Recently, there was lots of buzz on social media about who might be chosen to play Batman in the next series of movies. Names were tossed around and fiery debate raged about who would be the best actor for the part.
But the legend of Batman goes back much further than the character that first appeared in Detective Comics (DC) circa 1939. As a matter of fact, the Batman legend reaches all the way back to the Mesoamerican people, as reported by Ancient Origins:
“Camazotz, (meaning ‘death bat’ in the Kʼiche’ Mayan language of Guatemala) originated deep in Mesoamerican mythology as a dangerous cave-dwelling bat creature. A cult following for the creature began amongst the Zapotec Indians of Oaxaca, Mexico and the figure 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 almost every culture, the bat is a symbol of fear and dread, mainly because they’re associated with night and darkness since they’re nocturnal. One species, the vampire bat, even drinks blood from warm-blooded animals, making the associations between bats and all things evil even stronger.
Such is the case in Maya culture, as Camazotz is linked with death:
“Camazotz is also the name of a monstrous creature which inhabited a cave called ‘the house of bats’ in the Popol Vuh, which is an ancient text that recounts the mythology and history of the Kʼicheʼ people. 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.
If a bat isn’t scary enough, imagine a GIANT one that sucks blood! No wonder Camazotz was so feared.
The Popol Vuh even locates the bat man creature as living in the caves of Central America:
“Zotzilaha was the name of a cave inhabited by the Camazotz, a monster with a roughly humanoid body, the head of a bat, and a nose that resembled a flint knife. The monster was said to attack victims by the neck and decapitate them. In the Popol Vuh , it is recorded that this creature decapitated the Maya hero Hunahpu. Camazotz is also one of the four animal demons responsible for wiping out mankind during the age of the first sun.”
Camazotz was not to be trifled with, and one look at him tells you why:
Be sure and notice that the legend of Camazotz also ties into another creature from popular culture: Dracula. There are reports of giant grey bird creatures attacking animals and humans in Central America, some as recent as the mid-20th century:
“One of the earliest sightings dates to 1947 when J. Harrison claimed to have seen several large flying creatures which were described as giant bats (though some people also claimed that they were living pterosaurs).
In the early 1950s, a Brazilian couple claimed that they encountered a bat-like creature in the same valley that fossils of D. Draculae were discovered in Brazil. Another incident occurred in 1975 when an outbreak of animal mutilations hit Puerto Rico. A farmer said that he was repeatedly attack by two grey bird-like creatures. These creatures were also seen by others throughout the mutilation outbreak. Another sighting occurred in the mid-1970s in Texas, when a farmer asserted that he had encountered bald bat or pterosaur-like creatures with short beaks and gorilla-like faces. Three toed prints of this creature were also said to have been found.”
Given the terrifying origins of Batman, it’s actually a wonder he ever became a hero, someone who tries to right wrongs and dispense justice. He certainly didn’t start that way.
Editor’s note: Yes, the featured image of Batman is contemporary. Being familiar with ancient artifacts, we believed this to be easily recognizable and just plain cool. To see more about this piece visit this page.
Featured Image Via Kimbal/Behance.
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