Friday, 17 August 2012

FANTABULOUS FRIDAYS A-Z: K FOR KUKULKAN WITH M.G.HARRIS

Scribble City Central's twenty-fifth Fantabulous Friday comes from MG Harris, teen author extraordinaire.  MG’s adventure series, The Joshua Files features Mayan mythology, the doomsday prophecy of 2012 and time travel. The fourth book in the series, Dark Parallel, features the teenage hero, Josh, being flung back in time to the age of the classic Maya, with human sacrifice, serpents and a manuscript hidden somewhere in the ancient city of Calakmul.
Dark Parallel
IF YOU'D LIKE A CHANCE TO WIN A SIGNED COPY OF DARK PARALLEL, JUST LEAVE A COMMENT ON THIS BLOG!

I've been following Josh's adventures with increasing excitement as each book appears, and Apocalypse Moon, the latest and last in the series got my ultimate accolade of Wow! (Factor 10).  Like the other books, it's fast moving, ultra-exciting and has more twists and turns than a feathered serpent's tail. The last novel in a series can sometimes leave the reader asking plaintively 'but what about...?' in an unsatisfied kind of way.  Not in this book. MG ties up all loose ends and answers all questions brilliantly, as well as providing a satisfyingly thrilling conclusion which left my heart beating faster and my nails in danger of being terminated with extreme prejudice.  What I particularly like about these books is that they've rekindled my interest in Mayan mythology - something I dipped into during my shamanic studies many years ago, but never very deeply.  I knew about Quetzalcoatl, but not much else, so I'm off to delve into my library and find out more. While I'm doing that,  MG will take you into the realms of:

K for Kukulcan
Feathered Serpent Man


MGH: Every year on the spring equinox, thousands of people gather at the ruins of the ancient Maya-Toltec city of Chichen Itza, one of the new Seven Wonders of the ancient world. They wait for the midday sun to strike the main staircase of the central temple – El Castillo – also known as the Temple of Kukulkan (pron. coo-cool-kan).

A mythical beast; part man, part quetzal bird, part serpent, Kukulkan comes alive when the sun’s rays light up triangles on the pyramid’s staircase, all the way to the giant serpent’s head at the base of the temple.

The pantheistic religion of the Maya revered many deities. The feathered serpent, Kukulkan, wasn’t necessarily the most powerful – he wasn’t the creator figure, nor the god of rain. Yet Kukulkan is the most distinctive of the Mesoamerican deities - and may well have been the harbinger of doom for the last civilisation to worship him – the Aztecs.

It’s not clear that the Mayans can truly claim K’uk’ulkan as their own. At the height of the Classic Maya around the sixth century AD, another Mesoamerican civilisation, the powerful and enigmatic citizens of Teotihuacan in the central plains of Mexico, also worshipped a feathered serpent god, known in that part of the world as Quetzalcoatl.

Because we know so little of the mythology of this deity, it’s not clear in which direction the lore travelled. It’s likely that the two serpent gods were once distinct, and that once merchant travel from Teotihuacan brought myths of Quetzalcoatl to the Yucatan coast, the two myths merged.
Quetzalcoatl
Kukulkan
   
What seems very likely is that however the Mayan Kukulkan became the Mexican Quetzalcoatl, it spelled trouble for the culture that would, centuries later, add the feathered serpent to their pantheon.
Once you start delving into the iconography and symbolism of Kukulkan/Quetzalcoatl, you enter a mythology that feels extremely foreign to a Eurocentric sensibility. Aside from the native cuisine, modern urban Mexico’s culture is far more strongly influenced by the Spanish colonization than by any indigenous culture. So what you see in Mexico’s incredible museums of anthropology represent just as disconnected from present-day reality for most Mexicans as they would for North American or European visitors.

