Announcing the publication of Jaguar Sun — my third novel in the series, The Path Of The Jaguar
In 1967, the year we were married, Linda took me to San Ignacio, Cayo in Belize where she had taught English for over a year. It had been a profound experience for her. And it was for me. We arrived late at night to stay with her dear friend and family. Being a city kid I was freaked by the biggest roach I’d ever seen—in my bed. Then when the fluttering overhead in the “bathroom” turned out to be a bat, I wanted out. Phone service and transportation were minimal and on a schedule, so I was stuck for at least another day.
The next morning I awoke to the sights and sounds of a lush jungle. After photographing the dripping wet greenery, parrots and clapboard houses I was hooked. Days later, while riding an open jeep over a pitted dirt road I asked about a tall bump on the horizon. Linda explained that it was a Maya ruin. I’d never heard that word, so she explained that the area was once home to an ancient civilization. I thought nothing of it. Later, back home in Cincinnati, I was in the library and a title caught my eye—The Ancient Maya by Sylvanus Morley. Reading it ignited a spark that led to a deep immersion into the subject.
For thirty-one years I read every book and scholarly paper I could get my hands on. I fed hundreds of dimes into copy machines, took courses in anthropology, archaeology and primitive religion to name a few. I attended archaeological symposiums, corresponded with scholars and visited Maya museums and sites—all the while wondering why. I knew I didn’t want to make a scholarly contribution to the field. And I wasn’t particularly interested in making a documentary film about the Maya. So why was I devoting so much time, energy and money and building a series of image and information databases? The answer came on the night of August 2nd in 1998. Around midnight I had the idea for a series of stories. It came to me so clearly that I got up and wrote until eight in the morning. Long story short, that same day I told Linda I was going to learn how to write a novel. I didn’t entertain the prospect of publishing, I just wanted write the stories that came to me. Thus was born the idea for a series of novels entitled The Path Of The Jaguar. From the outset I was determined to make each story historically accurate, plausible and an immersive read.
Up until then I hadn’t realized that prolonged and focused study of history can result in an immersion into its times, people and places. As I read, I was easily transported into the mentality, lifestyles, rituals and environments of the ancient Maya. In order for the stories to carry the impact of direct experience, I needed a context that would justify a first person point of view. I found it in the theory of reincarnation. What if my narrator—not myself—had the capability of recalling past life experiences? And what if he or she was able to write them down in a continuous stream of detailed remembrances?
Each story is narrated by the same person recollecting the challenging and growthful experiences of three different lifetimes, male and female personalities, within the context and background of major events in Maya history. By combining historical characters, their perception of the cosmos and it’s representation in ritual, with the everyday lifestyles of commoners and tradesmen in a rich jungle environment dotted with scores of cities and villages, I hoped to immerse readers in the realities of Central America between 35 B.C.E. and 700 C.E. The series title derives from a convergence between a common phrase, “the path of the soul” and the significance of the jaguar in Maya mythology. The word “jaguar” in the title of the series and in the novels is a reference to the soul. The Maya called it ch’ulel. So in essence, the stories depict the journey of a single soul—the narrator—through three incarnations. Although there is a natural progression featuring soul initiations, the stories can stand alone.
It took me twelve years and fifteen drafts to complete this story. Currently I am revising it in order to reduce the extensive use of Maya vocabulary. (Readers were too often consulting the glossary). The revised edition will become available in the Fall of this year. If interested, I recommend waiting. I will post an announcement.
35 B.C.E. By this time Maya civilization was already flourishing in the jungles of Mexico, Belize and Guatemala. K’akich B’alam, “Fire Eyes Jaguar,” is a young man who, on the threshold of manhood, learns that the long-distance merchant who raised him is not his father. Rather, his blood father is the ruler of large city far to the south. While the youth’s prophecy at birth said he would “rule as a powerful warrior,” his heart is set on apprenticing to his uncles who are builders and painters. It’s a tug of war between the demands of society and his passion to paint murals. K’akich engages this struggle at a time when charismatic rulers and innovators were building cities and giving form to their ideology in art, architecture and religious spectacle.
378 C.E. Lady Jaguar Claw, daughter of the Tikal ruler, fulfills her father’s promise to the lords of Teotihuacan by marrying one of their sons. Her husband of seven years has been chartered to deliver a prophecy and establish a new order throughout the lowland jungles with Tikal as his base of operations. Battered by wave upon wave of emotional turmoil created by her husband and his enforcer, Lady Jaguar descends into an abyss of depression and despair. Suffering from soul-loss, she looses herself. The light has gone out of her. She sits and stares out the doorway watching the rain. A shaman tries to help, but the smoke surrounding her heart, continuously fed by the fires of anger, bitterness and guilt resist treatment. Her birth prophecy foretold that she would battle a mighty demon amidst “powerful winds and waves.” This is the story of that battle and her rise from the abyss.
695 C.E. It was a time when the nature of warfare changed dramatically in the jungle cities. Where before, rulers raided neighboring kingdoms to capture members of ruling families for blood sacrifice to sustain the sun god, they are now conducting large-scale raids and forced migrations to acquire men, women and children to bolster their armies and increase the labor force for building projects. A climate of fear has gripped the lowland cities. Seeking entertainment and distraction, people gather around storytellers in great numbers, eager for true and made-up stories about raids and valiant warriors. Seeing the faces of misery, fear and hopelessness in the places he visits, Raised Up Heron—an aspiring storyteller—presents stories intended to inspire hope, courage and self-determination. He attracts very few listeners. Surrounded by the clash of cities, the protagonist confronts battles that rage within. How could he draw crowds in the big cities like other storytellers? Is that even desirable? Must he be satisfied telling his kind of stories in the marketplaces of small villages? Could there be a rightful place for him? To answer these questions he must first discover his deeper identity and purpose.