Mayan Gods – Names, characteristics, myths and representation

We explain what the main Mayan gods were, the characteristics of each one and the myths that explain their origin.

mayan gods
In the Mayan polytheistic religion there are gods of well-being and gods of suffering.

What were the main Mayan gods?

The Mayan culture was a Mesoamerican civilization that occupied the territory of the southern Mexican states (Yucatán, Quintana Roo, Chiapas and Tabasco), as well as regions of Guatemala, Belize and the western zone of Honduras and El Salvador, dominating an area of ​​300,000 km2 for almost 3,000 years.

Its first indications date from around 2,000 BC. C. Its decline began in the 9th century and the fall of its last kingdoms and cities at the hands of the Spanish conquerors occurred in the 16th century.

The Mayan culture was one of the great Mesoamerican cultures, whose artistic, architectural and artisanal forms achieved high levels of refinement, despite being, like most of the cultures of the region, an essentially agricultural civilization that did not know the forge of metals.

They were ruled by a hereditary and patrilineal monarchy. In it, the king was at the same time the supreme priest, mediator between the world of mortals and the world of the divine, and led both the administrative and the religious apparatus in the Mayan cities.

For its part, Mayan religion was complex and it consisted of a kind of pre-modern philosophy that proposed explanations of things. It unified in a single doctrine the scientific study, the veneration of the gods and the political ideology.

There were, in fact, priestly social classes, defined by the cult, which distinguished between the priests, dressed in showy animal skins and in charge of organizing the cult, and the prophets (chilan), subjected to the trance and in charge of predicting the future. Sacrifice was important in Mayan rituals (human and animal) as well as the use of blood.

Although many of the Mayan texts were burned by Catholic priests who came to America during the conquest, we know that the Mayan religion he was a polytheist, and its particularly numerous gods, organized in a cosmic duality: gods of well-being and gods of suffering.

They were responsible for everything that existed and unlike other religions and mythologies, they were not always represented in human form, but consisted of metaphors from different Mayan stories and legends, judging by surviving texts such as the Popol Vuh.

Next we will see some of the main Mayan gods.


kukulcan mayan gods
Kukulcán was represented as a snake or as a tapir.

One of the two great progenitor deities, along with Tepeu. It was venerated in a very similar way to the Mesoamerican feathered serpent (Quetzalcóatl, in the Nahua language), with which it has numerous similarities. In fact, for many researchers it is actually a Mayan version of the same god.

It appears in the Popol Vuh under the name Gucumatz or Q’uq’umatz, and it is said that it was one of the two divine entities that, in the midst of darkness and night, talked about when the human being should be created.

Kukulcán was venerated especially in the Yucatán peninsula by the Itza Mayans in Chichén-Itzá, the Cocomes Mayans in Mayapán and the Tutl Xiúes Mayans in Maní. In each of these cities there were large temples in his honor. According to these Mayan myths, it was a conquering god who arrived in human form from the western seas, and settled in Yucatan to become lord of the winds, thunder and rain.

Many times he is represented as an animal similar to a tapir, with a long nose and wind coming out of his mouth, and he is shown carrying lighted torches, sowing the land or walking on water, clear indications of his divine and solar nature.


Tepeu is the second progenitor god, which existed in the world before creation proper, along with Kukulcán. According to the Popol Vuh, there was nothing but darkness and immobility, except for the clear waters in which this pair of gods conversed and meditated.

Putting his word and his thought together, they created light, dry land and trees, life, mountains and valleys, and finally animals. After creating the latter, they tried to get them to say their name, in gratitude and veneration, and they realized that no one could speak, so they decided that the creation of human beings was necessary.

Like Kukulcán, Tepeu was a celestial god, also represented as the feathered serpent. His name meant “ruler” and was often incorporated into the title of the Mayan sovereigns as a form of divine bonding.


Hurakan (“the one-legged one”), is a celestial god who personifies the storm, floods and other natural disasters. According to the Popol Vuh, he was part of the “heart of heaven” in a triad of formless gods (Caculhá Huracán, Chipi-Caculhá and Raxa-Caculhá) who assisted the parent gods in the creation of the world.

