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God K on Maya Ceramic Vessels
By Helen Alexander
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Categories of God K Vessels

God K appears on many Maya ceramic vessels in various ways. For instance, he may be depicted as a full figure on the tail of a snake, known as the och chan, as a head wrapped in smoke scrolls, often in a pair, as a dancer or as an icon, either on the tail of a conjuring serpent or a way beast. In addition, his name appears in glyphic texts, most often on vessels on which he is also depicted, but sometimes his name appears in ceramic vessel texts without God K illustrations. The vessels containing images or references to God K are so numerous that I have divided them into categories to bring some order to my notes and commentaries. However, God K sometimes appears in multiple ways on the same vessel complicating any discussion by category so there is necessarily some overlap in my discussion. In the course of this study I examined 167 vessels that either show God K in full figure, as an icon, or in glyphic text. This is not an exhaustive study as there are other vessels that have icons that probably refer to God K.  I have opted not to attempt to identify all possible iconic depictions of God K.  Not all vessels listed in each category are discussed in detail.

In addition, on a number of vessels God K is depicted in the form of other gods, indicating perhaps, a sharing of divine attributes, or even a dynamic changing of form from one deity into another, more than a true conflation. Nonetheless, I have retained the wording of Category 8, "God K conflated with other Gods," as the simplest expression of the concept.

The categories are:

  1. God K on the tail of the conjuring serpent
  2. God K icon on the tail of the baby jaguar
  3. God K icon on the tail of ’way’ beasts
  4. God K as dancer or in costume of sacred dancers
  5. Human impersonators of God K
  6. God K as a ruler’s scepter or staff
  7. God K as paired images on non-narrative vessels
  8. God K conflated with other Gods
  9. God K in glyphic texts, read K’awil

A study of these categories reveals the character of God K.  He is the power behind conjuring, transformation and transcendence in Maya ritual practice; he is the essence of the och chan, the bearded dragon of Xibalba; he is the essence of the sacred dance that empowers the Maize God to dance out of Xibalba; he is the essence of human royal power that allows mankind access to the cosmos from the heavens down to earth and into Xibalba itself. He is also the power of the Rain God’s lightning ax that splits the earth making the resurrection of the Maize God possible. He also dwells in temples making them holy places of emergence.

My notes and commentary on the vessels in the nine categories follows:

God K on Maya Ceramic Vessels by Helen Alexander

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