Category Archives: war

Butterflies – The Souls of Ancient Warriors

Photo I shot at Xochitla, Mexico.

For thousands of years native people in what is now Mexico, Central America and Southwestern United States had stories, epic accounts, and even religious beliefs regarding animals. One of such admired animals was the butterfly.

They revered nature almost to religious levels.

Who knew that people who admired fierce jaguars, stealthy snakes, and mighty eagles would have butterflies in high esteem — from all animals. And yet it is true. Once you know the ancient lore and culture of the indigenous people you can easily understand. For their reason in life wasn’t all about war — or inexistent human sacrifices. They revered nature almost to religious levels, or even more!

Such a society would respect the delicate.

The societies of Ancient Mexico were composed of poets, artists, performers, mathematicians, astronomers, dancers, and great teachers — but you won’t hear this in any Discovery Channel or National Geographic documentary (since they either lack historical knowledge or work on a biased agenda). Such a society would know and respect the delicate, the artistic, and the beautiful. We know that because their poetry and way of talking is full of empathy and care. They were no blunt warriors only — the vast diversity amongst the ancient native peoples of the Americas is not only impressive but still unknown.

Warriors carried a big butterfly symbol.

Motifs of butterflies adorned clothing capes, artisan’s clay figures, and even the glyphs written on deer hide or amatl paper by scribes. In Tula, Hidalgo (known back then as Tollan Xicocotitlan), the capital of the historical Toltecs, warriors carried a big butterfly symbol over their chests as part of their military attire. Also printing seals — a great tradition in Ancient Mexico not so much discussed — were also made with various butterfly shapes and sizes.

There are still traditions to honor the deceased.

But beyond the visible, butterflies were part of the ancient’s stories and beliefs. For instance one of the most famous one, which still survives to our times: butterflies being visiting souls. Although Day of the Dead traditions has been quite tainted and manipulated for centuries — I.E. Disney-Pixar’s Coco — there are still some original traditions who once honored or remembered the deceased. The butterfly story is one.

Now they come to bring joy to us, and for us to honor them.

It is said that if you see a butterfly pass by or visit you, it is in reality the soul of an ancient warrior visiting you. And it is probable that person died in battle to became a beautiful butterfly in the next life. We know from Tula the connection between warriors and butterflies, probably as if they knew that if they were to die in the fight a chance to become a peaceful and delicate butterfly awaited. So people respected and protected butterflies, because they may even have been a father or a sibling who perished under the spears and arrows at the chaos of the battlefield. Now they come to bring joy to us, and for us to honor them.



Teotihuacan invasion on Maya lands.

Text and painting by Miguel Omaña.

The Journey of Siyaj K’ak’. Acrylic on paper.

Painting I did years ago, depicting the scenery with abundant foliage of the Maya jungle lands. The setting — the invasion of the Teotihuacan army led by General Siyaj K’ak’ in the year 378 througout the Mayan territories in order to invade and conquer the city of Tikal, the great Maya superpower.

Siyaj K’ak’ was sent to conquer Tikal, one of the two Maya superpowers.

From the city of Teotihuacan in Central Mexico departed a huge army led by General Siyaj K’ak’, whose name survives only in Maya language, meaning Fire-Born or Fire is born (Yes, names in each native culture were unique, just as Sitting Bull with US native Americans or Descending Eagle the last Mexica Aztec ruler). He was sent on an important mission by the Teotihuacan High Ruler Spearthrower Owl to conquer the Maya city of Tikal (in modern Guatemala) — one of the two superpowers in what is now Central America — and to install a new order at the region.

Siyaj K’ak’ led the Teotihuacan army.

General Siyaj K’ak’ took the army all the way from Teotihuacan in today’s northeastern Mexico City metro area south bound to the state of Chiapas. Guided by the San Pedro Martir river he entered what today is northern Guatemala in January of 378. Records at El Peru site signal his passing at that location.

In Saturday January 14, 378 Teotihuacan conquered Tikal in what is today Central America.

He arrived to the city of Tikal with a swift military attack, making it possible for the Teotihuacan army to take over the region rather quickly. Various battles may have happened, but the Battle of Uaxactun stands as the final victory of Teotihuacan over the Maya of Tikal during Saturday January 14, 378 — correlation 584283 for 11 Eb 15 Mak (correlation info is technical data to pinpoint a date between two different calendar systems, so don’t worry, if you’re a lay man just bear in mind it exists and is helpful). General Siyaj K’ak’ executed the Ajaw (ruler) of Tikal, Chak Tok Ich’aak I, the same day. Although Siyaj K’ak’ became the de facto ruler at Tikal, he sticked to the mission his High Ruler Spearthrower Owl of Teotihuacan sent him for — to install a new government at Tikal by crowning the High Ruler’s son as Ajaw of Tikal Yax Nuun Ayiin I. The Teotihuacan youngster rose up as Ajaw of Tikal in Tuesday September 11, 379, the day a New Order was installed in Central America that would endure a thousand years. Thus, the powerful Maya nation of Tikal would be within the rule of the Teotihuacan Domain.

Director George Lucas got his idea for his Star Wars franchise from the “mexicanized” Maya wars.

Due to this famous war by Teotihuacan General siyaj K’ak’, the Maya adapted his kind of warfare and conquest into their political schemes, bringing Star Wars (yes, that’s where George Lucas got the idea for the movie franchise) into their culture. The original Star Wars or Tlaloc-Venus Wars were planned wars according to planetary alignments in the sky or which commemorated with a sacred date. The late Linda Schele aptly calls it in her books as the “Mexicanization” of the Maya world.

For more information on the Maya, please read any of Linda Schele’s books. Not only she was an amazing scholar, but imprinted her personal touch to her published research by including novel-style stories.

Siyaj K'ak' invading Maya lands. Copyright 2009 Miguel Omaña. Siyaj K’ak’ invading Maya lands. Copyright 2009 Miguel Omaña.