castillo at the tulum ruins with the descending god

The Descending God

While the Ancient Maya had many gods to whom they worshipped, there is one very special to Tulum. The Descending God was an important deity to the Ancient Mayans. This figure is all over the ruins of Tulum, the city which was an important trade hub for the Maya. The Descending (or Diving) God, as we can only call him, is the depiction of a man hanging downward, head-first to the ground, with his arms outstretched. His legs are above him, his feet tensed as if hanging just enough but refusing to fall.

The Descending God at Tulum ruins

The Descending God on his temple in the Tulum ruins.

The Descending God of what?

So what does he represent? Unfortunately, given the efficient and complete conquest of the Spanish, we cannot be sure, but there are several theories. One is that he is the God of rain or lightning, coming down from the heavens as an important part of agriculture and the seasons. Another idea is that he may represent Venus. This planet the Maya associated with birth and renewal (due the fact that Venus is spotted at sunrise and sunset). The nature of the orientation of the Temple at Tulum and its architecture facing the sun supports this. The fact that its inhabitants originally called the city Zama, or dawn, does as well. 


Another surprising suggestion is the idea that the Descending God is the God of Bees “Ah Muu Zen Caab”. Bees played a critical role in the trade of Tulum, and their products were a major export for the area. These bees were stingless bees, and the gathering of honey was part of a religious experience for priests only. Apart from delicious honey, bees were important for several day-to-day items such as candles, wax, seals, and casts for metal items. The idea that the bee comes from the sky down to earth fits into the Descending God’s downward nature.

No matter precisely his meaning, the Descending God is an important and unique part of Tulum culture. Come visit Tulum, feel the magic of these ancient ruins, and witness history alive! And check out BRM Rentals for a great vacation rental to stay in!

Discover more about the ceremonial Mayan drink Balché or the Equinox in Tulum.