Ah Puch

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The Maya god of death. He was portrayed as a skeleton or a bloated corpse, adorned with bells. As Hunhau the chief of demons, he presided over the ninth and lowest of the underworlds, the horrible mitnal. In modern folklore he survives as Yum Cimil, ‘lord of death’, prowling the houses of the sick in his endless search for prey. The Maya have always had a great fear of death, unlike their more warlike neighbours, and the Spanish conquerors were amazed at the over whelming grief and sorrow expressed by the bereaved. It was the custom during the day for them to weep in silence; and at night, when the earth duplicated the darkness of Hunhau's realm, they raised loud and awful cries, unbearable alike for passers-by or those living near.

The bodies of the humble were buried under the floors of their houses or behind them: their mouths were invariably filled with ground maize, and jade beads placed in their hands as money. The bodies of the socially esteemed were burned, their ashes being placed in great urns, and shrines built over them. In northern Yucatan ashes were even put in hollow statues made of pottery or of wood.

Subjects: Religion.

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