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The Nazca Cat Demon

A Nazca Vessel Composition

Clifford C. Richey
November 2009
Illustration 1: The Nazca Cat Demon
Based on a drawing by Thomas Freeman1

This composition is found on a tubular shaped ceramic vessel. Its Form is one of a vertical place sign
while the vessel represents a hole in the ground or perhaps, a well.

What is called the Cat Demon motif was based on the feline characteristics shown above in orange.
This the largest imagery in the composition with its high erect ears, mouth full of teeth, and whiskers.
The cat imagery was, of course, intended as an Association for the Jaguar, the Sun in its nighttime
phase. It appearance seems somewhat angry or fierce and its Long Arms (the Arms and Hands of the
Sun or the warriors and stewards of the Sun) reach out to touch the head of the earth-female imagery.
The lower Hand of the Sun holds a sharp object while the other hand and the Hair (gray) make the
gesture signs for opening-up. Underneath the lower Arm of the Sun are Nine Phallic Images indicating
males (and the nine levels of the underworld ) that are placed into the earth-female by the Arms of the
Sun. The main part of each Phallus is made up of three Rectangular place signs (meaning many) while
the Head of the Phallus is the sign for a male spirit. The is a short line below the Head of the Phallus
indicating, below. The long lower Edge of the Arm is the ground-surface sign (a long Straight Line
usually indicates a surface). The message of the composition, so far, probably went something like this:

The Great Angry Jaguar, The Great Angry Sun

His Arms, His Warriors
His Hands, His Stewards
Place Men Beneath the Earth-Female's,
Nine Levels
The Many Places of
the Male-Spirits
In The Darkness

1 Martin-Vegue, George B. Nazca Pottery at Florida State University, American Journal of Archaeology, Vol. LIII, No. 4.
Oct._Dec.,1949 (drawing by Thomas Freeman, page 350, Fig. 3. The Cat Demon).
Illustration 2: Cat Demon --Orange Color

The Many
Turning Above
(three turning signs, gray, over the upside down “T” sign for on the surface)
On Her Sides
(Stance, as the Gray turning signs also touch on each side of the hair or head)
His Arms and Hands
Cut Open Her Head
( or possibly her hair, gray)
of the Earth-Female
Here, Here, Here
(three fingers pointing)
On Her Face,
Her Appearance
The Many
The Places
The Unseen
Crossing Through
(through the surface of the earth)
Illustration 3: The Warrior --Blue

The next largest image is that of a Turbaned Warrior. The Turban is in the Form of a Breast (a hill on
the earth-female) and was created out of the Triangular female sign, two place(s) signs, and a possible
Leg/Foot or journey sign and an Ax (an arm). Thus the meaning is one of a journey within the Breast
of earth-female, within a hill, the female places of the long journey of the Arm -- the warrior. Next we
see that the Eyes of the warrior are the signs for holes and there is a Dark Triangular shaped sign
indicating the dark-female-side. Below the Eyes are more female-places signs.

The warrior seems to have Three Arms (many-warriors) and his right arm has Imagery of scars that are
created out of Two Double Lines (unseen) and a crossing-through the earth's surface sign. The unseen-
crossing-through-the-surface. Next we have a Rectangular vertical-place sign that appears to be filled
with broken bones. A vertical-place of bones (a grave yard)

The lower edge of his right arm serves as a surface sign and below it is the Triangular female-spirit
(light green) sign where normally one would expect male genitals. The lines of the legs cross at this
sign forming the “X” shaped transformation sign. Thus the warrior has been transformed into a female-
spirit. The warrior's Feet are also Triangular in form and the Toes are created from the crossing-
through signs. This combined with the Legs and Feet mean, long journeys crossing-through-the earth-

The warrior's two left arms are long and limp or weak appearing. The outer Arm also touches the
Jaguar's face telling us that these arms are the Arms of the Sun. The arms also represent Double Lined
(unseen) pathways the one arm touching earth-female's head next to the “V” shape opening-up sign
while the other is open at the end indicating a gateway. Alongside the inner Arm is the Saw Toothed
water sign with a line into the “V” of the water (into-the-water-below).
Illustration 4: The Warrior

From the “V” shaped opening-up sign on the head of earth-female is a a serpentine Double Lined
water sign composed of female-spirits. In this case, water-spirits. The Form or Imagery of a Serpent
indicates, a stream. The stream is rising to the surface.

