The Cult of the Feline: A Conference in Pre-Columbian by Elizabeth P. Benson

By Elizabeth P. Benson

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They are repeated three times, confronting each other in different aspects of a ritual. I suggested that there was a contrast of lowland and highland in the observances of a cult, and I was extending this to the interpretation of the jaguar and the coyote. 47 M R. GRIFFIN: Could the net costume be not a net but a series of olin symbols, a network meaning energy or movement, the olin being the singular of a net? The way they are woven and the way they are depicted suggest olins, especially on that thing they are worshiping in the center of the Casa de los Barrios mural and on the fresco here at Dumbarton Oaks.

KUBLER: Are you describing continuities of meaning or continuities of form? D R. FURST: Continuities of meaning. D R . C.? DR. FURST: If you go to surviving hunting and gathering cultures today, let’s say the Yanoáma or any other group in South America, and to incipient agricultural societies, you find that jaguar and shaman are always associated. I don’t know of one in which this is not the case. We can assume that this is a very ancient trait. You get it also in Mexico and in Asia, where the shaman is identified with the tiger.

This sort of interpenetration of behaviors on the same symbol is not at all uncommon. As to the point about the ethnicity of these animal representations, the notion of their southernness and northernness was pure guess—with very little to back it in the case of the coyote, as Michael Coe pointed out. I was led to it by what I had observed at Palenque in the Temples of the Cross, the Foliated Cross, and the Sun, where there is always a pair of figures, one of them muffled up, obviously wearing the clothes of someone coming out of the cold weather, and the other wearing very little.

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