Archive for the ‘Mayan ruins’ tag
I was able to get close enough to this not so small snake as I neared the end of a small group tour at the Lamanai Mayan ruins. It is called fer de lance, although it’s more correctly called Bothrops Asper, a member of the viper family. This snake is very dangerous. Still, I left the safety of the raised path I was on in order to get down to his level and get this photo, not a great photo, but good enough as I didn’t want to get too much closer. Apparently the lance de fer is commonly found around Mayan ruins and it has been suggested that the choice of location for a Mayan site was dependent upon the presence of poisonous snakes as a protective barrier. Of course, that sent me in search of more information which took me to Och Chan, or God K of the Mayan religion.
I don’t want to tell too much here but perhaps save a bigger tale after I have been to Hell (Xibalba) and back a trip that will occur in the near future. For now, it is enough to know that the snake again figures in the original story of creation and again involves a woman. There, I hope that either sends you searching for more or whets your appetite for when I return to this topic sometime next week.
This photo was taken in March, 2009 in Yucatan, Mexico at the Mayan site called Dzibilchaltun. It is a photo of a sundial. I went in search through my photo archives for this image as I wanted a symbol of Phallos that I had taken rather than to borrow one from the Internet. It is obvious to anyone who thinks in symbolic terms, that the spire at the centre, pointing to the sun is a representation of Phallos.
In Jungian terms, in alchemical terms, the sun is the father. The womb is the earth which is mother. When phallos is erect, there is energy (libido) which is essential for the act of creation. Creation is a co-creative act, a holy marriage of masculine and feminine.
It’s a touchy subject, that of the masculine, especially in this age of politically correct thinking and speaking. The human race has shifted from matriarchal to patriarchal dominance and is currently shifting again. Patriarchal forms still dominate, but in so many ways, those forms are being emasculated. Men are losing their bearings in a world that is increasingly seeing them as throw-backs to ancient-times thinking. Rites of passage have almost fully disappeared for boys becoming men. Monick captures the essence of the problem:
The problem is that patriarchal attitudes and values are no longer obviously true. Unless masculinity is differentiated from patriarchy, both will go down the tubes. (Eugene Monick, Phallos: Sacred Image of the Masculine, 1987, p. 9)
So, what do you think?
The Temple of the Seven Dolls, a different Mayan structure from all others found in Mexico built in the 7th century, sits at the centre of the Dzibilchaltun Mayan ruins. It is a square building with four sets of stairs and entrances that correspond to the four cardinal directions – north, east, south and west. On each wall there are two sets of windows, one on each side of an entrance. During the spring and fall equinoxes, the sun’s rays flow directly through the east and west entrances to flow down the sacbe (white road) to a smaller square structure, a sundial, which also has four sets of steps. At the summer solstice, the sun’s rays enter the north-east window of the north wall and exit at the north-west window of the west wall. During the winter solstice, the sun’s light enters through the south-east window of the south wall to exit through the south-west window of the west wall. In this photo, I am looking out at the sundial and the sacbe that goes on through the Mayan grounds.
Again, I wondered at what is drawing me out here to speak. The sun, a quaternity – a mandala on a grand scale.
AS ITS fourfold structure indicates the mandala is a symbol of totality, forming, like the Platonic world-soul, a rounded whole “sufficient to itself,”1 a complete being “organised in accordance with its own internal laws”. 2 For Jung the mandala is a symbol of the Self, that psychic totality which is indescribable except in antinomies and indistinguishable from the imago Dei. Its essential nature is unavoidably irrational and irrepresentable, for the union of opposites is a paradox beyond our comprehension. But the age-old mandala is not a rational product of discriminating consciousness; like all true symbols it stems from unconscious sources of creativity, which transcend or predate the world-creating division of opposites. (The Meaning of the Mandala, Philip Williams, June 2000)
The “Self”, the unconscious well-springs of the “self”, the source of the unifying principal within each of us. It’s amazing how so many ideas of C.G. Jung’s are finding an outward expression in this ancient land of the Mayans.
On a recent visit to the Dzibilchaltun Mayan ruins, I had the opportunity to photograph a few of these beautiful birds. This was my second siting of this type of bird here in Mexico. I had to chase this bird to finally get a decent shot with the camera. I guess it likes to play hard to get/catch. And, this makes me think of eros, romantic love, a passionate longing and desire. The Greeks called it theia mania, the divine madness (madness of the gods). In our modern world we talk of cupid’s arrows, love at first sight both of which when looked at closely are about loss of control to other. We become wounded. The tail of this motmot does give the impression of being fletched arrows ready to wound another with eros. In a small series of books (He, She, We and The Fisher King and the Handless Maiden), Robert A. Johnson looks at eros. In this last book, The Fisher King and the Handless Maiden, Robert notes:
“Where there is no terminology, there is no consciousness. A poverty-stricken vocabulary for any subject is an immediate admission that the subject is inferior or depreciated in that society. Sanskrit has ninety-six words for love; ancient Persian has eighty; Greek three; and English simply one. This is indicative of the poverty of awareness or emphasis that we give to that tremendously important realm of feeling. … Of all the Western languages, English may be the most lacking when it comes to feeling” (page 6)
No wonder we get confused in trying to define love. And without the words, we suffer.
The masculine. It has been a problem of identity for men since the dawn of history. The Mayans were very masculine, warriors, administrators, magicians and kings. One would think that these people had no issues with their masculine identity. But, the evidence says otherwise. On this figure found at Dzibilchaltun, the penis is pierced twice. And, it is doubtful that this was an attempt to decorate the penis. Sacred blood was drawn from the penis of Mayan kings as a blood offering in ritual worship.
