenque temple displays by Carrasco and Hull may be found at the URL given above.
The crucial text was as follows:
This statement shows the material birth of someone named K'awil (Kauil). We can see that he lived as a human infant. But he was called God. Then after about 35 years, he returned to a heavenly place called Matawil.
Now the stunning part. All I need do is substitute the name Jesus for K'awil in this text.
How did the Maya come to such results?
The Palenque text long predates any known influence from the Old World. It predates possible historic Spanish religious influence by nearly a thousand years.
Equally baffling is the fact that the life span of K'awil designated in the Foliated Cross temple text is roughly that of the life span of Jesus we know from biblical text.
The phrase "after the Sprout" shows that approximately 35 years after he was born, the Infant K'awiil arrived at Matawil. In other words, from the time he was born as a human baby, until his departure for his heavenly home, was about 35 years. He lived the human life for that length of time.
According to traditional estimates Jesus was born around 6 BC and was killed on Friday, April 3, 33 AD. He would have been about 39 years of age. According to the Urantia Papers Jesus was born on August 21, 7 BC and was crucified on April 9, 30 AD. From these numbers he would have been 37 years of age. If we take the Mayan statements as indicative of the life and death of the Sprout he would have been about 35 years of age.
Either the Maya were resorting to an explicit religious belief from an Old World influence, or they were privy to information that had been given to them from some other source. This information was not about some casual human mortal, or even some human king, but about a god who was born as a baby, lived as a human person, and then returned to a heavenly residence.
Two sharp differences exist between the Mayan text, and Christian belief. We are uncertain what was meant by the "Third" at the beginning of this remark. The "thrice manifest" is reference to a Mayan belief not known in Christianity. Other than that, the statement could easily be part of Christian belief. But those two differences make the remark uniquely Mayan, and not Christian.
I mention here how Christians understand the concept of manifestation. In 1 John 1:1-4 the Apostle John describes his views.
Quite clearly John described his experience of knowing a personality who was God, and who lived as a man. This God-Man was made manifest to us who are the inheritors of the Christian tradition. The Maya have similar understanding in the manifestation of their god Kauil. Either he had been made manifest to them, or they expected him to be made manifest to them. But in their religious tradition he was "thrice manifested," he assumed the role of an earthly life that had three aspects. He was merely different in the manner of manifestation, not in the nature.
In Maya Cosmos, David Freidel, Linda Schele, and Joy Parker, William Morrow and Company, New York, 1995, (hereafter FSP) offer elaborate and detailed discussion of the birth of Kauil. To do this they must first explain the meaning of the name. They deduce from the many texts they have studied that it means "sustenance" or "alms." They say that K'wail represents "any precious substance, some type of plant or body fluid like blood or sap given freely as thanks for the sustenance provided by the divine."
In the manifestation Kauil offers a gift of eternal life to human beings, from himself, another being who is divine. According to FSP the name Kauil means a god who gives freely of himself for all his human children, and he does so by giving a substance that is part of himself, body fluid or blood. He gave of himself by being born as a human baby and living a human life, but the Maya understood that this act also meant giving freely from himself blood that was precious and highly personal. This act ensured that human kind would receive the promise of eternal life provided by the divine.
Important to Christians was the observation that Jesus also gave a substance from himself, water and blood, 1 John 5:6-7:
Clearly, Christian concepts about Jesus have further strong parallels with Mayan concepts about Kauil. Difference may exist in the linguistic expression but conceptually they are nearly one-on-one. The sustenance provided by the divine is not merely to satisfy the material requirements of human life, but especially also the requirements of the eternal human soul. Implied in this gift is the offer of eternal life, as shown by many texts. In an inscription in the Temple of the Cross we are told that Ju'n Ye Nal Chaahk entered the sky (entered upon high). And that after the Waka Chan had been embraced by Ju'n Ye Nal Chaahk he then arrived [at] Matwiil. Waka Chan means literally "lifted up into the sky." Ju'n Ye Nal Chaahk arrives at a celestial residence after he embraces the Waka Chan. Thus he had the opportunity for eternal life after he left this world.
Note that Ju'n Ye Nal Chaahk, as a human being, engages in an act that reciprocates the offer by Kauil. Kauil offers blood to save the human soul, and the human being embraces the Waka Chan. This is equivalent to Jesus giving water and blood of himself to salvage human mortals, and human mortals accepting the Cross as their salvation. Christians have embraced the Cross for two thousand years.
