The Jaguar Within
Shamanic Trance in Ancient Central and South American Art
244 Pages, 8.50 x 11.00 x 1.30 in, 137 b&w photos, 15 line drawings
Sales Date: April 9, 2024
An important new way of viewing the prehistoric art of the Americas, The Jaguar Within demonstrates that understanding a work of art’s connection with shamanic trance can lead to an appreciation of it as an extremely creative solution to the inherent challenge of giving material form to nonmaterial realities and states of being.
Shamanism—the practice of entering a trance state to experience visions of a reality beyond the ordinary and to gain esoteric knowledge—has been an important part of life for indigenous societies throughout the Americas from prehistoric times until the present. Much has been written about shamanism in both scholarly and popular literature, but few authors have linked it to another significant visual realm—art. In this pioneering study, Rebecca R. Stone considers how deep familiarity with, and profound respect for, the extra-ordinary visionary experiences of shamanism profoundly affected the artistic output of indigenous cultures in Central and South America before the European invasions of the sixteenth century.
Using ethnographic accounts of shamanic trance experiences, Stone defines a core set of trance vision characteristics, including enhanced senses; ego dissolution; bodily distortions; flying, spinning, and undulating sensations; synaesthesia; and physical transformation from the human self into animal and other states of being. Stone then traces these visionary characteristics in ancient artworks from Costa Rica and Peru. She makes a convincing case that these works, especially those of the Moche, depict shamans in a trance state or else convey the perceptual experience of visions by creating deliberately chaotic and distorted conglomerations of partial, inverted, and incoherent images.
The Jaguar Within offers an entirely new way to look at the aesthetically laden objects produced in the southern Amerindian world. . . . Stone’s proposal to delineate a visionary aesthetic promises to be an exciting contribution to the larger literature on indigenous aesthetics, ethno-aesthetics, or cultural symbolism. Indeed, Stone’s penetrating analyses of the form, function, elaboration, and decoration of aesthetically laden objects from ancient Central and South American cultures are unparalleled. I know of no other writer on the ancient Americas who thinks so deeply about ‘period eye’ or how people in a specific place and time were conditioned to filter and interpret (or to create) visual stimuli. ~Carolyn E. Tate, Texas Tech University, author of Reconsidering Olmec Visual Culture
A tour-de-force of mature scholarship, elegant writing, and well-illustrated text. This album-sized art book takes the reader on a comparative adventure of deep penetration into shamanic practices and conceptions of the Andes and Costa Rica, via pottery and dramatic visionary imagery. . . She also extends her research skills to anthropological fieldwork, hinting that she has befriended healers and shamans over many years of confidence building. . . From Mesoamerican Chavin Vision Serpents with feline elements, to Peruvian Moche visionary scenes with feline-snake depictions, Stone skillfully reveals commonalities and variations of shamanic imaginations. ~Religion
- Chapter 1. General Recurrent Themes in the Phenomenology of Visions
- Chapter 2. The Common Perceptual Phenomena and Stages of the Visionary Experience
- Chapter 3. Visions and Shamanizing: The Intermediary Role, Anomalousness, Control, and Balance
- Chapter 4. Embodying the Shaman in Trance: Embracing Creative Ambiguity
- Chapter 5. Shamanic Embodiment in Ancient Costa Rican Art I: At the Human End and the Balance Point of the Flux Continuum
- Chapter 6. Shamanic Embodiment in Ancient Costa Rican Art II: Toward the Animal End and Beyond the Flux Continuum
- Chapter 7. Shamanic Embodiment in Ancient Central Andean Art I: Toward the Human End and the Balance Point of the Flux Continuum
- Chapter 8. Shamanic Embodiment in Ancient Central Andean Art II: Toward the Animal End and Beyond the Flux Continuum
- Works Cited