Friday, October 9, 2015

Quotes from _The Flower and the Scorpion_ #27

"The Codex Borbonicus, for example, presents Tlazolteotl as mother and seductress. Here we first see Tlazolteotl in a section designed for prognostications, in which she gives birth. Tlazolteotl in this image retains her traditional cotton headdress, along with her traditional necklace. We also can note the presence of moon glyphs on her headdress, huipil, and the blanket beneath her, signifying that Tlazolteotl is a lunar deity. In this image she gives birth to Cinteotl, the god of maize. This act signifies that Tlazolteotl represents fertility of the gods, humans, and the earth. The staple crop, maize, is central to the maintenance of community and the fertility of the earth.  Tlazolteotl also wears the skin of an animal sacrificed to her. And present in the picture is a disguised Tezcatlipoca, "Smoking Mirror," a god often partnered with Tlazolteotl. Between the two of them we see entwined figures of a snake and a centipede, both signifying sexual excess and tlazolli. As I have noted, the snake is also seen as phallic, while the centipede is a symbol of tlazolli and dirt, and hence of Tlazolteotl. Beneath Tlazolteotl and Tezcatlipoca, we see a severed head and a skull on a skull rack. So here Tlazolteotl signifies birth and death, moderation and excess. The tlacuilo wants his readers to know that Tlazolteotl is an important goddess who will maintain the fertility of humans and the earth, but that she also is a dangerous goddess, one who will encourage excess and destruction.
We should note further, however, that the tlacuilo does not condemn the production of excess. The excess signified here is necessary for the completion of the ritual. Mikhail Bakhtin has pointed out that ritualization can and does allow, even mandates, excess that must remain unacceptable in daily life. Hence, here the figure of Tlazolteotl signifies ritual discourse itself, pointing to excess, violence, and death at the same time as she signifies the maintenance of life and the continuity of the people. Indeed, for the community to continue to exist, Tlazolteotl and her priests must engage in violent excess."

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