Mayan Mayhem

A Plumed Serpent's Legacy Traced in Magnificent Artworks . . .

A beautiful, intricate ancient mosaic disk comprised of tiny turquoise tiles.
A beautiful, intricate ancient mosaic disk comprised of tiny turquoise tiles.
Sandaled feet of atlanitid warrior column greets visitors.  They belonged to one of many full-sized giant warriors standing in a row on site in Mexico.
Sandaled feet of atlanitid warrior column greets visitors. They belonged to one of many full-sized giant warriors standing in a row on site in Mexico.


An incredible exhibit at the Dallas Museum of Art inspired this report and further research into the era of "The Plumed Serpent" featured in the exhibit. That describes an early patron diety of the ancient kingdoms of southern Mexico; namely, a diety named Quetzalcoatl, represented in various artifacts as a feathered or a plumed serpent.

Interestingly, this plumed serpent diety finds its way into histories of the early adventures of Cortez and Montezuma, and even appears in the works of Joseph Smith, the founder of the Latter Day Saints religion, who regarded this deity as one of many manifestations of the Christ, believed to have visited this hemisphere following his miraculous resurrection.

In the southern Mexican kingdoms this diety was regarded as the incarnation of spirit forces of wind and rain, with physical attributes of a serpent and the quetzel bird, resulting in an image and name of a feathered serpent.


Various authors have theorized that Quetzalcoatl is a being thought to have sprouted from a central master culture source and shared across many cultures including Egyptian, Aztec, Mayan and Olmec. A plethora of stories of a bearded white man bringing knowledge or enlightenment and alleged to be Quetzalcoatl commonly shared among many peoples.


There are many representations in artworks of this diety in stone carvings, painted codices, turquoise mosaics, gold, textiles; rare artworks which trace the history of the period as trade routes developed and entrepreneurs exploited and spread the lore across southern Mexico, Central America, the American Southwest during the Postclassic period (900-1512 AD) and early colonial period.



In this vacuum

of space

Life

Screams out

To life

It's all there is.


______© Nellieanna H. Hay



It was an era of cultural development in Mesoamerica, when the trade networks spread the images and the exchange of associated goods and ideas of the Plumed Serpent deity, which became broadcast across great distances. In fact the southern Mexican kingdoms recognized Quetzalcotl as founder-patron and to this day are known as The Children of the Plumed Serpent.


A temple to the Plumed Serpent
A temple to the Plumed Serpent

The following video is of the same exhibit at its previous showing at the Los Angeles Museum of Art. All the displays it shows were exactly the same as those my friend Val and I saw and studied.

Children of the Plumed Serpent

We plan to go back and see it again before it leaves in November for its next showing.

Handling nearly 1 ton serpent sculpture; shows the DMA crew unpacking the exhibit and gives an idea of the massiveness of some of the stone artifacts, but i's not the largest of them.
Handling nearly 1 ton serpent sculpture; shows the DMA crew unpacking the exhibit and gives an idea of the massiveness of some of the stone artifacts, but i's not the largest of them.

Quezalcotl Images

Turquoise encrusted skull image of the diety.
Turquoise encrusted skull image of the diety.
The coiled stone plumed serpent.
The coiled stone plumed serpent.
Gold feathered serpent head.
Gold feathered serpent head.

The artifacts are breathtaking, from pottery to jewelry to deity images. It makes one think how humans quest for avatars to trust and to endow with special powers greater than our own. It is typical of peoples of all ages and locations. It makes one think.

Gold jewelry in the mode of that time.

Gold earspools such as worn by Quezalcoatl in his depictions
Gold earspools such as worn by Quezalcoatl in his depictions
Various gold jewelry
Various gold jewelry

The precious, rare artifacts are prepared for exhibit at DMA

Handling a Plumed Serpent carving
Handling a Plumed Serpent carving
Visiting curator Alehandra Barajas brushes fragment of plumed serpent column during installation.
Visiting curator Alehandra Barajas brushes fragment of plumed serpent column during installation.
Staff installs sculpture in the form of a furthered serpent
Staff installs sculpture in the form of a furthered serpent

It's a humbling experience to view things of antiquity which represented such meaning to the peoples of the time. The artistry of these pieces shows the level of civilization that was in progress at that time - and, obviously, had been inherited from earlier times.

When we feel smug or superior about our so-called modern progress and sophistication, we need but look at such as this to gain more perspective about where we fit into the 'big picture'.












Thank you for browsing with me - not an academic look at this time and era, but a spontaneous response to something so impressive I simply had to share it.

