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Of Eagles, Condors, and New Age Frauds

[ mexika.org ]

By Tlakatekatl |

Just over a quarter century ago, in 1992, celebrations took place all over the Americas to commemorate the quincentennial of the so-called “discovery” of the New World by Christopher Columbus.  While the Western world engaged in the festivities, indigenous people from Turtle Island, Anahuac, and Abya Yala mounted their own anti-Columbus counter celebrations.  Unlike the many other intertribal events that had transpired in the past, this one brought indigenous people closer together under a pan-Indian coalition that condemned the celebration of an individual who was and is perceived by Native people as being responsible for countless atrocities, crimes against humanity, and indigenous genocide.

An excellent historical study on the subject, The Other Slavery: The Uncovered Story of Indian Enslavement in America (2016) by Andrés Reséndez, thoroughly explains how indigenous populations throughout the Americas were systematically devastated through slavery.  As Reséndez points out, the lack of immunity to disease indeed played a role, but it was not the main contributing factor; it was the forced labor of indigenous people by the Spanish—in their endless search for wealth—that crippled Native societies.  Whichever way you slice it, the fact remains that honoring the Genoese navigator is beyond problematic, it’s just plain wrong.  As descendants of those who survived the centuries-long onslaught, Native people decided to organize and rally around the motto of “500 years of Resistance.”

Well aware of the worldwide quincentennial plans, indigenous people from North and South America began rallying against those celebrations.  Their organization culminated in a 1990 anti-Columbus conference—the Intercontinental Indigenous Gathering in Quito, Ecuador.  The conference was the first of its kind, and from it, a hemispheric pan-Indian solidarity developed which sparked the “500 Years Movement, representing 500 years of resistance.”

Here’s the rub.

Perhaps one of the most striking ideas that emerged from the coalition against the Columbus festivities was the revelation of a supposed “prophecy of the Eagle and the Condor.” The origins of this prophecy are shrouded in mystery, but some researchers trace its basic elements to a sixteenth-century messianic and shamanistic religious revival movement among Quechuas from the Peruvian Andean highlands called Taki Onqoy.[1]  The name of the movement, Taki Onqoy, loosely translates to “sickness of the chant” or “dancing sickness.”[2]  As with most prophecies, there are many versions and interpretations, but the one of concern here is the modern association of the eagle with the northern continent and the condor with the southern one.

During the Quito conference, a group of Quechua representatives shared the prophecy of the Eagle and the Condor with the participants.  John Curl, a journalist from Berkeley, California attended the conference and described the instance this way:

The gathering served as the place where many of the participants first heard of the Prophecy of the Eagle and the Condor.  In fact, the event’s theme was the Prophecy of the Eagle and the Condor.  (I) asked some of the organizers, what the meaning of the banner was that they were painting.  They told (me) that it represented an old legend of the Prophecy of the Eagle and the Condor.[3]

It’s fair to say that the prophecy was relatively unknown outside of Ecuador prior to this revelation.  At the conference, representatives from other parts of the Americas also shared their prophecies, all of which shared in forecasting the emergence of a new era of indigenous unity and enlightenment.

This idea of a “new era” found a ready audience with people that blended indigenous spirituality with New Age philosophy.  Matt Remle (Hunkpapa Lakota), a Native American activist who promotes decolonization and pan-Indian unity, describes the prophecy thusly:

We have been waiting five hundred years. The Inca prophecies say that now, in this age, when the eagle of the North and the condor of the South fly together, the Earth will awaken. The eagles of the North cannot be free without the condors of the South. Now it’s happening. Now is the time. The Aquarian Age is an era of light, an age of awakening, an age of returning to natural ways. Our generation is here to help begin this age, to prepare through different schools to understand the message of the heart, intuition, and nature. Native people speak with the Earth. When consciousness awakens, we can fly high like the eagle, or like the condor.—Inca Prophecy[4]

This narrative is emblematic of most versions transmitted among indigenous activists since it was first shared in 1990.  Notice the casual mention of the “Aquarian Age” and how out of place it seems in a prophecy that is attributed originally to Quechuans.

It is telling that a concept associated with counterculture and New Ageism found its way into a Native prophecy.  It points to the unfortunate reality of how Western esotericism has made its way into Native traditions and has become so deeply rooted that it now permeates through revitalized indigenous traditions, including Mexikayotl.  The trend is so pervasive that there even exist Mexikas who subscribe to Theosophy – a collection of mystical and occultist philosophies concerning, or seeking direct knowledge of, the presumed mysteries of life and nature, particularly of the nature of divinity and the origin and purpose of the universe.  This notion of the “Age of Aquarius” is one that is attributed as originating within Theosophy and other esoteric spiritualist philosophies.  It then is associated with the coming “New Age” which in turn is itself consequently grafted unto indigenous prophecies.

One such prophecy that comes to mind is the Aztec legend which states that the end of the current Fifth Sun (our current age) is nigh, signaling the start of a new age—that of the Sixth Sun.  Since the seventies, Mexikas and New Agers associated the Sixth Sun legend with the year 2012 and the completion of the Maya calendric long-count.  The connection between the year 2012 and the Maya end-times prophecies began at the turn of the twentieth-century, but it did not gain prominence until the seventies when New Age authors—such as Frank Waters, José Argüelles, and Terrence McKenna—popularized it.  Two schools of thought emerged from this erroneous association, one was eschatological and the other transcendental.  Followers of the former believed that the Maya had predicted the end of world which would occur at the end of the Maya long-count, December 21, 2012.  Those partial to the latter believed that humanity would enter a new age of harmony and higher consciousness. Needless to say, neither of the two predictions materialized on that long awaited prophetic day.

