The Immortal Feline

The lords of the ancient world sought to connect themselves with symbols of physical, supernatural and visual power. So, it’s no surprise that predatory cats were a key motif in many artistic traditions of Pre-Columbian people across Central and South America.

As hunters, big cats embody strength and agility inspiring awe and fear. Their elusive nature and nocturnal stealth give them a ghost like mystique, while in daylight they sport some of the most vivid coats in the animal kingdom. To reinforce the connection between powerful felines and the shamanic ruling classes the ancients adorned ceremonial weavings, stone work, metal work and ceramics with depictions of Jaguar, Panther and Puma.

Perhaps Pre-Columbian lords desired to become cats. Attempting, as with the Olmec Were-jaguar transformational masks, to commune with feline spirits and morph into their bodies. Indeed, illustrations made by the Mayans show deities and rulers wearing Jaguar furs. In Peru, the Nasca and Huari used Tie-Dye techniques to adorn textiles with spotted patterns, allowing the wearer to visually and symbolically enter the skin of the Jaguar.

wooden huari feline snuff tray chimu silver feline beaker feline mortar inca culture peru