Woden’s Day Wisdom: Hero Twins, Original Ballers

Long before we began to worship athletes on TV, long before the invention of basketball – heck, before man walked on the Earth – the first ballplayers were winning games and signing autographs.

They were playing…

As with other Mesoamerican heroes, the Hero Twins Hunahpu and Xbalanque deserve their own schlocky TV series or embarrassingly cheesy movie, but until they are recognized for the action heroes they are, Monomythic is here to sing their praises.

Their game was the first to be played with a rubber ball. Called ollama, pok-ta-pok or a dozen other names, this ancient tradition goes back from before the modern age of man, according to the Central American creation myth.

The first great stars were One Hunahpu and Seven Hunahpu, meeting all challengers and besting them all – but like modern athletes, they partied to hard and got in trouble with the man.

The Lords of Xibalba, the dark gods of the Underworld, were tired of hearing the constant noise of the games (and after parties) and invited the pair down for a friendly game – and promptly cut the ballers to pieces.

Not willing to let the game go unplayed and their good names remain besmirched, the Hunahpu brothers used the tree they were buried under to call out a virgin. Young Blood Moon, daughter of another god, heard their call and was surprised when the tree spit on her hand. Nine months later, she had two sons: Hunahpu and Xbalanque.

The two boys had a blast creating the modern world (getting rid of long deer tails and causing mouse eyes to bulge out, among other things), and even made time to embarrass their older half-brothers
One Artisan and One Monkey
and kill giant monsters, but their real fun began when they found their first rubber ball.

As soon as they bounced it however, the Lords of Hell knew they would have to deal with them before ballgames became a problem again.

Invited to Xibalba, the Hero Twins decided they would not fail as their fathers had. They used a mosquito to learn proper god-greeting etiquette and bested the gods challenges: smoke a cigar without letting it burn (they stuck fireflies in it) and burned a fire without hurting the kindling (they stuck fiery red feathers in it). The frustrated gods agreed to play the ballgame, but they stole Hunahpu’s head while he slept.

Rather than forfeit the game, Xblanque replaced his brother’s head with a fruit and convinced the Death Gods he was healthy enough to play. During the game, Xblanque was shocked to find the “ball” was his brother’s head, so he stole it back with a little slight-of-hand and put it back on his brother’s body in time for them to finish the game.

Unwilling to lose, the gods planned to murder the boys, and the boys knew it too. They let themselves die, but they knew their ashes would be thrown in the river and eaten by fish. Once inside the fish, the boys took over and swam to shore, transforming into the Hero Twins once again.

They knew whatever they did, the gods would keep cheating, so the Hero Twins tried a new tactic. Dressed as entertainers, they performed magic tricks for the people of hell, even killing animals and audience members just to bring them back to life again.

The Lords of Death, being jealous gods, wanted to be part of the show to, so they demanded to be let on stage. Not ones to disappoint, the disguised boys let them in on the act and killed the gods one by one. When it was time to resurrect them though, they decided to pass. The Underworld gods were dead and the Hero Twins could release those trapped in Xibalba. Among those lost souls were their own fathers, who would be reborn in the sky as constellations and worshiped as gods themselves.

As for the Hero Twins, they became the world’s first sports stars, and they are ready to be famous again. Why not start in the classroom?

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