The Maya Prophecies - Part I

An Exposition On The Diego de Landa Predictions


January, 2010

Allen J. Christenson
Dennis Tedlock
David A. Freidel
David Stuart

Michael D. Carrasco

Copies To:
Brian M. Stross
Kerry M. Hull
Michael John Finley
Various other individuals

When Bishop Diego de Landa published his famous manuscript in 1566, Relación de las cosas de Yucatán, he included a mention of the effect of the Maya prophecies on the relations with the Spanish. As he states:

  • Que como la gente mexicana tuvo senales y profecias de la venida de los espanoles y de la cesacion de su mando y religion, tambien las tuvieron los de Yucatan algunos anos antes que el adelantado Montejo los conquistase: y que en las sierras de Mani que es en la provincia de Tuto Xiu, un indio llamado Al Cambal de oficio Chilam, que es el que tiene a su cargo dar las respuestas del demonio, les dijo publicamente que pronto serian senoreados por gente extranjera, y que les predicarian un Dios y la virtud de un palo que en su lengua llaman Vamonche, que quiere decir palo enhiesto de gran virtud contra los demonios.

I give the Spanish text here because I want to ensure that we reach de Landa's intent. This text, translated, with notes, follows:

  • As the Mexican people had signs and prophecies of the coming of the Spanish, with the end of their power and religion, as did those of the Yucatan some years before they were conquered by Admiral Montejo. In the district of Mani, which is in the province of Tutul Xiu, an Indian named named Al Cambal, of the office of Chilam, which is the one that has charge of giving the responses of the demon, said to them publicly that they soon would be ruled by a foreign people, who would preach a God and the virtue of a wood, which in their tongue they called uaom che, meaning a tree lifted up, of great power against the demons.

This is modified from the translation by William Gates, Dover Publication, New York, 1978.

The province of Tutul Xiu was named after a Mayan ruling family. Gates has a note in his translation that Al Cambal means "one who learns," a "pupil." Chilam is a Mayan word for "orator," or "interpreter," more appropriately, a "prophet." Balam was a Mayan family name. Curiously, it is also the name of a prominent prophet of the Old Testament, Bilam or Balaam, which meant "foreigner" in Hebrew, Num 22:5ff.

Since de Landa was a devout Catholic his use of the word "demon" meant any influence of other-worldly dimensions, good or bad, but which he threw into a catch-all category outside the pale of Catholic understanding. If this Al Chambal was connected in some manner with celestial communication it may have seemed to de Landa that it was from the Devil, hence his use of the word demon. Of course, the word demon is from the Greek, and originally meant any supernatural being, good or bad, but de Landa probably meant it to imply malevolent supernatural beings.

If Al Chambal was indeed connected with the celestial realms, his communications might have been able to offer predictions of the future. (I refrain here from discussion on the knowledge of celestial beings about time in our three-dimensional framework, but assume for sake of my dissertation that some of them, such as our Creator, can know "all time.")

The phrase uaom che is written as Vamonche in de Landa's original text. This is a bad error. Zelia Nuttall, in 1900, discussed this phrase: The Fundamental Principles of Old and New World Civilizations, Peabody Museum of American Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University, 1900.

  • A Maya name for the "tree of life," ua-hom-che, next claims our attention. A valuable old manuscript dictionary of the Maya language, quoted by Dr. Brinton, records that the word uah means "a certain kind of life." The word hom is an ancient term for an artificial elevation, mound or pyramid, hence homil, the pyramid on which a temple was built. Combined with che, tree, the word seems to signify "the elevated or high tree of life," the idea of the celestial tree "on high" being possibly intended.

Brinton's remarks may be found in American Hero-myths: A Study in the Native Religions of the Western Continent, Daniel G. Brinton, M.D., H. C. Watts & Co, Philadelphia. The book in paper back is now widely available.

