It happened today - May 3, 2016

Depicted here with his slave So I’m reading one of my This Day In History sources and I find that on May 3 of what we would call 752 AD, unless we call it 752 CE which is completely different and has no reference at all to that Jesus guy, king Bird Jaguar IV took the throne of Yaxchilan. What can you say about such an event?

Not much. The historical records are somewhat sketchy. Apparently there were questions surrounding his legitimacy and he had a long struggle to be accepted as king, before a fairly short reign that based on my sketchy research seems to have ended with a key victory after which the dynasty ends. But here’s one thing I can say.

These people had totally cool names. Bird Jaguar was such an excellent moniker they used it four times, as you see. But there were also kings called Knot-Eye Jaguar and Moon Skull. And Yax Deer-Antler Skull which isn’t quite as good. But then there’s Bird Jaguar IV’s mother, who may have created succession issues by not being his father’s first wife but was called Lady Eveningstar. (Undomiel in Quenya, of course.)

As for his father’s first wife, she was called Lady Xoc which would be a great name for a rock star, you’ll have to agree. And Bird Jaguar IV himself had four wives including Lady Great Skull.

OK, that one’s a bit spooky too. But it’s cool. And by the way it turns out that Moon Skull wasn’t a jibe about a big round head or anything like that. It was the Mayan word for spear-thrower. But it sure adds a certain je ne sais quoi to an otherwise potentially prosaic name.

So given how little we know about these people, either their virtues and accomplishments or their vices and misdeeds, let’s at least acknowledge that they had the royal touch when it came to choosing names.

Wouldn’t you love to read pieces by people called Bird Jaguar, Evenstar and Xoc? Even Yax Deer-Antler Skull would beat John Smith and Bob Roberts. Though the Mayans might think those were really exotic and resonant.

Yours truly,

Hedgehog Ink-hurler