City Of Xibalba Picture

Ever heard of the Popul Vuh? It's essentially the equivalent of the Bible for the Maya. When the Spanish were eradicating the native religions of Mesoamerica, several Mayan priests actually learnt Latin, wrote down their creation account, and shoved it in a Spanish monastery. A hundred years later, a monk discovered it and realised that destroying all the myths might not be the best move, and started collecting what he could find.

Basically, in the time before the world has been properly formed, two brothers annoy the Lords of Death in Xibalba, and are invited to join them for a ballgame. In reality, it's just a trick to humiliate and then kill them, and the two end up getting chopped to pieces. However, the head of the elder brother is placed in a tree and it survives, and later impregnates the daughter of one of the Lords (he asks her before doing so) by spitting at her. She flees her father when he tries to have her killed and she moves in with the family of the dead brothers. Her kids (The Hero Twins) end up being your traditional trickster demi-gods, and after turning their asshole brothers (from before their father and his brother got killed) into monkeys and defeating a demon called Seven Macaw and his kids, who are trying to take over from the Gods (Seven Macaw's covered in gems and is pretending to be the sun so people will worship him, and his two kids are busy making and smashing down mountains to prove their own might), they get invited by the Lords of Death to the same sort of ballgame as the last one...however, they're better prepared than their father and his brother, and they not only avoid all attempts at humiliation by the Lords of Death, but they survive each of the deadly "Houses" they are then sent to spend the night in. They do stuff up in the last one, but then they make up for it by defeating the Lords of Death in their own Ballgame. They then spend some time harrassing the Lords of Death before letting themselves be beaten so that they can resurrect themselves and defeat the Lords of Death once and for all (it's an odd story).

Anyway, I came up with the idea that it could potentially make a great animated film, so I wrote up a concept for the film...and changed some parts of the story to either appeal to the audience or improve the story (cause there are so many deus ex machinas in the original story!). For instance, in this version, Seven Macaw is a monstrous bird-dragon creature sent to kill the mother of the Hero Twins as she flees from Xibalba. She's saved by a Xibalban messenger called Chabi (he's in the original myth, but not for long), who then accompanies her to the surface and then serves as a sort of tutor/guardian after the Hero Twins start discovering their special "demi-god" abilities. Seven Macaw still follows her, and reaches the surface as well, and at that point decides to simply lord it over the humans who are living there. There's lots more, but most notable is the changed the original myth, the Hero Twins pose as beggars before the Lords of Death and perform a trick where they sacrifice each other and return to life. The two lead Lords (evidently not the smartest out of the lot) promptly ask for them to do the trick on them, and end up dead as a result. In this version they create a wall of flame that appears to transform one of the Twins from an old beggar into a youth, and use this to incinerate one of the Lords. The other then pursues them, and ends up falling to his death (in true Disney Villain fashion) off the side off the Palace Temple...straight into a lake full of vicious and gigantic Vision Serpents.

So while writing this immense document - perhaps I should stick it online? - I ended up doodling a basic concept for what Xibalba could look like, and I thought it'd be cool if the whole city was shaped like a skull from above. So I traced over a picture of a real skull that I found online and this was the result!

Some clarification is probably in order. The coloured roads are a part of the original myth, but it doesn't say where any of them led except the Black Road, so I took a guess here. The Blood river's one of three rivers that get crossed in the original myth (the others are made of Pus and Thistles), but I figured one would do. The Vision Serpent Lakes...well, a Vision Serpent was something in Mayan Mythology that allowed you to speak with the dead or something; they got worked in during one draft to make the palace look more imposing, and also so that I could kill off "Seven Death" in a better way than just being sacrificed. The squares before the palace...they're supposed to be lots of freestanding pillars on a stone plain...again, they're just there for the that the Hero Twins could get lost in them and eventually find the road again when encountering a group of cursed spirits going to try and appeal with the Lords (which won't end well).

Continue Reading: The Myths