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Story by Brandon L. Parsons (2015)
Ah Puch, the God of Death and Disease...
Few cultures were as terrified by the concept of death than the ancient Mayans; even the Aztecs weren't as deathly afraid of what would happen to them when they kicked the bucket. And there's a reason for their fear, as they knew that there was one deity that they'd probably have to face up to at the end of their days if they weren't careful; AH PUCH (ah-pook), the Mayan god of Death, Disaster and Darkness. He is also well known as one of the masters of Xibalba (Shee-ball-ba), the underworld of the Mayan pantheon...and not just any part of it, but the very lowest and most horrific of all of Xibalba's nine levels, Mitnal. The
Ladies and Gentlemen! Please welcome, the "Flatulent One!!!"
place you went if you were less than a decent human being, to be tortured, slaughtered and dismembered, over and over again for eternity. Ah Puch was the mastermind of it all and kept the place running like clockwork...and he always had plenty of manpower to keep the wheels of darkness turning there. To make things worse, Ah Puch was often known as "The Flatulent One," which basically means that he has a terminal gas problem (think of dead things, garbage and raw sewage and it might come close to the stench he'd put out) , just making him even more unappealing.
Ah Puch was usually either shown as a scrawny skeletal figure that had protruding ribs and a death's-head skull or was shown as a large, bloated-with-death-gasses figure that suggested a repulsive state of decay and decomposition. As owls and dogs were often associated with all things deathly in Mayan culture, Ah Puch was also usually shown with one or both. In fact, his clothing was usually shown as being a cape made of flayed human skin, stitched to a hood that was made from the head of an owl. He would hang the eyes of the recently dead from his head-gear to finish off the look and also wear strangely musical bells tied into his hair. Charming guy!
Lovely, scenic Mitnal, the 9th level of Xibalba...
According to the legends, Ah Puch was seen as a disturbing hunting figure that relentlessly stalked the houses of people who were seriously injured or deathly ill, knowing that their time was almost up and that he could soon collect their souls to torture them as he saw fit. When Mayans died, their surviving friends and family would often take part in some serious, intense and extremely loud mourning when their loved ones passed on. And there was a perfectly good reason for that; it was believed that the loud wailing would scare Ah Puch away and prevent him from taking anybody else down to Mitnal with him.
Although widely thought to be ruthless and cunning, Ah Puch and the other Mayan gods of death could be outwitted and defeated. The Mayan Hero Twins, Hunahpu amd Xbalanque were two such people that wiped the floor with the Lords of Xibalba, Ah Puch included. As a mortal on earth, though, there was only one way to escape Ah Puch: Put on your best act, screech, scream, moan and howl, because If you managed to sound utterly convincing, it could be he'd assume you were already being tortured by a few of his lesser demons. With a rusty chuckle, he might then stop outside your door to sigh with pleasure and then and pass by with a grim, dark smile, leaving you safe for awhile longer.
On the job with Ah Puch and company...
Ah Puch was seen as the anti-fertility god and was in a constant fight with the gods of the light side of things in the Mayan pantheon. Death, corruption, darkness, disease and all things evil tended to be his department. He owned a mangy pet owl called Muan, an evil bird of bad and nasty tidings, which he used as a messenger and spy. To this day the legend in parts of Mesoamerica persists that when an owl screeches out in the darkness, someone nearby is about to die and get a visit from Ah Puch...
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