Jaguar Staircase Copan Acropolis

The Jaguar Staircase, East Court of the Copan Acropolis, Honduras

"Grube and Schele observe that 18-Rabbit's jaguarian disguise on Stela F echoes the great jaguar deity relief panel situated atop the western stairway of the East Court. The mask of this same jaguar deity appears as the central icon of the Tablet of the Sun at Palenque, where it adorns a shield flanked by crossed spears.

A supernatural patron of war and sacrifice, the Jaguar God has been interpreted as an aspect of the jaguar twin of the Popol Vuh myth and as a personification of the night Sun as it travels through the underworld.

The god's attributes include the large eyes with scroll pupils, the twisted crueller that rests between them, and the upswept topknot of hair that both twins wear in their guises as GI and GIII of the Palenque Triad and as Chac and the Baby Jaguar."

Elizabeth A. Newsome, Trees of Paradise and Pillars of the World: The Serial Stela Cycle of 18-Rabbit-God K, King of Copan, p. 118


Jaguar Staircase

Copan: Jaguar Staircase, East Court

"Like 18-Rabbit's image on Stela F, the deity head from the Jaguar Stairway has large, erect ears, backswept hair, and a shell beard suspended below his chin.

This face, flanked by the twin halves of a Venus sign, emerges from the gaping jaws of a saurian; the upper portion of the monster mask is badly damaged, but it seems to have resembled the creature from the headdress of Stela F.

There can be little doubt that 18-Rabbit manifests the same god whose portrait overlooks the ritual arena below Temple 22."

Elizabeth A. Newsome, Trees of Paradise and Pillars of the World: The Serial Stela Cycle of 18-Rabbit-God K, King of Copan, p. 118


Jaguar Staircase

"Beneath the giant head of the Jaguar God that crowns the western stairway are two dancing Waterlily Jaguars that flank it at the stairway's base.

They seem to function as zoomorphic adjuncts or avatars of the anthropomorphic deity framed by Venus symbols.

In various contexts, the Waterlily Jaguar appears marked with k'in signs, suggesting he personifies the Sun, but a few pottery vessels also show him in a form consistent with the representation from the East Court stairway, that is, with Venus symbols that shine from his entire body. The Dresden Codex god seems to be linked to solar and lunar eclipses, and bears a title distinguished by a k'in infix rather than a Venus sign.

The jaguar deity may have had overlapping or dual roles concerning the Sun and Evening Star, and his simultaneous association with both celestial bodies appears consistent.

It is difficult to understand how the Maya conceived of this connection between Venus and the Sun. Schele and Miller point out that the inconsistencies also extend to the interpretation of GI, who at times appears in contexts where he seems to signify the Sun rather than Venus.

The close relationship between the celestial bodies, as Venus constantly hovers near the Sun, apparently suggested to the Maya that the two were joined in some mystical union.

Rather than presenting an unresolvable contradiction, the iconographic evidence suggests a complex astrology of omens and apparitions in the skies, as well as a more fundamental level of mysticism entwining the fates and personalities of the Hero Twins than Mayanists previously suspected."

Elizabeth A. Newsome, Trees of Paradise and Pillars of the World: The Serial Stela Cycle of 18-Rabbit-God K, King of Copan, p. 119-122

NOTE: According to Schele, the round indentions on the jaguars' bodies were originally rendered with inset obsidian disks to represent spots on their pelts.