Talk:Olmec religion

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Started this article, linked to mythology, on 18 February 2005. It is difficult to be detailed about such a mysterious pre-historic culture, so the article is quite general so far. Am working to verify some dates. Please feel free to comment or add. Stuff on jaguars very general. Advice welcome. WBardwin

Feathered Serpent Worship[edit]

AFAIK, there is no evidence for Olmec worship of the feathered serpent ... it's quite speculative, I believe. I think most of the speculation derives from this image:

But it could really mean anything ... it's clear that it was an image used by the Olmec, but I don't believe there's any certainty about the context of the image - the fact that it's depicted in a few images doesn't necessarily indicate it was a deity to the Olmecs. Does anyone have any definitive answer to this question?

I suppose we don't have "definitive" answers to anything about their beliefs, nor any absolutely solid evidence that the did or didn't worship anything. We can only go by their art and artifacts, and comparison to later Mesoamerican cultures.
Close study of Olmec art and details of iconography shows clear continuity of some entities known from later for example Maya Classic, Zapotec, etc art. Miguel Covarrubias, David Joralemon, and others made studies decades ago showing this.
I myself happen to have done some graduate research on feathered serpents and also objects related to the manekin sceptor some 20 years ago at Tulane with the late Donald Robertson, and can vouch that there is much more feathered serpent related Olmec art than the one you link to. I'm sure more and better research on the topic has been done more recently. Cheers, -- Infrogmation 17:12, 11 September 2005 (UTC)

So what? The Olmecs had no female divinity? No female statues or other depictions of goddesses? Why no mention of them here? Athana 21:40, 7 January 2007 (UTC)

Firstly, there is very little which can be definitively stated about the religious beliefs and "pantheon" of the Olmec; there are no (decipherable) written records, and all that scholars have to go on are tentative iconographic interpretations. And secondly, of those Olmec motifs which are presumed to be representations of deity-like figures, "none has specific sexual characteristics to indicate gender", to quote Miller and Taube, The Gods and Symbols of Ancient Mexico and the Maya (1993), p.126. Olmec (presumed) deities are in the main derived with animal characteristics with some anthropomorphic features. Thirdly, from what is known about the perception of gender in later Mesoamerican cultures, it does not easily correspond with what may be called the "Western" perception and dichotomy of two (non-overlapping) genders. Rather, there is perhaps a higher degree of mutability in the perception, and the arrangement of deities into male/female pairs can be seen to represent a commonly-observed dualistic principle of multiple "aspects"- cf. Ometeotl as an example. The complicated roles and perceptions of gender in Mesoamerican societies is a valid topic to explore somewhere; but in the particular case of the Olmec it is little more than speculation at best to do so, given the dearth of materials.--cjllw | TALK 04:26, 8 January 2007 (UTC)

Off topic, also some factual or interpretive concerns also[edit]

There's a lot of discussion of various later (non-Olmec) mythologies in this article, but little really on the subject itself. Tying in for eg contemporary K'iche' beliefs is drawing a very long bow, as far as relevance to Olmec belief systems is concerned. While any 'Olmec legacy' in later Mesoamerican systems can and should be mentioned, this disparate selection of elements is prob not the best way to illustrate any such influence. And I'm not sure that some of these have any direct relevance to Olmec concepts, or that the interpretation wld be supported in relevant literature. --cjllw ʘ TALK 23:45, 12 February 2009 (UTC)

This is not a good article (much less a Good Article). It contains a lot of what amounts to Original Research and much of this is not accurate.
The best thinking on the matter is Peter David Joralemon's A study of Olmec iconography. Unfortunately, this 1971 book/paper is nearly impossible for me to obtain. Even after all this time, writers generally defer to Peter's definitions, largely because nothing better has come up since.
I do have other papers by Joralemon and others and so perhaps I will tackle fixing up this darn thing. Madman (talk) 03:42, 13 February 2009 (UTC)
Well, how's that for a first draft?? It at least provides a well-ref'd outline that we can add to over time. The area is very confusing, with the experts offering sometimes-conflicting interpretations. And the area of religious practice needs to be expanded, and a history of research is also needed, but the foundation is solid now. Madman (talk) 04:21, 9 March 2009 (UTC)
Hey madman- looking good, quite a thoughtful & well-written draft rewrite (as per usual). Nice stuff, a sound base now for future expansion. Cheers! --cjllw ʘ TALK 07:52, 13 March 2009 (UTC)