The Milky Way

The Milky Way itself was much venerated by the Maya. They called it the World Tree, which was represented by a tall and majestic flowering tree, the Ceiba. The Milky Way was also called the Wakah Chan. Wak means "Six" or "Erect". Chan or K'an means "Four", "Serpent" or "Sky". The World Tree was erect when Sagittarius was well over the horizon. At this time the Milky Way rose up from the horizon and climbed overhead into the North. The star clouds that form the Milky Way were seen as the tree of life where all life came from. Near Sagittarius, the center of our galaxy, where the World Tree meets the Ecliptic was given special attention by the Maya. A major element of the World Tree include the Kawak Monster, a giant head with a kin in its forehead. This monster was also a mountain or witz monster. A sacrificial bowl on its head contains a flint blade representing sacrifice, and the Kimi glyph that represents death. The Ecliptic is sometimes represented as a bar crossing the major axis of the world tree, making a form that is similar to the Christian Cross. On top of the World Tree we find a bird that has been called, the Principal Bird deity, or Itzam Ye. There is also evidence that shows the Sun on the World Tree as it appeared to the Maya at Winter Solstice.

During the months of winter, when the so-called "Winter" Milky Way dominates the sky, it was called the "White Boned Serpent." This part of the Milky Way passed overhead at night during the dry season. It is not brilliant like the star clouds that dominate the sky North of the equator during the months of Summer, but observers at dark locations will easily see the glow. Here the Ecliptic crosses the Milky Way again, near the constellation of Gemini which was the approximate location of the Sun during Summer Solstice. It is possible that the jaws of the White-Boned Serpent were represented by the Kawak monster head.


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Updated: July 22 2005