The King Vulture - Chak Pol Ch'oom, also the Maya and vultures
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January 14, 2021

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The King Vulture - Chak Pol Ch'oom, also the Maya and vultures

The King vulture is one of the most common species of birds represented in the Maya codices. The ancient Maya saw the Vultures as important entities in their daily lives. As a symbol of cleanliness and renewal, it's believed this birds could transform death into life. Particularly the King vulture is associated with the Maya funeral traditions, having a celestial character. According to the legend this birds often carries the messages between humans and the Yuumstilo'ob.

Vulture - Ch'oom
Black vulture (Coragyps atratus)- Boox Pool Ch'oom
Turkey vulture(Cathartes Aura Aura)- K'uch
King vulture - Chak Pol Ch'oom

The ancient Maya saw the Vultures as important entities in their daily lives . As a symbol of cleanliness and renewal, it's believed this birds could transform death into life . Particularly the King vulture is associated with the Maya funeral traditions,having a celestial character. According to the legend this birds often carries the messages between humans and the Yuumstilo'ob .

Ch'oom:The Maya legend
The Chom (Vulture) the Maya legend :
Legend has it that in Uxmal, one of the most important cities of El Mayab, lived a king who liked parties very much. One day, it occurred to him to organize a great celebration in his palace to honor the Lord of Life, called Hunab ku, and to thank him for all the gifts he had given to his people.

The king of Uxmal ordered the preparations for the party well in advance. He also invited princes, priests and warriors from the neighboring kingdoms, sure that his celebration would be better than any other and that everyone would envy him later. Thus, he was waiting for his palace to be adorned with the rarest flowers, as well as preparing delicious dishes with venison and turkey from the bush. And he could not miss the balché, an intoxicating liquor that the guests would love.

Finally the day of the party arrived. The king of Uxmal dressed in his most luxurious suit and covered himself with fine jewels; then, he looked out on the terrace of his palace and from there he contemplated with satisfaction his city, which looked more beautiful than ever. Then it occurred to him that this was a good place for the food to be served, since from there all the guests could contemplate his kingdom. The king of Uxmal ordered his servants to bring tables to the terrace and decorate them with flowers and palms. Meanwhile, he went to receive his guests, who wore their best suits for the occasion.

The servants had the tables ready quickly, for they knew that the king was anxious to offer the food to those present. When everything was arranged in the most beautiful way, they left the food alone and entered the palace to call the guests.

That was a big mistake, because they did not realize that some vultures were flying on the terrace of the palace, or chom, as they are called in the Maya language. At the time, these birds had colored plumage and elegant curls on their heads. Also, they were very dirty and when they saw so much food they felt like it. That's why they stayed around the terrace for a while and when they saw that the food was left alone, the chom flew to the terrace and in a few minutes they ate it all.

Just at that moment, the king of Uxmal went out to the terrace with his guests. The monarch turned pale as he watched the birds savor the feast.

Very angry, the king shouted to his archers:

- Kill those birds immediately!

Upon hearing the king's words, the Choms escaped in a hurry; They flew so high that not a single arrow hit them.

- This can not be left like this! shouted the King of Uxmal? The chom must be punished.

Do not worry, majesty; We will soon find a way to collect this offense, "answered one of the priests very seriously, as he picked up some vulture feathers that had fallen to the ground.

The wisest men locked themselves in the temple; After discussing for a while, one of them came up with how to punish them. Then, he took the chom feathers and put them in a bracero to burn them; little by little, the feathers lost their color until they became black and opaque.

Later, one of the priests ground them into a very fine black powder, which he poured into a basin of water. Soon, the water turned into a thick black soup. Once it was ready, the priests left the temple. One of them looked for the servants and said:

- Take food to the terrace of the palace, we need it to attract the vultures.

The order was obeyed immediately and soon there was a table full of dishes and many chom flying around it. As the day of the party everything had gone very well, they did not think twice and went down to the terrace to enjoy another banquet.

But they did not expect that this time the men hid on the terrace; they had barely put their paws on the table, when two priests came out suddenly and threw the black broth over the chom, while they repeated some strange words. One of them raised his voice and said:

"They will not escape the punishment they deserve for offending the King of Uxmal. They stole the food from the Hunab ku party, the Lord who gives us life, and that's why they will never taste such delicious foods again. From today they will be condemned to eat garbage and dead animals, only that will feed them.

Upon hearing those words and feeling their wet feathers, the chom wanted to fly high, hoping that the sun would dry their feathers and end the curse, but they got so close that their rays burned their feathers. head. When the Choms felt the hot head, they descended one by one to the earth; but upon seeing himself, his surprise was very great. Their feathers were no longer colored, but black and dry, because that was how the broth that the priests threw them had turned them. Also, his head was bald. Since then, the chom fly as high as they can, so that others do not see them and make fun of seeing them so changed. They only go down when they are hungry, to look for their food among the garbage, just as the priests said.

Photograph by Belize Yucatec Maya

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