The white way ("camino blanco" or "zaqui be" in Ximénez's script) is one of the four cosmic routes of the universe ("cahib be"); along with the red path ("camino rojo" or "ꜫaꜫabe"), black path ("camino negro" or "queca be"), and yellow path ("camino amarillo" or "cut eana be"), these routes represent the spiritual pathways and cardinal points of the K'iche' cosmovisión (14r). As Ajpub' Pablo García Ixmatá (2010: 227) notes, the color white represents "aid" or "assistance" in K'iche' Maya cosmology.
Each physical route at the cross-roads ("cruzíjada" or "pacahib xalcat be") leads to a different spiritual path, one that is brought into order by a particular divine force. The four-part division by cardinal points reflects the four "cornerings," "sidings," "measurings," and "stakings" of the world, as understood in Maya cosmology. For example, the opening lines of the Popol Wuj use parallel structure to describe the four corners of the earth. Allen Christenson notes that the balanced quatrain's "four-fold symmetry" might be one way in which the aesthetics of the text mirror "the four-fold nature of the universe" (Literal Poetic Translation, fn10p15). The key lines are, in Christenson, "Its four cornerings, / Its four sidings, / Its measurings, / Its four stakings", ll. 66-69.
In Sam Colop's translation of the text, we find similar expressions of these markings in cosmological terms: "Es grande su descripción / y el relato de cómo se terminó de crear todo el Cielo y la Tierra: / sus cuatro esquinas / sus cuatro lados, / su medici[on / sus cuatro ángulos / en las cuatro esquinas / en los cuatro lados, como se dice por parte de Tz'aqol, Bitol" (2-3). Compare with Ximénez: "ronohel cah vleu, vcah tzucuxic, vcah xucutaxic retaxic, vcah cheexic"/"q’ seacabo de formar todo el cielo, y la tierra, su ser cuadrado, su ser repartido en cuatro partes, su ser señalado, su ser amojonado con estacas, su ser medido a mecates, o cuerdas, y su ser estirada la cuerda en el zielo, y en la tierra; q’es dicho de cuatro esquinas, y cuatro lados por el formador, y criador" (1r). De esta forma el destacado historiador k'iche' señala que el texto sagrado suele hablar de los cuatro caminos (rojo, negro, blanco, amarillo) "según el orden cósmico con que se nombran los cuatro lados del Universo: Oriente, Poniente, Norte y Sur" (2011: nota 149, página 221).
In other words, each cardinal direction is linked to specific color symbolisms, such that color serves as a mechanism through which Maya speakers situate themselves in geographic or physical space and connect with the spirit world of the nawales (May K’iche’ Winaq B’elejeb’ Aj | unión de escritores mayas, Raxalaj mayab' k'aslemalil | Cosmovisión maya, plenitud de la vida, esp. 30-33).
In this four-part cosmology, the "camino blanco" is associated with the north (xaman, in the Yukatek of the glyphs). White, written as *saq in proto-Mayan, sak in Yukatek and lowland Mayan languages and hieroglyphic scripts, and saq in K'iche', generally refers to "hues that are particularly pale, clear, even 'clouded' in the sense of a cataract" (Houston et al. 2009: 32). Iconographically, sak is associated with flowers, seeds, and sprouting, suggesting some of the rich ways in which the color symbolizes the beginning of life; however, it is just as often linked to cords that bind, restrict, and end life. As Alexandre Tokovinine (2012: 294) observes, "The connection between cords and the term sak is not as unusual as it might seem in the context of the above-mentioned term sak ik', which denotes part of the human soul breathing out at death."
In Veiled Brightness (32-33), Houston et al. report on historical and ethnographic data that helps to explain the wide "economy of expression" that Mayan communities ascribe to saq: "When asked, Lacandon Maya say that white stands apart from other colors, without the same sense of gradation or loose resemblance to other shades (Vargas Melgarejo 1998: 87). In the Lancondon language and the closely related Yukatek, as well as in Ch'olti' and Ch'orti', the term often means 'artificial' or something devised by human arrangement and skill; Colonial Tzotzil adds the concept of 'beauty' (Vargas Melgarejo 1998: 87). Yukatek may explain why: sakal means 'woven thing' or 'to weave' (Barrera Vásquez 1980: 710), so that the cluster of extensional meanings plausibly results from the working of white native cotton into textiles by means of dexterous hands. For the Yucatec Maya and related groups, sak as 'artificial' makes sense, too. Cloth working could have been understood as the epitome of human manufacture." It is worth noting that weaving was the work of skilled Maya women, and, thus, that the semantic loading of sak might also refer broadly to ideas of human agency, the transformation of matter, and the continuation of life in ways that the color term "white" or "blanco" does not convey in English or Spanish. See Kellog (2005).
From the details of daily life (weaving cloth) to broad cosmological significance ("Milky Way"), the camino blanco is a key element of pre-Columbian, colonial-era, and modern Maya expressions of color symbolism. Historically, they were made of white stones that made paths passable at night, using only the stones' reflection from the moon. Beyond their physical orientation, the paths are considered animate networks that connect the people of this world with spirits from beyond. For a longer discussion of the sacbe system and its significance in matters physical and cosmological, see Allan Burns, "The Road Under the Ground: the Role of Europe and Urban Life in Yucatec Mayan Narratives" in the Journal of Folklore (34) 1992, and Justine M. Shaw, White Roads of the Yucatán: Changing Social Landscapes of the Yucatec Maya (Tuscan: U of AZ Press, 2008).
Today, artists like @Tzutukan give voice to these deep tradtions in new media, from Twitter to hip hop. "Saq b'ey/Vía láctea", the second track on his Jun Winaq´Rajawal Qíj / Tributo a los 20 Nawales, suggests how Mayan artists are honoring the spiritual wisdom of their ancestors and reinterpreting the past in contemporary terms.