The yellow path ("camino amarillo" or "ꜫana be," in Ximénez's script, and "q'ana b'e" in modern orthography) 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 "cahib be"), and white path ("camino blanco" or "zaqui be"), these four routes represent the spiritual pathways and cardinal points of the K'iche' cosmovisión (14r). In Veiled Brightness: A History of Ancient Maya Color, Stephen Houston et al. (2009: 35) observe that "yellow" (*q'an), "is homophonous with, and perhaps equivalent to, a term for 'precious,'" and that the term is generally shared among Mayan languages, deriving as it does from "Common Mayan."
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 into the cardinal points reflects the four "cornerings," "sidings," "measurings," and "stakings" of the world, as understood in Maya cosmology as an act of creation, or coming into being. 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: "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). 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).
Because each cardinal direction is linked to specific color symbolisms, 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).
The camino amarillo/q'ana b'e is the only path whose color properties are replaced by another color, green-blue/raxa when the Hero Twins emerge from Xibalba. Alexandre Tokovinine (2012: 286) points out that yellow (k'an, in Yukatek, the likely language of Maya hieroglyphic writing) is also an outlier within color patterns that emerge among visual writing traditions. He writes, citing Houston et al., Veiled Brightness (2009: 37-38), "K'an is the only color glyph that is possibly hat is possibly borrowed from a pan-Mesoamerican set of symbols." When k'an is connected with yax (blue-green) in Mesoamerican graphic writing systems, the meaning of the "complementary pair" becomes "a widespread concept of 'precious' and 'glorious,'" an idea that is expressed "as a unity of all yax and k'an" in Yukatek, and as räxa and q'äna in Kaqchiken (Tokovinine 2012: 294).
Generally, k'an as color is associated with "states of ripeness" (Houston et al. 2009: 37) and, specifically, to the yellow-hued maiz god, Ajan, and "the corncob logogram" that usually symbolizes the divine figure (Tokovinine 2012: 293). Over time, the "sign that became 'yellow'" signaled places of prestige and importance, as in the term k'anche (yellow + tree = "seat of honor") (Houston et al. 2009: 37). In this way, the symbolic meaning of "yellow" (k'an) extends beyond "yellow" color properties.