The Eternity of the Popol Vuh

By: Irania Patterson

“At the beginning of time everything was silent and calm. There was nothing standing on the face of the earth, the sea was just resting and the sky was peaceful….”

These are words of the Popol Vuh (also known as the Mayan’s Bible), a story I had the pleasure of reading this summer while I worked in a summer camp with Spanish speaking elementary school children at the  Mint Museum .

When I was asked to work as a teaching artist and they told me that the theme for the week was  the Popol Vuh, I must admit that I knew very little of this manuscript,  so I had to do a bit of research  in order to implement the teaching lesson.

I never imagined that this book would contain such a great wisdom. The more I read, the more I was drawn to their mythology and symbolism.

The Popol Vuh tells the story of the Mayans from its inception until around 1520. In the first part, the story narrates the origin of the world with the corresponding creation of mankind; then it tells the story of mythical heroes Ixbalanque and Hunaphu. Though their story and journey, I discovered the connection of the universal story of human beings.

First our creation takes places, then our search for purpose begin. During this process we all face at the same time, fate and free will. But as human beings we cannot escape from our personal call. Once we discover our call we are challenged to prove that we are who we are. There is then, time for fights, conflicts, challenges and heartaches in order to achieve perfection.

In the Popol Vuh the twins are challenged to travel to the world of darkness Xibalta to enter in the five houses: the darkness, the knives, the cold, the jaguar and the bats. These are symbols of emotional and psychological conditions of humans. In the five houses we can see the stages of alienation, depression, disconnection, and mental and spiritual regression.

Once you pass these tests we must be finally refined with fire to be transformed like the twin heroes who became the sun and the moon.

In the Popol Vuh we see a permanent connection between Divinity and Humanity.

As a teaching artist I truly enjoy the challenge to transform the book´s content and message into a clear lesson for elementary school children. It was interesting to experience how my role as a storyteller and drama teacher went through the same processes of creation, meaning and purpose, challenges, transformation and elevation. In each lesson I delivered, I felt as if I was growing personally and professionally.

How to prepare these lessons and connect them to educational objectives was a true teaching experience. In my next blog post, I will share how I developed the curriculum and its connection to the field of art integration.

Do not miss it …


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