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The Mayan legend of Tsukan: protector of the cenotes – Xcaret Blog


Eternal watchman of the water cycle

The Mayan Tale of Tsukan

One of the main attractions of the Yucatan Peninsula are the cenotes, deep natural wells fed by rainwater filtration and river currents. Its majesty marvels at visitors from all over the world, who take the opportunity to learn about the importance of these underground caves in the worldview of Mayan civilization.

To know its history, we go back about 66 million years … the cenotes will form with the impact of the great meteorite in Chicxulub, Yucatan (it was more than 10 kilometers in diameter). As it fell, it created deep underground depressions that flooded, forever changing the flow of water, especially under the ground.

Also read: How was the Yucatan Peninsula formed?

These wells owe their name to the Maya, who baptized them with the word Dz’onot, which means “cavern with water” and hence its current name: cenotes.

There are between 7,000 and 8,000 cenotes on the Yucatan Peninsula. These are divided into four types according to their age: cavern (the youngest), semi-open, open and old (the oldest).

Cenotes have always been surrounded by a certain mysticism. The Maya had a strong connection with them as their main source of water was the entrance to Xibalba, the underworld. For this reason, they were venues for rituals, sacrifices and ceremonial offerings to please the gods. Although we visit them today for fun, we must keep in mind that they are sacred places.

In Mayan culture it was a tradition to ask permission from the aluxes, guardians of the jungle, before entering a cenote. Although these little ones are mythological, they act as the main protectors of these bodies of groundwater, the Mayan law of Tsukán suggests that they are not the only …

Before entering into this legend, we will talk about a very important social and religious symbol for the Maya, the serpent. Mythology can describe languages ​​as the vehicles by which the sun and stars cross the skies. The detachment of his game became a symbol of rebirth and renewal.

Now, yes, we’ve talked about the Mayan legend of Tsukan …

Thousands of years ago, the Mayan empire was going through an intense drought, desperately begging for help from Chaac, lord of the rain, who mounted his winged beast set himself the task of remembering all the cenotes to get water, however, they were all . dry.


Tired, the god sat in what was once a huge trunk until it was moved. In fact, it was a gigantic mane snake called Tsukan (from the Mayan “tsuk”: horse, and “kaan”: snake), which quickly got up and in one bite devoured its winged beast. Chaac mounted the vibra to whip her with his whip and told her that because he had eaten his animal, it was now going to be his property.

Enraged, Tsukán asked her who she was, to which Chaac replied that he was the god of rain and that he was going to ride it to collect water from the sea, because he believed that the snake had drunk it all. This provoked more the wrath of the ophidian, who twisted violently, on the sides of his body sprang a pair of wings and immediately flew against his will.


Leaving the ocean, Chaac filled many recipients with water, while Tsukan marveled at the beauty of the sea, for it was the first time I had seen it. I told God I didn’t want to go home, I wanted to stay there so I could go wherever I wanted. Chaac ordered him to fulfill his new obligation, to supply water to the Mayan empire, and promised him that as he grew older he would allow him to live there.

Back at the cenotes, Tsukan pulled Chaac off his back, whipping him angrily, causing lightning to fall on her, turning her into thousands of drops of water that spread across the land. This caused the cenotes to fill up. At the bottom of a grotto were several drops that resurrected the winged serpent, who, defying the god of rain, fell under the curse of being the eternal protector of the water cycle of the caves, cenotes and rivers of the Yucatan Peninsula.


And that’s how the Mayan legend of Tsukan. Like all laws, in passing from generation to generation they may undergo some changes; the most important thing is that today, the villagers, with deep respect, follow to the letter everything that has been taught to them. That is why they, when entering any cenote, ask permission from the aluxes and with deep devotion take care of the place. With this they have the certainty or hope of not meeting Tsukán.

You may also be interested in: 10 mythological creatures from Mexico

And what do you think, do you think the colossal Tsukan really exists?



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