  • Maya word is uahomche, from uah, originally the tortilla or maize cake, now used for bread generally. It is also current in the sense of life ("la vida en cierta manera," Diccionario Maya Español del Convento de Motul). Che is the generic word for tree. I cannot find any particular tree called Homche. Hom was the name applied to a wind instrument, a sort of trumpet. In the Codex Troano, Plates xxv, xxvii, xxxiv, it is represented in use. The four Bacabs were probably imagined to blow the winds from the four corners of the earth through such instruments. A similar representation is given in the Codex Borgianus, Plate xiii, in Kingsborough. As the Chac was the god of bread, Dios de los panes, so the cross was the tree of bread.

While the notes of Nuttall and Brinton are of historical interest they are amiss in that scholarly understanding of the Mayan languages in the late 19th and early 20th century was in its early stages and they could not give a correct rendering of the phrase. You can see how these scholars both grasp for a definition, based mostly on hom, but which was a side track. The words which they give as ua-hom should be written as one word, uaom. This is derived from an inflection of uaan: standing upright, erect, from ualaan = third form intransitive of ual = to stand up.

See David Bolles definition of this word in his Famsi Dictionary at

There he defines uaom che as pillory, gibbet, or pillar, from uaom = upright and che = wood. Elsewhere he translates the phrase as "cross." The phrase "upright wood" was the Mayan method of designating the Cross. Before the Spanish the Maya did not know the word "cross" and used this other phrase. (In formal designation they knew this symbol as the Waka Chan.) See:

A Grammar of the Yucatecan Mayan Language by David & Alejandra Bolles: The Prophecy of Chilam Balam

We should also note that Brinton had a clue to the correct meaning of the phrase uaom che. His discussion occurs as a footnote (note 21) in his book; he ends with "the cross was the tree of bread." He states that the phrase "tree of bread" also meant "tree of life." He refers to the crosses found at Palenque and Cozumel. "There was another such cross, about eight feet high, in a temple on the island of Cozumel." The transition from the "tree of life" to the Christian Cross would have been a minor step, except that Mayan scholarship was already well imbued with the notion that the Waka Chan could not be the Christian Cross. This was based on the assumption that the Maya had no knowledge of the purpose of the Christian Cross prior to the coming of the Spanish, and hence could not be understood by them as western man understood in its religious symbolism.

But de Landa did not mean the "tree of life," he spoke merely of a "tree." de Landa gave us the context when he spoke of the virtue of a wood. If I keep in mind my preceding papers on the Mayan Cross I cannot but conclude that "tree" refers to the Mayan Tree = Mayan Cross = Christian Tree = Christian Cross. We can understand the phrase "lifted up" because when human beings plant this particular "wood" in the ground they are certainly "lifting it up" for all to see.

Then, again, the "lifting up" might be intended the way the Maya understood the phrase in that the "tree" can lift all of us up into the celestial realms, i.e. heaven.

Regardless, the overall de Landa statement leads us to consider that this "wood" or "tree" will have a mighty powerful influence upon the world, including its dominion over spirit beings who are in rebellion against their Creator.

The phrases used by de Landa reflect his understanding of political reality. But they also could be looked upon as a statement of philosophical or religious reality. que pronto serian senoreados translated as that soon they would be ruled could be given as that they soon would be dominated, meaning not a political conquest or rule, but a philosophical one. Then again the word extranjera, has several possible meanings, stranger, foreigner, or alien, and could be understood as an influence that is alien in thought and meaning. Then de Landa was not speaking about political control, but rather a philosophical or religious dominance. The results coming out of this relationship would have a mighty influence upon both mankind and rebel spirit beings.

The virtue of the "wood" would then mean the power of the Cross.

de Landa was the source of all subsequent belief that the Mayan prophecy meant the Spanish. It was a natural deduction. He styles he statement in that light. But he did not understand the full meaning of the prophecy. It does not mean Spanish political power, but some event of outstanding spiritual import.