And since the dawn of human time, the masculine, its power, its uncertainty, its sense of inferiority has been causing the individual and the world, grief. The personal and the collective. It has been difficult to grow from a child, born of a woman and nurtured by a woman, to find his way to manhood.
Defining self as man, as masculine, is an issue that seeps into relationships with women. Men see themselves reflected through the eyes of a woman. And through the eyes of a mother, the man remains a boy.
Noting this figure and finding that it had to be captured on the camera brings it home to me. I am a man, yet, what exactly is a man? An insecurity that is masked by a modern-world persona based on intuitive ideas, models and history. But, that isn’t enough, not for me.
Another image taken while in the Anthropology and History Museum in Mérida while I was there for the Carnaval. And like the image of yesterday, this artifact was found in one of the Mayan ruins in the Yucatan. At the centre of belief is IX’CHEL, the goddess of both life and death.
The feminine is cyclical in nature like the moon and the courses within a woman of the preparation for new life by discarding old possibilities. The feminine is cloaked in unconsciousness, in darkness and in mysteriousness. The feminine nurtures the earth and gives birth over and over again. Out of the dark and damp womb, humanity is born into a world of light. And, that same humanity is born to die, to be consumed by the very earth that gave it life.
The photo here was taken in Mérida, the capital city of the Yucatan, at the Anthropology and History Museum on the Paseo Montejo. It is a Mayan figure similar to one I photographed at Uxmal which was still on the wall of a Mayan building.
Obviously, the figure is male. Strangely, the bodies both at Uxmal and here are both headless. Both have bound hands as though the male is prisoner. Both have genitals exposed.
Realizing that these figures are found in a religious context, it follows that they are more symbolic than historical. So what can these figures be telling us? Perhaps, that as humans, human males, the ruling forces are sexual, not spiritual. Men are trapped in their bodies which demand so much. The power of instinctual drives dominate when one is not aware, not far along on the journey of individuation.
Today, it is still hard in our modern world. How does one balance the polarity of masculine and feminine which are resident in each of us? Regardless of our intellectual states, our bodies betray us, demand of us. And as a counter, the soul, the opposite, demands as well it share of presence. So begins the work of midlife, the marriage of both aspects within the psyche.
The nose of Chaac, the Rain God. Ascending alongside the central staircase of the Magician’s Pyramid on both sides are faces of Chaac, each face contains an elephantine nose similar to the one found on the ground here. There are twelve such Chaac figures on each side. A thirteenth Chaac figure sits above the temple entrance. Thirteen being the number of levels in the Mayan heaven. The Chaac nose both receives the rain and distributes the rain (metaphorically) which comes from the Rain God.
Curious how such symbols of power between men and gods also can serve as ‘keys’ to one’s own inner world. When viewed as a key, the image makes ‘sense’. Water, the source of life speaks of the vast unconsciousness of humankind and of the container that holds us. At the same time as being a key, it also can serve as a ‘hook’. It even looks like a hook. And this is the danger when approaching the unconscious. Does one get hooked like a fish at sea and thus drown in the depths never to return to consciousness? Intentional descents are safer, especially with a guide, unintentional descents result in madness. Jung studied those lost in this madness to discover some of the territory of the unconscious. Choosing a descent? Not too likely. However, the pain of being present in the world without having the anchor of ‘meaning’ is often the stimulus to risk descents into the swampland, the dark sea of one’s unconscious aspects.
I took this photo in a place called Tizimin which is found in the northeastern section of the Yucatan. The tree, a Ceiba, was located in a small park in front of an old Spanish cathedral that has long since caved in and been abandoned. In visiting a few Mayan sites, I have found that this Ceiba tree is considered to be very holy, very sacred. It is often found as the centre piece in temple settings. Known as the Yaach tree, the tree of life, in Mayan, it represents the underworld, the middle world (the world of humans) and the heavens.
The symbolism of trees as portals between the underworld and heaven, is universal. In Great Britain, many old churches were constructed on sites beside Yew trees. Sometimes the trees are older than the ruins of centuries abandoned churches. Our “self” is somewhat like a tree.
We can descend into the innerworld, a swampland of moist and dark depths to discover the overwhelming unconscious foundation of the whole of humanity. The “self” travel through the dark underworld searching for nourishment and in that act of searching, becomes nourished, becomes more aware of its “self”. In reaching for the sky carrying these numinous contents from the inner world, awareness is brought to these contents which then become part of our conscious “self”. This is all part of the way, the journey of individuation.
Above the entrance to the main temple near the top of the Magician’s Pyramid in Uxmal, the representation of Chaac, the rain god, includes this detail of two naked bodies with their backsides together. One is obviously a male while the second figure, the one on the left is not in good enough shape to distinguish gender. Since rain is about life, it would be my guess that the second figure was female. The Chaac figure is found on almost every building at Uxmal. Some of them with the pendulous nose pointed towards the heavens as though to catch the rain and some of them have the nose pointing downwards as though to feed the earth with the life-giving waters. Nude figures in Mayan ruins are often depicting slaves and humans that are sacrificial. The theme of sacrifice is strong in Mayan religion.
Mayans acted out the collective unconscious at a basic level believing that the gods could be reached only with knowledge, ritual and prayer that was beyond the normal conscious state. Sacrifice was essential to make this mythological journey to the gods. Today, we still must make the journey into the the collective unconscious through our own rituals, sacrificing skepticism and the dogmatic belief in only one rational world. This kind of sacrifice is risky for most people, too risky. In a way, one needs to become trustingly submissive and stripped of all artifice, the price for the journey through the underworld that is dark and moist and pregnant with life giving awareness.