Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Maya Maize


Once upon a time the gods gave life to the animals but in their howling and squawking they failed to worship their creators and so they were banished to the forest. In the second attempt the gods formed humans from mud, but they crumbled and dissolved. Next the they tried to carve people out of wood, but this race too forgot their makers and angered the gods. The wooden people were punished when the gods sent a black resinous rain down upon them. Finally the gods used masa or corn dough to to create humans. And the gods were successful...after all, the Maya people depended upon corn for sustenance so it made sense that they would have been made of the stuff.

At the Fine Arts Museum Legion of Honor the current exhibition Courtly Art of the Ancient Maya demonstrates the visual magnificence of ancient Maya art with over 130 stone sculptures, ceramics, masks, and other precious works commissioned by ancient Maya kings and queens. Central to the Maya was the mythology of maize. The photo above is of a maize god from Copan, Honduras AD 680-750.

The creation stories of the Maya don't mention the story of the maize god very much, in part because it is believed that it was so central to the religion that it barely needed repeating. But it was likely to be a complicated story as the growing and harvesting of corn is a complicated process. The highlight of the story certainly involved the rebirth of the maize god which is depicted on various artifacts. If you visit the museum you will see a room dedicated to "divine models of courtly culture" which includes images of the maize god and the cacao god. But more about cacao later. Stay tuned...

The Legion of Honor
34th Avenue and Clement Street
San Francisco

For more information and to buy tickets visit museumtix