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Native American Jaguar Mythology

The jaguar is one of several North American animals whose name has Native American origins-- the word "jaguar" is a Portuguese corruption of Brazilian Indian words for the big cat (jaguarete, yaguarete, jaguatee, or yaguara, in different Tupi-Guarani languages.)

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Jaguars hold great religious and cultural importance in many cultures of Mexico, Central America, and South America. The Aztecs associated jaguars with royalty, war, and magical power. The highest order of Aztec warriors was known as the Jaguar Warriors or Jaguar Knights, and jaguars frequently served as spirit animals to Aztec and other Mesoamerican shamans or sorcerers. The Mayas primarily associated jaguars with the underworld and the night; the Classical Mayan god of the underworld is usually represented as a jaguar. Throughout Central and South America, jaguars are seen as a symbol of strength, courage, and spiritual power, much as bears are in most of North America. The jaguar is also used as a clan animal in some cultures of Central and South America. In indigenous mythology and folklore, the jaguar plays a variety of roles ranging from a wise and powerful leader, to a fierce warrior, to a deadly monster. Many tribes ascribe shapeshifting powers to jaguars, and jaguars in legends frequently intermarry with humans.

Native American Jaguar Gods and Spirits

Tezcatlipoca (Aztec)

Native American Legends About Jaguars

*The Possum and the Jaguar * The Jaguar and the Little Skunk:
    Mayan legends about animals unsuccessfully trying to imitate their godfather Jaguar.
*A Jaguar Story:
    Mayan legend about a jaguar and a deer trying to live together.

Recommended Books of Jaguar Stories from Native American Myth and Legend

Native American Animal Stories:
    Great collection of American Indian tales about animals, told by Abenaki storyteller Joseph Bruchac.

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