Below you will find the Mayan prophecies taken from the Chilam Balam of Chumayel as translated by scholar Ralph L. Roys in 1933. The Chilam Balam of Chumayel consisted of multiple chapters but only two, chapters 3 and 18, were associated with prophecies. These two chapters along with a Katun wheel illustration, an introduction, appendix, and footnotes by Roys are included below. It should be noted that we currently live in the period the Maya called Katun 4 Ahau. This cycle began in 1993 and ends on December 21, 2012. These Katun cycles last 256 years before repeating thus the prophecies suggest that similar events occur in katun cycles of the same name. For possible interpretations of these Mayan prophecies visit: http://2012quest.com/category/2012-predictions/
The Books of Chilam Balam are the sacred books of the Maya of Yucatan and were named after their last and greatest prophet. Chilam, or chilan, was his title which means that he was the mouth-piece or interpreter of the gods. Balam means jaguar, but it is also a common family name in Yucatan, so the title of the present work could well be translated as the Book of the Prophet Balam.
During a large part of the colonial period, and even down into the Nineteenth Century, many of the towns and villages of northern Yucatan possessed Books of Chilam Balam, and this designation was supplemented by the name of the town to which the book belonged. Thus the Book of Chilam Balam of Chumayel is named for a village in the District of Tekax, a short distance northwest of the well-known town of Teabo.This Prophet Balam lived during the last decades of the Fifteenth Century and probably the first of the Sixteenth Century and foretold the coming of strangers from the east who would establish a new religion. The prompt fulfilment of this prediction so enhanced his reputation as a seer that in later times he was considered the authority for many other prophecies which had been uttered long before his time. Inasmuch as prophecies were the most prominent feature of many of the older books of this sort, it was natural to name them after the famous soothsayer.
The Books of Chilam Balam were written in the Maya language but in the European script which the early missionaries adapted to express such sounds as were not found in Spanish. Each book is a small library in itself and contains a considerable variety of subject material. Besides the prophecies we find brief chronicles, fragmentary historical narratives, rituals, native catechisms, mythological accounts of the creation of the world, almanacs and medical treatises. Many such passages were no doubt originally transcribed from older hieroglyphic manuscripts, some of which were still in existence in northern Yucatan as late as the close of the Seventeenth Century.
Katun 11 Ahau is set upon the mat, set upon the throne, when their ruler is set up. Yaxal Chac 4 is its face to their ruler. The heavenly fan, the heavenly wreath and the heavenly bouquet shall descend. 5 The drum and rattle of the lord of 11 Ahau shall resound, when flint knives are set into his mantle. 6 At that time there shall be the green turkey; at that time there shall be Zulim Chan; at that time there shall be Chakanputun. 7 They shall find their food among the trees; they shall find their food among the rocks, those who have lost their <usual> food 8 in katun 11 Ahau.
11 Ahau is the beginning of the count, because this was the katun when the foreigners arrived. They came from the east when they arrived. Then
[paragraph continues] Christianity also began. The fulfilment of its prophecy is <ascribed> to the east. 1 The katun is established at Ichcaanzihoo. 2
This is a record of the things which they did. After it had all passed, they told of it in their <own> words, but its meaning is not plain. Still the course of events was as it is written. But even when everything shall be thoroughly
explained, perhaps not so much is written about it, nor has very much been written of the guilt of their conspiracies with one another. So it was with the ruler of the Itzá, with the men <who were rulers> of Izamal, Ake, Uxmal, Ichcanziho <and> Citab Couoh 3 also. Very many were the /
priests of ours were to come to an end when misery was introduced, when Christianity was introduced by the real Christians. Then with the true God, the true Dios, came the beginning of our misery. It was the beginning of tribute, the beginning of church dues, 1 the beginning of strife with purse-snatching, 2 the beginning of strife with blow-guns, the beginning of strife by trampling on people, the beginning of robbery with violence, the beginning of forced debts, the beginning of debts enforced by false testimony, the beginning of individual strife, a beginning of vexation, a beginning of robbery with violence. 3 This was the origin of service to the Spaniards and priests, of service to the local chiefs, 4 of service to the teachers, 5 of service to the public prosecutors by the boys, the youths of the town, while the poor people were harassed. These were the very poor people who did not depart when oppression was /
2 Yax-haal Chac 3 is its face. The heavenly fan, the heavenly bouquet shall descend. The drum and rattle of Ah Bolon-yocte 4 shall resound. At that time there shall be the green turkey; at that time there shall be Zulim Chan; at that time there shall be Chakanputun. 5 They shall find their food among the trees; they shall find their food among the rocks, those who have lost their crops in Katun 11 Ahau.