The uncanny part is that a special symbol is used throughout the Palenque temples. That symbol is the Waka Chan. In the Temple of the Cross this symbol, recognized as a World Tree by many Mayan archeologists, looks exactly like a Christian Cross. But this Christian Cross, as a Mayan symbol, was found many places. Consider, for example, the Christian-appearing crosses at San Juan Chamula before the Spanish conquest. We should give regard to the fact that the Temples at Palenque are named for the Crosses. Pakal, the great Mayan Prince, used the symbol of the Cross on the cover of his sarcophagus. Since the Waka Chan looks identical to a Christian Cross, we again find an identical parallel between Mayan belief and Christian belief.
Notably missing from this Mayan description of Kauil, a god who lived as a man, is the manner in which he died before he returned to Matawil. If Kauil gave freely of himself as some type of plant or body fluid like blood or sap I see this as falling narrowly short of a sacrificial death.
But nowhere do we find illustration of a Mayan crucifixion. That stark fact is clearly lacking in Mayan culture. We find human figures, kings or priests, standing in worshipful attitude before the Crosses. But they are not looking at a crucifixion; they are looking at a Cross. The Foliated Cross, so different in the artistic illustration, shows emphasis upon the symbol of a Cross, but not upon an instrument of sacrifice. Karl Taube, in a chapter on A Study of Classic Maya Scaffold Sacrifice, in Maya Iconography, Elizabeth Benson and Gillett Griffin, Eds., Princeton University Press, 1988, shows that scaffolds were used, either for punishment or for sacrifice, with the victim tied fast to a frame, but not to a cross.
On the other hand, the Maya widely practiced another ritual in deference to Kauil. That ritual was blood sacrifice. The natural extrapolation of the offering of human blood or sap is found in the pervasive illustrations of auto-sacrifice by the Mayan leaders and people. David Joralemon of Yale University offers detailed and explicit descriptions of blood auto-sacrifice among Mayan people in a paper, Ritual Blood-Sacrifice among the Ancient Maya: Part I. See
Every part of the human body was used for blood sacrifice: the ears, the tongue, genital organs, or any other body member that would cause pain to the Mayan person. It was their substitute for the sacrifice of Kauil. They were imitating him. The ultimate, of course, was the sacrifice of the life of a person in their religious ceremonies. Those barbaric human sacrifices strike us especially for the blood that came out of the act. Whether it was the slicing off of the head, or the ripping of the beating heart out of the chest, the blood flowed freely. It seems that even the ceremony occasion on their ball courts ended in the life sacrifice of the winner of the contest. The illustrations of the Crosses at Palenque show the Kings or Priests offering infants in sacrifice, sometimes dressed to represent god-like figures. The offering of an infant was double acknowledgement to Kauil; the representation of his infancy, and the flow of the most precious body sap from the infant person.
This sacrificial offering of blood from the human body was keenly felt by the Mayan people, and became an intimate part of their religious heritage. They engaged in such practices out of intense religious feeling of honor to their Creator god.
However, there was a mighty difference between the sacrifice on a Cross, a crucifixion, demonstrated by Jesus, and the blood sacrifice practiced by the Maya. The former was a fiat accompli, a living example of the giving of a human life, for the salvation of other human beings. The latter was an act in anticipation of the giving of human life for the salvation of other human beings. The former was already done; the latter had yet to be accomplished. The Maya demonstrated how they expected their Man-God to give of himself by their example of giving blood in substitution for the sacrificial gift of Kauil.
We naturally deduce that the act of sacrificial death on the Mayan Cross by Kauil had not yet occurred. Such event is not illustrated anywhere. But the Cross is illustrated everywhere. We thus have a circumstance that is highly intriguing: why the Cross but no death on the Cross?
If the Mayan people had been told about Kauil, and about the Cross, and had been told of his future sacrificial death on the Cross, but without the actual event of his death, we would have circumstances portrayed by their religious traditions. We have all elements of the event experienced by Jesus, except for the death itself. In other words, the event of the sacrifice of Kauil on the Cross was an expectation by the Mayan people, which they expressed in their blood rituals. They would not violate the honor of such sacred event by illustrating an expectation of death on the Cross in their pervasive art work.
We may compare the Kauil name with the literal meaning of the name of Jesus. In Hebrew it is Yeshua. According to Brown, Driver, and Briggs: Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon, electronic edition, Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, http://www.logos.com/, the name יְשׁוּעָה = Yeshua means salvation, or God rescues.
But another form adds confusion. It is Hebrew yesh. Yesh means wisdom or sound knowledge. But this word is used adverbially or as a copula for the verb haya, to be or to exist. Strong's Exhaustive Concordance, Hebrew Dictionary #3426, shows yesh used as there are, he is, I have, and so on. Hawa, an imperative inflected form of haya, means to create. As applied to a personage, it would mean Creator. When the two forms are tied together Yesh-Hawa (Yeshua) could easily mean literally He is the Creator. Thus the name Jesus has a possible literal significance lost on virtually all Christians.
