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In this cycle of myths, the maize god descended into the watery underworld prior to the creation of the earth where he confronted the lords of death who sacrificed him. With the aid of his two sons, the maize god was able to rise to new life through the cracked carapace of a great turtle, representative of the earth floating on the surface of the primordial sea. Having emerged from the underworld, the maize god traveled by canoe to the center of the sky where he oversaw the setting of three great stones in the constellation of Orion (Freidel et al. 1993:80-85). This was the great hearth of the universe where new fire was first kindled, quickening the cosmos and allowing life to emerge.

Classic Maya cylinder vase depicting the Maize God in a canoe. (Rollout photo by Justin Kerr of MS 0740. Copyright Justin Kerr.)