6 The katun is established at Uuc-yab-nal in Katun 4 Ahau. At the mouth of the well, Uuc-yab-nal, 7 it is established ... It shall dawn in the south. 8 The face of <the lord of the katun> is covered; his face is dead. There is mourning for water; there is mourning for bread. 9 His mat and his throne shall face the west. 10 Blood-vomit is the charge <of the katun>. 11 At that time his loin-cloth and his mantle shall be white. 12 Unattainable shall be the bread of the katun. The quetzal shall come; the green bird shall come. The kax tree shall come; the bird shall come. 13 The tapir shall come. The tribute shall be hidden at the mouth of the well. 14
The katun is established at Maylu, Zaci, Mayapan 1 in Katun 2 Ahau. The katun <stone> is on its own base. The rope shall descend; the poison of the serpent shall descend, pestilence <and> three piles of skulls. The men are of little use. 2 Then the burden was bound on Buluc-c
The Katun is established at Kinchil Coba, 5 Maya Cuzamil, 6 in Katun 13 Ahau. Itzamna, Itzam-tzab, 7 is his face during its reign. The ramon shall be eaten. Three years shall be locust years, ten generations <of locusts>. The fan shall be displayed; the bouquet shall be displayed, 8 borne by Yaxaal Chac in the heavens. Unattainable is the bread of the katun in 13 Ahau. The sun shall be /
Prophecy played an important part in the lives of the Maya and occupied a prominent position in their literature. Nor was the Maya prophet without honor in his own country. Foretelling the future was the profession of a special branch of the priesthood, the members of which were called chilans. The word means mouthpiece, spokesman or interpreter, and it was the chilans who delivered to the people the responses of the gods. They were held in such high esteem that they were carried on men's shoulders when they went abroad.1 In the Tizimin manuscript we find an account 2 of the manner in which Chilam Balam. gave his prophecy, and it is likely that it was the customary method with this class of priests. He retired to a room in his home where he lay prostrate 3 in a trance while the god or spirit, perched on the ridgepole of the house, spoke to the unconscious chilan below. Then the other priests assembled, probably in the reception hall of the house, and listened to the revelation with their faces bowed down to the floor.
Broadly speaking, Maya prophecies fall into four classes: day-prophecies, year-prophecies, katun-prophecies and special prophecies of the return of Quetzalcoatl, or Kukulcan as he was called by the Maya.
What we have termed the day-prophecy is more properly a prognostic, probably the business of the ah-kinyah, or diviner, rather than that of the chilan. Every one of the 260 days of the tzolkin, or tonalamatl, is specified as being lucky or unlucky, and many of them are followed by further prognostications telling whether the day is suitable for certain undertakings, lucky for certain professions and trades, auspicious for sowing certain crops, etc. These divinations are probably the scanty remnant of an extensive hieroglyphic literature exemplified by the numerous tzolkin series found in the Maya picture manuscripts. Although these almanacs are perhaps the most constant feature of the various Books of Chilam Balam, no series of this sort occurs in the Chumayel.
The predictions for the years, however, fall definitely in the field of genuine prophecy. Two versions of the series of prophecies for the twenty years of a certain Katun 5 Ahau have come down to us in the books of Tizimin and Mani. The one in the latter manuscript is entitled "Cuceb," which means squirrel, for some unknown reason. It seems likely that these were originally the predictions corresponding to the twenty tuns of this katun, but the versions
FIG. 46--Typical Itzá sorcerer. Temple of the Warriors, Chichen Itzá. Drawing by Ann Axtell Morris. Taken from the colored fresco reproduced in Morris, Charlot and Morris 193T, Plate 156 c. This personage undoubtedly belongs to the highest priestly class, as he wears not only the hat with green plumes, but also the white robe of the priests of Kukulcan mentioned in the prophecies. For these reasons we are inclined to identify him with the chilan.
which we have, ascribed them to the Maya year, or haab, of 365 days, giving the name of the first day of each such year. As in the words of the minor Hebrew prophets, a surprisingly large proportion of the predictions are unfavorable. Drought, famine, pestilence are freely foretold, to say nothing of war, political upheavals, the sacking of towns and the captivity of the inhabitants. Many misfortunes are symbolized by the name of the deity which brought them, and there are valuable references to religious ceremonies. The latter, coming as they do from a purely native source, are of especial importance, since practically all our knowledge of the Maya religion comes from the accounts of the Spanish missionaries who were obviously prejudiced.
