Last chance to see 'Black Jaguar' exhibit at Carlos

By Priyanka Sinha | Emory Report | Dec. 13, 2012

Faculty curator Rebecca Stone gives a video synopsis of the exhibition, on view at the Carlos Museum until Jan. 5. 

The Carlos Museum's special exhibition "'For I am the Black Jaguar': Shamanic Visionary Experience in Ancient American Art" ends on Jan. 5, 2013. Admission is free for Emory faculty, staff and students.  

More than 115 objects explore visionary experiences that deeply influenced the artistic output of American indigenous cultures before the European invasions of the 16th century.

Objects portray the key characteristics of the shamanic trance consciousness -- brilliant colors and geometric shapes; spinning, spiraling and undulating movement; confrontations with predatory animals and the transformation of the self into other beings; sensations of flying; communication with spirit-beings; and revelations concerning a universally shared life force.  

From earliest times to today, indigenous peoples of the Americas have valued shamanic visionary trance as one of their most important cultural and religious experiences. Shamans still speak of their trance journeys to other cosmic realms, the truths they learn, and the information they bring back to cure their communities' ills.  

Depicted in ancient American art, trance consciousness often includes the shaman transforming into an animal such as a powerful black jaguar, an enormous whale shark, a predatory owl, or a venomous rattlesnake. Animal selves and spirit companions are considered to be guides to the shaman in caring for his or her community, the animals' powers augmenting the shaman's innate healing abilities.  

The exhibition also features art that illustrates how visions are achieved in traditional settings, from meditation, to drumming and dancing, to ingesting sacred plants such as peyote cacti, vines and spiny oysters. Traditional shamans refer to these plants as teachers, and they are understood as wise spiritual guides through the cosmic realms beyond the terrestrial.  

"'For I am the Black Jaguar': Shamanic Visionary Experience in Ancient American Art" is made possible by the generous financial support of the Massey Charitable Trust.  Educational programs in conjunction with the exhibition are supported in part by a grant from the Emory College Center for Creativity & Arts' David Goldwasser Series in Religion and the Arts.