Popol Vuh and the History of the Black Family
Within the Nation of Gods and Earths, we advocate that the Original man is the Blackman, and that "black" comes in shades, which manifest into the various hues of brown, "red" and yellow. Thus, making all people of color- "Original people" and "of the Black family". While it may be the perspective of many in indigenous communities that they are 'not' Black. Likewise, those skeptical that there was indeed vary strong interaction between African and Native American peoples. There seems to be some evidence in the traditions of our people. Such as the Dine (Navajo) creation story of the "Black God" and his arranging of the stars, or as we may find in the Mayan "Popol Vuh", Voltan, who was said to have come East from across the ocean. While many in traditional tribal communities may dismiss the teachings of the Nation of Gods and Earths and to a degree the Nation of Islam as politico-cultural-byproducts from the Civil Rights Movements, the spawn of Black Nationalism, our teachings actually draw from earlier traditions in many ways, irregardless to their more recent introduction into the mainstream America, via the 1960's search for identity and unity. The truth is the truth, and will only be seen by those who are pure of heart and open to embracing a clearer understanding of our history on this beautiful planet and more insight into our oneness. Below I have posted an article written by my brother Supreme Understanding Allah (of Bengali descent, for all those who claim that the Five Percenters are an exclusively "African-American" movement). It is very introductory and serves as a platform to begin approaching and exploring of the Popol Vuh.
Popol Vuh: The Community Book
By Supreme U. Allah
April 19, 1999
The “Popol Vuh” is known as “one of the rarest relics of aboriginal thought,” part of the richest mythological legacy of the Americas, that is, that of the Quiche Indians of Guatemala (Bancroft 42). It has been subtitled “The Sacred Book of the Ancient Quiche Maya” (Goetz IX), though a more accurate translation of the title would be “The Book of Community”, of the “Book of the People”. The Popol Vuh contains the popular traditions, mythology, religious beliefs, migrations, and development of the Indian tribes which populated the territory of the present Republic of Guatemala after the fall of the Maya Old Empire. For this reason, it is an invaluable resource to us now, as much so as it was in its antiquity.
The book itself is said to have existed “long ago; but its sight is (now) hidden from the searcher and the thinker (Goetz 18).” It is supposed to have descended from a long tradition of preservation by oral tradition (according to most western scholars), thought it’s inscription by the use of the Mayan hieroglyphs is also quite possible. We are told that the Popol Vuh is indeed an old book which ancient kings and lords would draw upon for inspiration as well as prophecy and divination. It was first transcribed in Latin script from the Quiche language sometime between 1554 and 1558, but the document was not found until 150 years later by Father Ximenez of the Dominican Order in a town the Spanish had renamed ‘Santo Tomas’.
Of the numerous puzzles related to this book, one is the question of the identity of its original author. It is suggested that he was a learned Quiche Indian who had memorized the traditions of his people and, upon learning Spanish from the missionaries, putting them in writing. Father Jimenez (to who we owe the translation of the title as “Book of the People”) came upon the Quiche document, most likely due to his benevolent treatment of the Indians in his attempts at converting them, and took it upon himself to single handedly translate it in whole. It is speculated that he then returned the original book to its owners, but whatever its fate, the original manuscript of the Popol Vuh is now lost to the world.
The mythology found within the Popol Vuh is of an interesting character. It describes the gods (who are clearly man-like, if not simply man) as very human characters, displaying tendencies to act in ways that can be summarized as similar to the Greek gods, and in much the same way, a conflict between man and God is ever-present. There have been numerous attempts to discredit the authenticity of the Popol Vuh by comparing its creation account and some of its later storytelling with that of the Old Testament. Some scholars claim that the native element was overridden by strong Christian influence, and even the narrator of the Popol Vuh himself states “we shall write now under the Law of God and Christianity,” and continues to say, “we shall bring it to light because now the Popol Vuh, as it is called, cannot be seen anymore, in which was clearly seen the coming from the other side of the sea and the narration of our obscurity, and our life was clearly seen (Goetz 79-80).” Was the tradition tainted by missionary influence? Possibly yes, but the creation account could just as easily have been borrowed from the Aztecs as from the Bible, and the Popol Vuh’s description of the waters from which the world emerged are authentically native, though a striking similarity may be evident.
Another problem comes up in the issue of translation. Scholars claim faulty translation as far back as Ximenez’s attempts to record, word-for-word, the Quiche story in Spanish. Numerous versions of the book exts now, each offering slight differences in wording and interpretation. The version I purchased in Mexico describes the creation of the first man as resulting in “a heap of black clay with a stiff, straight neck, a wide, crooked, toothless mouth, and blind, discolored vacant eyes poorly placed at different levels on each side of the face near the temples. (Gomez 9)” The account continues, “However, the new creature had the gift of speech and sounded more harmonious than any music that had ever been heard before under the heavens. (Gomez 9-10)” Though the gods would continue to make three more races of man before finally arriving at one which they were satisfied (the second and third were violently destroyed), the first, the Black race, was allowed to live and given time to multiply and improve their kind.
I have not found this in the other translations I have come across. Another significant fact to note is the repeated use of the color ‘black’. The first speaker at the Black Christ in the Americas symposium in Cosby Hall at Spelman College (November 20th, 1998) mentioned briefly that “Ritual use of the color black was widespread in the Mesoamericas,” and that there were sacred connotations associated with deities and the otherworldly. I have found ‘black’ to be the single most-used color found in the Popol Vuh, with no other color coming near its frequency in use. The first race described is Black, as are pots, stones, animals, and so on, however, the final race is created from yellow and white cornmeal dough, (Gomez 16) and this all may allude to the racial makeup and migrations of the Native Americans. The first two migrations (there is said to have been one 35-40,000 years ago, and another, more definite one 16,000 years ago) from Asia were “Diminutive Blacks” (Van Sertima 253), while a third migration approximately 2000 B.C. lending the Americas its Mongoloid strain. With the Spanish conquest, the white race of man is finally added to the picture. Could the yellow and white formation of man point to his most recent development in the Americas (or in the world)?
The Popol Vuh is full of mysteries and puzzles that lay unsolved; it has been designated the “Bible of the Americas” for all that it contains. One must study it with the same eye for profound insight and esoteric knowledge as any book of its caliber, in order to begin to grasp the spectacular cosmology of the Native American peoples.
1. Bancroft, Hubert Howe. The Native Races of the Pacific States. Vol. 3 San Francisco, 1883.
2. Goetz, Delia, and Sylvanus G. Goetz. The Popol Vuh. Trans. Adrian Racinos. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1950.
3. Gomez, Ermilo Abreu. The Popol Vuh. Yucatan: Dante, 1992.
4. Van Sertima, Ivan., ed. African Prescence in Early America. New Brunswick: Transaction