Of all the prophecies, those of the katuns possess the greatest historical interest. As the Maya commentator himself tells us on page 78 of the Chumayel, they are essentially historical in character. This appears to be because whatever has occurred in the past during a certain katun is expected to recur
in the future during another katun of the same name. The katun was named for the day Ahau with its numerical coefficient on which the period ended. A katun of the same name recurred after approximately 256 years, consequently at the end of that time history was expected to repeat itself. The events recounted in the Maya Chronicles found in the Mani, Tizimin and Chumayel manuscripts offer excellent grounds for believing that this belief was so strong at times as to actually influence the course of history. A surprisingly large proportion of the important upheavals in Maya history appear to have occurred in some katun named either 4 Ahau or 8 Ahau.
That the katun-prophecies written in European script in the Books of Chilam Balam correspond closely to their original form, is confirmed by the account of Father Avendaño who drew his information from the actual hieroglyphic manuscripts of the independent Itzá. The missionary's familiarity with such books and his ability to read and expound them to the Indians indicate that similar hieroglyphic manuscripts were still available for study in northern Yucatan during the last part of the Seventeenth Century, for the few days he spent at Tayasal certainly did not allow sufficient time to acquire the knowledge.
Avendaño's account explains so well the prophecies in the Books of Chilam Balam that it deserves to be given in full. It is as follows:
"I told them that I wished to speak to them of the old manner of reckoning which they use, both of days, months and years and of the ages, and to find out what age the present one might be (since for them one age consists only of twenty years) and what prophecy there was about the said year and age; for it is all recorded in certain books of a quarter of a yard high and about five fingers broad, made of the bark of trees, folded from one side to the other like screens; each leaf of the thickness of a Mexican Real of eight. These are painted on both sides with a variety of figures and characters (of the same kind as the Mexican Indians also used in their old times), which shows not only the count of the said days, months and years, but also the ages and prophecies which their idols and images announced to them, or, to speak more accurately, the devil by means of the worship which they pay to him in the form of some stones. These ages are thirteen in number; each age has its separate idol and its priest, with a separate prophecy of its events. These thirteen ages are divided into thirteen parts, which divide this kingdom of Yucathan and each age, with its idol, priest and prophecy, rules in one of these thirteen parts of this land, according as they have divided it; I do not give the names of the idols, priests or parts of the land, so as not to cause trouble, although I have made a treatise 1 on these old counts with all their differences and explanations, so that they may be evident to all, and the curious may learn them, for if we do not know them, I affirm that the Indians can betray us face to face." 2
We could hardly ask for a more accurate description of the katun-prophecies as we find them in the Books of Chilam Balam. About the only difference is that they are not written in hieroglyphics. All of them give the name of the katun, the place where it is "established" and a deity who is called "the face of the katun." The last named, however, is not described as an idol, but is said to be in the sky, or heavens. In the Chumayel and Tizimin manuscripts the prophecy is not accompanied by the name of its corresponding priest, but we find the names of these priests in the Books of Chilam Balam of Mani and Kaua. Of the prophecies themselves, more of them are unfavorable than favorable, but we do not find the complete pessimism which prevails in the year-prophecies.
In the Books of Chilam Balam we find two different series of katun-prophecies, both covering the thirteen katuns which make up the "u kahlay katunob," i.e. the record of the katuns. They begin with Katun 11 Ahau, which is called the first katun because it commences with the day 1 Imix, the first day of the tzol-kin, or tonalamatl, and ends with Katun 13 Ahau. This period of thirteen katuns is the least common denominator of the 260 day tzol-kin and the katun which consists of 7200 days.
The first of these two series is evidently the older, as it takes little account of the events which occurred after the Spanish Conquest, although it does mention the actual conquest. Also its language is somewhat more symbolic than that of the other. The second series of prophecies was probably compiled at some time later than the second decade of the Seventeenth Century, judging from some of the historical allusions which it contains. Most of these allusions, however, date from before the discovery of America.
The second and later series of prophecies is completely recorded in the Chumayel, but of the first, only abbreviated versions of the prophecies for Katuns 11, 4, 2 and 13 Ahau occur. The second series is complete in the Tizimin manuscript, which also contains the prophecies of the first series. In the Books of Chilam Balam of Mani, Oxcutzcab and Kaua only the thirteen prophecies of the first series are to be found.
