Page 1

Saqil pa Q’equ’mal: Light in Darkness By Mari Anne Christie

Saqil pa Q’equ’mal: Light in Darkness © 2014 Mari Anne Christie Published by: Whaley Publishing, LLC All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the publisher, except for the inclusion of brief quotations in a review. This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either a product of fiction or are used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is entirely coincidental. ISBN-13: 978-1481231824 ISBN-10: 1481231820 Released in North America

Saqil pa Q’equ’mal: Light in Darkness The Steps Into Xibalba I. Ch’awib’al: The Language........................................................... 1 II. Chajalab’: The Guardians .......................................................... 5 III. Ab’aj: The Stones ................................................................... 11 IV. Jun Kame, Wuqub’ Kame: One Death, Seven Death ......... Error! Bookmark not defined. V. Nim Ja’: The River ........................ Error! Bookmark not defined. VI. Tinimit: The Town ....................... Error! Bookmark not defined. VII. Ri Popob’al: The Council Place.... Error! Bookmark not defined. VIII. Q’equ’ma Ja: Darkness House ... Error! Bookmark not defined. IX. Xuxulim Ja: Shivering House ........ Error! Bookmark not defined. X. B’alami Ja: Jaguar House .............. Error! Bookmark not defined. XI. Sotz’i Ja: Bat House ..................... Error! Bookmark not defined. XII. Chaim Ja: Blade House ............... Error! Bookmark not defined. XIII. Paqalik: The Ascent ................... Error! Bookmark not defined. Author’s Notes................................................................................ 101 About the Author............................................................................ 103

For Sean McCandless — improbable guide on an impossible journey.

Saqil pa Q’equ’mal: Light in Darkness

I. Ch’awib’al: The Language

Early evening, slow embers trickle down the back of her shirt. The calluses in her shoes are tired, and her shoulders drag. A banyan tree ahead, third eye carved deep into the bark, palms bearing down the weight of new rain. She makes camp beneath the sheltered branches, tucked into the twisted, reaching roots. She cooks dried turkey, peccary, beans, chayote,* and corn, water from her wineskin. Achiote† and yucca venom, kik’,‡ a river of blood. Three stones cradle a clay pot in the burning coals of the setting sun. She takes the jícara§ from her pack, a wooden spoon, an obsidian knife, cuts papaya from the nearest tree to sweeten her throat. Hot rum and balche** toast her passage toward perilous refuge. She burns cacao in the fire for the restless deities rustling in the trees. She eats, and rereads the letters tied with leather laces, tracing old-fashioned ink, the scratch of his feather quill.

A squash, eaten cooked or raw. (Sp.) A spice (Sp.) ‡ Blood § A bowl made from a calabash gourd. (Sp.) ** A fermented drink made from tree bark and honey * †

Page 1

Saqil pa Q’equ’mal: Light in Darkness

She finds her heart’s compass in the dead-language dictionary she has penned herself. The map he sent is tattered, corners torn, dirt splotches almost obscuring her trail. South. East. West. He is the North Star watching the center of the Crossroads. Spider monkeys roost overhead, golden emerald quetzals chirrup above the jackal’s howl, and a jaguarundi comes to growl and purr near the fire. A grey pit viper curls around the camp. Furred spiders inch toward her open hand. Simaj Ch’umil* smiles from the near dark. As a skull owl dives for the mouth of a vesper rat, the frogs in the trees spit up their poison for the tip of her blade. Her blond hair is tangling in the sweat on her forehead. She wipes it away with her sleeve, pale skin burned dark as dirt. A basilisk leads to a gentle stream. She cleans the bowl, the spoon, the knife, disrobes but for the ancient coin she wears on a cord around her throat.


Scorpion Star

Page 2

Saqil pa Q’equ’mal: Light in Darkness

She rests her heat-damp body in a waterfall, scented with the shadows of hanging orchids. Snakes rest their heads on her shoulders, hissing secrets she will need soon enough. Silkmoths whisper across her cheeks as they weave her k’ul,* her blouse, her skirt. Scarab beetles decorate her sash, offer themselves as charms around her wrist, bead her throat, crown her hair. Bats rustle in the hollows waiting to pour forth into the darkness. She consumes their rumbling power, guardians leading to Xibalba,† to the Lord who has promised allegiance, the council, the teachers who have been calling. She seeks the Yax Te’,‡ rooted to the underworld. Seekers of refuge must find the cave mouth, the trap door to fervid sorrow, seduction, surrender.


[Robe or] tunic Mayan Underworld The ceiba, the “world tree” in Mayan mythology, which connects Xibalba to the earthly realm and the skies.