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Comments 42 comments

A.A. Zavala profile image

A.A. Zavala 4 years ago from Texas

I heard about the exhibit being in Dallas on NPR. Have you've been? I want to see it once I get an opportunity. I have been fascinated by the legend since I studied about the conquistador Cortez. Awesome!


christopheranton profile image

christopheranton 4 years ago from Gillingham Kent. United Kingdom

That really was a very interesting article Nellieanna. The Maya were a fascinating people. I would love to have a time machine, in order to visit them at the height of their civilisation.


Sunnie Day 4 years ago

Good Morning Nellieanna,

I so agree with your statement!

"When we feel smug or superior about our so-called modern progress and sophistication, we need but look at such as this to gain more perspective about where we fit into the 'big picture'."

Having new Technologies does not mean we should dismiss other cultures or the value they bring to us. I admire the hard work that went in to art work, buildings, ect..because of the intricate details and hours spent making it, I think things were valued, made better, and were not taken for granted..something our society does not get at times. Thank you for the wonderful information on the poicdiety named Quetzalcoatl, and all the pictures..Great hub and very interesting.

Love,

Sunnie


xstatic profile image

xstatic 4 years ago from Eugene, Oregon

Nellieanna, this is a wonderful exhibit that you have shared so well with us. Your summary is so well done and the photos tell us even more. Thank you!


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 4 years ago from Deep South, USA

Thanks so much for sharing your visit to the Quetzalcoatl exhibit at DMA with us. I love museums, but also enjoy vicariously "visiting" them via articles and photos such as yours.

You're so right that viewing and considering antiquities such as these should humble us. We are but a speck in time and space, and others lived and created art long before us.

Voted Up++++

Jaye


ahorseback profile image

ahorseback 4 years ago

Nellieanna , one of the most interesting places I've ever been . Or ever will be . The Mayans , such an interesting and advanced civilization . We went to Talum ! Awesome stuff ......:-} ++++++


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 4 years ago from TEXAS Author

A general reply: I'm truly delighted that some of my dear hub friends visited here and found it worthwhile. It is most gratifying, since I admit that I'm a little intimidated by a vast subject such as this. I do not come as an academian ready to research and post bibliography on great subjects, though I could if that were my aim. It is not.

It's that each time I've visited such as this DMA exhibit I come away awestruck and pulsating with urgent desire to share a first-hand, personal experience which is unique in a way, not to be found elsewhere! Maybe that's my thing. I truly like to write about 'being there', even if it's centuries ago! Seeing these artifacts, walking among the antiquities seems like being there. The facts I uncover in any further research are merely to bring them more into focus.

My friend, Val, and I don't miss many of these extraordinary exhibits. Dallas has become a stop for the kinds of exhibits shown only in major cities. They come here and offer the experience. I find that amazing.

She has the DMAmembership and, since her Norm is no longer up to such a demanding excursion, she always invites me to accompany her as her included guest. I drive and she buys our lunch! The exhibits we've seen are outstanding and this is the latest. The latest seems always the best!

We can go back as often as we wish with the membership privilege - and we've done so. We went to the Jean-Paul Gaultier exhibit twice and still hungered for more. I wrote a private impression of it to someone and was encouraged to write a hub, but didn't get it written. I guess it's never too late!

And yes, we plan to revisit the Plumed Serpent! We'll bring sweaters. Even with soaring temperatures outside, they keep these precious artifacts quite chilly. There is a practical side to visiting the past!

We learned this time that DMA also has a permanent exhibit about the Mayan era up on the 4th floor, which we want to explore, too. Our visits require Val to have their daughter come stay with Norm. You can only surmise what a special treat it is for us to get out and explore these other worlds.

Anyway - I do urge anyone within visiting distance to exhibits about the great eras of yesterday - or the magnificent creativeness of today's artists - to take time to go! It is not going to be a disappointment! And some may never cross our paths again in so vivid a manner. We owe it to ourselves.


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 4 years ago from TEXAS Author

ps -- Val and Norm were Mexico aficionados, visiting frequently, and she was familiar with the sites and lore of the areas. Going through the exhibit, I had access to the additional first-hand comments she added, having seen these place and been "there". What a bonus!


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 4 years ago from TEXAS Author

Oh, yes, Augustine - I have been. Please schedule your visit. You will be enriched!!! You have time - the exhibit continues till in Nov. Your personal study of the era will make it more real for YOU. It is really post-Cortez, but he was very much caught up in the legend of the Plumed Serpent, which is the focus of the exhibit. Some of those connections fascinate me. Montezuma, also, was into this lore.


