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Bacabs, the Jaguars Supporing the Sky in Mayan Mythology - Windows to the Universe

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Mayans believed that four jaguars, called bacabs, held up the sky. Each had a different color.
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Courtesy of Nova Development Corp.

Bacabs

The Earth was conceived by the Maya as flat with four corners. Each corner represented a cardinal point, and was signaled by a different color: red for east, white for north, black for west, yellow for south, and green at the center.

At each corner, there was a jaguar of a different color that supported the sky. The four jaguars were called bacabs. Mayans believed the Universe was divided into layers, each layer containing only one sort of celestial body. Heaven was formed with thirteen layers, and each of them seemed to have had its own god.

The underworld was formed with nine layers with nine corresponding lords of the night. Mayans believed that the Sun and the Moon passed through the Earth when they disappeared below the horizon. On his night journey beneath the earth, the Sun was believed to have become the fearsome jaguar god of the underworld, Kinich Ahau.

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part by the National Science Foundation and NASA, our Founding Partners (the American Geophysical Union and American Geosciences Institute) as well as through Institutional, Contributing, and Affiliate Partners, individual memberships and generous donors. Thank you for your support! NASA AGU AGI NSF