Thursday, November 5, 2015

Quotes from _The Flower and the Scorpion_ #54

"We know from a wide variety of texts that Nahuas viewed cihuateteo as dangerous warriors. And indeed this suggests the importance of the connection between Tezcatlipoca and Xochiquetzal as well as something of Tezcatlipoca's gender ambiguity. He signified a woman giving birth to a child at least partly because Nahua mythology represented the woman in childbirth birth as a warrior; in this, she is a reverse image of Tezcatlipoca, the warrior god who became a woman giving birth to a child.
I also note the awesome power of cihuateteo in warfare. For, when a woman died in childbirth, her body was believed to confer great strength on warriors, such that the midwives would try to protect the woman's body. When the entourage carried the body away, warriors attacked them, and the midwives protected themselves and the dead woman with shields. The warriors sought to break off the middle finger or a lock of hair from the dead woman.  If successful they would insert the hair or finger into their shields to make them fiercer in war. Further, we may note at least one key similarity between the image of Tezcatlipoca and preconquest images of cihuateteo (see figures 2 and 23): cihuateteo too have sexual excess emanating from their mouths. As I noted earlier, Nahua thought promoted a discourse that equated much feminine sexuality with excess. Cihuateteo, key feared signifiers of this excess, promoted the same erotic orality as we witnessed in Tezcatlipoca. In figure 2, we see that the cihuateotl has a centipede coming out of her mouth; in figure 23, we see a serpentine figure emanating from the mouth. In each case, the elements signify sexual excess, both through the figures coming out of the mouths and through the exposed breasts of the cihuateteo. We further witness that the cihuateteo wear both skirts and loincloths.
The eyes hanging from their sockets, and the skirt in figure 23 (with the crossbones) intend to signify the appropriate fear that the population would have for these individuals. In another image from the same text (figure 24), the cihuateotl had backward-pointing feet, signifying her as a figure walking backward, thus representing disorder."

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