“The Venus Symbol in Southwest Rock Art”

The Maya symbol for Venus (Lamat) In 1996, the great John B. Carlson wrote a paper titled “Transformations of the Mesoamerican Turtle Carapace War Shield, A Study in Ethnoastronomy”, that looked at war shields from Mesoamerica and the American Southwest. A common subject for the decoration of these symbols of conflict was the crucifix representing the planet Venus. From Late Formative times in Mesoamerica, the planet Venus was viewed as a powerful male god of warfare and sacrifice. Carlson realized that Mesoamericans fought wars on the cycles of the planet. This Venus-regulated warfare and sacrifice theme comes from various inscriptions and iconography, from Spanish chronicles and ethnohistorical sources, and from Pre-Columbian codices. Carlson noted a frequent portrayal of a turtle carapace used by a god or important person as a shield. Here is a turtle carapace decorated with the Maya Lamat Venus glyph. The war shield as the celestial symbol of Venus.

The planet Venus was viewed as a powerful male god of warfare and sacrifice whose rays were feared as deadly spears, particularly when the planet appeared in the east before sunrise as Morning Star or in the west after sunset as Evening Star. Nahua and Uto-Aztecan-speaking peoples may well have been the principal cultural agents who carried this cult of warfare and sacrifice north into the American Southwest and perhaps also into the Plains and Southeast. From 900 CE in West Mexico, to 1200 CE in Northwest Mexico in the Casas Grandes region, and by 1300 CE in the American Southwest, the Venus symbolism spread. Among these changes in the American Southwest is the dramatic florescence of Morning Star and warfare-related symbolism in Pueblo rock art and kiva murals. 

(Red Rocks, Arizona) In the art and iconography of Mesoamerica, the depiction of plumed serpents in association with stars is widely interpreted as representing portrayals of Quetzalcoatl in his guise as the Morning Star, both being closely related to the dawn and the eastern directional point.

The Casas Grandes Cultural complex conveyed Mesoamerican related themes from the site of Paquime in Chihuahua including the transmission of a Mesoamerican-derived Morning Star warfare complex to the American Southwest. Ball courts, horned serpent imagery, and the cross-shaped architectural features at the Mound of the Cross all suggest possible manifestations of and links to the Quetzalcoatl-Venus complex.

(The Venus Symbol related Mound of the Cross at Paquime) The symbol of the outlined cross is commonly identified as a representation of Venus. In Mesoamerica it symbolized Quetzalcoatl in his aspect of the morning star and indeed the Mayan glyph for the planet Venus includes an outlined cross. The rising of the Morning Star of Venus is symbolic of the rising of the creator from death to rebirth. The very same relationship exists between the Morning Venus and multi- named Native American creator gods. Mesoamerica researchers have been successful in identifying several Venus Star symbols which were used by the Maya, Toltec, and Aztec cultures to identify the Creator One of the symbols used by these cultures to identify the rebirth of the creator Quetzalcoatl is an outlined cross. the Aztec creation god after being on earth, became a sky god who is seen in the Mexican iconographic system in both anthropomorphic and serpent form, and he is also symbolized by the Morning Star, often in the form of an outlined cross”

This same interpretation of a similar Venus star is traceable back to Mesoamerica and the death and rebirth of Quetzalcoatl, the Sky God of Creation. In some of the legends of the ancestors of the Aztec, Quetzalcoatl is represented by the Morning Star, while his twin brother Xolotl is represented by the Evening Star. Together they symbolize the passage of Venus into the underworld in the evening, and then its emergence again into the Eastern sky in the morning. Below is a clear illustration of Quetzalcoatl’s influence in the SW in the photo below, a serpent becoming Venus; with a second Venus star (death-rebirth/spiritual); a pregnant (earthly/physical) lizard; and an anthropomorph wearing New Fire Ceremony headgear.

(Red Rock, Arizona) Taube, Schaafsma and Taube makes the convincing argument that the association of Quetzalcoatl as Morning Star in Postclassic Mesoamerica is associated with the east, the rising sun, as well as with rain-bringing winds of the gulf linking Venus to rain and agricultural fertility. In addition researchers present evidence that warfare and the taking of captives destined for sacrifice among the Maya was coordinated with the movements of Venus (Carlson, Lounsbury, Milbrath, Schele and Freidel. The Mesoamerican Venus was connected to a war/fertility complex that goes back to Teotihuacan (Carlson). In Mexico Tlaloc-Venus warfare was the means by which blood offerings were transformed into water through the capture of prisoners for ritual sacrifice. Carlson asks the question of whether the association between Venus, rain, maize, and fertility is rooted in the ancient mythic/cultural tradition of the transformation of blood into water via Venus-linked war and sacrifice, or whether where is an astronomical/calendrical basis for these beliefs – or both? In general, in Mesoamerica and in the cosmologies of West Mexico and the American Southwest, stars are feared, regarded as dangerous, and their association with conflict is pervasive. Morning Star is often perceived as the Sun‘s warrior, defeating darkness as it rises, and both the Sun and Morning Star are implicated in sacrificial rites that, in turn, serve to maintain cosmic balance.

Below is a slide show of this symbolism in Mesoamerica and the Southwest; Venus in Southwest Rock Art

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