Mayan Queens – Women Rulers

Mayan Queens Who Shaped History

Woman on Throne El-Mirador-pottery-painting Powerful women who shaped history hold special fascination for me.  In the era of patriarchy, how did they attain and apply leadership?  Mayan women rulers are the focus of my new novel, Mists of Palenque: Four Great Mayan Queens of Lakam Ha.  During the Classic Maya period (250-900 CE), we have records of several women who either ruled in their own right, or managed the throne until their sons came of age.  My story based in Palenque (ancient Lakam Ha) takes you into the living world of this fascinating high culture.  Royal succession was not strictly patrilineal, though descent through the male line was preferred.  Most important was the purity of lineage, tracing back to the founder of each dynasty.  At times this meant a ruler’s daughter was the choice for succession, as happened when England’s Queen Elizabeth II ascended to the throne after her father King George V died with no male heirs.

Mayan Succession at Palenque

At Palenque, the first women ruler was Yohl Ik’nal, the only surviving child of prior ruler Kan Bahlam I.  Her daughter Sak K’uk ascended after the death of an older brother.  Controversy surrounded both these accessions, because it changed the patrilineal pattern.  Some argue that the lineage shifts to the queen’s husband.  But this depends on how the continuing dynasty is titled.  In England’s case, her father George’s Windsor dynasty was considered to continue through Elizabeth.  In Palenque, Yohl Ik’nal continued the Bahlam dynasty.  When the royal daughter’s husband assumes the throne, then the dynasty shifts to his family.  In both cases, these queens’ husbands were royal consorts, not kings.

Other Women Rulers

Records carved on monuments give evidence of women rulers:  Lady of Tikal, Lady Six Sky of Naranjo, and Lady Ik’ Skull of Yaxchilan.  The tomb of a great Maya warrior queen was uncovered in Guatemala in 2012.  Lady K’abel (Lady Snake Lord) ruled El Peru-Waka for her family from 672-692CE, the empire-building Kan (Snake) dynasty of Kalakmul.

Book Cover_MOP-small


Leonide (Lennie) Martin, retired California State University professor, former Family Nurse Practitioner. Currently author and Maya researcher, my books bring ancient Maya culture to life in historical fiction about real and fictional Maya characters. My books draw upon extensive research of scientific and indigenous perspectives, and are based upon archeological knowledge of Maya sites and historical persons. Apprenticing with Maya elders, I became a Maya Fire Woman and Solar Initiate.

14 comments on “Mayan Queens – Women Rulers
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    • Your kind words are much appreciated. The third book in the Mayan queens series is due for publication in June 2015. Watch for it on and this website. And do tell your friends, such word-of-mouth recommendations are always the best! Yours, Leonide

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  6. ScottAMadena says:

    Terrific post but I was wondering if you could write a litte more on this subject?

    I’d be very grateful if you could elaborate a little bit further.

    • Hi Scott, thanks for your praise for my post on Women Rulers. I do plan to write other articles about powerful Mayan women in the future. If you have a specific question, maybe I can respond this way. Leonide

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