There are many striking similarities between the creation myth of the Mayas and that which is presented within the Bible. As many are probably readily familiar with the Biblical creation myth I will begin by giving a detailed account of the Maya creation myth. There are many aspects of it which seem to mirror different aspects of the Bible and so I will do a side by side compassion of the all the elements which are similar to each other. But first a presentation of the Maya creation story.
The gods first create birds, deer jaguars, and snakes to watch over the forests and bring offerings to their creators. But the animals cannot praise the gods, they cannot speak at all and when the gods realize this they decree that animals are only good for one thing: to be eaten.
So the gods try again. This time they fashion a human being out of clay, but the clay is soft and won’t hold together. “It won’t last” the mason and sculptors gods say. “It seems to be dwindling away. So let it dwindle. It can’t walk, and it can’t multiply, so let it be merely a thought.”
In the third creation the gods decide they need something more solid so they make creatures of wood. These beings look like people, talk like people and reproduce like people but they don’t have feelings, they don’t think and worse of all fail to remember their creators. The wooden people are busy populating the earth when the gods destroy them by flood and by the Gouger of Faces, the Sudden Blooedletter who cuts off their heads, the Crouching Jaguar who devours them, and by their own grinding stones.
In their final creation the gods choose corn for flesh, water for blood, and grease for fat. And thus the first true humans were created. They talked and praised their creators. But their own flaw was they became too smart. “perfectly they saw, perfectly they knew everything under the sky, whenever they looked. As they looked their knowledge became intense” The gods clouded human knowledge so “they were blinded as is breathed upon and such was the loss of understanding along with the means of knowing everything.”
To start with the hiarachy of creation, and the idea of first creating the beasts, and then creating man, and the idea of giving man a position of dominion over the animals is directly reflected within the Biblical creation myth.
And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so.1:25 And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good.
1:26And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.1:27 So God created man in his ownimage, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.1:28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.
On an interesting side note, in Milton’s interpretation of mans creation in Paradise Lost he states:
There wanted yet the Master work, the end [ 505 ]
Of all yet don; a Creature who not prone
And Brute as other Creatures, but endu’d
With Sanctitie of Reason, might erect
His Stature, and upright with Front serene
Govern the rest, self-knowing, and from thence [ 510 ]
Magnanimous to correspond with Heav’n,
But grateful to acknowledge whence his good
Descends, thither with heart and voice and eyes
Directed in Devotion, to adore
And worship God Supream, who made him chief [ 515 ]
Of all his works: therefore the Omnipotent
Eternal Father (For where is not hee
Present) thus to his Son audibly spake.
Let us make now Man in our image,
This interpretation presents a similar idea presented by the Maya myth which suggests that the motivation for the creation of man was a desired by the gods to have a being of which would be capable or worshiping and knowing their creator.
In addition, it is widely held that as in the first creation of the Maya, in the Biblical creation myth man was created out of class as well. And on a side note many of you may be familiar with the Lilith, and though not a part of the Bible, it is represented in the Jewish creation mythology, which deals with the idea of multiple creations. As a quite sum up, originally both man and woman were created out of claw, and Adam’s first wife was Lilith, but she demanded to be treated equal to Adam and would not obey him properly, so Adam complained to God, who banished Lilith and then made Eve from Adam’s rib.
Another interesting similarity is the fact that we have an example of a flood myth presented here, in which the gods become angered by their creation and thus destroy it, using flood as at least one of the means of doing so, in order to be able to start again. And interestingly enough the Maya particularly mention the way in which the wooden people spend too much time copulating instead of worshiping the gods, as within the Biblical flood story, God destroys man because of their wickedness and corruption.
Than at the end of the creation in the Maya myth the gods become concerned because they believe man is too knowledgeable, and thus they dampen mans understanding and knowledge so he will not see too clearly or know too much. This to me seems to have a lot in common with the idea of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and the way in which in the Biblical creation myth God believed there was knowledge man should not have, and wanted to prevent man from knowing too much.