The Jaguar: The Aztecs’ Dark Side of Power

Anthropologists have found especially useful to analyse human relationships with animals, including the meanings assigned to them and the ways of classifying them. Lévi-Strauss in particular, thought that animal species offered “conceptual support for social differentiation”. In his study of feline symbolism, Saunders, in turn, argues that studying it offers the prospect of understanding “a deeply rooted, pan-American, and fundamentally shamanic conception of political power”. In addition, Saunders analyses the Aztec god Tezcatlipoca to support the jaguar metaphor of Aztec royal power. Both arguments are nothing new.1 I am going to demonstrate, however, that jaguarpower does not actually represent royal power in general, but its darkest aspect within the Aztecs’ dualistic conception of the universe.