Austinstar profile image

Austinstar 4 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

Oh! Pretty pictures! Nice hub Nellianna. Thank you for publishing this.


IntegrityYes 4 years ago

That is terrific.


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 4 years ago from TEXAS Author

Thank you Austistar. You know it was your suggestion which led me to publish it. It's low-key but there is a message in the thread of persistent beliefs, which I hope you noticed, along with the pretty pix.

Thank YOU for coming by and reading!


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 4 years ago from TEXAS Author

Integrity Yes - Hi and I'm so pleased you visited! Thank you!


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 4 years ago from TEXAS Author

Christopher - I'm pleased that you found my little article interesting! It was a real treat to walk among these particular artifacts of that past time.

OH yes -- let's find a time machine and travel to those eras! Time is thought to be a continuum, so it seems possible!

Thank you for the great comments!


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 4 years ago from TEXAS Author

Sunnie, my dear! I'm so glad you came by and enjoyed my hub. It's so true what you say: we shouldn't devalue ancient cultures (or any other present-day cultures) because they differ from our own. All their creativity, coupled with their ideas about life and the universe as seen from the perspectives available to them at the time have such value for us still! We have much to learn from both the past and from others of our own time.

We do tend to feel overly smug (often with little or no justification) about our own creativity and ideas. We're merely specks on the long march of human civilization and not even the culmination of it up till now. I see that Jaye pointed out that too!

We've our blind spots and some of those are as major as those that have resulted from the slow progress of progress at earlier times and in other places still today. We should be grateful for advantages we do have and make much better use of them instead of feeling self-satisfied and superior. Too often, as you point out, we've gained new technology and paid for it in a sort of oblivious immunity to full awareness of its potentials, loss of appreciation of its benefits, & so, in old-fashioned taking it for granted.

It's one of many lessons that can be derived from just seeing the actual residue of one of 'other' times and places and experiencing one's own personal awakening of awareness to be taken from it.

Hopefully one day we'll realize we are all 'kindred' here on this small planet and become more appreciative of each others' unique contributions.

Thank you, Sunnie - and love to you and yours!


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 4 years ago from TEXAS Author

Jim - ah, thank you! Yes - the photos tell the tale, don't they? I especially hope y'all view the video of the exhibit when it was in L.A. The shots of the objects in it are gorgeous and exactly as we see them at the exhibit here. It's also nice to follow along with the narrative, too.

While Val and I were lingering over one display, one of the museum's people came up and further explained what it was and what it meant. That was so helpful. Of course, each piece has a written explanation, too, and there was a live video being shown on a big screen (where one could sit down and rest a minute, as well). Another treat.

Of course, taking pictures at the exhibit was prohibited. That's one reason the video of it I've included is so helpful. It shows many more of the objects than can be found nywhere else online to share.

There were books about it to be purchased in the gift shop. Perhaps if we go back to see it again, I'll get one!

I completely enjoyed the exhibit and the writing about it to share here with my dear friends! Hugs!


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 4 years ago from TEXAS Author

Jaye, dear friend - - Ah! We both enjoy museums; another of our commonalities! Yes, vicariously visiting them is wonderful, too, and with the technology at our fingertips, it's possible to visit so many amazing exhibits and places, not to mention its allowing us the ability to share the uniqueness of our own habitats and history with each other!

Yup. It's humbling and in a very positive way to see what has been done by others who lacked almost all our technology, and brought to it into being only their own resourcefulness, creativity and inspiration (and often with the brawn of workers or even slaves!)

I guess that, in addition to taking our privileges and advantages for granted, we've also become 'soft' and lackadaisical. My own parents were so industrious, determined, independent, resourceful and creative - more than most folks now. I'm sure they were only one of many examples of the drive and 'guts' of only a generation or two ago!

Thank you for your comments and for your votes!


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 4 years ago from TEXAS Author

Ed, I envy your getting to visit those sites first-hand where the advanced ancient civilization was centered. I had the advantage of going to this exhibit with Val, who had visited many of the places and seen artifacts that couldn't be transported for an exhibit such as this one. I loved hearing her tell of that.

Of course this period covered in the Plumed Serpent exhibit was toward the end of that dominant era of the Mayans and the Aztecs. But it continued the heritage of those cultures in Southern Mexico and up till a time period starting when the civilizations of Europe and into the time when the discovery of the new world by Europeans were both still in infancy, at most.

No doubt there are vestiges of its golden eras still extant in parts of Mexico and Central America. But like so many other things, the modern' viewpoints and ways crowd out so much of the former ones - and too often replace them with lesser values, perhaps.

