|Lachoneus and Gidgiddoni|
making preparations to battle
the Gadianton Robbers
The Gadianton Robbers span throughout the entire Book of Mormon history from the precursor Jaredite civilization to the later Nephite and Lamanite civilizations. At times they disappear only to resurface hundreds of years later. Without going into a deep chronology of their history it will suffice to say that this group lead to the downfall of both the Jaredite and the Nephite civilizations. In order to keep this blog post short and sweet it will suffice if we just focus on the Gadianton Robbers among the Nephite/Lamanite civilization and timeframe and their equivalent in the Mayan and Hopi civilizations.
The prophet Mormon first introduces the Gadiantons around 50 b.c. in Helaman Chapter 2. In their first appearance during the Nephite timeline they succeeded in overthrowing the entire Nephite government only to be defeated by a game plan improvised by Lachoneus and Gidgiddoni the Nephite Chief Judge and Military leader. At this point they disappear for over 250 years after the coming of the Savior Jesus Christ only to resurface and according to Mormon's account they were in "all the land". The Gadianton Robbers were known for their secret plots to commit murder, rob, steal "and to plunder that they might get gain". They mixed and mingled with the general society and populations of the Nephites and Lamanites and used secret signs to be recognized by other members who would assist in their evil designs. As their story continues they are known as being a secret warrior type of people after political gain who even used sorcery to achieve their plans. Mormon informs us that the Gadianton Robbers were included in the northward migrations described in the book of Helaman.
So the question at hand is if there are groups that fit this same description of the Gadianton Robbers in the Mesoamerican area around the same time frames? Brant Gardner in his article, "The Gadianton Robbers in Mormon’s Theological History: Their Structural Role and Plausible Identification" along with John L. Sorenson in his book "Mormons Codex" give us some prime examples a few groups that seem to be a direct hit. I will take this one step further by tying in another group that would have been part of the northern migration well beyond Teotihuacan.
|Guerrero Jaguar Mural from Cacaxtla|
Anderson and Dibble translated nonotzaleque as "conjurers", no doubt because of the connection to the magically powerful jaguar pelt. Brant Gardner goes one step further to translate the word to "conspirators" and Sahagun himself translated it as "assassins" and noted that this is a group "accustomed to and daring to kill". So we have a group of conspiring, conjuring, assassins who secretly murdered and who were know for causing political upheavals who were tied to the jaguar pelt as a sign of affiliation. This sign of affiliation may even be linked to the later Aztec jaguar warriors of their military.
Both Gardner and Sorenson have tied the nonotzaleque with the post conquest group known as the "nahaulistas" who like the nonotzaleque also were recognized due to the jaguar skin and where accustomed to kill. Sorenson points out that "to obtain this power, one had to be trained in black magic after undergoing severe initiation." In continuing the pre-Columbian culture they formed a powerful stronghold all throughout Mesoamerica.
This finally brings us to the Hopi Ya-Ya ceremony. This is an ancient ceremony that dates back to Canyon de Chelly, Chaco Canyon and the Great Kiva at Aztec New Mexico. It was a ceremony that was initially done in these ancient locations which were inhabited during the ancient migrations from clans moving northward from Mexico, Guatemala and even further down south. According to Frank Waters in his book entitled "Book of the Hopi", it is said that the name comes from the man who would announce the ceremony singing, "Yah-hi-hi! Yah-hi-hi!" in honor of the chief deity named Somaikoli. It was taught to members who performed this ceremony that Somaikoli only made the sound of a panting animal "Huh Huh" thus the great powers of the Ya-Ya were invoked from the animal kingdom. This ceremony and its initiates seem to be more focused on the secret witchcraft side of the Gadianton traditions.
|Hopi Village of Walpi where the last known|
Ya-Ya ceremony was held in 1961
Now with its initiates attempting secret ceremonies underground or in hiding it is said to be a form of witchcraft were the performers are more like medicine men or shaman who are bent on causing others grief and bringing evil upon society. These people (male and female) who are said to still practice it are in all clans in Hopi and are said to be "two hearts" or "powaqa" having their own human hearts and that of an animal and are able to perform a transition between human form and that of an animal also known as shapeshifters. The result of this group is to break down Hopi ceremonial and social structure. As noted by Waters, "there has never been a religion, a mysticism, without its negative side. So we have among the Hopis a profound religious structure of nine great ceremonies and one extinct ceremony that embodies all the fears and faults of a people whose innate mysticism is being perverted into witchcraft.
Since the workings of these types of societies was largely kept secret it is highly unlikely that we will ever be able to obtain much more information on their history and practices but when looked at as a larger picture it seems that Mormon's view of secret organizations have a lot of correlations with Mesoamerican secretive structures and those they influenced as well.