† The ‡

Page 3

Saqil pa Q’equ’mal: Light in Darkness

Before sleep, she steeps tea: bark of the spiny world tree, teonanácatl,* seeds of bindweed. She waits. Her blood dissolves. Kajb’alachil†heats her face. Her aching soul wakes and is hungry. Lusting blood, slippery union, screaming euphoria of waiting unfulfilled. A taste of what will come. In the distance, caves form fire, a sulphur sunset; the mountain blazes and flows

like her center, a pool of longing.

The darkness is broken. The path unlocked. She is at peace waiting in the vision. In the morning, she will walk again. Found objects, footsteps, broken undergrowth will lead the way.

* †

Hallucinogenic mushroom (Sp.) Divination (by stars)

Page 4

Saqil pa Q’equ’mal: Light in Darkness

II. Chajalab’: The Guardians

Searching out the hidden ancients, the well of the malcontent, seekers from all sides are silent, walking heavy along the whispering path.

They stumble to the cave mouth. Dozens have walked as far as she; farther, as they had no map. They do not see the web they walk through, do not see the darkness for the rising sun. Do not see her. Each must step through molten longing, burning wind, thundering drums. La’j tun* an offering the overlords exact a thousand times. The disciples dance as they pass through the caverns. Once freed of the subterrane, they cross turbulent rivers of unwholesome corruption, greedy for the careless or unwise. Every soul will not survive the plunging wallow. They cross against scorpion water. Ja' Simaj,† vicious nettles of bone and armored flesh, will kill half the seekers outright.

* †

A small drum used in dances River Scorpion

Page 5

Saqil pa Q’equ’mal: Light in Darkness

With his coin around her neck, she trails through the cool water as the stinging tails caress her. The small creatures have been pressed to this service, crawling themselves sick, healed by her passing. At Blood River, the penitents call for water, for breath to buoy their soggy steps. They are sucked to the false bottom by their stone shoes. Kik'i A’* will take half again. She passes through the mucky ground, the quicksand nature of the heart. She cleans viscera from her fellows’ eyes, takes life from the death’s-head river. Puj A'† brings virulent fever dreams, pustules and bile and the night-sweat fear of lost seekers before them. There are voices here, of long-dead trickster spirits who will carry away half again. Half again. Half again. There is no end to this road. They have left their homes, their touchstones, their tender loves, to reach Kajib’ xalkat b’e.‡ The Crossroads.

* † ‡

Blood River Pus River The Crossroads

Page 6

Saqil pa Q’equ’mal: Light in Darkness

Kaqa b’e.* is blood rain. Qana b’e.† is iced bone. Saqi b’e.‡ is jaundiced eyes. Q'eqa b'e.§ is a charred heart. The Black Road is empty. Sooty lightning in her blood, the heat that pools in the palms of her hands. She steps forward into rich, soft dirt. Flames have blackened the trees; animals are hidden and howling. B’alam.** Tangled growling sings a dim breeze in a black stream guttering nearby. Utiw.†† The darkness laughs behind her, the moon eclipsed by the sounds she is breathing. Nima tz’ikin.‡‡ Ch’uti tz’ikin.§§

The Red Road The Yellow Road ‡ The White Road § The Black Road ** Jaguar †† Coyote ‡‡ Great birds §§ Small birds * †

Page 7

Saqil pa Q’equ’mal: Light in Darkness

Macaws shriek raking talons. Animals clatter, they chatter, they roar. They attack her fear and wear it away. Gravely, her journey grows silent. She waits for the voices he’s told her will come. They call her name, tell secrets and lies. They reach like great sadness into the core of her. But with his warning, they blow hollow in the empty night, fleeting notes in the treble wind. A half-burned, broken bough stays her steps. It chars her hands as she takes it up, a walking staff. Weary, she leans against it. There is no end to this road. The thunder in the distance cackles, tililik* shrieks a warning to come. The danger is thick and unafraid, rushing her blood. Her breathing quickens; her eyes light the path. *** She steps out of the wood. Few have made it as started so far away, and still they do not see her. *

The sound of thunder

Page 8

Saqil pa Q’equ’mal: Light in Darkness

Seven from the Red Road leak cuts and spatters, ghosts of the living trailing behind them, dripping with fear sweat and rivers of dirges. Three from the Yellow Road show deep sores and boils, sharp heated tongues, sweat cold as a nightmaresoaked pillow. Only two remain from the White Road, souls now twisted bodies and sharp bone fragments, torn, healed, forged with malice. She tries to close the shattered skin, set the broken, tired spirits— her hand a cauter, a splint, a blood tonic. She would cool the restless fevers, clear the hot throats of their screaming. She would relieve, reshape, reanimate these twisted spirits, but these souls cannot bear the weight of healing, so she rests her hands and her heart, leaves the travelers their illusions. Kaqa b’e,* Qana b’e.† Saqi b’e,‡ Q'eqa b'e,§

The Red Road The Yellow Road The White Road § The Black Road * † ‡

Page 9

Saqil pa Q’equ’mal: Light in Darkness

The roads are heavy stones carried into service, into suffering as fodder, provisions for sale, for rent, for feeding the Princes of Xibalba. They will not find release. There is no end to this road. She takes her place in the queue, pious worshippers waiting along a tall fence of copal wood and cedar. She hears screaming sunshine baking the council chairs, flesh popping on a spit, fresh breeze and the edge of laughter, dancing, hands clapping, the turtle-shell drum. Sitting at an armored gate, the guard, a heavy old man, blankly fills the space between gods and god-fearing. As cowards turn back, snap and whistle, he sends peace running like a dog. She will not turn back; here, there is no living backward. He scrapes his blade against the grain of splintering wood culled from the dying end of the nearest fence post.

