Sunday, October 11, 2015

Quotes from _The Flower and the Scorpion_ #29

"According to the Dominican friar Diego Duran, the Huastecs participated in the Ochpaniztli ceremony by guarding the woman representing Tlazolteotl, who was to be sacrificed. After the sacrifice, they fought against the warriors of Tenochtitlan in a mock battle:
A bloody fray took place among them. With sticks and stones countless men came to the combat and fight, something awesome to see, all armed with their quivers, swords, and shields. Fighting all the way, they went to the shrine of the goddess ... that stood at the entrance of the city, called the Shrine of the Woman. The man wearing the skin and maguey-fiber clothes of the woman went behind, among the Huaxtecs. One of these was dressed in white, another in red, another other in yellow, yet another in green, each holding his broom high in his hands." The Huastecs had lost their swords, now replaced with brooms. The movement from sword to broom in the Nahua conceptual universe moved them from the male sphere to the female. The castration works to feminize the Huastecs so as to make them less of a threat. Instead of engaging in ritualistic sexual aggression, a masculine culine activity, they will engage in sweeping and cleaning, a feminine activity. While in Nahua society there was no shame to the feminine sphere, for men such a maneuver would have moved them away from their proper roles, and effectively disempowered them. They could continue tinue to perform productive roles, but unlike the priest from Tenochtitlan, who will wear the slain woman's skin, the Huastecs would no longer be able to perform warrior functions-they would sweep. In both cases, violence and mutilation moved the ceremony forward to maintain gender balance and complementarity. In removing the Huastecs' phalluses luses and placing brooms in their hands, the ritual practitioners effectively controlled the outsiders and protected the city-state of Tenochtitlan. The contrast with the Tenochtitlan priest is instructive: he will take the woman's skin with him as he fights. Her skin in essence empowers him through a ritual gender transformation. Yet the same gender transformation disempowered the Huastecs."

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