The book of the Chilam Balam of Chumayel essay

I will discuss in this paper the book of the Chilam Balam of Chumayel: The role of the prophecy. Detailed overview can allow getting the main ideas, advantages and disadvantages of a big amount of thoughts, facts and arguments.

It consists from summarizing and analyzing the information and thoughts, given in different works about this theme. In conclusion, the inference let us summarize and sum up all the information we are going to discuss. Our core focus will be on the determining main standpoints of the main questions. I will try to answer these questions through this paper. To understand the context an the author’s main ideas I will try to briefly overview the original text of the book as well as reviews from other different authors, scientists, researches and journalists. However, Chilam, or chilan, was his title, which can be defined this person was the mouthpiece or interpreter of the gods. Balam, as I know, means jaguar, definitely, it is also a common family name in Yucatan, Thus, and the title of the present book should be translated (to understand it better) as the Book of the Prophet Balam.




A brief review

As far as I am concerned, the Book of the Chilam Balam of Chumayel is a late 18th-century manuscript copy of a Yucatec Maya chronicle, which was written and pictured in Chumayel, Yucatán. In the text, chronicles of the Spanish conquest of the Yucatán are described and it is completely provided information about the prophecy of Chilam Balam (including the creation of the world, the calendar, rituals, astronomy, and other subjects). The origin publication of the book took place in 1775-1800 years. Subjects of the book are Maya’s antiquities, history, religion, language, and manuscripts, at last. It contains illustration ranging from full-page drawings to smaller ones on a portion of a textual page.


I am interested mostly in a prophecy for Katun 11-Ahau, a series of Katun-prophecies, and a book of his prophecies, including the prophecies of a new religion. However, the text contains of other interesting facts: notes on the calendar, the armorials bearings of Yucatán, the creation of the world, the rituals of the angels, and a song of the Itza and so on. Unfortunately, my task is not to review all the themes briefly, but describe and overview one topic in detail and completely. The Chilam Balam of Chumayel includes nine manuscripts, whose historical and astrological texts belong to esoteric lore and contain information about early Maya mythology crop up, and connected to katun 11 Ahau.

Maya’s manuscript

It is obvious that the Chumayel manuscript was written in the European script, which was adapted to the Maya language of Yucatan by the Sixteenth Century Spanish missionaries. It is believed that it is something similar in their letters to that found in many of the Spanish manuscripts of the colonial period. The text of Chilam Balam text, however, is not divided into sentences as well as lot of portions is not separated into paragraphs. There can be some misunderstandings because of words being frequently wrongly divided into syllables, thus, proper names not often begin with capital letters. The way of determining words, which are proper names has been discussed elsewhere. The text is usually separated into short phrases with the help of colons or dashes. Nevertheless, such punctuation can be inconsistent and there are cases, when it occurs in the middle of a proper name. Consequently, this method allow to the text become understandable to people.


It is believed that the Books of Chilam Balam abound in few stereotyped phrases usually employed in same contexts, thus, when some phrase seem to be garbled and people find the same phrase occurring anywhere else in the same context, they traditionally correct the phrase with a fair degree of certainty. However, there could be done mistakes, so the original material is available to use. The language of Maya is rather difficult and has to be corrected. Nowadays, society has photographic reproductions of the Books of Chilam Balam of Chumayel, Tizimin, Kaua, Ixil, Tekax and Nah as well as copious extracts copied from the Mani and Oxkutzcab manuscripts. The latter were made by Dr. Hermann Berendt and are now in the Berendt Linguistic Collection of the Museum of the University of Pennsylvania.


The Maya prophecies and its role

According to Landa (1928:192), 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, spokesperson 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. Strictly talking, Maya prophecies fall into four categories: day-prophecies, year-prophecies, katun-prophecies and special prophecies of the return of Quetzalcoatl, or Kukulcan (as he was called by the Maya).

However, it have been termed that the day-prophecy is more likely to be properly a prognostic, perhaps the business of the ah-kinyah, or diviner, rather than that of the chilan. Definitely, one of the 260 days of the tzolkin, (tonalamatl) is seemed to be specified as being lucky or unlucky, and mostly they are likely to be followed by further prognostications advising whether this day is fitting for certain undertakings, lucky for professions and trades, even auspicious for sowing certain crops. 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.


