The Pool and Ah Puch
After the experience of The Pool (my previous post) it may seem a somewhat bizarre turn to talk about a Mayan god of death. However, as ever, there is always more to an old story than meets the eye. Here we find out how a modern day experience with the natural world might tie in with an ancient god and the lessons we can learn from it with the trees.
About these wild wisdom soul stories. You take this as you wish, as a mythic exploration, spiritual gift, positive psychological programming whatever … but I offer it to you in the hope that it will serve you some good purpose. The tree teachings, #forestbathing #meditations and #wildwisdom #soulstories are not pre-planned, I don’t have the year ahead mapped out with neat little diagrams and to do lists and pre-prepared old last years’ materials. No ... these are the fresh green shoots of inspirations sent forth from the trees. I don’t care what your belief system is … in times of mass extinction, and #climatechange, my conviction is that if we connect personally with trees and nature this can only serve both us and the #earth well … I hope you agree. These stories are ancient but they are as relevant now as they ever were. They come alive when we interact with them. They are the history and archaeology of nature, culture, of our souls and so much more. But they are not dead relics they are living right now. We are a world communiTree. When we connect with wisdom from across the world we create new opportunities for learning. Each being and story featured each week is of course a brief glimpse. If you feel drawn to a particular one you could study it in greater depth and pay homage to the culture within which it arose.
Who is Ah Puch?
Ah puch is an extremely fearsome deity usually depicted as a skeleton, often with rotting flesh. He is also known as Ah Cimih, Ah Cizin, Hun Ahau, Kimi, or Yum Kimil. In the Quechua language Cimi means "Death" and Cizin "The Flatulent One" alludes to the odour of death. The Maya death god was often portrayed as two separate beings but in reality is one. He is the opposite of the Upper God in the creation of the world and of the human body and soul. This god inhabits an Underworld that is also the world of the dead and also corresponds to the Aztec deity Mictlantecuhtli.
An Ancient Mayan Story
The Popol Vuh, a text dating to the sixteenth century said to contain within which is the oldest Mayan myth contained in its’ entirety. The story has two main death gods called "One Death," and the other called "Seven Death", who were eventually vanquished by the Hero Twins. The two principal death gods are among the many were-animals and ghosts known as Wayob inhabiting the Underworld. (Wayob are sleepers who can intentionally do harm while they are dreaming.) The mention of were-animals is interesting because were-animals represent transformation and can be psychopomps carrying souls to the underworld. The bear is one such animal and the wolf is another. These two gods are really one god with the story depicting two aspects of it as are the twins.
Strangely enough I had been reading up again on stories for one of my cacao ceremony tree rituals. I don’t know why I say ‘strangely enough’ because there seems to be no such thing as coincidence whenever I do the cards and never has been. One of the stories is told in the Popol Vuh and these characters are part of it. The cacao tree is revered as a Tree of Life.
Life and Death
Ah Puch is the god of death, darkness, and disaster and yet also apparently represents regeneration, child birth, and beginnings.
Here perhaps we begin to discern the context of this old story in the experience of The Pool. Of all the depictions of death, Ah Puch was said to be the most feared. The Mayans while mourning silently during the day, would create a dreadful din at night in order to scare him away. The conquistadors describe him as wearing bells and that he comes ringing them. I do wonder if there is perhaps some misunderstanding, or perhaps a deliberate attempt to obfuscate on behalf of the Christian conquerors. In other parts of the world bear festivals use bells to drive away the demons of death and evil in as much the same way as it is said the Mayans screamed and wailed, and it seems this Mayan ritual performance did much the same thing. Of course if you are drawn to this you could investigate this further. This god is also associated with the moon. The moon as we know exerts great influence over water and water brings life. The other side of the ritual of course being the welcoming in of fertility and new life. In this sense the story would appear to have some shamanistic overtones with a character who can bring life as well as death, a psychopomp, who carries souls to the other side and brings new ones in to the world.
The Waters of Life
We talk about the waters of life and here in the pool story is water and its link to the worlds of humans and trees. Water ripples creating patterns and dancing images. The trees appear in a dance as in a dance of life. The Pool story was also written after the death of my very dear friend.
Sometimes we fear the death of things and people and for this we can also read change. If Ah Puch is death and fear, then this is about change and our reluctance to engage with it. We might refuse to ‘go with the flow’. We cannot hide from change, inevitably it catches up with us sooner or later. The more we resist the greater the chance something unpleasant will happen. Just as it is unwise to underestimate Ah Puch and not recognise the power of this deity, so it is that we create more suffering for ourselves in resistance. Sometimes it is better to simply ‘just be’, not necessarily active but, just noticing as in noticing the patterns in the pool. Sometimes the mind just needs to rest and the body needs emotional respite.
Change and New Beginnings
Change can very difficult at times it is true, yet if we can allow ourselves to be supported, to ‘go with the flow’ in the river of life you might say, then our resistance can be met with a different kind of energy. Then we can swim instead of sink. Even if we feel powerless we can at least tread water and know that change is inevitable. In this case when something bad happens we know it will not last forever. If nothing else this can give us the strength we need to keep going until such time as the winter ends and spring begins. Just as the trees said “we are here” so it is that nature, life, is always here. The trees lose their leaves yet as ‘The Pool’ demonstrates, they are full of energy even in winter and burst back into life come the spring, bare branches transforming to green once more. The trees danced in the pool borne in the water and so do we.
There is another thought here, and that is about connecting with nature indoors as happens in “The Pool’. Though we may feel very separate in our modern day lives there are still many ways and means to connect with the wild world. This is also true for life in general. We might be trapped in a city, house or office but the vitality of life can still connect us. Change happens to be a very good example of this as our emotions can be visceral or vital depending upon the experience. Change of any kind reminds us that we are alive. Even within four walls, within a manmade environment the natural world is always calling to us and the wild soul within.
Life continues and so do we.
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My articles take time and energy to research and write. I ‘pass the hat around’ and invite you to 'put a penny in the hat' :-).
I live with a disability and I'm passionate about enabling people to 'Live With Art And Soul.'
I'm the founder of Ancient and Sacred Trees, an MA Archaeology student, artist, teacher, healer, storyteller and land guide. I love trees, history and the healing power of Mother Nature and sacred connection.
PS A couple of the references I used