Popol Vuh

by

Dennis Tedlock

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Xmucane is one of the oldest deities in Mayan theology. She's known as the grandmother and the midwife, and is sometimes referred to as "plate shaper, bowl shaper." Xmucane is the mother of One Hunahpu and Seven Hunahpu, and raises One Hunahpu's children, One Monkey and One Artisan. Though she's very wise, she's also exceptionally cautious: when Blood Moon arrives on Xmucane's doorstep claiming to be pregnant with twins by One Hunahpu, Xmucane refuses to believe Blood Moon's story until Blood Moon manages to pass a test and Xmucane finds evidence in corn that Blood Moon is telling the truth. Xmucane is also an essential parental figure to Hunahpu and Xbalanque, though she joins her other grandsons in neglecting them until One Monkey and One Artisan become monkeys. After this, she takes her role more seriously. When Hunahpu and Xbalanque descend to Xibalba to avenge their father and uncle, they plant corn in the middle of Xmucane's hut, which is supposed to let her know if the twins are still alive depending on whether the corn grows or dies. Later, when Sovereign Plumed Serpent approaches Xmucane about creating humans again, she personally grinds the maize with which to make them nine times.

Xmucane Quotes in Popol Vuh

The Popol Vuh quotes below are all either spoken by Xmucane or refer to Xmucane. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Origins, Customs, and the Mayan Culture Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Simon & Schuster edition of Popol Vuh published in 1996.
Part One Quotes

So this is why monkeys look like people: they are a sign of a previous human work, human design—mere manikins, mere woodcarvings.

Page Number: 73
Explanation and Analysis:
Part Three Quotes

But Hunahpu and Xbalanque aren't turning red with anger; rather, they just let it go, even though they know their proper place, which they see as clear as day.

Page Number: 105
Explanation and Analysis:

"Our elder brothers will be remembered. So be it: they have lived here and they have been named; they are to be called One Monkey and One Artisan."

Related Characters: Hunahpu (speaker), Xbalanque (speaker), Xmucane, One Monkey and One Artisan
Page Number: 108
Explanation and Analysis:

And this was when their grandmother burned something, she burned copal before the ears of green corn as a memorial to them. There was happiness in their grandmother's heart the second time the corn plants sprouted. Then the ears were deified by their grandmother, and she gave them names...

Related Characters: Hunahpu, Xbalanque, Xmucane
Related Symbols: Corn
Page Number: 139
Explanation and Analysis:
Part Four Quotes

It was staples alone that made up their flesh.

Related Symbols: Corn
Page Number: 146
Explanation and Analysis:

"What should we do with them now? Their vision should at least reach nearby, they should see at least a small part of the face of the earth, but what they're saying isn't good. Aren't they merely 'works' and 'designs' in their very names? Yet they'll become as great as gods, unless they procreate, proliferate at the sowing, the dawning, unless they increase."

Related Characters: Xmucane (speaker), Sovereign Plumed Serpent (speaker), Hurricane (speaker), Jaguar Quitze, Jaguar Night, Not Right Now, Dark Jaguar
Page Number: 148
Explanation and Analysis:

They were blinded as the face of a mirror is breathed upon. Their vision flickered. Now it was only from close up that they could see what was there with any clarity.

And such was the loss of the means of understanding, along with the means of knowing everything, by the four humans.

Page Number: 148
Explanation and Analysis:
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Popol Vuh PDF

