the death‐god (1996–2004?)
Ah Puk (also spelt Ahpuuc or Ahpuch) was the Maya equivalent of
the Aztec Mictlantecuhtli, ruler of the land of the dead
(Mictlan or Mitnal). He was conventionally represented as
a seated skeleton bearing a sacrificial knife, or by the
skull‐faced hieroglyph of Cimi, the kin (weekday) over
which he presided.
After John's disappearance his machine was
inherited by Nik until it finally
pegged out. Although it was junked years ago, something
that imagines it's the same machine (with little if any overlap
in hardware) still occasionally manifests on the network.
Cabrakán was Zipacná's younger brother, and liked to spend his
time demolishing mountains. Again it was the hero‐twins
who were contracted by the gods to kill him; they fed him a
poisoned meal, tied him up, and buried him.
This machine took over xibalba's duties in the
kitchen, working as the inward‐facing public‐access server
opposite zipacna. Once our visitors were
routinely bringing wireless‐enabled laptops it was no longer
the black captain (2004–2010)
Ek Chuah, easily recognised by his black‐rimmed eye,
intimidating sneer, scorpion tail, and backpack was a god not
only of warriors but also of travellers and
cocoa‐traders – a sort of “deity of foreign
affairs”. His festivals were unusual in not involving
Nik got this (a good PC
considering it was another friend's cast‐off) to replace
ahpuk; another one like it eventually moved out
Hurakán “Heart of the Sky” was a god of the winds and of
lightning (and likely source of our word “hurricane”). He
was one of the deities who designed humankind; unsatisfied with
the first few versions, he sent catastrophes and plagues of
monsters to wipe out these flawed races.
My own desktop machine, which replaced kukulcan
on the network. The reason the name struck me as
appropriate is that besides being a big enough windbag to have
become a household name, the god Hurakán was also something of a
perfectionist when it came to world‐design.
the flood‐goddess (1997–2000)
“Lady Rainbow”, consort of the moon‐god, was a destructive
water‐goddess (shown as a malevolent old woman surrounded by and
clothed in symbols of death) who created storms and cloudbursts
unless appeased with sacrifices, but was also credited with
feminine crafts such as medicine.
The machine of this name on JJM's
network started its life here (as his “spare”), and much of its
hardware never escaped.
goddess of suicides (1996–2000)
Ixtab, portrayed as a putrefying corpse dangling from a noose,
fetched directly to paradise all priests, slain warriors,
sacrificial victims, and women dying in childbirth, as well as
suicides who hung themselves in the socially approved
manner – reportedly a popular escape route from the
troubles of post‐Conquest Maya life.
This was JJM's desktop machine,
and left with him. Why yes, some of my flatmates over the
years have been fairly gothy – how did you guess?
lord of blood (2003–2013)
Kawil (or Cauíl) had an animal snout, a smoking obsidian mirror
in his forehead, and a serpent for a leg; as patron‐god of
ruling dynasties, he was also shown as a sceptre of
authority. He demanded regular blood‐offering rituals in
which spiked cords were passed through the ruler's tongue or
Eden's third machine to bear this
name boasted a 2.4 GHz CPU, though I suppose that's pretty
old hat by now…
the feathered serpent (1997–1999)
Though worshipped as a benevolent deity of air and wind,
symbolised by the quetzal, Kukulcán was also a hero‐figure said
to have arrived from foreign parts bearing the secrets of
civilisation. Kukulcán was otherwise known as Kukulkan,
Gucumatz, or, to the Aztecs, Quetzalcóatl.
Ed's computer was pretty good for
its time, but it went with him when he had to move out.
the ancient one (2005–2009)
Mam (meaning “grandfather”) was a snaggletoothed, cigar‐smoking
god of disaster and earthquakes; he also had power over
jaguars. In modern Guatemalan syncretism he has become a
stetson‐wearing idol named Maximón, and associated with Judas
Iscariot, who sent the Christian God into the Underworld.
Dragal arrived with this
machine, picking the name on the basis that he could spell it;
another machine of the same name left with him.
the ghost (2003+)
The Maya used the word way, pronounced “why”, to mean
one's spirit‐double; rulers predictably claimed that theirs took
the form of a jaguar. The calendar also had five unlucky
“leap days” known by this name and ruled over by malign spirits.
