K’AWIIL, LIGHTNING GOD. Rollout view of vessel with snake-lady scene. Guatemala or Mexico, 650-800. Click image to enlarge.
Where there is a thunder and rain god, there is also K’awiil, the lightning lord of the skies. He is easily identified by a flame or smoke element emerging from his forehead, and especially the shape of a large snake grown out of one of his legs. The electric K’awiil strikes quickly, a serpent who affects human lives, like Mayan kings – those aggressive royal mortals who often used a sculpted image of K’awiil as a scepter, a symbol of their intimate connection with the gods. K’awiil’s electric powers are also linked to survival through fertility and abundance. This storytelling ceramic vessel depicts the seduction of a beautiful goddess ensnared by K’awiil’s serpent leg. From the snake’s huge mouth (far right) an old god emerges, reaching for the young woman. The hieroglyphic text refers to the birth of a god, the likely result of this forced encounter.