Since de Landa does not present this passage in terms of the Christian Cross and the power of Jesus, but rather in terms of the understanding of the Maya, we must take our recognition of the meaning from the Maya. They expected that at some point, some place in future time, human characters (foreigners, not Maya) would appear on the world stage, that they would be devoted to their Creator, that they would bring a teaching which would be alien to conventional or traditional thought, and that the consummation of their efforts would be a personal commitment to the Cross, to self-sacrifice on this Cross.

This episode would be so profound that it would obliterate conventional views of God and religious beliefs. In other words, it would completely upset the religions of the world. Now people would no longer be able to rely on their faith in their traditions, but would be forced to reexamine their ideas of creative and religious reality. A profound change would occur in the philosophical mental framework of mankind, so profound that it would alter millennia of understanding.

But the activity associated with the work of these special men (foreign people) goes beyond mere preaching. They would bring a demonstration of the power of God that would leave the entire world in awe.

If these special men carry such great power, and if it is associated with the Cross, what event takes place to give them such power?

We are in a position now to relate the de Landa passage to the promises given in the Christian New Testament, and the Book of Revelation. The New Testament passage carries with it the same tremendous implication as de Landa's passage on the "wood," except that it is more explicit.

With all due regard to the considerable corruptions which have crept into this biblical passage I will give it here as it appears in the Revised Standard Version. I have edited out the most corrupt passages.

  • Rev 11:3-13
    And I will grant my two witnesses power to prophesy for one thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth. 4 These are the two olive trees and the two lamp stands which stand before the Lord of the earth. . . . 7 And when they have finished their testimony, the beast that ascends from the bottomless pit will make war upon them and conquer them and kill them, 8 and their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city . . . 9 For three days and a half men from the peoples and tribes and tongues and nations gaze at their dead bodies and refuse to let them be placed in a tomb, 10 and those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and make merry and exchange presents, because these two prophets had been a torment to those who dwell on the earth. 11 But after the three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood up on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. 12 Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, "Come up hither!" And in the sight of their foes they went up to heaven in a cloud.

We can see the parallels with de Landa.

Two olive trees are God's proffer of mercy to mankind. Two lamp stands are their enlightenment of mankind.

The beast is the demon spoken of by de Landa. This rebellious Spirit Personality will cause the prophets to be killed, but then a miraculous event will take place to show God's power over the Devil.

The New Testament passage does not say that these two witnesses will be killed on the Upright Wood, the Tree, the uaom, but we are naturally led to see the same magnitude of profound effect upon the human race in both passages. We see the influence of the "Beast" in Revelation and the influence of the "Demon" in de Landa. They preach the power of the "Wood," the Cross, in de Landa, and demonstrate an equivalent power in Revelation, which seems rightfully to belong to the Cross. But only after their resurrection.

Here is where the power of God comes. The work of these witnesses might be looked upon as a peculiar trait of theirs, without God inspiring their work. But if God brings them to resurrection no person in the world could doubt anymore. Such event would the most awe inspiring episode in the history of mankind. We might regard the resurrection of Jesus with considerable doubt, since no human person was witness to that event, and we have only the later testimony of the Apostle and Disciples as a report. The resurrection of Jesus does not stand out in open public witness as does a resurrection witnessed by the entire world.

We should carefully note that world-wide witness is now possible through TV and satellites. Such witness was not possible a mere twenty years ago.

Then, as consummation of this episode, the two witnesses are lifted up into the sky by miraculous means, in the sight of all mankind.

Of course, we have all those stories of how people are lifted up to celestial craft hovering overhead, and show this "lift-off" in many of our man-made stories. But only concomitant with nuclear destruction did we begin to open our eyes to the possibility of celestial craft, to a real kingdom in the heavens. The possibility of such rapture event then became implanted into our human psyche. We have been prepared for such episode within the past few decades of human imaginative invention, based on stories that now propagate around the world.

Our corporate psyche has been prepared.