Anthony Aveni, renowned archaeoastronomer, studied this cultural phenomenon and concluded that while the idea of “balancing the cosmos” was prominent in ancient Maya literature, the 2012 phenomenon did not draw from those traditions.  Instead, it was bound up with American concepts such as the New Age movement, millenarianism, and the belief in secret knowledge from distant times and places.[5]  Esoteric tenets such as these also came to influence modern Mexikayotl and became a standard of the philosophy.  This made it easier to accept that there existed multiple traditions whose message coincided with theirs.

As such, Mexikas incorporated the Eagle and Condor prophecy into that of the Sixth Sun, and thus suggested, as Remle’s account does, that the meeting of the North and South American indigenous peoples initiated the coming of the new age.  It isn’t controversial to point out that over the years Mexikas have incorporated spiritual practices and blending philosophical tenets of various cultures.  Just look at the Sundance as a prime example of this.  So, it’s easy to see how New Age ideas found a home in the Mexikayotl tradition.  To be clear, I’m not suggesting that the Eagle/Condor prophecy is New Age, I’m pointing out how these things get jumbled and confused over time.

The point here is that, there is no evidence to suggest that the current interpretation has anything to do with the original Taki Onqoy tradition that originated in the sixteenth-century.  That was a millenarian and nativist response by Andean peoples, namely Peru, to the intrusion of Europeans on their land.  Prior to the arrival of the alien colonizers, the Eagle/Condor dichotomy wasn’t even a prophecy; it was just a part of local philosophical interpretations.  Anthropologist Jeff Jenkins has looked into the origin of the prophecy and explains it accordingly:

What I glimpse into their understanding is that, early in their history as a people, the ways of the Condor and the ways of the Eagle were shown to them. Initially, this understanding was irrespective of north/south dichotomies.  Through the generations of emergence, powerful personal spiritual and physical encounters clarified who the Condor was and who the Eagle was, as with any major plant, animal, mineral ally.  I understand that the Condor archetype was symbiotic with the jungle Harpy Eagle archetype prior to European conquest.  They soared together in both jungle and mountain terrain through the lands.  The concepts of north and south and their respective archetypal and geographical resonance became clearer through subsequent centuries, when the symbol of the bald eagle became the dominating force of USA orchestrated mass genocide of the indigenous peoples.[6]

So while it might be nice to think that there is an ancient prophecy that heralded the pan-Indian coalition of the North and South American continents, it appears to be, like all prophecies, an after-the-fact application.  Understanding this doesn’t take away from the good things that have arisen from the Eagle/Condor prophecy, such as the Peace and Dignity Journeys and localized indigenous activist groups.  Arguably, the rise of this prophecy is even more powerful when placed in the historical context from which it emerged.  Not everything done under the purview of Mexikayotl or indigeneity necessitates a qualification from antiquity.  It’s perfectly alright to extract new meaning from old ideas.  We do it all the time in the name of progress.

This article is excerpted and adapted from: Ruben A. Arellano, “Becoming Indian: The Origins of Indigeneity Among Chicana/os In Texas,” Doctoral dissertation, SMU, 2017.

Tlakatekatl is a long-time Chicano activist, a danzante Mexika, and a scholar with a PhD in history. A founding member of Yankwik Mexikayotl, his research explores Chicana & Chicano indigeneity and its deep connections to ethnic Mexican indigenist nationalism. He has presented at various institutions and conferences, including the University of North Texas—Denton, Southern Methodist University, and the National Association of Chicana & Chicano Scholars (NACCS). He currently teaches history at a Dallas area university and is working on turning his dissertation into a book.

Follow Tlakatekatl on twitter @tlakatekatl

Interested in learning about Mesoamerican cosmovision in the modern world? Purchase “Our Slippery Earth: Nawa Philosophy in the Modern Age” available on Amazon.com. In it, the author discussus basic themes of Nawa philosophy, and how these themes can be practiced in the modern age.

Click to Purchase

[1] This name is variously called/spelled: “Taki Ongo,” “Taki Unquy,” “Taqui Ongoy,” “Taqui Onccoy,” and many others.

[2] Robert Tindall, “Unraveling Some Strands: Seeking the Origin of the Prophecy of the Eagle and Condor,” Reality Sandwich (blog), accessed January 14, 2015, http://realitysandwich.com/146869/prophecy_eagle_and_condor/.

[3] Cited in: Jose Luis Malvido, “Peace and Dignity Journeys : Emergence of the Eagle and Condor” (San Francisco State University, 2012), 68.

[4] Matt Remle, “Fulfillment of Prophecy: The Eagle and Condor and Embracing Our Indian Children,” Last Real Indians, accessed January 14, 2015, http://lastrealindians.com/fulfillment-of-prophecy-the-eagle-and-condor-and-embracing-our-indian-children-by-matt-remle/; “Matt Remle,” The Guardian, accessed April 14, 2017, http://www.theguardian.com/profile/matt-remle.  Matt Remle is a writer and editor for the Last Real Indians website and an organizer of the Seattle divestment campaign.

[5] Anthony Aveni, The End of Time: The Maya Mystery of 2012 (Boulder: University Press of Colorado, 2009).

[6] Jeffrey J. Jenkins, “A Neonative Ecozoic Wisdom: Interfacing Indigenous Cosmological Ritual and the Universe Story” (California Institute of Integral Studies, 2012), 10–11.

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