Now let me talk about it at great length. However, the predictions for the years fall certainly 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. It is known that the minor Hebrew prophets found that a surprisingly large proportion of the predictions appeared to be unfavorable. Drought, famine, pestilence are freely foretold, to say nothing of war, political upheavals, the sacking of towns and the captivity of the inhabitants. Definitely many misfortunes are associated with the name of the deity that brought them, and there are valuable references to religious ceremonies. From the big variety of prophecies, those of the Katun’s possess the greatest historical interest. As the Maya commentator tells us that they are essentially historical in character (page 78 of the Chumayel). It must to be mentioned that a Katun of the same name recurred after approximately 256 years, therefore at the end of that time history was expected to repeat itself. The prophecies in the Books of Chilam Balam are well explained by Avendaño’s. “These are painted on both sides with a variety of figures and characters, 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 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”.


You can find two different series of katun-prophecies in the Books of Chilam Balam (Katun 11 Ahau, Katun 13 Ahau). This period of thirteen katuns is the least common denominator of the 260-day tzol-kin and the katun that consists of 7200 days. Katun 11 Ahau is set upon the mat, set upon the throne, when their ruler is set up. It is said that the heavenly fan, the heavenly wreath and the heavenly bouquet shall descend.  The drum and rattle of the lord of 11 Ahau shall resound, when flint knives are set into his mantle. They shall find their food among the trees; they shall find their food among the rocks, those who have lost their <usual> food in katun 11 Ahau. Next Christianity also began. It was found (Chumayel p. 64; Tizimin p. 14; Mani p. 109 of B.L.C. No. 43.) that 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. Only in an eighth prophecy, ascribed to Ah Xupan Nauat, do we find a statement obviously inspired by the event itself. Chilam Balam predicted in Katun 2 Ahau that in the Katun 13 Ahau following, bearded men would come from the east and introduce a new religion. He had in mind the return of Quetzalcoatl and his white-robed priests, shortly after the Spaniards landed in Yucatan in Katun 13 Ahau. Chilam Balam never ceased to be regarded as the most known of the Maya prophets, anyway.  


It is definitely clear that Maya’s prophecies played an important role in the life of humanity. In the Katun 11 Ahau it is said that the ruler will know everything in the prophecy said, how to explain these things when he reads what is here. When he sees it, then he will explain the adjustment of the intricacy of the katun by our priest, Ah Kin Xuluc. When Christians were introduced as real ones, with the true God, came the beginning of our misery. It was the start of tribute, the beginning of church dues, and a beginning of robbery with violence.   It was by Antichrist on earth. In the end of the prophecy it is pictured the hope or even belief in that the justice of our Lord God shall descend upon every part of the world and all the tears people cried out will be dried up. Was he right or mistaken, I am not sure yet. But the thing I can definitely say is that the prophecy exists until people believe in it.

It is hard to live in the cruelness and unfaith, but who is a victim and who is a guilty? Both are human, anyway. So let god in you to be free, but not the devil, then all tears will be dried and work will be regarded.


To sum up, subjects of the book are Maya’s antiquities, history, religion, language, and manuscripts, at last. It contains illustration ranging from full-page drawings to smaller ones on a portion of a textual page. It is clear that the Chumayel manuscript was written in the European script, which was adapted to the Maya language of Yucatan by the Sixteenth Century Spanish missionaries. Nor was the Maya prophet without honor in his own country.

Chilam Balam lived at Mani during the reign of Mochan Xiu. However, in Katun 2 Ahau he predicted that in the Katun 13 Ahau following, bearded men would come from the east and introduce a new religion. It is obvious that his prophecy was something more accurate than those of his predecessors’ prophecies were. Consequently, these prophecies influenced on people minds and played a great role in the life of society, but I believe they should not be placed on the top when making decisions. All problems are in human’s being. It is both god and devil’s parts in us. The problem is what part will be set free. The choice is rather your own.

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