The Jaguar of the Americas and implications for its origins: part two

Nature dominates and rules our lives. No matter how much material wealth we may have, we cannot buy Nature and all its myriad of miracles. We do try to emulate Nature and today we call this study Biomimetics.
Wikipedia re: Biomimetics:

“Living organisms have evolved well-adapted structures and materials over geological time through natural selection. Biomimetics has given rise to new technologies inspired by biological solutions at macro and nanoscales. Humans have looked at nature for answers to problems throughout our existence. Nature has solved engineering problems such as self-healing abilities, environmental exposure tolerance and resistance, hydrophobicity, self-assembly, and harnessing solar energy”

Humans have been in awe of Nature since our brains evolved to contemplate the amazing world we had emerged into – and we revered it. We still do today, but we extract what we need from it to serve ourselves and to mimic nature in our scientific endeavours. In doing so we chip away at our planet and take more for our needs than the planet can replenish. Our reverence has been eroded.

A few millennia ago, we used a belief system where individuals would try to mimic those creatures they saw around them which had great powers of strength, endurance and cunning.

When humans first arrived in the Americas they would find, depending on their hunter gathering locations, beaches along the Pacific differing in nature to the beaches on the Atlantic. It could only be the narrow isthmus, which is now Panama, where maybe they roamed between the two coasts. Usually the mountainous terrain, such as the Andes, created cultures which were moving between the beaches and the difficult mountainous areas, and in pockets of tribes rarely meeting one another. But all the tribes which grew into populations of millions, before the Spanish arrived, became familiar with the diversity of animal and sea life.

One magnificent creature they could not help but revere was the Jaguar.

Around 1600–1500 BCE, the early Olmec culture had lived in the tropical lowlands of south-central Mexico, in the present-day states of Veracruz and Tabasco. They were the first Mesoamerican civilization, and laid many of the foundations for the civilizations that followed. It is possible they had a deity which was part human, part jaguar, born of woman which has been named by researchers as a were-jaguar.

Image of Olmec ‘were-jaguar’

The were-jaguar motif is characterized by almond-shaped eyes, a downturned open mouth, and a cleft head.

All major Mesoamerican civilizations prominently featured a jaguar god, and for many, such as the Olmec, the jaguar was an important part of shamanism. 

The shaman was deemed to have access to, and influence in, the world of benevolent and malevolent spirits. He would enter into a trance state during a ritual, and practices divination and healing. The trance was usually induced using mind altering drugs and the shaman would isolate himself and experience what he believed to be the warrior mode. He would have strength and skills to take on the fearful creatures he encountered in his visionary battles. When he came out of the trance he would show his followers that he had attained a higher level of understanding and could therefore offer his wisdom to help overcome problems the community faced. There was much theatre surrounding this practice, but it was important to reduce fear from the daily interaction with Nature, and to increase reverence to the world around them.

The shaman would isolate himself in a place built for this purpose:

Since the first Mesoamerican civilisation, the  Olmec and other  Mesoamerican civilisations which followed them, witnessed the animal’s habits, adopting the jaguar as an authoritative and martial symbol, and incorporated the animal into their mythology. The jaguar stands today, as it did in the past, as an important symbol in the lives of those who coexist with this feline.

God L is one of the oldest Mayan deities, and associated with trade, riches, and black sorcery, and belongs to the jaguar deities: he has jaguar ears, a jaguar mantle and lives in a jaguar palace. Some take him to be the main ruler over the Underworld. In that sense, he would have to be considered the true “Jaguar God of the Underworld”.

Image of God L

Jaguars have long been associated with Mayan civilisation who worshipped jaguar gods. Various inscriptions, murals and sculptures representing jaguars in warrior or god form have been found so far across Central America.

The recent discovery of fragments from feline figures is the second of its kind in almost a hundred years in El Salvador, according to the culture ministry. In 1924, remains of some 20 jaguar figures were found in a box excavated in north Cihuatan, the secretariat said.

This image below is a ceramic sculpture, representing a jaguar warrior, and was discovered in Cihuatan, the largest Mayan site in El Salvador. 

The Chavín Peruvian culture held its second most important deity as the fanged jaguar god, also a popular subject in Chavin art. These days as habitats for the Jaguar are destroyed by human hand to serve their own needs, it is more important than ever to preserve these magnificent creatures in the wild.

About borderslynn

Retired, living in the Scottish Borders after living most of my life in cities in England. I can now indulge my interest in all aspects of living close to nature in a wild landscape. I live on what was once the Iapetus Ocean which took millions of years to travel from the Southern Hemisphere to here in the Northern Hemisphere. That set me thinking and questioning and seeking answers. In 1998 I co-wrote Millennium Countdown (US)/ A Business Guide to the Year 2000 (UK) see
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