We cannot conclude that the Mayan Kauil came from Hebrew Yeshua. The two names have independent origins, not only in form but also in meaning. This fact strongly suggests that the origin of the names in the two separate cultures were independent of one another. We reached the same conclusion in the lack of any illustration of the crucifixion. Hence the Mayan religious traditions did not derive from Hebrew or Christian. The origin of the Mayan traditions had to be from a source that was independent. The common ground between the two was the understanding of the role of Kauil/Jesus, not in mechanisms of cultural transmission.
Furthermore, the name Yeshua, regardless of how we may derive it linguistically, expresses a heavenly attribute, a divine power, whether it is salvation or creatorship. Perhaps we do not understand Kauil the way the Maya did, but from our cultural distance we do not see it expressing a similar noble sentiment. Kauil carried the idea of a precious substance, a method of human salvation through blood sacrifice. When Jesus came, and gave of himself on the cross, he offered a higher reach of holy respect for human kind, a lifting above images of blood and water. The Maya never reached those levels of religious expression; they clung to primitive rites. True, the Mayan view was one of human salvation, of a god giving of himself for humankind. But the name Kauil was limited in its conceptual reach. Christians did not devolve into blood sacrifice, the Maya did.
Regretfully, because of their secular understanding of reality, FSP struggle with the conceptual difficulty of the human birth of a divine being. They resort to mythological images to slough off the deeper implications of such a miraculous event. In their view the evidence is based on Mayan primitive understanding of the cosmos, strictly from earth-bound experience of the sky and its many features. Their gods had developed from psychological and mythological origins, not from ancient knowledge handed down over countless generations. According to FSP the Mayan view of the cosmos had no distinct origin in reality, merely in psychological longings. A Creator God did not come down here out of the sky to offer himself to mankind; the Maya merely evolved such a story to satisfy their understanding of the purpose of human life. The Maya were giving a meaning to life strictly out of their mental framework. FSP extrapolate this world view upon the Maya because of their own secular vision of existence. In the midst of these conceptual difficulties they jump into an explanation of the birth of Kauil. See their Figure 4:10, which shows the glyph elements of the Carrasco and Hull translations above.
When I first studied this illustration and its translation by FSP I totally missed the deep significance of what I was looking at. I did so because it was cast in mythological images. I could not possibly recognize what the Maya were saying because the FSP presentation obfuscated the great truth it contained. In addition, my attention was diverted because of the glyphs.
If FSP believe that this series of eight glyphs records the birth of Kauil, where and when was he born? If he was a god, as exactly indicated, how could he have been born as a human person? They face the same dilemma of understanding as that which faces Christians - how a divine being could be born as a human baby? I do not believe FSP have looked around the Yucatan to find his human birth. But if Kauil was never born, they would not find him. If his birth was an expectation, and not a fact, he would not appear as anything but a story. They regard the text exactly in that light.
The separate glyphs should not be understood as names, but as attributes. While linguistically they may be verbs or nouns they should be considered functionally as adjectives. They indicate the role of Kauil in his human birth as it relates to his function in creation. While we may understand this text as a record of the birth of Kauil, it is more a description of who he is. They say, pages 194 of Maya Cosmos:
This is their version of the translation of the text. FSP then go off into their explanation of the sap or blood gift.
Who are First Mother and First Father? They are not identified by name. Neither do they appear in this text. The statement by FSP is an intrusion in an attempt to clarify the text, borrowed from other Mayan sources.
Much of their presentation in Maya Cosmos is a mythological attempt at understanding, but without recourse to more concrete interpretation? While I have great respect for the magnitude and depth of study displayed by those scholars, they engaged in wild flights of inventive imagination. They did so because they did not understand nor believe that there is a real, living God who can be born as a human person. Hence they created fanciful scenarios to encompass the wealth of data that faced them.
Consider this remark, page 193 of Maya Cosmos:
Pakal was interred in the depth of the Temple of the Inscriptions. The lid of his sarcophagus is perhaps the most famous of all Maya art.
I have examined all the photographs of the Piers on the Temple of Inscriptions and cannot locate the portraits stated by FSP. I see only one infant, on Pier B. While other Piers have human figures I cannot see them cradling an infant. Further, the infant in the photograph appears to be younger than six years of age. It would be highly unusual for someone to cradle a child of that age, or even younger. Unfortunately, their interpretation of the painted stucco reliefs relies on barely discernible remnants of the highly eroded sculptures. That portion of the relief sculpture remaining is highly tentative.