The feathered serpent deity seems primarily to be connected to fertility, and to warfare. The Mesoamerican peoples developed around agriculture, architecture and war. The cult of human sacrifice was widespread and was practised to some degree by every civilisation there. War was one way to ensure a steady supply of sacrificial victims. The sacrifices kept the rains coming, which kept the corn growing, which fed the troops and the builders. From blood to maize; one big circle of death.
One by one, each civilisation rose and declined, usually to be replaced with a watered-down version of the last. The last great Mesoamerican civilisation, the Mexica or Aztecs, may have had a capital city of temples and aqueducts, which dazzled the Spanish conquistadors who arrived with Hernan Cortes in the sixteenth century. But the Aztecs couldn’t write – that particular knowledge had already been lost with the collapse of the Maya around 1200AD.

If the Aztecs had wanted to see off the Spanish, they easily had the numbers. The Spanish had an ally, which they must have interpreted as the answer to their Christian prayers. But that ally was no other than Kukulkan himself.

The hybrid bird-serpent had, via the Maya, acquired human characteristics. The ruler of the Aztecs, Moctezuma, would have known that Kukulkan had a white, bearded face. He would arrive from the east. He would bring knowledge that would advance the fortunes of his people. Or maybe destroy his people. The actual destiny wasn’t clear. But it was unavoidable. Resistance was futile.
So when Cortes rode into the Aztec capital, Tenochtitlan, with his white skin and beard, with the black plume in his conquistador helmet, Moctezuma caught a touch of future shock. Destiny obliterated his own rule.

For thousands of years, the Mesoamerican civilisations had essentially failed to innovate. Theirs was a static culture. The job of a king was to maintain that. Only the gods could change things. 
Kukulkan/Quetzelcoatl represented the ineluctable will of the gods. Moctezuma was helpless in the face of his beliefs. The Spanish captured the Aztec ruler and his capital swiftly fell, almost without a fight.
The central defeat of the Aztecs was achieved the hands of a tiny handful of Europeans. It’s a story that everyone should tell their children to prove the power of an idea over force. Or maybe it’s an excuse, invented a decade later by bewildered Mexicans in New Spain struggling to comprehend how it was that they’d handed their nation over to European conquerors.
Fact or fiction, it’s a fitting end to a bizarre story; a hybrid creature that straddled the unlikely counterpoints of fertility and death.

SCC:  I had no idea about the connection between Cortes and Kukulkan - fascinating.  Thanks so much for enlightening me and my lovely blog readers, MG.
Don't forget to leave a comment if you'd like a chance to win the signed book!

You can buy MG Harris's latest books by clicking HERE.

Next week: James Dawson, author of the smashing YA debut novel, Hollow Pike, ventures into the fiery realm of L for Lucifer.  See you then!

11 comments:

Sarah Hilary said...

A parent's dream book - one that grips their kids and sneakily teaches them LOADS about history, civilisation and chocolate. Brava!

catdownunder said...

Ooh I don't know these and they sound utterly fascinating...rushing off to on-line library catalogue now and will probably end up buying them when I can afford it!

Lucy Coats said...

Brava! indeed, Sarah. I certainly learned a lot, (though I have to say my chocolate education was not entirely lacking...).

Cat - you won't be disappointed. I guess you'd put these in the 'boy's adventure' category in the book store, but I'd recommend them to anyone, old or young. Really excellent books if you're looking for a bit of a thrill session.

Ellen Renner said...

I'll definitely be adding this to my reading pile, and my son will love it too. Thanks!

Jackie Marchant said...

I'd love to win this! If I don't, I'll buy it.

Katherine Langrish said...

I already have a copy - but love MG's fantabulous piece here!

madwippitt said...

oooh, these sound good: I think my godson might like them too - I love being able to share books with him!

Joan Lennon said...

Sounds great! I'd love to win a copy of this! (And I also love your Spammers Beware.)

Anonymous said...

My son would love to try an M.G. Harris novel .... If there's any left, that is!

wendymeddour said...

Whoops! Wasn't trying to be anonymous!

Lucy Coats said...

The winner of the competition to win the book is....

CATDOWNUNDER! I'll be in touch to see where you'd like it sent.

 
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