I'd love to see you write about your visit to Talum. I'm sure it would be awesome to visit! Thank you for visiting my presentation here!


drbj profile image

drbj 4 years ago from south Florida

Your photos, Nellienna, are beautiful and your commentary causes deja vu because I have had the good fortune to visit four Mayan sites in Mexico. Two in Quintana Roo: Tulum and Xel-Ha and two on the Yucatan peninsula: Uxmal and Chichen Itza. The latter was exceptional. If you have an opportunity to visit it during either of the two equinoxes, you will see an unbelievable sight. The setting sun creates a shadow on the pyramid steps that resembles a gigantic snake crawling down them.


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 4 years ago from South Africa

Information about previous civilizations always fascinates me and especially mythology.

Now I am curious to learn more about Mexican deities.

Thank you, Nellieanna :)


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 4 years ago from TEXAS Author

DRBJ~ that's so exciting! I would love to visit those places. The mental visual of that setting sun casting a shadow like a giant snake crawling down the pyramid steps is just incredible!

My dear sister Ruth, who recently died, was a teacher. One of her several subjects was Spanish and she spent many summers studying in Mexico, where she lived with a local family in order to really immerse in the language and customs. She mentioned visiting Chichen Itza and the drama of the place.

I was born in a border town, and grew up there and at the ranch, also quite close to the Rio Grande. Yet I've never visited Mexico beyond the town across the border! Imagine.

Your recommendation truly stirs my latent desire to foray deeper into the country so close to my life!

Thank you for sharing this and for your complimentary comment about my little hub!


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 4 years ago from TEXAS Author

Martie - oh yes - you would be fascinated by Mexican history - especially the more ancient history! Some of the Earth's oldest civilizations are in the middle regions of this hemisphere: Mexico, Central America, the northern areas of South America are so rich in ancient history of amazing past civilizations.

I'm so glad you got something out of my hub and left me a great comment about how it stirred your curiosty!


QudsiaP1 profile image

QudsiaP1 4 years ago

Absolutely fascinating.


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 4 years ago from TEXAS Author

Dear QudsiaP - I'm truly pleased that you visited and found this fascinating. I agree! Thank you.


dallas93444 profile image

dallas93444 4 years ago from Bakersfield, CA

Your being aware and alert has created an environment whereby you can appreciate in depth the many levels of intrinsic beauty, and accept it for what it is.

Your inherent warmth and observations are colored with golden hues of acquired wisdom. As you noted, our diversity and history creates our tapestries. We get to design our own tapestry, based upon our realities. Your awe, wonder, joy, and innocence is appreciated!


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 4 years ago from TEXAS Author

Hello, Dallas - I especially like your comment. So perceptive. I've read it several times and each time, I see another nuance of the accurate perception in it. It's quite flattering, of course, but what it feels more like is understanding. It's so rare to feel perceived and understood, even by people who love us dearly. I once wrote a poem about that, in fact. It said: "To be liked and loved without understanding is fierce."

Oddly, perhaps it requires a bit of objectivity and distance, like seeing the forest from outside it. Anyway, I very much appreciate and like what you've perceived! Thank you, my friend.


dallas93444 profile image

dallas93444 4 years ago from Bakersfield, CA

Thanks! Our realities are plural... Perhaps our realities are like an onion, layers upon layer - each layer a part of the whole...

To appreciate intrinsic beauty is in and of itself an art... We get to decide what the beauty is and why it is meaningful.


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 4 years ago from TEXAS Author

Yes, our realities are plural. The onion metaphor is extremely graphic and fits on many levels of being and the ways we experience reality. I've heard it likened to the layers of 'old tapes' which stifle the inner core of one's being too, needing to be peeled off to let the sunshine and air in to that core.

It's so that the appreciation of intrinsic beauty is a form of art, similar to the appreciation of a gift is a part of art of giving.


dallas93444 profile image

dallas93444 4 years ago from Bakersfield, CA

Interesting! I had to learn to receive. It is much easier to give... I have learned to receive. I have learned to receive is to empower the giver... it fulfills their needs/wants, or desires.

Your analogy of 'old tapes' is creative. If one's inner core is locked into a stale, repetitive, non-risk taking behaviors, one may be lulled into a 'safe,' boring existence! There would be no opportunity for growth. Look how much your personal growth has occurred in the last 10 years! As we become more aware, we become more aware of being aware... As you have noted, one must be alert and aware!