We cannot say the pictured child is Chan-Balam impersonating Kauil. Such suggestion by FSP is simple speculation. How do we know the sculpture it is not intended to represent Kauil himself? Then the divine attributes do not belong to Chan-Balam but to the infant Man-God. Out of such pure speculation they extrapolate upon the royal child attributes that do not belong to him. The smoking ax is questionable in the heavily damaged sculpture but would represent spiritual forces at work within Kauil, "smitten with the ax of God." Similar conceptual representations would cause the snake to issue forth from one of his legs. (I refrain from discussing how spiritual forces are embodied in material objects, since this would require lengthy and detailed elaboration of spiritual forces within mankind.)
Since Carrasco and Hull take their translations directly from the panels at Palenque I felt it necessary to show the full panel. The photograph above is a replica of the Panel. Refer to URL above.
The pertinent glyphs about Kauil are the lower last four in the first and second column, and the upper first four in the next two columns, identified as A and B, 16 and 17, and then C and D, 1 and 2.
Two glyphs mention Kauil, B17 and D2. In the first he is shown as the Kauil Person, a description of his status as a human. The second shows him with an umbilical cord to identify his status as a new-born infant. On the Famsi web site John Montgomery offers dictionary explanation of the glyphs. For the second glyph, with the umbilical cord, he states that it specifies a deity name; proper name of the god K'awil, god of generations, royal lineage bloodlines; GII of the Palenque Triad. The reclining position with umbilical cord-like scroll emerging may indicate the god is "newborn." This gives justification to Carrasco and Hull in their designation as an "infant," which FSP avoid. It also shows that Maya scholarship understands Kauil as a god. Montgomery shows various other designations for Kauil: a) K'awil-la is a deity name, a proper name of the god K'awil, god of generations; b) Ch'am K'awil-la is used as a transitive verb: "to take, grasp, or receive k'awiil"; c) Chan K'awil is used as a noun for Sky K'awil, a definite deity designation.
Here I offer the individual glyph translations from CH, then my understanding of the translations as I can best obtain them from the Glyph Dictionaries and Grammar guides on the Famsi web site. All notes are from Montgomery. The locations refer to the Foliated Cross Panel.
|CH text||u uxtal||sihyaj||ut yax ?||k'awiil winiknal||uxahaal||k'uh||ch'ok||une k'awiil|
|CH translation||Third||born was||?||the K'awiil person?||the thrice manifested?||god||the Sprout||the Infant K'awiil|
|Famsi Dictionaries||The third||he was born||? sacred dwarf||K'awil man, person, being||thrice said, thrice manifested||sacred, precious + God glyph||youth, youngster, young one, young or unripe||infant K'awil|
A17: FSP offer
CH had difficulty translating this glyph. They show ?
D1: sacred, holy, divine; incorporates
a visual and conceptual analogy between blood and the soul; derives from
the word ch'ulel in several Mayan
languages, meaning "soul, holiness, divinity, spirituality"
Glyph A17 presents problems. CH cannot find a suitable translation for the glyph. I have examined drawings and photographs and believe that the FSP illustration is correct. The initial affix is translated tsuk by FSP; ut by CH. I could not find this affix listed in the Thompson Catalogue nor in the Famsi Dictionaries. FSP must have derived the meaning from another source. Again, in their usual manner, FSP use the translation of "first" for "yax" while they should have used "sacred." I could see a "sacred dwarf" as referring to a human incarnation, and not some deformed human. Significantly, the glyph for dwarf has two different forms, but Montgomery's dictionary does not distinguish between them, nor was I able to determine how the Maya understood the difference.
C1 shows Kauil as the thrice manifested God: in other contexts the Maya understood three functional designations for this personality: he was the Maize God, the Infant K'awiil, and the Fire God. The Maize God represents his nurturing and caring for human kind. The Infant K'awiil represents his human birth. The Fire God represents his power of righteous judgment.
This brings us to his celestial status and his heavenly name.
The notorious Friar Diego de Landa, who burned so many Maya books, ties the person Kauil to the god Itzamná, pg 63, and shows Itzamná under sections on pg 72, pg 78, and so on. (Yucatan Before and After the Conquest, Diego de Landa, translated by William Gates, Dover Reprint, New York, 1978. The original Spanish edition was published as Relacion de las cosas de Yucatan, 1566.)
The Yucatec Maya understood Itzamná as the name of the highest god and creator deity. He was the Creator. He was known as the Creator of mankind. But he was also known as the Chief God, the god ruling over other gods. Hence, Itzamná-Kauil would be a sky-god, the Creator, and ruler of all the sky gods. Itzamná was the proper name of the principal god of the Maya pantheon.
