Every Equinox, thousands gather to watch the shadow of a feathered serpent god slither down a pyramid.
During the Spring equinox, tourists and locals pack in around the pyramid of Kukulcan to recreate thousand-year-old parties.
Skipping the whole cutting out hearts part, they watch the “descent of Kukulcan.”
His other awesome names include the Vision Serpent and the War Serpent.
Who was Kukulkan?
The modern Yucatec Maya still tell Kukulkan stories.
In one tale, he is a boy who was born as a snake. As he grew older it became obvious that he was the plumed serpent and his sister hid him in a cave.
He grew so huge that his sister was unable to continue feeding him, so he flew out of his cave and into the sea, causing an earthquake. To let his sister know that he is still alive, Kukulkan causes earth tremors every year in July!
A modern collection of Yucatán folklore tells how Kukulkan was a winged serpent that flew to the sun and tried to speak to it but the sun burnt his tongue.
Among the Lacandon Maya of Chiapas, Kukulkan is an evil, monstrous snake that also happens to be the pet of the sun god.
Ancient Light Show
When the day and night are in balance, legend says that this pyramid dedicated to Kukulcan is visited by its namesake.
Kukulcan returns to earth to commune with his worshipers and bestow blessings before entering the sacred water and returning to the underworld.
The pyramid was built to be a physical representation of the Mayan Calendar – the same calendar that predicts the end of the world in 2012.
It also may have been designed to produce specific sound effects.
Clapping at the base of the pyramid produces a chirping echo that resembles the sound of the sacred Quetzl bird. Near the steps, a clap creates an echo that sounds like the hiss of a sacred rattlesnake.
Mayan priests may have faced a crowd at Kukulcan and clapped. The pyramid would then “answer” in the voice of the quetzal, a messenger of the Gods.
Meanwhile, brilliant architecture combined with the rotation of the Earth creates an amazing and spooky image of a giant snake crawling down the temple.
The staircases of the pyramid at Chich’en Itza are designed to look like an enormous snake of sunlight slithers down the stairs on the day of the equinox.
For five hours a looming shadow that looks like a 120-foot snake starts at the top and inches its way down until it joins the massive serpent head at the bottom of the stairway.
This phenomenon is recreated nightly (artificially) during the Light and Sounds Show at 7 pm in the winter and 8 pm in the summer.
Siobhan O’Shea is a freelance writer. She writes about pretty much everything but especially likes to bring readers’ attention to new tech, marketing, human behavior, and other oddities.