Avian Metamorphosis: Birds, Humans and Deities in Mesoamerican Mythology

Date and Time: 
Thursday, 11 May, 2017 - 10:45
Abstract Key Words: 
Multi-Species Ontologies, Zooanthropology, ethno-ornithology
, Marco Antonio - Instituto Tecnológico del Valle de Oaxaca
, Juan Elmar
, Reyna

This work is based on oral material gathered during fieldwork in Oaxaca and Chiapas in southern Mexico and compares this with the ethnographic literature on Mesoamerica, in which diverse groups share sacred stories about the metamorphosis of birds. We found there are at least three types of transmutations: 1) the Tzeltal believe that vultures can transform into humans and vice versa; 2) the Nahua of the 16th Century thought that warriors who died in combat were transformed into hummingbirds and the behavior of the war god, Huitzilopochtli, was based on the ethology of these small birds; 3) another group of stories (Zapotec, Mixes and Huave) shows how one species can transform into another and thus explains the appearance or conduct of animals. The mythic transformation, like the biological, affects the form, function and way of life of birds, humans and gods.