The Golden Twelve
The Golden Twelve

A neotropical zodiac

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Tortoise (Geochelone carbonaria)
Tortoise (Geochelone carbonaria)

The tortoise is an eminently terrestrial animal. Slow but sure, it usually travels long distances despite obstacles and difficulties, which makes it a symbol of work and effort. Its rigid shell shows a certain inflexibility of criteria, and its propensity to hide within it shows a rather conservative animal, which does not take risks.

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Howler monkey (Alouatta seniculus)
Howler monkey (Alouatta seniculus)

The howler monkey stands out for its intelligence, flexibility and comprehension. It is a gregarious, fraternal animal that puts group interests before personal ones. Friendly by definition, the native of this sign is very communicative and even loud, cheerful and progressive, devoting much of its energy to social activities.

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Scarlet ibis (Eudocimus ruber)
Scarlet ibis (Eudocimus ruber)

The scarlet ibis is rather shy and one of the most sensitive animals. Her aquatic life reveals a fundamentally emotional animal. Mystical and kind par excellence, his hypersensitivity usually leads him to take things to heart and, in extreme cases, to melodrama. The natives of this sign are particularly gifted for music, as a vehicle for the expression of their emotions.

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Cuaima (Lachesis muta)
Cuaima (Lachesis muta)

The cuaima is a fast and fascinating animal, of deep look and always ready for the attack. Warriors par excellence, the natives of this sign usually attack before being attacked, being sometimes ruthless and even bloodthirsty. Their agility makes them excellent athletes, dancers and lovers which, added to their attractiveness, makes them extremely dangerous.

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Tapir (Tapirus terrestris)
Tapir (Tapirus terrestris)

The tapir is the heaviest and heaviest animal in the Neotropics. Firmly rooted in the earth, it likes concrete, order and beauty. He is a hard-working, patient and persistent being. In spite of being slow in the walking, sometimes it attacks with force and speed, taking by the middle to whatever obstacle is crossed, with incomparable stubbornness. Paradoxically, the natives of this sign tend to appear rather docile and calm.

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Jay (Cacicus cela)
Jay (Cacicus cela)

Jay sign natives are light, colorful and friendly. This bird is characterized for imitating to the perfection the songs of other birds, for that reason its natives always have the exact word for its interlocutor, arriving this quality to the mimetism. This makes them excellent public relations. However, their adaptability and aerial quality makes it difficult for them to make decisions and maintain their course.

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Arawana (Osteoglossum bicirrhosum)
Arawana (Osteoglossum bicirrhosum)

Impressive in appearance and even threatening, the arawana is actually an extremely shy fish, with a tendency to take offense at the actions of others, without these actually having any relation to it. At the slightest sign of danger, the numerous offspring enter the parents' oral cavity, until the fear disappears. She is a maternal being, overprotective, capable of incredible feats to protect her home and hers.

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Harpy eagle (Harpia harpyja)
Harpy eagle (Harpia harpyja)

The harpy eagle is the most powerful eagle in the Neotropics. Its flight at great height relates it to a solar creature, making it one of the natives with the most inflated ego. Imposing animal, invulnerable, without predators, capable of anything to achieve their goals. Although in general it pursues clarity and justice, its egolatry usually makes it fly above others, whom it will devour mercilessly in order to achieve its objectives.

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Armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus)
Armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus)

The armadillo is permanently occupied. Very earthy and materialistic, it lives on the earth and even within it. It seems neither to rest nor to fear the work, and its movements, fast and meticulous, make it a detailed creature. His boundless zeal for order and classification appears in his armour, of hundreds of perfectly ordered plates. This compulsion for order and control represents precisely his Achilles heel, for total control is an impossibility.

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Sloth (Bradypus variegatus)
Sloth (Bradypus variegatus)

The natives of the sign of sloth are always walking on the branches. Moving to great heights, their permanent search for balance and harmony is the basis of their survival. However, in this exaggerated desire for balance can occasionally waste much of their energy, having serious difficulties in achieving their goals. Sloth is undoubtedly the most indecisive sign of the neotropical zodiac.

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Eel (Electrophorus electricus)
Eel (Electrophorus electricus)

It is one of the most feared animals of the zodiac. It lives in the depths, which symbolizes its great depth of thought and emotions. The electric eel is the native who most seeks transcendence and mystery. He is extremely sensitive and irritable, reacting violently to what he considers a fault. He has the tendency to take everything to heart, before which he throws his huge electric shocks, often deadly.

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Macaw (Ara ararauna)
Macaw (Ara ararauna)

The natives of this sign are the most cheerful and optimistic. Their flight represents their tireless yearning for travel, the search for knowledge and ideals and the attraction for philosophy. Macaws are often noisy and talkative - presumed - and their ability to speak can be far superior to their ability to listen. This dazzling and overwhelming animal represents the archetypal essence of the American tropics.

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In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, a new wave of travelers came to South America searching for El Dorado.  They all found it, in different corners of the geographically very varied continent. From beyond the sea, the most amazing descriptions of the nature of the American tropics (the Neo-Tropics), the region with the greatest bio-diversity on the planet, our real Dorado, had reached their avid ears. Peerless fauna and flora aroused in their imagination curiosity, respect, admiration, fear and repulsion.

 

Of the encounter between these naturalists and the vast continent many records were left. But it is in images that the emotions that kept those travelers connected with this exceptionally rich natural world were most eloquently displayed.

 

Engravings, drawings and water-colors recreated for the public and for science each new creature in its environment. Often the species described was illustrated in color, while the surroundings were only sketched in, monochrome and unreal, which seemed suited to the air of mystery created by this strange bestiary. Some of the best illustrators did not even cross the ocean; their pictures were based on stuffed specimens and the stories told by the explorers, almost always embellished with myths into which their deepest subconscious world was projected. And the fact is that Neo-Tropical fauna is so magnificent that it seems to contain all the symbolic images, all the archetypes, with which we represent ourselves.

 

From the teeming fauna that surrounds us I have made a selection, based on the symbolism of the Babylonian zodiac, that can reflect our innermost nature. These are the Golden Twelve of the Neo-Tropical Zodiac, a tribute to the travelers and artists who mythologized with their illustrations the South American El Dorado, born of the fusion of an exuberant nature with a boundless world of unconscious symbols.

Antonio Briceño

April 2009

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