In both of these series of katun-prophecies the more ancient allusions are to the history of the Itzá, so far as we are able to identify them.
If Avendaño was the only Spanish writer to concern himself with the katun-prophecies, such was not the case with the special prophecies which deal with the return of Quetzalcoatl. These aroused the interest of most of the early missionaries, since they were believed to foretell the coming of the Spaniards and the conversion of the Maya to Christianity. Lizana, Cogolludo and Villagutierre all published Spanish translations of five of these, and Lizana even went so far as to quote the Maya text. To anyone who knew them only through these Spanish translations, they would appear to be inspired by missionary propaganda; but an examination of the Maya text leads to a conviction
of their genuine character, in spite of the fact that any mention of the name of Quetzalcoatl has been carefully deleted. This personage is, however, mentioned in the most obscure and guarded terms in a sixth prophecy by Chilam Balam found in the Chumayel, Tizimin and Mani manuscripts. 1 A seventh prophecy, also ascribed to Chilam Balam, is thoroughly pagan in character, but confines its statements to predicting misfortunes of a general character in Katun 13 Ahau. Its language is archaic, and it approaches more closely the European idea of poetry than anything else found in Maya literature. 2 Only in an eighth prophecy, ascribed to Ah Xupan Nauat, do we find a statement obviously inspired by the event itself. Here the arrival of the white men is foretold as occurring in the eighth year of Katun 13 Ahau. If Katun 13 Ahau began in 1519, this is altogether too accurate a prediction of Montejo's landing on the east coast of Yucatan in 1527 to be credited to a man said to have lived under Hun Uitzil Chac at Uxmal about the Eleventh Century A.D. 3
The five Maya prophets quoted by Lizana, Cogolludo and Villagutierre were Ah Kauil Chel, Napuctun, Natzin Yabun Chan, Nahau Pech and Chilam Balam It is possible that the first two were contemporaries of Ah Xupan Nauat, as the three names appear to be associated. Nothing is known of Natzin Yabun Chan to the translator. Nahau Pech is believed to have lived about four katuns, or eighty years, before the coming of the whites, which would be about the time of the fall of Mayapan. He was probably a member of the powerful Pech family which governed the Province of Ceh Pech at the time of the Conquest. The last and greatest of the Maya prophets was Chilam Balam. Balam in this case was probably the man's family name, and as among ourselves the name of his profession was prefixed to it as a title.
Chilam Balam lived at Mani during the reign of Mochan Xiu. 1 In Katun 2 Ahau 2 he predicted that in the Katun 13 Ahau following, bearded men would come from the east and introduce a new religion. His prophecy was somewhat more definite than those of his predecessors, except for the suspicious case already mentioned. This can be accounted for by rumors of the arrival of the Spaniards in the West Indies, for we know that fishing canoes were occasionally driven across to Yucatan by storms. 3 What Chilam Balam had in mind was the return of Quetzalcoatl and his white-robed priests, but after the Spaniards landed in Yucatan in Katun 13 Ahau according to schedule, he never ceased to be regarded as the most famous of the Maya prophets.
We have associated five of these six prophets with the provinces governed by the Xiu, Pech and Chel families. It is worthy of note that Montejo and his soldiers received a more friendly reception in these three provinces than in any other part of Yucatan.
The following table will be useful to the student who wishes to make a comparison of the various versions of the prophecies found in the Books of Chilam Balam. 4
Here the cross is set above Katun 13 Ahau, but in Landa's wheel the cross is over Katun 11 Ahau, which is usually considered to be the first of the series, and indeed it begins with the day 1 Imix.
It should be noted that on this wheel, although the succession of katuns is as usual to the right, the sequence of the directions, or world-quarters, East, North, West and South, is to the left.
133:4 A comparison of this version of the prophecy with that on p. 20 indicates that Ah Bolon-yocte was the lord or idol of Katun 11 Ahau. The name might be translated as the nine-footed one, but its meaning is uncertain.
133:5 The green turkey, Zulim Chan and Chakanputun, are symbols of other times when the people were driven from their homes into the forest, as they were again in Katun 11 Ahau by the Spanish conquerors. Cf. p. 77, note 7.
