On a trip through Mesoamerica, home of the Mayans, I have encountered dozens of statues and ancient depictions of the jaguar, and just as many stories about its prowess and mystical qualities. Mayan ruins going back to 500 years before Christ contain jaguar imagery that is indicative of the respect of the indigenous people for the strength and majesty of the world’s third-largest cat.
But the jaguar’s reputation is full of inconsistencies. It is wise and it is foolish. It is aggressive, yet lazy. It is rarely inclined to achieve its full potential, not unlike the football team for which I have held season tickets every year of its existence.
But still, I look for signs. In 360 A.D. the 14th lord of Tikal ascended the throne; he was known as Great Jaguar Claw and he ruled one of the most prosperous states (auto parts manufacturers) of his time and he established the tradition of maintaining solid trade relations (international home games) with Teotihuacan (London). Tikal's Grand Plaza ultimately became dominated by the Temple of the Great Jaguar, built around 700 and standing more than 150 feet tall.
One Mayan myth pays homage to a supernatural being called Jaguar Sun, who rose each day in the east and prowled west where it fought the Lords of the Underworld in the darkness of the night, emerging victorious and earning the right to rise again. This, most certainly, is bad news for the Raiders and the Seahawks in weeks two and three of this coming season.
Chak balam, the Jaguar religious symbol of Mesoamerica, represents both the courage of the warrior and solar luminosity. Solar luminosity … wasn’t number eleven called “Sunshine” when he first arrived? Could true luminescence be on his horizon?
Featured within the Mayan ruins at Uxmal is a prominent statue of a two-headed jaguar; I am trying to confirm the rumor that the Mayans called the heads Eugene and Luke. Surely they provided protection for Chak balam.
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At a ceremony last night I drank the hallucinogenic jungle medicine Ayahuaska, and the herbalista, the medico of the rain forest, arranged for me to communicate telepathically with a resident jaguar. I asked him about the future.
He said: “The end of the earth will come when the Jaguar ascends to eat the sun and the moon, and then the Universe …”
“Whoa, bro,” I interrupted. “Back it up a bit. Let’s focus on the next couple of seasons.”
“As it is with the jaguar," he said, "you must have patience. I do not chase, like the impetuous cheetah. I stalk. I take my time. Finally I tackle my victim and attack its neck. This is the approach you must take.”
“Patience. OK, got it, I might have some left. But not much. Can you provide any assurances?”
After a moment of thought he spoke again. “You say to me that you have three great leaders you believe in. I can tell you that 1500 years ago in Yaxchilan there were three great kings known as Jaguar Shield II, Jaguar Bird IV and Jaguar Shield III. During their reign the Mayans in that region experienced unprecedented prosperity, with many glorious conquests. More than that I cannot tell you.”
“Thank you,” I said. “More than that I do not need.”