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of the



Six Sky Smoke from Tonina

The earliest concept of this symbol was a simple, straight tube, usually worn on the chest, and representing the soul's flight to the next world. As most symbols do, it evolved into increasingly complex forms. The next step was the addition of the 3-petalled flower (lily type- universal symbol of rebirth in both the New World and the Old, sometimes shown with 4 petals, depending upon regional botany and variations). This began to be depicted as a scepter of office held in the hands or arms of the ruler. Then later still, the symbol became a serpent bar, symbolizing the sky serpent (Quetzalcoatl etc) with all the original meaning plus more nuances and aspects. 

Ruler from Cacaxtl Holding Serpent Bar

While clearing the jungle vegetation from the floor of the ball court  at Tonina, archaeologists found a carved stone disc of a man known as Six Sky Smoke. He was holding a unique bar in his arms - the "serpent bar" or "soul tube". with the hieroglyph for "white flower" emerging from both ends of the tube. These flowers were not just any flowers, but a symbol of the lily flower, interpreted as an ideogram for the rebirth of the soul into the upper world. Under this disc, located at the center of the ball court, was a hollow stone cylinder buried several feet deep. This cylinder symbolized the portal between the underworld and the upper world. The inscriptions on the disc were translated and said that Six Sky Smoke had died on September 5, AD 775, and that his soul had ascended to the upper world via his own "soul tube". The stone cylinder in the ball court floor is comparable to the Sipapu (hole in the floor of the kiva) of the Hopi, and the "soul tube" is comparable to the ladder which extends through the sky hole at the top of the kiva.      


Jaguar Ruler from Cacaxtl with Soul Tube Giving Water.

Our favorite Mayanist, Linda Schele, defines this symbol in its later stages as "Serpent Bar, also known as the  Double-headed Serpent Bar, and the Ceremonial Bar, is a scepter carried in the arms against the chest of the ruler. Maya rulers usually held the bar in the crook of their arms with the palms of their hands turned outward, although more rarely, they held it on a diagonal. Its original function, in the Late Preclassic period, was to symbolize "sky", based on the homophony in Maya language between kan, "sky", and kan, "snake". The Bar also symbolized the "sky umbilicus" that connected kings to their sources of supernatural power and the ecliptic path across the sky. Gods and ancestors materialized in the open mouths of the serpents, and at Copan these supernaturals manifested in the form of eccentric flints." This from the Glossary of Gods and Supernaturals, in "The Code of Kings" 1998, by Linda Schele and Peter Mathews.



!st Ruler of Copan,Yax Kuk Mo, Passing Scepter to 16th Ruler Yax Pac.