Mayan Name: Ah Puch; Ahal Puh; God A; Cizin; Yum Cimil
Aztec Equivalent: Michlantecuhtli
Associated Animal: Owl or dog
Role: Death, Disease, Disasters, War, Childbirth, and Beginnings
Ah Puch is one of many names associated with the god of death in Mayan religion. He is the ruler of Metnal (Xibalba), the Mayan underworld. To the Quiche Maya, he was the sole ruler of the underworld. But to the Yucatec Maya, he is one of many, with Metnal being the deepest circle of Mayan hell. He is the patron of the number 10 and the 4th day of the 260-day calendar, Kimi, which means “death.”
Though also related to childbirth and beginnings, Ah Puch is not depicted as a kind god and said to work against the gods of fertility. He is also known to stalk the homes of the sick and/or injured. The only way to escape Ah Puch’s attention is to howl, scream, and moan as loud as possible. This way, the god will assume you are already being tormented by his lesser demons.
The Mayans often depicted Ah Puch as a skeletal figure with protruding ribs and a skull or an owl’s head. He is also can be depicted as a bloated figure, such as a corpse in decomposition. As Cizin, he’s a dancing skeleton smoking a cigarette. As Yum Cimil, he wears a collar of eyes or empty eye sockets and has a body covered in black spots. Yet, what Ah Puch is known for most is wearing copper or gold bells in his hair, much like the Aztec god, Michlantecuhtli. Not just for decoration, but to strike fear in his prey.
He is also associated with dogs and owls. Therefore, if an owl screeches, it is believed someone nearby will die. And if a hoot is heard, one should take a deep breath and count to ten.
- Allen, P. and Saunders, C. (2013). Ah Puch. http://www.godchecker.com/pantheon/mayan-mythology.php?deity=AH-PUCH
- Cline, A. (2016). The Mythology of Ah Puch, God of Death in Mayan Religion. http://atheism.about.com/od/mayangodsgoddesses/p/AhPuchMayan.htm
- Mark, J. (2012). The Mayan Pantheon: The Many Gods of the Maya. http://www.ancient.eu/article/415/
- Sharer, R. and Traxler, L. (2006) The Ancient Maya: Sixth Edition. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press