Tag Archives: Aztec Symbols

I Heard the Owl Call Your Name: Serendipity Photo Prompt Chai (Life)

Looking through my photos to try to find something appropriate for the Chai (Life) prompt, and yet also thinking I wanted to find something for Nan, I came upon these pictures of Aztec dancers who were dancing in the Ajiic plaza right outside the cultural center where we had the dance performance for the second Camp Estrella group.  At the end of their performance, I heard the loud drumming and went out to find what I judged to be a thunderbird dance.  Certainly, this dancer looked like a thunderbird.  Growing up in South Dakota, I was very familiar with this Sioux symbol of thunder and lightning and rain, but I was a bit confused about why they would be executing a North American indigenous dance.


It was only later, while editing, that I realized that it was not in fact a thunderbird, but rather a white owl, which can be seen very clearly from this front view.


I then remembered how I was kept awake last night by the very loud hooting of an owl, which reminded me of the white owl who had swooped down over my yard on three different occasions the last time my friend Patty visited me.  She had seen it twice at night and was afraid I wouldn’t believe her until finally, one night, he appeared while I was outside as well. Then, the entire theme finally came together for me.  Legend has it that when you hear an owl call, someone near to you will be leaving this plane.


I also love it that in the above picture, one of our camp participants is standing above the dancers in his own mask, made in the camp.  It is on top of his head.

And so Marilyn and Garry, here for you is the white owl that called Nan’s name. I hope you soon find peace in remembering what a wonderful life you shared with each other and in remembering what the owl teaches us: that death is just a part of life and that without it there could in fact be no life. Somehow the only way we ever seem to be able to try to comfort each other is in stating the obvious.


The Rabbit’s Navel


“The Rabbit’s Navel” Retablo by Judy Dykstra-Brown

Numerous Mexican legends surround Rabbit, and each object in this retablo depicts one of them. Even the name “Mexico” is derived from Nahuatl words for the rabbit in the moon; and its capitol, Mexico City, is built on six lakes in the form of a rabbit. If you open the box this retablo sits upon, you will find inside a manuscript that conveys the story of the rabbit in Mexican legend and how I was drawn to it. The Aztecs had a legend of 400 drunken rabbits who were the gods of pulque–a drink made of fermented Maguey–the same plant that Tequila is made of. The woman sitting next to rabbit might be Mayahuel, the goddess of Maguey, but it is more likely that she is the Jaina woman explained in the quote below from the book Maya Terracottas.

“Representations of Maya women occur more commonly as Jaina figurines than in any other medium. These Jaina figures represent two kinds of women, both archetypes of female behavior. One is a stately, courtly woman who is sometimes shown weaving; the second is a courtesan who appears with all sorts of mates, from Underworld deities to oversized rabbits. The imagery of both derives from Maya concepts of the moon, perceived as an erratic, inconsistent heavenly body, whose constantly changing character follows the monthly cycle of female menses…
…The second female type is far more active, and she projects her sexuality…she is usually bare-breasted, and she gestures, as if offering herself to others. The demure woman may be painted in various colors, but this one is generally painted blue…Nothing else in Maya art conveys sexuality more convincingly than these figures. Although they may be conceived as the moon goddess and her consorts, they also reflect human behavior. As companions for the dead – perhaps particularly for old men – they seem to promise renewed sexual activity. For the living, such Jaina figurines may have been titillating objects for private observation.” (Schele: 1986, p. 153). Cf. Kimball, Maya Terracottas, p. 23