Meet the Mesoamerican Batman look-alike

In January, Warner Bros. announced that Robert Pattinson will officially be the ‘new’ Batman.

They closed the deal for the Twilight actor to play the Caped Crusader in a production that will be released on June 25 of 2021.

But amid the tribulation as to who would fit the bats boots, there were concerns that majority of the candidates might not be menacing enough.

And although the original concept for Batman was created by Bob Kane who was Inspired by Sherlock Holmes, Zorro, a Leonardo da Vinci sketch of a bat-winged flying machine, and his own imagination. This still brought fans to dig up how menacing Batman should be with an old deity that featured as an imposing power in Mesoamerican mythology.

This takes us to Templo Mayor, located in downtown Mexico City, which has an adjacent museum that proudly displays artifacts and renditions of items from the remnants of the once great Mesoamerican civilizations.

Interestingly, the top floor of this museum contains a recreated statue of the Mayan bat god, Camazotz — also known as Zotzilaha Chamalcan. The name Camazotz translates roughly to ‘bat of death.’ This deity appears in the Popol Vuh, which is a foundation narrative of the Kʼicheʼ before the Spanish conquest of Guatemala that translates to “Book of the Community, and Camazotz is still a very prominent figure in the continuing Maya religion, even though the Mayans merged Comazotz with their god of fire, Zotzilaha Chamalcan.

The deity himself is described as an anthropomorphized leaf-nosed bat which has led to conjecture about the source of the myth. Some believe the ancient peoples based him on the common vampire bat or the Desmodus draculae, a much larger species that was leaf-nosed as well. Both of these species inhabited the area of Oaxaca, Mexico in 100 A.D. when a bat deity was first mentioned in a cult of the Zapotec tribe.

The Zapotecs believed bats represented night, death, and sacrifice. This was likely due to the fact that the bats would inhabit the caves around the sacred cenotes, which the Mesoamericans believed were portals to the underworld. It would be a very chilling sight at dusk when the bats would swarm out of these ‘portals’ and begin drinking the blood of the other animals. The god is also commonly depicted holding a sacrificial knife in one hand and a human heart or sacrificial victim in the other. Camazotz was later adopted into the pantheon of the Maya Quiche tribe and the legends of the bat god were later recorded in Maya literature.

In the Popol Vuh, Camazotz is considered the name of a monstrous creature which inhabited a cave called “the house of bats, or Zotzilaha. Comazotz was described as a monster with a humanoid body, the head of a bat, and a nose that resembled a flint knife that was said to attack victims by the neck and decapitate them.

In the Popol Vuh, it is also recorded that this creature decapitated the Maya hero Hunahpu. The hero twins were forced by the lords of Xibalba to spend the night in the House of Bats in the underworld. The legend is that the hero twins slept inside their blowguns as protection from the bats. However, when the bats went silent, Xbalanque asked Hunahpu to check if dawn had come and Hunahpú did so by poking his head out of the blowgun tip. But, it was not yet dawn and one of the bats took the opportunity to swoop down and rip away Hunahpú’s head, leaving him decapitated.

Xbalanqué was left inside the blowgun, questioning why he had gone so still without receiving answer from his brother. The bat then took the head of Hunahpú to the ball court of the Xibalba lords to be gruesomely displayed and used as a ball while the lords rejoiced in their assumed victory.

Later in the Popol Vuh, a messenger from the underworld in the form of a humanoid bat (believed to be Camazotz) appears to broker a deal between humanity and Lord Tohil, the patron god of the K’iche’. In this deal, mankind promised their armpits and their waists in exchange for fire which is how the ritual of cutting open a person’s breast in sacrifice came to be. Some myths claim that, during the day, Camazotz would turn into a stone statue and therefore could only move at night, but this has not been confirmed.

Another example of such a story is the Chonchon in Peru and Chile, which is thought to be created when a sorcerer, known as a kaku, performs a magical rite causing his severed head to sprout giant ears and talons at death. The giant ears become wings.

Most scholars believe that Camazotz was inspired by the common vampire bat, but others have suggested that it was based on a giant vampire bat that (probably) went extinct sometime during the Pleistocene or Holocene periods.

This ubiquity of giant bat monster legends leads many archaeologists to propose that the monsters have a basis in encounters with a real animal – such as the vampire bat. The vampire bat is favoured because of its historical association with bloodletting and sacrifice. It is, however, possible that the legends could be derived from a giant bat that was present during the Pleistocene or early Holocene – one which may still exist today.

Despite the tantalizing fossil evidence, and the strange stories about encounters with giant bats, there isn’t any indisputable evidence at the moment that D. Draculae was common enough to be encountered by ancient inhabitants of South America and Central America on a regular basis, or that the giant vampire bat is still alive today and could thus be the creature reported in giant bat sightings.

Nonetheless, the fact that the fossil evidence suggests that D. Draculae may have coexisted with humans for thousands of years in the Americas and the ubiquitous legends of bat-like monsters all over south and central America does make it a plausible connection.

Let’s finish this off with noting that according to the Maya, Camazotz is also one of the four animal demons responsible for wiping out mankind during the age of the first sun.

Related Posts