The Popol Vuh: The Mayan Creation Story


For the Maya, the ballgame was based on their creation story called the Popol Vuh. This legend set the stage for the cycle of life, death and rebirth that was central to Mayan everyday life - and the ballgame.


The first ballplayers are created:
The gods who created the earth and its inhabitants were also ballplayers. The gods had some difficulty making humans, but finally achieved success with two brothers, Hun Hunahpu and Vucub Hunahpu. Like their creators, the brothers loved to play ball. They played so often that the bouncing rubber ball disturbed the gods who lived in the Underworld of Xibalba.

A trap is set:
To stop the noisy ballplayers, the Lords of Xibalba decided to trap the brothers. They invited Hun Hunahpu and Vucub Hunahpu to a game. The boys were killed and buried in the ballcourt. As a final insult, the head of Hun Hunahpu was displayed in a tree.

A goddess must flee:
When an Underworld goddess named Xquic approached the tree, the head of Hun Hunahpu spat in her hand. She became pregnant, and was forced to leave the Underworld. Now living on earth, Xquic gave birth to twins who she named Hunahpu and Xbalanque.

The twins become heroes:
Half-god and half-human, the twins grew into greater ballplayers than their fathers, once again disturbing the Lords of Xibalba. The angry Lords made several attempts to trick and kill the twins, but the boys escaped every time. The twins recover the bodies of their father and uncle, placing them in the sky as the sun and the moon. Hunahpu and Xbalanque become known as the Hero Twins, the greatest ballplayers in Mesoamerican history.


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Creation according to the Popol Vuh: A Family Tree