cover image The Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Maya

The Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Maya

Leonard Everett Fisher. Holiday House, $16.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8234-1427-7

Fisher (The Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt) here focuses on the principal figures in ancient Mayan mythology, devoting a spread to each of a dozen gods and goddesses. The profiles are succinct, like encyclopedia entries; the full-page pictures, vibrantly hued, pay homage to Mayan art and glyphs. Combined with the powerful frontal compositions, the choice of a different, bold background color for each spread invigorates the pages. Not all of these figures are benevolent: Ix Tab, the goddess of suicide, ""was usually depicted as a dead woman, hanging from heaven with a rope around her neck""; and in a ritual devoted to Manik, the god of human sacrifice, a warrior ""would be stretched on his back over a stone altar by four priests. Another priest would plunge a knife into his chest and tear out his heart."" The discrete presentation focusing on individual deities may be useful for students writing school reports; readers interested in a more organic or contextual approach to Mayan religion will want to see Victor Montejo and Luis Garay's Popol Vuh (see Notes, below). Ages 10-12. (Dec.)