We encounter the same descriptive phrases for the
God of the Hebrews. In Deut 10:17-18 we are told that: For Yahweh your God is
God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the terrible God, who
is not partial and takes no bribe. These are not earthly lords but heavenly
lords; these are not earthly gods, but heavenly gods. The same appellative is
used in the New Testament where it is applied to Jesus, 1 Tim 6:14-16 . . .
Lord Jesus Christ; and this will be made manifest at the proper time by the
blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has
immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has ever seen or can
see. While there may be conceptual confusion on the part of both the Maya
and the Hebrew who saw this God living as a man we can see the vividness and strength of the
God-Human connection in both the Mayan and Hebrew beliefs.
The parallels with the Hebrew text are further reinforced by Psalm 82, which shows God taking his place in the divine council. Thus the role of Itzamna is the same as that of the Hebrew El, or Elohim. The great difference between the two cultures is the distorted images of the Maya, and the righteous descriptions of the Bible text.
To reemphasize, this God was the Maya Creator. This Maya God was (to be) born as a human person. In other words, he is the direct logical replacement for someone we in western culture know as Jesus. The Maya used the word Kauil (K'awiil) the same way we use the word Jesus. Kauil is the Creator. He was born as an infant, the same as Jesus. He is now God, just as Jesus is now God.
The word Matawil is a designation for a heavenly world, a world on-high, an administrative sphere, the home of Itzamna-Kauil. David Freidel tells us that glyphs translated as K'an-Hub-Matawil, "Precious-Shell-Matawil," show where the divine personages reside. See FSP. He says Matawil is the place where First Mother and her children—the Palenque Triad gods—reside. Thus, the keeper of the white-flower souls takes them to dwell with First Mother in the Otherworld, pg 184. On pg 283 Joy Parker states that Matawil was the native place of the Creator gods that generated existence, time, and space.
I should note here that Matawil, or its equivalent designation, Salvington in the Urantia Papers, exists within time and space. It is the headquarters sphere on which resides our Creator. Beings of high spirit level actually reside on physical spheres. For discussion of this possibility see the space stories by C. S. Lewis, Out of the Silent Planet, and Perelandra, where Lewis presents in fictional form that which he could not describe as a reality because of social reaction. It was the hero of his fiction who first saw that our only chance was to publish in the form of fiction what could certainly not be listened to as fact.
The concept of spirit beings residing on material worlds is so foreign to western culture we reject these ideas out-of-hand.
I am uncertain what it means for the second baktun to be completed. If this is the completion of the second baktun from the beginning of the Mayan calendar, it would place this event around 2325 BC. A script line later we are told that 2947 years, 3 months, and 16 days [on] 2 Kib' 14 Mol censed was the shrine of the 3 ? God, the Infant Fire God and the Infant K'awiil. This would be a prediction of the life and death of Kauil.
Why no crucifixion? Because the life and sacrificial death of Kauil was an expectation for the Maya, not an historic fact. They knew about his life and death from sources we can only describe as celestial. They were told about this unique earth episode long before it actually took place, and they tried to preserve it in their social memory. As with all other human beings they then used their imaginations to elaborate on such future event. They did their best to portray it in their many social activities, especially blood sacrifice, and their written records.
This expectation was still alive and well when the Spanish came to their land. And it is still alive and well among the native Maya people living today.
In a lecture given by Simon Martin on November 18, 2006, THE 2006 LEWIS. K. LAND LECTURE: Chocolate and the Maya Underworld, he expressed the Mayan religious difficulty. See
The Maya of today are not relict people; there is a continuity between the Maya of 5,000 years ago and the Maya of today. Theirs is a dynamic culture, adapting motifs to their own use. Christianity, in their view, belongs more to them than to the missionaries and other non-Maya. The Maya still plant a tree atop a grave, emblematic of the World Tree. Centeotl, the Maize God who generated life, is now associated with Jesus by the Quiché Maya; in images of Jesus, maize, beans, potatoes and other food sprout from his back. Itzam-Yeh, their Principal Bird Deity—the Big Dipper--is seen as a maize bringer. The immemorial struggle of life and death continues under the wheeling stars; and each spring, life begins anew, when the tender corn cracks open the soil of Sustenance Mountain.
While I do not agree with his mythological images I agree with his sentiments. The Maya despised the Spanish because of their religious intolerance, and social arrogance. And they despised all of western culture, especially religious beliefs, that the Spanish represented. When the Spanish came they brought with them Kauil; his name was Jesus. It was the most fortunate event in Maya history, with the most unfortunate social circumstances.