Overview: Chac, God of Rain and Lightning in Mayan Religion

Chac Mask (Rain God), The Palace, Labna, Mayan Ruins
Richard Maschmeyer/Design Pics/Creative RF/Getty Images

Name and Etymology:

Ah Tzenul, "He Who Gives Food to Others"
Ah Hoya, "He Who Urinates"
Hopop Caan, "He who Lights the Sky"

Religion and Culture of Chac:

Maya, Mesoamerica

Symbols, Iconography, and Art of Chac:

Classical depictions of Chac show him with cat-like whiskers, a reptilian snout, and he's often fishing. Postclassical depictions show Chac less reptilian and more human. When more reptilian, Chac has fangs; when more human, Chac may appear toothless. Like some other Mayan gods, Chac could also be represented as four gods, the chacs — one for each cardinal direction. Chac usually holds a serpentine axe to represent lightning and thunder and tears coming from his eyes

Chac is God of:


Equivalents in Other Cultures:

Tlaloc, god of rain in Aztec religion
Cocijo, Zapotec rain god
Dzahui, Totonac rain god
Chupithiripeme, Tarascan rain god

Story and Origin of Chac:

Mayan legends say that Chac broke open a great rock and drew out of it maize, the staple crop of all Mesoamerican civilizations. This myth about Chac can be seen in scenes drawn more then 1000 years ago. Chac is believed to be oldest continually worshipped god in Mesoamerica — there is evidence of worship of Chac down to this day with Christian Maya farmers making prayers to Chac during times of drought.

Family Tree and Relationships of Chac:

Chac Xib Chaac was the Red Chaac of the East
Sac Xib Chaac was White North Chaac
Ek Xib Chaac was Black West Chaac
Kan Xib Chaac was Yellow South Chaac.

Temples, Worship, and Rituals of Chac:

Significant cult activity associated with Chac was located at the major religious center Chichen Itza. Once human sacrifice became a major component of Chac worship, the four priests responsible for holding the limbs of the sacrificial victims were themselves called chacs, like the gods. Sometimes, Chac evidently ordered victims to be tied up and thrown down a sacred well.