Mesoamerican Spirituality and Animal Co-Essences

  • Randy Malamud


Building upon cultural anthropological studies of Mesoamcrican beliefs about nonhuman animals, I want to present a model for appraising animal poetry. The Mcsoamcrican conception of “animal souls*-the idea that a person’s soul is explicitly connected with an external animal counterpart, or co-essence-suggests an expansive paradigm for human-animal relationships in my own culture. The richness of the Mcsoamcrican system of animal beliefs inspires me to juxtapose them against a discourse with which I am more familiar: poetry, which, in different ways, offers comparably rich insights into how people and nonhuman animals may coexist. 1 want to show how animal poetry might inculcate its readers with some of the sensibilities held by those who believe in animal souls. This poetry might thereby provide a medium through which Western industrial-world readers, at present uninitiated, can tap into some portion of die wotldvicw evinced by those societies that possess a more sophisticated seme of how people and animals relate to each other. Examining animal poetry in the light of Mesoamerican animal beliefs promises to provide insights that industrial-world readers have sublimated or simply missed, but that I believe arc. nevertheless, recoverable. If we investigate foreign sensibilities and then return to study our own poetry from this perspective, we may transcend our received ideas, and discover suiting points that lead toward other ways of regarding animals.


Natural World Nonhuman Animal Human Counterpart Buddhist Nation Human Fear 
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© Randy Malamud 2003

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  • Randy Malamud

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