Once at the surface we see the, frontal, Imagery of a Bird (blue) which is the sign for flight. The Bird's
Mouth (pink) has a yellow Beak protruding from it. The Mouth is, of course, the sign for a water
source, or a spring and depending on the angle one looks at it the Beak is either the sign for on the side
or arising. The Rectangular Mouth is a place sign. As we followed the Serpent up the surface we can
assume that the flight direction indicated by the Bird's beak is continuing upward. The Wing's of the
Bird are its hands and there are Three Fingers on each side indicating many while the Eyes of the Bird
are also Fingers pointing to the Mouth. The the five rectangular place signs have straight lines in their
centers to indicate these are bowl-places (all these signs are within the curved bowl sign) on the
surface. The meaning of the count of 5 bowl-places is unknown. It may be an association with a then
well known location that had five pools of water.

Arising from the bowl-places is a complicated image. The imagery of a Head appears to be that of the
Face of a Wasp. This would indicate some kind of warrior. This is followed by the Imagery of the
gesture sign for a Wolf created from the signs for see and look down. (the three black fingers) from the
darkness. This sign as explained in an earlier paper was related to the habit of wolves jumping up in the
high grass to better see their prey. The Wolf became the sign for a scout or a spy. The base of the Hand
(the steward of the Sun) is in the Form of the sign for a star (yellow) and is attached or part of the sign
for arising. Putting this altogether we get: The Wasp-Star, the warrior's star, the Wolf, the scout or spy
arising and looking downward at the surface of the earth. There is also small imagery within the star
sign. These signs seem to be a Leg, Foot, (a long journey) Eyes, (see and break in the surface) and
Mouth. (a water-source).

The Wasp's Face (he appears or his appearance)is made up of the signs for the dead (upside down
Arms, Legs and Feet). Also Four places signs –the places of the dead, the grave yards, everywhere.

The Bowl-Like-Places,
The Pools

His Face,
He Appears
On The Side
(of the earth)
The Places-Of-The Dead
The Graveyards
( the four directions)

The Wasp-Star,
The Warrior's-Star
His Long Journey
The Breaks In
The Surface
(of the earth)

The Hand,
The Steward
(of the Sun)
The Scout
Looking Down
The Darkness
Illustration 5: The Great
Mouse --His Face

When we look at the overall Imagery we note that the Fierce Jaguar Face has changed to that of a
Mouse. This is primarily due to the ears becoming rounded as opposed to the tall sharp ears of the
Jaguar imagery. His appearance, the great mouse –the little one. The term great is used here due to the
relative size of the Mouse imagery compared to the rest of the composition's imagery. The seeming
contradiction between being called great and small in the same breath is apparently due to the Mouse
having been a great man, a steward and warrior of the Sun, while the Great Jaguar is the Sun itself. We
also notice the Three hole signs on each side of the Mouse's Face –the many holes of the mouse. The
two diamond shaped Eyes with dark centers or location signs mean, contained, located in the darkness.
The Eyes, of course, are the eyes-of-the-sun, on the sides—the left and right, referring to the rise of
Venus in the East and West. The Mouse 's Ears are stylized Hands forming a sky-arc and turning signs
over the upside down “T” sign indicating, on the surface. The Imagery below the sky is that of a large
male-spirit with the signs for a break in the surface and Long Lines between Two other Lines
indicating unseen-pathways of female-spirits. The Hair of the large male-spirit was created from
opening-up (the break in the ground surface line) and gateway signs to the sky. The left over Center
Line indicates above.

The Great Mouse,

(a metaphor for Venus in comparison to the Jaguar-Sun)
The Hands, The Stewards
Turning Above
The Surface
(of the earth)

His Face,
His Appearance
Great Male Spirit

The Gateways
The Sky-Arc

The Great Opening

The Pathways
Of The
The Many Holes on the Sides
(of the earth)
The Eyes
(Venus as the Eye of the Sun)
In The Darkness