133:7 We know nothing of Uuc-yab-nal beyond what is stated here. In the prophecy for this same Katun 4 Ahau on page 161, it is said to be established at Chichen Itzá, and here Uuc-yab-nal is said to be "at the mouth of the well" (tu chi c
133:10 Here again the Chumayel text seems meaningless, and the Tizimin and Mani version of the same prophecy is assumed to be the correct one and translated accordingly. A comparison of these three versions will be found in the Maya text.
133:11 Evidently a reference to the epidemic mentioned on p. 142 as occurring in the fifth tun of the Katun 4 Ahau last preceding the Spanish Conquest. This tun would fall between 1480 and 1485. This was probably the pestilence said by Landa to be characterized by a fever followed by the body swelling and being filled with worms. The blood-vomit and fever strongly suggest yellow fever, and the last symptom could refer to secondary infections such as abscesses and suppurations in which flies had laid their eggs. It should be noted, however, that the medical historians do not believe that yellow fever occurred in America prior to the Spanish conquest. Cf. Landa 1928, pp. 92-94.
133:12 A reference to the white garments of the priests of Quetzalcoatl. Under the Maya name of Kukulcan, this culture-hero is said to have come with the Itzá in a Katun 4 Ahau. Cf. p. 161, also Landa 1928, p. 62.
134:2 In other words, they are weakened by the pestilence, of which the "three piles of skulls" constituted the symbol. Serapio Zumarraga, an aged Indian of Mani, knows the latter term (ox-multun-tzek) and explains it as three burial mounds for the Spaniards, mestizos and Indians. in ancient times the corresponding classes of society were nobles, commoners and slaves.
134:5 Any mention of the great and ancient city of Coba is of especial interest as Maya history is silent concerning it. Here, possibly the city itself is meant, though Kinchil Coba is usually treated as a personage, one of the priests associated with the thirteen katun-prophecies in the Mani and Kaua manuscripts. In the translation by C. P. Bowditch of Avendaño's Relación, now in the Peabody Museum at Cambridge, we read: "This image (of Cortez' horse) they preserved till the present time and they worship it as they do also the statue of a man made of stone and lime, situated on the top of a hillock, which they call Kinchilcoba, who they say is their watchman and sentinel, who defends them against all misfortunes which can happen to them" (Avendaño MS. f. 29 v; Bowditch MS., p. 68). Coba is still a well-known family name and is also the name of a tree which the Indians say is to be found in the forests of Campeche. Co-ba could be translated gopher-tooth, just as ne-ba (another unidentified plant or tree) means gopher-tail.
134:10 This belief that an eclipse might last five days probably reflects a legend to the effect that such was once the case. It would explain the frantic efforts of the people to bring it to an end. Cf. Aguilar 1921, pp. 203-204.
182:1 Landa 1928, p. 192. The content of their prophecies indicates that they continued to carry on the Mexican traditions of the Itzá.
182:2 Chilam Balam of Tizimin, pp. 13, 14.
182:3 This is a Maya pun; chil-cabal means stretched out prostrate on the ground.
184:1 Entitled "Explicación de varios vaticinios de los antiguos Indios de Yucatan." MS. Listed in Eguiara's Biblioteca Mexicana. This interesting work by Avendaño has disappeared.
184:2 Means 1917, p. 141.
186:1 Chumayel p. 64; Tizimin p. 14; Mani p. 109 of B.L.C. No. 43.
186:2 Tizimin p. 19. This is the prophecy translated in part by Brinton (1882, p. 126) as follows:
"Eat, eat, thou hast bread;
Drink, drink, thou hast water;
On that day, dust possesses the earth,
On that day, a blight is on the face of the earth,
On that day, a cloud rises,
On that day, a mountain rises,
On that day, a strong man seizes the land,
On that day, things fall to ruin,
On that day, the tender leaf is destroyed,
On that day, the dying eyes are closed,
On that day, three signs are on the tree,
On that day, three generations hang there,
On that day, the battle flag is raised,
And they are scattered afar in the forests."
186:3 Mani apud B.L.C. No. 43, p. 116. The prophet is identified in Tizimin, p. 13.
187:1 Relaciones de Yucatan, 1, p. 45.
187:2 Chilam Balam of Tizimin, page 36. Katun 2 Ahau- covered approximately the first two decades of the Sixteenth Century.
187:3 Herrera 1725, 11, p. 121. Dec. 2, Book 4, Chap. 4.
187:4 The prognostics for the days are not really prophecies in the same sense as the above and are not listed in this table.
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