Translation of caption: “In many Indigenous myths and legends, the tlacuache [opossum] has a special place. He is cunning and stands up to power to bring fire to men.
Being a central figure in the mythology of pre-Hispanic peoples, he was represented in ceremonial dishes, such as this one found in Tenayuca, State of Mexico.
The link above will take you to the full feature on the Museo Nacional de Antropología’s site.
This piece is an exciting choice for me because I actually wrote my MA thesis on opossum iconography! Its above-referenced role as the “Prometheus of the Americas” is but one of its many symbolic associations found in Indigenous cultures:
“The multiplicity of the opossum’s iconography in the pre-conquest Americas…transcended time, culture, and media across a wide span of geography. Opossums play important roles in foundational sacred narratives, often as the bringer of fire, corn, and/or pulque (a traditional alcoholic beverage made from fermented maguey sap) to the first humans; in the K’iche’ Maya Popol Vuh, it is also the first named animal persona of the grandfather deity Xpiyacoc. They have cosmological connections with the moon, Venus, and the Pleiades, and especially the first light of dawn. They have been linked to multiple Mesoamerican deities including Quetzalcoatl, Tlaloc, Techalotl, Mayahuel, and Maya God N and God D, as well as shamanic transformation. They are associated with agricultural fertility, especially maize and maguey. They also symbolize human fertility and sexuality, often in gender-based duality: pregnancy, childbirth, and maternal care as female, potency and lust as male. The male opossum specifically is also connected to ritual entertainment, old age, and death and resurrection. Lastly, opossums are invoked in curing rituals and utilized in traditional medicine, with their tails ascribed an expansive list of healing properties, including for maternity care.”
–Excerpt from “Cross-cultural Currents and Syncretism in Early Modern Opossum Iconography:” https://digitalcommons.lindenwood.edu/theses/91/
If you’re interested in learning more, I highly recommended the book The Myths of the Opossum: Pathways of Mesoamerican Mythology by Alfredo López Austin, which was a huge influence on my choice of thesis direction. 🙂