Somehow, this hunchbacked flute player has become the most widely recognized Native symbol around. Maybe because there’s something playful in his step. He even became a character in one of my novellas in The Secret Side of Jaya.
Here are some facts about him.
- He’s often shown with feathers or antenna-like protrusions on his head. They often make him look like an insect.
- He may have originally been a representation of Aztec traders who brought their goods in sacks slung over their backs. His first appearance, however, is on pottery dated to 750 to 850 CE, before the Aztec empire.
- He represents the spirit of music and has roles related to fertility. He’s also fluent in languages and an enchanting storyteller.
- He appears on ancient petroglyphs and pictographs as far back as the Anasazi cliff dwellers. Guess that makes him the first rock star.
- In these representations, he’s often accompanied by animal companions or an apprentice. Well, he does preside over the reproduction of game animals.
- He’s venerated in some Native cultures in the Southwest, where he chases away winter and brings on spring as well as rain. But watch out, he is a trickster deity.
- The popularized image of today usually omits the phallus.
- Among the Hopi, it is said that he carries unborn children on his back and distributes them to children. For that reason, young girls often fear him. He also participates in marriage rituals. The Zuni also have stories.
- He’s seen on the changing moon, much like the “man” on the moon.
- He was a noisy visitor, bringing welcome news from afar and leading to a night of revelry.