Page 10

Saqil pa Q’equ’mal: Light in Darkness

Drawing near, she sees he is fashioning a simple flute. He blows a few fragile notes. Fingers moving stiffly, he smiles. He sees her watching, crushes the instrument under his muddy boot, cuts another spiny branch. He marks her passing, then turns to a man just inside the gate; cloaked and waiting. “My Lord, this one’s yours.” The man’s hands turn and reach for her, radiate waves of the black ink from his letters. They glow hot with the ash she has gathered in her hands. He unwinds the loose scarf covering his face and is as she remembers him— Valsayev— the scrawl of tenderness spoken in limber tongues, the deep brush of shadows, dry laughter. Burning eyes. She touches pools of him. He stains her fingertips. “Utz mi xatulik, Anaya.* It is so good that you have come.”

To read more, find Saqil pa Q’equ’mal: Light in Darkness at


[It is] good you have arrived.

Page 11

Saqil pa Q’equ’mal: Light in Darkness

Author’s Notes Between the evocative ideas and poetry of the Popol Vuh—the mythological history of the K’iche’ Maya—and the modern convenience of an online K’iche’ dictionary, this series of poems was born. Like many myths of Hell or its equivalent, the Ancient Mayan stories of Xibalba have a sensuality and ruthlessness that lend themselves to poetry, to artistic exploration of the furthest boundaries of our darkest selves. Added to this, the transliterated Mayan language itself looks like poetry, even to a writer with little talent for foreign language. The Popol Vuh described the road to Xibalba: crossing Blood River, River Scorpion, and Pus River to reach the Crossroads and choose the Red, White, Yellow, or Black Road. Upon entry into Xibalba, the traveler is subject to the whims of One Death and Seven Death, the vicious Princes of Xibalba, and must surrender to a series of tests, including surviving one night in each of five houses designed to defeat the unwary—Darkness House, Shivering House, Jaguar House, Bat House, and Blade House. I have taken considerable artistic license with traditional stories, including a cast of characters who never existed in the myths, some not Mesoamerican. I also take responsibility for placing a village where once there was a great city and for extensive creative anachronism. I have been told that transliteration is part art and part science (as, I believe, is poetry). It seems logical this would be even more the case when the original Mayan text is hieroglyphic, and there are 29 separate languages in the family. For the purposes of this book, I have used K’iche’ as transliterated by Dr. Allen Christenson at Brigham Young University and have been honored to work with him to ensure the accuracy of my Mayan word choice. I have also used minimal Spanish consistent with modern usage, reviewed by Ramon Villarreal Garza. The most important (perhaps obvious) language distinction is that the grammar of hieroglyphs is not parallel to English usage. The translation provided may be adjusted slightly accordingly, such as the syntactic movement of a word, the addition of an article, or a change in verb tense, but I have been as true to the actual wording as possible. Any errors are entirely my own. Transliteration sourced from: Christenson, Allen J. K’iche’ - English Dictionary and Guide to Pronunciation of the K’iche’Maya Alphabet. Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies, 2003. Web. Accessed 14 Dec. 2011. < > Christenson, Allen J. (trans.) Popol Vuh: The Sacred Book of the Quiche Maya. Mesoweb Publications, n.d. Web. Accessed 10 Sept. 2011 <>

Page 12

Saqil pa Q’equ’mal: Light in Darkness

About the Author Mari Christie is a professional writer, editor, and graphic designer in Denver, Colorado, whose creative work includes three mainstream historical fiction novels, one Regency romance, and innumerable poems. In the early 90s, she was responsible for the first weekly poetry slams in Denver and Charleston, South Carolina, and held positions at a wide variety of local and regional newspapers and magazines, including The Denver Post, Focus on Denver, Charleston’s Free Time, and New ReView Magazine. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Writing, summa cum laude and With Distinction, from the University of Colorado Denver. She has acted as an advocate for poetry and creative expression her entire adult life, but this is her first full-length book of poetry.

Page 13

Saqil pa Q'equ'mal: Light in Darkness: Poetry of the Mayan Underworld  

The Mayan myths of the Popol Vuh are at once sensual and ruthless, none more so than the trials of Xibalba. In the oral and written traditio...

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you