Thursday, June 7, 2012

A Bit o' Mayan Awesomeness: Seven Macaw versus the Hero Twins on a Plate.

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Here's something I just found: a surrealistic, psychedelic depiction of Seven Macaw/ Vucub Caquix's fight with the Hero Twins, from a Late Classic Maya polychrome plate. (Found here). I love the way it shows Seven's defiance and his overall weirdness.

Here, Seven is getting shot at from both sides, but he's fighting back proudly, using the powers of the cosmos which he controls. I just love that expression on his face: sort of like, "Just you try and get me!"

In this picture, Seven is perched not on an ordinary tree, but on a giant head with an elaborate rayed, petaled or plumed crown, which, I think, represents the "false" Sun-Moon of Seven's creation. Hunahpu and Xbalanque are seated on the "real" Sun and Moon.

Here, Vucub-Caquix has shapeshifted into a hybrid form, a bird with a mainly-human head. This picture illustrates one of the puzzling features of the Seven Macaw character: the fact that he is described in the Popol Vuh as having both a bird's beak and human teeth. He also appears to have a Cosmic Serpent entity sprouting from the top of his head, like a jack-in-the-box. The seven vertebrae in the serpent's neck may represent the seven stars in the Big Dipper. In Mayan art, the Cosmic Serpent is often shown associated with the Itzam-Yeh or Vucub-Caquix character, sometimes entwined around him and/or his tree. In these representations, he may be an ally, or an aspect of the Bird Deity himself.

In this image, the serpent on Seven Macaw's head is disgorging the night sky, filled with stars and constellations, from his mouth. This symbolizes how Vucub-Caquix is wielding the power of the cosmos against Hunahpu to prevent him from ascending as the new Sun God. There's also a stream of blood flowing from the serpent's lower jaw, showing that he's already been shot by Hunahpu. Hunahpu has struck Seven Macaw not on his human face but on the serpent's head -- meaning that he has attacked and injured the part of Seven which contains his divine power. That is why Seven is unable to heal & regenerate himself after this injury.

It's the beginning of the end for Seven, but he still doesn't seem the slightest bit intimidated.

The fish (left and right of the center figure) are symbols of the Hero Twins, who have the power to shapeshift into fish (unlike Seven, who can't turn into a fish -- something which will cause him a lot of trouble when he gets hurled into the Cosmic Ocean later in my narrative.) The fish are swimming toward the right, the direction from which the new creation will emerge.

The Twins, as a dyad, are also right-oriented. Hunahpu, the Sun-twin, typically takes the role of leader & initiator. He is facing toward the right as he directly confronts Seven Macaw. Xbalanque is facing in the opposite direction, shooting Seven from behind. As the Moon-twin, he plays the role of Hunahpu's satellite, reflecting back his energy & activity. They're trying to turn the universe around in the direction they think it should go.

If you look closely, you can see that Seven Macaw's symbols (such as the double-curlicues around the rim, which give me the impression of replicating the dragon-serpent motif) are all oriented toward the left, the direction toward which he also faces, resisting the linear, forward movement which the Hero Twins seek to impose on him.

I think this picture is saying that Hunahpu and Xbalanque are destroying not just Seven Macaw/ Vucub-Caquix himself, but the entire Third Age cosmos of which he is the etal: the sign, example or representative.

Another interesting thing is that this picture was originally on a plate. Was the plate intended to be purely decorative, or did people actually eat off of it? I can just imagine it: "Finish up your veggies, Junior, so you can see the really weird birdie on the bottom of the dish."

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