Illustration 6: The Frog

This section of the composition seems to have more to do with the surface side. The largest imagery is
that of a Frog (two toned green) with holes as his large Eyes. His Face, his Appearance. The Great
Frog (relative size), the great leaper. At the places of the the holes. The Breasts (lighter green on the
side of the frog's face), the hillsides. Touching the Frog's face are two Square signs, His houses, his
domains. Next we have the imagery of a Leg and Foot on its side. The end of the foot touches a
Triangular female-earth sign. The long journey-on the side of earth-female. The Foot touches the
(blue) water sign which has the additional signs for unseen (double lines) and into the opening signs
within it. The Foot is next to a Breast sign which has the signs for houses (green) and a gateway
(black lines) within it. The Breast, the hillside, the gateway, to the many (3) houses or domains.
Another Breast is made up of signs for a vertical-place (green) and a place of moisture (blue) then a
male-spirit sign (green). Next we have phallic imagery (brown) meaning males and their Stance is one
of arising. They are composed of places signs (light brown) and earth-female signs (darker brown).
Finally we see a place sign (on the side) that is further composed of a vertical place sign (light brown)
and (blue) a moisture-spirit-place sign followed by a Square (light brown) house or domain sign. The
sign for moisture(multiple dots) seem to make small faces and spirit signs but they are too small to
determine exactly.

His Face, His Appearance

The Great Frog, The Great Leaper
At The Places
Of The Holes
The Breasts, The Hillsides
His Houses, His Domains

The Long Journey-

On The Side Of
The Earth-Female
The Breast, The Hill
The Gateway
To The Many
A Vertical-Place
A Place
The Male-Spirit

The Arising Males

The Earth-Female
A Moisture-Spirit-Place
Their Domain

Oh, we forgot something, The Initial Form:

Illustration 7

: The Great Knife, The Great Ray of the Sun

Yes, the overall form of the composition is that of a stone knife. The Great Knife refers to the Knife of
the Sun, or a Great Ray of the Sun. Presumably this is the title of a Nazca leader, a Jaguar Warrior and
Priest or Steward. The concept of the Ray of the Sun as a knife is from the fact that this composition
tells us that the Arm and Hands of the Sun cuts the Head and make Marks on the Face of Earth-Female.
This metaphor seems to have been derived from the observation that the rays of the sun dried up the
earth's soil and caused cracks to appear. Further, it is common knowledge that the Inca called their
warriors the Rays of the Sun. Thus a Great Ray would be a leader of, at least, the culture's Jaguar

What we learn from this composition is that the name applied to this imagery is a misnomer, it is not a
Cat Demon at all. Once again we see that the gesture signs and imagery of the Native Americans were
actually words. We can also begin to understand that the cosmology recognized the various forces of
nature and structured their societies and culture around these forces.
A group of seven burial cists from Chavina at the mouth of Rio Acari provides clear evidence of social
stratification during Phase III (Lothrop and Mahler 1957). They were adjacent rectangular chambers
(about 1.1 by 0.8 meters) with plastered adobe brick walls. The roofs consisted of several parallel poles
or reeds bound together and then covered with cobbles. Arrangement was in the form of a truncated
'T', with two rows of three cists forming the crossbar and the seventh, the short 'stem'. The central cist
in the top (south) row contained an individual of considerable importance, judging by the unusual style
of his headdress. The one flanking it on the west contained two adults, one of them female and the
other of undetermined sex, along with the head of a mouse. The body of the mouse was in the cist on
the east, which also produced the decapitated body of a man whose head had been replaced by a
calabash provided with a turban, and an urn containing an infant ...”2

The above quote shows us that the placement of burials and the positioning of objects within burials
was a highly conscious act. The seven Rectangular chambers would indicate, seven places and the “T”
shape, below. Thus, below the surface (Form), the seven places (Signs). The body of a headless man
and a headless mouse were found in the eastern chamber and the head replaced by a calabash had a
turban on it much as our warrior in the Cat Demon wore. This would seem to indicate that the Mouse
and warrior were considered one and the same. That the Mouse's Head (the warrior's head) was found
in the western burial chamber might well mean that His face, his appearance was in the west (we may
remember that the direction west represented the setting sun, death, and darkness) while his body was
in the east. This Mouse Face would likely be the Face of Venus (a scout of the Sun) arising in the west
or at least going toward the west. The body of the infant in an urn might well represent a new birth as
does the direction east.

We cannot understand the rationale for the all the burial arrangements but it does seem that the Cat
Demon composition does provide us with some hint as to the meaning of the mouse having been placed
in the burial. The Mouse appears to have been considered Great in terms of importance or status as a
warrior but Little (like a mouse) in terms of comparison to the Sun. The individual in the top central
chamber with the special headdress may have been a “Sun” a Great Knife or Great Ray of the Sun with
those of lesser rank buried with and around him.

2 Lumbereras, Luis G. People and Cultures of Ancient Peru. Translated by Betty J. Meggers. Smithsonian Institutions
Press, City of Washington, 1974 pp 122-133