Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Mayan Animal Hieroglyphic Glyphs of Spiders and Scorpions

In Codex Borbonicus 9  fig. 4) there is represented a stout-bodied form of spider with two sharply pointed chelicerae projecting from the conventionalized mouth. These characteristics together with the absence of any web, suggest a large predacious species, probably the tarantula (Tarantula sp.) which is common in Mexico. The acute powers of observation shown by the artist are evinced in this figure since he draws the spider correctly with eight legs instead of the six or ten sometimes seen in drawings by our own illustrators.
The scorpion (Maya, sinaan) figures prominently in the Tro-Cortesianus, two drawings from which are shown  figs. 1, 2). As here conventionalized, the jointed appendages are represented as composed of an indefinite number of round segments. The large chelate pedipalps are also prominently figured but the smaller walking legs are commonly omitted. In  fig. 1, however, there is a pair of posterior chelate appendages which are probably added to give a more] anthropoid cast to the figure. The slight projections along the sides of the body in , fig. 2, probably do not represent the legs. In another drawing (Tro-Cortesianus 44b) these are also present but further reduced so as not to exceed the heavy fringe of spines surrounding the body. In  fig. 1, the fringe alone appears. The formidable nature of the scorpion is of course due to the poisonous sting at the tip of the attenuated abdomen or “tail.” In the Maya pictures this portion is usually shown as a grasping organ. Thus in fig. 1 it is similar to the chela and holds a cord by which a deer has been caught. In fig. 2 the “tail” is terminated by a hand. The same thing is seen in Tro-Cortesianus 44b where the hand seizes a cord by which a deer is snared. The scorpion is represented in the drawings with a conventionalized face that is very characteristic. The facial disc is divided into three parts by a median area of straight or irregular lateral boundaries ending anteriorly in two in-turned scrolls suggesting the alae of the nose. A circular eye is present in each of the lateral divisions of the face while from the oral region projects a forked tongue.
It is of course hazardous to attempt a specific identification of these figures but, as pointed out by Stempell (1908, p. 739), there are two large scorpions in Yucatan (Centruroides margaritatus and C. gracilis) which are probably the species pictured in the codices.
The representations of the scorpion in the Tro-Cortesianus are almost always associated with scenes of the hunt. As the deer is caught in a trap so Förstemann considers that fig. 1, shows a trap with five appliances, the “tail” one alone being effective. Brinton (1895, p. 75) notes that the Mayas applied the term sinaan ek, “scorpion stars” to a certain constellation and suggests that it was derived from the Spaniards. There is certainly some association between the scorpion and water as, in Tro-Cortesianus 7a, the fore and hind legs of the animal enclose a body of water. The scorpion “tail” alone appears in Tro-Cortesianus 31a and 82a as the tail of a god. Its significance is difficult to make out. Destruction is indicated by the scorpion in the Aubin manuscript as suggested by Seler (1900-1901, p. 71).[307]
In the Nuttall Codex there is a remarkably beautiful conventionalization of a scorpion (fig. 3) in which the tripartite nature of the head is still preserved though it is so reduced as to resemble the calyx of a flower. The “tail”, as elsewhere, and the legs are present.