Book Review – Latin America: Maya Gods & Monsters: Supernatural Stories from the Underworld and Beyond

Maya Gods & Monsters: Supernatural Stories from the Underworld and Beyond
By Carol Karasik
Illustrated by Alfonso Huerta García

Reviewed by Mark D. Walker

Lidar image technology and a series of National Geographic specials have introduced a growing number of people to the ancient Maya civilization. This book invites in even more readers into the worldview and the mystical realm that reflect the heart of the Maya people. Through captivating stories and exotic illustrations, it also draws upon ancient myths and lore and gives life to their quirky gods.

Michael Coe, respected anthropologists, and author says of Maya Gods & Monsters: Supernatural Stories from the Underworld and Beyond, “Inspired by myths, stories, and images from over two thousand years of Maya civilization and religious beliefs, Carol Karasik has given a highly readable and lively vision of the supernatural world of these remarkable people.”

Karasik provides insight as to why the Maya have so many ceremonies to communicate with the underworld. “These stories have many versions. All these gods have many faces. Maya gods and goddesses live in a private world. They seldom interfere in the great and small affairs of humanity. They created human beings who would praise them — this is all. When not summoned through offerings and prayers, they keep to themselves …”

One of the symbols of the Maya is the story about The Water Lily Jaguar. “Water Lily Jaguar swims in the silver rivers of the rainforest. Water Lily Jaguar swims in the silver pool of the moon…” This story is just one of fifteen that blend the natural and the supernatural within the world of the Maya.

The book also includes a brief history of the Maya, a map of Mesoamerica, a glossary and a revealing piece titled “The Story of the Book,” which explains the importance of the “Popol Vuh,” often called the Maya Bible. The author explains, “Mainly because the Hero Twins’ selflessness and sacrifice offer moral lessons by which to live. The defeat of death is the theme of all religions. Readers don’t have to believe in many creations to understand the cycle of life, death, and rebirth that is at the heart of the Maya philosophy…”

The dreamy figures depicted by Alfonso Huerta help spur one’s imagination while being true to the colorful characters from the mythical Mesoamerican tradition. Huerta is a native of Mazatlan, Sinaloa, Mexico and provides a unique artistic perspective, which blends an awareness of the beauty of everyday objects with surrealism and lush tropical colors.

Author Carol Karasik weaves together wise retellings of ancient stories based on the latest explorations of hieroglyphic texts and iconography, along with a profound understanding of the oral and written literary tradition of the Maya.

She has published a variety of books on Maya culture such as the award-winning “Mayan Threads: A Woven History of Chiapas.” The author is a poet, writer, and editor who has worked on books and films in the fields of anthropology, art, ecology, and educational philosophy.

She lives in Chiapas, Mexico. Ms. Karasik continues to introduce audiences to the cosmic vision of the ancient and modern Maya.

Maya Gods & Monsters: Supernatural Stories from the Underworld and Beyond

About the Author – Mark D. Walker (
Mark’s passion for Guatemala started as a Peace Corps volunteer, followed by a career working for eight international organizations including MAP International, Make-A-Wish International, and as the CEO of Hagar, which works with survivors of human trafficking.

According to Midwest Review, his book, “Different Latitudes: My Life in the Peace Corps and Beyond,” is a story of one man’s physical and spiritual journey of self-discovery through Latin American, African, European and Asian topography, cuisine, politics, and history.

His most recent article, My Life in the Land of the Eternal Spring, takes place on a coffee plantation in Guatemala and was published by Wising Up Press as part of the Crossing Class: The Invisible Wall anthology.

Mark is a board member of Partnering for Peace and Advance Guatemala and was the recipient of the Service-Above Self Award from Rotary International. His wife and three children were born in Guatemala.

Different Latitudes: My Life in the Peace Corps and Beyond can be ordered at

My Life in the Land of the Eternal Spring

The Making of In the Kingdom of Mescal: An Indian Fairy-Tale for Adults

Posted in All, Book Reviews: Latin America.