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 4 years ago from TEXAS Author

Ah yes. I perceive that men (some but not all, of course) tend to prefer to give rather than to receive. It probably goes-with the traditional role men have been expected to fill.

In a way, it is the "upper hand", the position of perceived power. It engenders no sense of obligation. No 'thank you' notes are required - haha. It is fun. It's actually a bit thoughtless.

Allowing the other person to give doesn't necessarily give the other person fulfillment (that would be like doing it to retain the position of the giver in the transaction) but it recognizes the other's need, desire and right to get to be the giver if he or she has that in his or her character. It allows it and when received with sincerity and joy, both people are benefitted.

So it It is a sign of maturity in sensitivity and very good to realize that the other people like and need to give as well. Some folks never reach that height!

Old tapes can be of many varieties: as you so aptly describe, leading to stagnancy and boring existence. They can also be made up of fear, fury, prejudice, bigotry, and just about any of the 'prisons' of the heart, mind and soul humans can become locked into.

I do look at my personal growth in the sat 10 years; as well as in most of the decades so far, though the surge has been greatest these last half of the bunch! :-)

Your expression is soooo right on - "being aware of being aware"!! We probably are always aware at a subconscious level, but it may not register on our conscious awareness. We need the alertness in that.

Of course, who knows how many things slip by our awareness and alertness. Probably is necessary that many do, to keep us from going stark, raving mad! :-) Processing what we key into is part of a healthy system too. When we're doing that, we are ignoring some other things, no doubt.


dallas93444 profile image

dallas93444 4 years ago from Bakersfield, CA

Your wisdom shows!


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 4 years ago from TEXAS Author

Aw, shucks. . . ;-) Thank you. And look who talks!


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

Dear Nelieanna -- I disagree. More academic than you realize. A lovely and informative Hub. And if I were addressing the Maya in class, if at all possible I would combine history and architecture and poetry and sculpture and pottery and jewelry. The very best learning experiences are always Interdisciplinary! Wonderful hub. :) Theresa


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 4 years ago from TEXAS Author

Dear Theresa! I'm thrilled with your comment. I agree that learning needs to be interdisciplinary. That gives it LIFE. My favorite historians include so much more than "just the facts, m'am", -meaning not just the dry facts,, but the effects on the live people of the times, how they lived and thought, and what propelled the movers and shakers of the times; not just their events and the dates.

Anything as fascinating as ancient cultures is irresistibly visceral, somehow. All the artifacts at this exhibit told so much about the artists, as well as their followers - the people of the time.

Anyway - thank you for a lovely comment. I truly appreciate it.

BTW, I've just come from reading Marcoujor's delightful Interview with Genna East, a most lovely Hubber and writer. Maria is doing a series of interviews with Hubber women and this was the 3rd in the series. I'm to be in a later one (in October). I can recommend these hubs. She did one earlier on some Hubber men and it was excellent, too.


IntegrityYes 4 years ago

You are very welcome, Nellie.


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 4 years ago from TEXAS Author

. . . curtsies. . . :-)


unknown spy profile image

unknown spy 4 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up.

wow! those are such wonderful exhibits Nellieanna. You really did a great work on this one. thanks for sharing.


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 4 years ago from TEXAS Author

I'm so pleased that you visited here and enjoyed it! Thank you!!

My friend and I are still planning to go see the exhibit again before it leaves our city!


B. Leekley profile image

B. Leekley 3 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

Up, Useful, and Interesting. I hope I will see the exhibit one day.


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 3 years ago from TEXAS Author

B.Leekley - Thank you! I hope that opportunity comes your way! It's quite an experience!


Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia

Very interesting hub Nellieanna. This must have been an amazing exhibit. Ancient History was always my favourite subject and I am enthralled by ancient civilisations, there architecture, carvings, lifestyle etc. The Aztecs,mIncas and Mayans were particularly intriguing. I am glad this was re-shared.


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 2 years ago from TEXAS Author

Dear Jodah ~ Thank you so much for visiting this hub. It was published a couple of years ago, and I’ve not visited it myself in nearly that long, so I’ve just enjoyed perusing it, too.

It was a tremendous exhibit. My dear friend, Val, and I have gone to many of the outstanding DMA exhibits, of a variety of kinds. It’s not rarely that our museum is chosen as the one or one of the few museums for amazing exhibits from other countries and artists. Each one is like a step into a bigger, better world.

Like you, I’m especially fascinated with ancient civilizations. The mystery of how so many of them were such advanced societies, often excelling in science, art, architecture and even in government is highly intriguing to me. Modern Earth could learn much from them.

So thank you, dear friend, for sharing this one.

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