Skip to main content
Select Source:

Itzamná

Itzamná

Itzamná was one of the most important deities of Mayan mythology. The ruler of the heavens and of day and night, he was often shown in Mayan art as a pleasant, toothless old man with a large nose. He was also identified as the son of the creator god Hunab Ku.

In various myths, Itzamná appears as a culture hero who gave the Maya the foundations of civilization. According to legend, he taught them to grow corn, to write, to use calendars, and to practice medicine. He also introduced a system for dividing up the land, and he established rituals for religious worship.

deity god or goddess

culture hero mythical figure who gives people the tools of civilization, such as language and fire

ritual ceremony that follows a set pattern

Itzamná is sometimes linked with the sun god Kinich Ahau and the moon goddess Ixchel. The goddess may have been Itzamná's wife or a female form of his deity. Like Itzamná, she gave people many useful skills, such as weaving. However, Ixchel had a destructive nature and could cause floods and other violent events, while Itzamná was always kind and protective toward humans.

See also Mayan Mythology.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Itzamná." Myths and Legends of the World. . Encyclopedia.com. 11 Nov. 2018 <https://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Itzamná." Myths and Legends of the World. . Encyclopedia.com. (November 11, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/itzamna

"Itzamná." Myths and Legends of the World. . Retrieved November 11, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/itzamna

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Itzamna

Itzamna (ētsäm´nä), chief deity of the Maya. Son of Hunab Ku, the creator, he was believed to be lord of the heavens, day, and night. Thought by the Maya to have been the inventor of writing and books, Itzamna was, by extension, creator of the calendar and chronology. He was a benevolent deity.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Itzamna." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 11 Nov. 2018 <https://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Itzamna." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (November 11, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/itzamna

"Itzamna." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved November 11, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/itzamna

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Itzamná

Itzamná

Nationality/Culture

Mayan

Pronunciation

eet-SAHM-nah

Alternate Names

None

Appears In

Mayan creation myths

Lineage

Son of Hunab Ku

Character Overview

Itzamná was one of the most important gods of Mayan mythology. The ruler of the heavens and of day and night, he was often shown in Mayan art as a pleasant, toothless old man with a large nose. He was also identified as the son of the creator god Hunab Ku (pronounced hoo-NAHB-koo).

Itzamná is sometimes linked with the sun god Kinich Ahau (pronounced kee-nich AH-wah) and the moon goddess Ixchel (pronounced eesh-CHEL). The goddess may have been Itzamnás wife or a female form of his deity. Like Itzamná, she gave people many useful skills, such as weaving. However, Ixchel had a destructive nature and could cause floods and other violent events, while Itzamná was always kind and protective toward humans.

Major Myths

In various myths, Itzamná appears as a culture hero who gave the Maya the foundations of civilization. According to legend, he taught them to grow corn, to write, to use calendars, and to practice medicine. He also introduced a system for dividing up the land, and he established rituals for religious worship.

Itzamná in Context

According to legend, one of Itzamná's greatest teachings to the Maya people was how to create calendars. The Maya used several different calendars, including a basic 260-day calendar, a 365-day calendar similar to the Gregorian calendar popular in the world today, and even a calendar that combined both into an enormous 52-year cycle. The Maya used calendars to determine the ideal days for performing all important actions, from the agricultural to the religious. The most significant cultural documents produced by the Maya were calendars, which included information on daily practices as well as gods and goddesses.

Key Themes and Symbols

Itzamná represents wisdom and the transfer of knowledge. His wisdom is symbolized by his typical depiction as an old man. Unlike many Mayan gods, Itzamná also represented happiness, illustrated by his toothless smile. One important theme that runs through the tales of Itzamná is creation and invention; the god creates processes and systems that can only be described as logical, methodical, and in some cases, scientific.

Itzamná in Art, Literature, and Everyday Life

Itzamná appears in many of the Mayan documents created during and after the fall of the Mayan civilization, and also appears as a decorative figure on many Mayan structures. At the Maya archeological site of Palenque, for example, Itzamná appears on one of the existing temple platforms. Although not well known outside Mayan mythology, Itzamná remains an important part of Mayan and Mexican culture.

Read, Write, Think, Discuss

The Captive by Scott O'Dell (1979) is a historical novel set during the time of the Maya. The book centers on a young Spanish priest who works to end the enslavement of Central American tribes such as the Maya by Spanish explorers. O'Dell is also the author of the Newbery Medal-winning novel Island of the Blue Dolphins, first published in 1960.

SEE ALSO Mayan Mythology

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Itzamná." U*X*L Encyclopedia of World Mythology. . Encyclopedia.com. 11 Nov. 2018 <https://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Itzamná." U*X*L Encyclopedia of World Mythology. . Encyclopedia.com. (November 11, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/itzamna

"Itzamná." U*X*L Encyclopedia of World Mythology. . Retrieved November 11, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/itzamna

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.