MEM 106 C09-Cycads and Human Life Cycles: Outline of a Symbology.

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08/09/2020 02:10:57

This purchase only includes chapter 9 of this title.


This article considers the place of cycads as symbols worldwide. To this end, it presents evidence for a symbolic structure or system—a symbology—encompassing diverse ways that humans use cycads to interpret birth, death, and the possibility of rebirth or an afterlife. Relatively detailed accounts from the author’s fieldwork in Mesoamerica are complemented by a survey of existing literature on cycads in other cultural contexts. Sections on cycads as symbols in Roman Catholicism; traditional African religions; Islam; southern, eastern, and Southeast Asian religions; and Oceania touch on the dominant uses—nomenclature, plantings in cemeteries, and decorations on holy days—that suggest an intimate relationship with human conceptions of such important topics as time versus eternity, the possibility of an afterlife, and human redemption through divine intervention. It is suggested that the physical characteristics of cycads, e.g., their durability and longevity, are inextricably related to their symbolic importance to human culture.