Xmucane Character Timeline in Popol Vuh

The timeline below shows where the character Xmucane appears in Popol Vuh. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part One
Origins, Customs, and the Mayan Culture Theme Icon
Heroism vs. Villainy Theme Icon
Names, Power, and Memory Theme Icon
...be an account of how the world was created by Sovereign Plumed Serpent, Xpiyacoc, and Xmucane. The narrator mentions that they're recording this story "amid the preaching of God," or after... (full context)
Origins, Customs, and the Mayan Culture Theme Icon
What It Means to be Human Theme Icon
...they might make a better human. They decide to call on the gods Xpiyacoc and Xmucane for help. (full context)
What It Means to be Human Theme Icon
Sovereign Plumed Serpent and Hurricane ask Xmucane and Xpiyacoc if they should mold humans out of wood. Xmucane and Xpiyacoc reply that... (full context)
Part Three
Origins, Customs, and the Mayan Culture Theme Icon
Heroism vs. Villainy Theme Icon
Names, Power, and Memory Theme Icon
...is One Hunahpu, brother of Seven Hunahpu. One and Seven Hunahpu are the children of Xmucane and Xpiyacoc, and One Hunahpu has two other sons, One Monkey and One Artisan, with... (full context)
Origins, Customs, and the Mayan Culture Theme Icon
Heroism vs. Villainy Theme Icon
...One Hunahpu and Seven Hunahpu to Xibalba, but the brothers insist that they must tell Xmucane where they're going first. When they reach Xmucane's hut, they explain the situation and learn... (full context)
Origins, Customs, and the Mayan Culture Theme Icon
Heroism vs. Villainy Theme Icon
Names, Power, and Memory Theme Icon
Blood Moon goes to Xmucane for help. She explains that she's Xmucane's daughter-in-law and is pregnant with her grandbabies. Wrought... (full context)
Heroism vs. Villainy Theme Icon
Xmucane shouts that she doesn't want Blood Moon, that Blood Moon's babies are bastards, and that... (full context)
Origins, Customs, and the Mayan Culture Theme Icon
Names, Power, and Memory Theme Icon
When Blood Moon returns to Xmucane's hut, animals carry her full net for her. Xmucane is livid that Blood Moon apparently... (full context)
Origins, Customs, and the Mayan Culture Theme Icon
Heroism vs. Villainy Theme Icon
What It Means to be Human Theme Icon
...in the mountains. When she brings the babies into the house they cry loudly, and Xmucane insists that Blood Moon take them outside. One Monkey and One Artisan place their baby... (full context)
Origins, Customs, and the Mayan Culture Theme Icon
Heroism vs. Villainy Theme Icon
Xmucane, One Monkey, and One Artisan treat Xbalanque and Hunahpu horribly. They don't show them love... (full context)
Heroism vs. Villainy Theme Icon
Names, Power, and Memory Theme Icon
One day, Hunahpu and Xbalanque return home without birds. Xmucane angrily demands to know why they didn't bring birds, and the boys explain that their... (full context)
Origins, Customs, and the Mayan Culture Theme Icon
Names, Power, and Memory Theme Icon
Xbalanque and Hunahpu return to Xmucane's hut and tell her that their brothers have become "simply shameless," like animals. Xmucane is... (full context)
Origins, Customs, and the Mayan Culture Theme Icon
Names, Power, and Memory Theme Icon
When they hear the song, One Monkey and One Artisan come, dancing. When Xmucane sees her grandsons looking so ugly and silly, she laughs. This scares One Monkey and... (full context)
Origins, Customs, and the Mayan Culture Theme Icon
Heroism vs. Villainy Theme Icon
Names, Power, and Memory Theme Icon
Hunahpu and Xbalanque tell Xmucane to not be sad, as she still has them as grandchildren. They explain that One... (full context)
Origins, Customs, and the Mayan Culture Theme Icon
Heroism vs. Villainy Theme Icon
What It Means to be Human Theme Icon
...can begin their process of becoming truly great. They start by assuring Blood Moon and Xmucane that they'll take over the gardening duties. They pick up their tools and instruct Xmucane... (full context)
Origins, Customs, and the Mayan Culture Theme Icon
Heroism vs. Villainy Theme Icon
...that they were actually working. When they get home that evening, Xbalanque and Hunahpu tell Xmucane that they're very tired. The next morning when the twins return to their garden, however,... (full context)
Origins, Customs, and the Mayan Culture Theme Icon
What It Means to be Human Theme Icon
...and Xbalanque again allow their tools to work the land. They head home and tell Xmucane what happened, and inform her that they're going to keep watch overnight. They hide themselves... (full context)
Origins, Customs, and the Mayan Culture Theme Icon
Heroism vs. Villainy Theme Icon
Names, Power, and Memory Theme Icon
...rat tells the boys that One Hunahpu and Seven Hunahpu's gaming equipment is hidden in Xmucane's roof, and she doesn't want them to see it because she doesn't want the boys... (full context)
Origins, Customs, and the Mayan Culture Theme Icon
Heroism vs. Villainy Theme Icon
What It Means to be Human Theme Icon
...or wasted food is his for the taking. The rat asks what will happen if Xmucane sees him when they try to get the equipment down, and the boys insist that... (full context)
Origins, Customs, and the Mayan Culture Theme Icon
Names, Power, and Memory Theme Icon
When Hunahpu and Xbalanque get to Xmucane's house, they put the rat on the roof and he starts to chew through it... (full context)
Heroism vs. Villainy Theme Icon
Xbalanque and Hunahpu ask Blood Moon to go help Xmucane since she's taking so long, and as soon as she's gone, the rat lets the... (full context)
Origins, Customs, and the Mayan Culture Theme Icon
Heroism vs. Villainy Theme Icon
Names, Power, and Memory Theme Icon
...invite Hunahpu and Xbalanque to a game in seven days. The messengers travel directly to Xmucane's hut where they find only her, as the boys are away playing. They relay their... (full context)
Heroism vs. Villainy Theme Icon
Names, Power, and Memory Theme Icon
Xmucane's heart is broken. She sobs that she's going to lose her grandsons, just as she... (full context)
Origins, Customs, and the Mayan Culture Theme Icon
Names, Power, and Memory Theme Icon
What It Means to be Human Theme Icon
...Death to come in seven days with equipment to play ball. He says too that Xmucane is distraught. Hunahpu and Xbalanque hurry to their grandmother. They tell Xmucane that they must... (full context)
Origins, Customs, and the Mayan Culture Theme Icon
Names, Power, and Memory Theme Icon
What It Means to be Human Theme Icon
On earth, Xmucane cries in front of the dry ears of corn that signify her grandsons' deaths. Then... (full context)
Part Four
Origins, Customs, and the Mayan Culture Theme Icon
What It Means to be Human Theme Icon
...a place called Split Place, and there, Sovereign Plumed Serpent discovers the staple foods. Then, Xmucane grinds the corn nine times and mixes it with grease and water to create blood... (full context)
Origins, Customs, and the Mayan Culture Theme Icon
Heroism vs. Villainy Theme Icon
Names, Power, and Memory Theme Icon
What It Means to be Human Theme Icon
...encourages the men to walk around, and then the men praise Sovereign Plumed Serpent and Xmucane and thank the gods for creating them. However, Sovereign Plumed Serpent sees that there's a... (full context)
Names, Power, and Memory Theme Icon
What It Means to be Human Theme Icon
Next, Sovereign Plumed Serpent and Xmucane create wives for the first men. They make Red Sea Turtle for Jaguar Quitze; Prawn... (full context)