Hormiguero, Str. II

Hormiguero, Structure II [Photo by Jeff Purcell: January 5, 2003]

"Upon gazing at these gigantic menacing jaws we can recall one of the invocations of Itzamná as Hapaycán: "the serpent that imbibes or swallows." And if, to our Western eyes, this recalls some Dantean vision of hell, it must have been for the Mayas of the time a poetic and stimulating sign of life and hope. George Kubler speaks of the possible "descent of the celestial monster into the interior of the temple, bringing with it benefits from the beyond...

Covering the whole width of the upper frieze, the immense frontal mask of Itzamná unfolds its complicated figures that twist in helices, and there are remnants (above the eyebrows) of what seem to have been two undulating serpent bodies...

Finally, the composition is complemented in its lower extremities by a vertical line of plain profile masks, apparently assoicated with the worship of Chac, the god of rain, a cult widely diffused in peninsular iconography as we shall see later. Thus, under this monstrous appearance, which goes far beyond the merely three-dimensional -- the earthly -- to reach a sphere of mythical surrealism, the multiple facets of the creator deity unfold simultaneously before our eyes, with its powerful collection of symbols both celestial and terrestrial -- stars, rain, new vegetation, life and death -- which fuse here in an especially subduing apparition."

Paul Gendrop, Rio Bec, Chenes, And Puuc Styles in Maya Architecture, p. 72