Thursday, 31. August 2006
Native American Rock Art
illustrates the symbolic flight of the shaman between the worlds of the living and the dead; the shaman at the height of his mystical power and immune to attack by evil spirits. This figure from Panther Cave is duplicated at nearby Lookout Shelter, and at Rattlesnake Canyon on the Rio Grande above Langtry. Variations on the theme of unbound hair are found throughout the Lower Pecos region in Texas and northern Coahuila.
The Ecstatic Shaman
The radiant hair of this small figure identifies it as an entranced shaman. Hair, because of its growth and regeneration, is one of the most magical parts of the human body, and is therefore thought to be vulnerable to supernatural influences. This superstition is expressed in the Biblical tale of Samson, whose power resided in his uncut hair, and in folk magic that considers hair and nail clippings necessary for many charms and spells. Many of the inverted flying or falling figures in the Pecos River style pictographs are shown with streaming unbound hair, one of the characteristics that
|White Shaman: Bird on Hand|
Adjacent to the profile shaman is another of the rare white shamans, shown in the traditional frontal pose. On his arm he bears what appears to be a bird. Birds are traditional messengers, and culture heroes are often assisted by their winged familiars who serve as their far-seeing eyes. A more prosaic explanation may be that this is the portrait of one particular shaman whose trademark was a tamed bird. Many of the shaman figures are drawn with objects hanging from or sitting on their arms. Clearly not all of them are birds, but they may represent various medicine bundles or charms which, in historic times, were often carried in pouches.
The Rock Art Foundation (RAF) exists to promote the conservation and study of the Native American rock art
in the Lower Pecos region of Southwest Texas.