Because of its long red feathers, the Maya regarded the macaw as a symbol of fire and solar energy. ‘The hieroglyphic kayab, depicting a macaw’s head, denoted the solstice and this the Chorti translated with a blazing Sun’. In the fives-court at Copan, six statues of macaws are drawn up in lines of three facing east and three facing west. They mark the astronomical positions of the six cosmic Suns - the fives-ball standing for the seventh in the middle - and represent the seven-person theogony of the Sun God.
The Bribi Indians, in Colombia, have been recorded as using a red parrot as a psychopomp (conductor of souls).
All equatorial and tropical American tribes put the macaw’s feathers to decorative or ritual use as a solar symbol. Metraux quotes an observation made by Yves d’Evreux among the Tupinamba which marks a distinction between its symbolic significance and that of the eagle’s feather. ‘Great care must be taken when making the flights for an arrow to avoid placing an eagle’s feather next to a macaw’s feather, for the latter might be eaten by the former.’
The Bororo Indians believe in a complex cycle of transmigration of souls during which they are temporarily reincarnated as macaws.
In Brazil, macaws make their nests on the tops of cliffs or steep rock-faces and to reach them is an achievement. The macaw, a solar symbol, is the avatar (embodiment) of heavenly fire, so hard to gain possession of. In this context it is the opposite of the jaguar, associated with chthonian fire. Many Amerindian myths on the origins of fire bear witness to this, since their heroes often need to come to grips with chthonian-celestial duality in the shapes of jaguar and macaw.