Hunab Ku – History and Symbolic Meaning

Affiliate Disclosures

The Hunab Ku is believed to be an ancient Mayan symbol, but today there’s some controversy surrounding this symbol and its meaning. It’s a highly popular symbol in Latin American and Chicano communities.

Meaning of the Term ‘Hunab Ku’

Hunab ku is believed to be a Mayan deity. The term hunab ku means the Sole God or the One God. However, although it’s considered an ancient Mayan symbol, many scholars don’t accept this view today.

Hunab ku became popular during colonial times and features in colonial and doctrinal texts. The concept of hunab ku, i.e. a single omnipotent god, appears to have existed before the arrival of the Spanish, but it’s rarely mentioned and doesn’t show up in Mayan hieroglyphics. In any case, if hunab ku existed in the Mayan culture before the Spanish arrived, it appears that the Christian missionaries may have simply adopted the concept to suit their evangelizing efforts.  

Some scholars suggest that hunab ku was a deity created by the Spanish to assist them in their missionary efforts in South America.  If so, hunab ku could be the Christian God, with a name that the locals could understand – a linguistic invention, that would help to convert Yucatec speakers to Christianity.

What is the Hunab Ku Symbol?

The symbol of the hunab ku appears to be an Aztec design, not a Mayan one. It appears in Aztec documents and was used by the Aztecs as a ritual cloak. In its original form, the hunab ku is a rectangular design but was modified later by Jose Arguelles, a New Age guru, who changed the colors and the shape. The modified symbol bears a resemblance to the Chinese yin yang symbol, which is also circular and depicts a black and white inverted pattern. 

The hunab ku symbol can be said to represent the following concepts:

  • It symbolizes the duality in all things. For every object, there exists its opposite – male and female, dark and light, internal and external, good and bad, up and down and so on. The hunab ku is sometimes viewed as the bridge that connects the duality of things.
  • Balance and harmony. The symbol represents a bridging of opposites and as such, symbolizes balance and harmony.

Hunab Ku Today

The hunab ku is highly popular as a design for jewelry, especially in pendants, charms and earrings. It’s also a popular tattoo design, specially among Chicano communities. The hunab ku can be found on artwork, murals, clothing and carpets.

In Brief

Evidence suggests that the hunab ku is neither an ancient nor a traditional symbol of the Mayans. Its exact origins may always be shrouded in mystery, but the symbol continues to be popular for its beautiful and meaningful design. Today, it’s used less as a religious symbol and more as a fashionable symbol.