An electrician gave me this antique Compac Contura 386 laptop to
make up for all the downtime. It was still capable of
running Debian Stable, so I just installed nethack and declared
it a games machine! The obvious question is the main
reason for the name… but way is also a ghostly presence out of
the distant past, not physically manifested on the network.
the pole‐star (2003+)
A god of darkness, but in a good way – Xaman Ek
(or Ah Chicum Ek) was the guide and protector of
merchants, demanding no more in return than offerings of incense
on the roadside altars. His monkey‐like face formed the
hieroglyph for “north”.
An understudy machine, assembled from a scrape through the
spare‐parts barrel and shuffled in to replace whatever has
broken most recently (for a while it even stood in for
zipacna). The name was chosen mostly for
the limited sacrifices the machine has required on my part.
the mosquito (2002+)
When they ventured into Xibalbá, Hunapú and Xbalanqué created
Xan from an enchanted hair, and told it “your food shall be the
blood of those whom you bite on the roads”. Xan scouted
ahead and bit the Lords of Xibalbá as they sat on their thrones;
they blamed one another, revealing their secret names.
When my junk parts bin coalesced into a whole expendable testbed
machine, the only bit I had to pay for was the power cable, and
even that ended up trickling down to the kettle
in the kitchen! As well as being fashioned from
cast‐off fragments, xan is the network's pathfinder; and while
initially it had no more power than an insect it turns out to be
equally hard to kill. Oh, and it drinks blood, too, at
least when I'm not careful with my screwdriver.
the place of fear (1997–2007)
The creation myth of the highland Quiché Maya tells of an
underground realm called Xibalbá to which the hero‐twins
Hun‐Hunapú and Vukub‐Hunapú were lured by a challenge to a
ball‐game; they were then grotesquely tricked and slaughtered by
its demonic inhabitants and their two kings Hun‐Camé and
Vukub‐Camé. However, the twins were avenged by
Hun‐Hunapú's sons Hunapú and Xbalanqué, posthumously conceived
on Xquiq, a passing demon princess.
This machine was our original LAN server, running for over a
decade on Debian GNU/Linux with just a couple of minor
interruptions for hard‐drive implosions. For a long time
its 500 MHz processor was the most powerful on the network,
but its position was eventually taken by
zipacna and cabrakan.
lord of the harvest (2004–2005)
Yum Caax was the god of agriculture, of young married couples,
and of bountiful harvests; his statues showed him with a head
elongated like an ear of maize. Being a Maya deity, he
naturally combined this with an insatiable thirst for sacrifice,
but he didn't want deaths – just blood.
Tef's PC, which was full of
media‐playing goodness but had constant overheating problems.
Zipacná was a giant crocodile, one of a family of murderous
titans whose boasting offended the gods. He was slain by
Hunapú and Xbalanqué, who cunningly distracted him with a lure
in the form of a crab and then dropped a mountain on him.
A noisy dinosaur that we got fourth‐hand (oddly, the guy who put
the stocktaking tags on it when it was first‐hand was me).
Its dual‐Xeon CPUs made it a suitable replacement for
xibalba as outward‐facing gateway server while
our network still needed one.
the bat‐demon (1997)
Zotz, also known as Camazotz or Zotzilaha Chimalman, was the god
of darkness and caves, and tutelary deity of the Tzotzil Maya,
as well as having a month (or uinal) named after
him. Although Zotz decapitated the young hero Hunapú, his
victim was reanimated with the aid of a tortoise.
This was Graham's, and
accompanied him when he went off to Cambridge. I should
emphasise once again that its icon is not a caricature of
Take our accounts with a pinch of salt – in
particular, all these losing‐Scrabble‐hand names vary from
source to source. Pronounce the vowels as if they were
Spanish (“ah, eh, ee, oh, oo”), stressing the end syllable
(QUICHE = “kee‐CHAY”); but X means “sh”, so it's
XIBALBA = “shi‐bahl‐BAH”. Not that these
Hispanicised spellings are very accurate… Indeed, apart
from what we get from the Popol Vuh, little is known about the
religious beliefs of the Classic Maya – their
inscriptions are still incompletely deciphered, and few legends
survived the purges of the Conquistadors. Nonetheless, it
seems clear that the Maya ruling dynasty was itself referred to
at one stage as the “Empire of Xibalbá”.
From the day John set up what he
insisted on calling a Basement Area Network in this flat right
up until 2010, the medium we were running it on was
eighties‐grade 10base2 coaxial cabling. Now that we've
finally managed to switch over to a mix of nineties‐style
ethernet and late‐noughties wireless, things have got much
simpler; I don't need to maintain a complex configuration of
subnets and servers, or even to enforce a namespace… so there
probably won't be any further additions here.