In fact, it was his work the universal flood that ended the previous versions (mud and wood) of the human being, which had enraged the gods, paving the way for the arrival of the definitive man, made of corn.

It was represented as a kind of reptile, with a serpent’s tail and a large crown, and a single leg with which he could travel long distances in a very short time. He was also represented upside down, walking on his hands, or carrying a smoking torch, a symbol of his divine nature.


Her name translates as “mistress of corn” and was, according to the Popol Vuh, responsible for human creation from different grains of corn. It is an agricultural goddess, associated with motherhood, old age and wisdom.

In many Mayan traditions she is called the “great grandmother” or the “grandmother of corn.” She is the initiator of various Mayan mythical traditions, such as that of the gods and heroes Hunahpú and Ixbalanqué, her grandchildren, who faced the lords of the underworld (Xibalba).


mayan gods hun hunahpu
Hun-Hunahpú annoyed the lords of the underworld with his ball game.

Mayan god of fertility and the ball game, father of the twin gods Hunahpú and Ixbalanqué, he was also known as Hun Nal Ye during the classical Mayan era.

In Mayan myths, this god played ball daily against his brother Vucub Huanahpú, until the noise they made disturbed the lords of the underworld (Xibalba), who invited them to descend to play against them. But instead of that, when they descended they were tortured and sacrificed, and a tree of gourds (gourds) was born in their burial place that instead of fruits, gave skulls, among them that of Hun-Hunahpú.

It is about a god associated with corn, of which there are also representations that show him reviving inside the shell of a tortoise (which symbolized the world), along with his two twin sons.


With this name the bee gods, venerated by the Yucatecan Mayans, and often represented upside down as a “descending deity.” It is assumed that they lived in Yucatán and that they had had a leading role in the creation of the world, according to mythology.

Also known as Ah Mucen Kaab, they were patrons and protectors of beekeepers and honey gatherers, a central element in the Mesoamerican diet of the time and that consisted of a precious commercial good. So much so, that the word for “honey” in the Mayan language was the same for “world.”


ixchel mayan gods
Ixchel was represented with a snake on his head.

Mayan goddess of water, love, pregnancy, the moon, medicine and textile works, was the wife of the god Itzamna. It used to be represented accompanied by a rabbit, with a snake for a hat and a skirt of interwoven bones.

She was a goddess with a benevolent side and a terrible side., which is why she was often drawn pouring a pitcher on the world, that is, pouring out the wineskins of anger on humanity. That same multiple nature gave it four different manifestations: red, white, black and yellow, coinciding with the four directions of the universe.

Revered as an important lunar goddess, she was associated with rain (and therefore the god Chaac), as well as sowing and reaping, and female fertility. His main place of worship was Cuzamil Island (Cosumel) in the current Mexican state of Quintana Roo.


mayan gods chaac
Chaac had different names depending on the cardinal point from which the rain came.

An important god of the Mayan pantheon, associated with rain and similar to the Aztec Tlaloc. It was represented as an amphibian or reptile with a long and sloping trunk, or as an old man with a long and curved nose. He was highly revered due to his link to crops in a region devoid of large river fronts (except the cenotes, which were considered as doors to the underworld).

It was common to represent it as four separate gods, depending on the cardinal point from which the rain came: Chac Xib Chaac (red Chaac from the east), Sac Xib Chaac (white Chaac from the north), Ek Xib Chaac (black Chaac from the west) or Kan Xib Chaac (Southern Yellow Chaac).

Hunahpú and Ixbalanqué

One of the two twin gods, sons of Hun-Hunahpú and a maiden from the underworld named Ixquic, who stumbled upon the gourd that gave skulls instead of fruits, and took from it the head of the god Hun-Hunahpú, becoming pregnant when it he spat in the belly. When giving birth, the twin heroes Hunahpú and Ixbalanqué were born, considered demigods or in any case divine warriors.

To these characters they used to represent them with the blowgun in their mouth, the only instrument with which they descended to the underworld to confront the lords of Xibalba. There Hunahpú was assassinated and later revived by his brother, before together they defeated the lords of hell in a ball game.

Later, when they returned to the world of the living, they were despised and mistreated by their envious brothers, Hunbatz and Hunchouén, whom the heroes turn into monkeys in punishment.