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Myths have an intrinsic lure and they have successfully inspired and motivated students. Myths are cultural products created by real people. They were created by following certain cultural axioms. Myths have entered the public domain and are now social properties that still influence our existence today.
This unit proposes to expose the teachers as well as the students to the Mesoamerican Indian culture. By so doing, it will enhance the interests of both while augmenting respect and admiration of the cultures.
This curriculum can be used in an ESOL (English to Speakers of Other Languages) class, or it can be used to teach Mexican culture in a Spanish course. Since it would be very difficult to exclude the art of the Mesoamerican Indian when describing their culture, explanations on culture will be done through this medium. Thus, this unit could possibly be used in an art class also.
Juxtaposed are two sets of myths that have been adapted for skits or role playing. Experience and research have shown that students retain more when involved with this process. In following this procedure, students should be encouraged to research other myths, and then they should be instructed in the dynamics of adapting narratives to dialogue.
By having prepared the adapted skits and having them available for teachers, the instructor will find that most of the “leg-work” has already been done for them.
The raison d’etre for this unit is to be accessible and ready to use.
Because so many middle or high school foreign language teachers have little or no background in Mexican theology, this unit will expose the instructor to a few of the Mexican deities. Some of these include: Ometecitl’ and Ometeihuatl, Quetzalcóatl, Huitzilopochtli, Coatlicue, Tezcatlipoca, and a few others. In the appendix, a list of the more familiar gods and goddesses along with a brief description and a possible Greek counterpart is available.
Another appendix will give detailed explanations of the symbolism found in Mesoamerican art. In this way, the unit will also furnish some cultural background to help define the modern Mexican way of life.
- 1. This unit will introduce teachers and students to Mexican theology, the gods, the rituals, and the symbolism.
- 2. The students will be introduced to mysticism.
- 3. The students will become familiar with Indian names and they will learn to pronounce them.
- 4. The students will learn to differentiate between the many gods and they will learn symbols.
- 5. In the ESOL class, the students will learn about Mexican culture through English skits.
- 6. Students will learn to adapt narratives to dialogue.
- 7. Students will increase their vocabulary.
- 8. Students will improve their spelling.
- 9. Students will improve their writing skills.
- 10. The students-will improve their English grammar.
- 11. Students will learn to appreciate Mesoamerican art.
- 12. The students will learn geography.
The Olmecs made pottery figures. They perfected a technique of firing a hollow clay object. They are especially renowned for work done in jade or hard stones. Because of this fascination, jade was more valuable to the Indians than gold and silver.
Most Olmec figures are well formed. “They show a certain realism yet there is something strange about them,”2 Through skeletal remains, we have determined that the Olmec were short and thickset with round faces, broad noses and thick drooping lips.
The Peabody Museum and the Yale Art Gallery both have many Olmec artifacts. A field trip to these museums is strongly recommended. In fact, when planning for the trips, one should request to borrow the slides that are available as well as the sets of photographs mounted on lightweight cardboard. These along with the bus transportation are available free of charge to the New Haven Public Schools.
When observing the Olmec artifacts, one will notice that the Olmec heads tend to be flat and elongated. Concurrently, one will conclude that the figures are sex-less. The Olmec deliberately deformed the skulls of newborn infants. The procedure used was to bind the child’s head between two boards for several days. The resulting shape was a mark of beauty and distinction which was portrayed in their art. Students should be provided with pictures or plates of these characteristics which can be obtained from the texts listed in the bibliographies.
The Yale Art Gallery has a Stelae titled, The Winged Jaguar which is believed to be from Tlaxcala, Central Mexico before 500 A.D. A stelae is a tall shaft of stone. Some of the questions that should be posed to the students include: How many attributes of different animals do we see and what do they symbolize?
Through visual stimulation, the instructor generates more active student participation and a higher ratio of retention of information. The teacher could possibly have the students even compare Olmec art with perhaps the art of the Aztec or the Maya. This in itself would be most enlightening since it would be student-generated.
When introducing the people of Teotihuacan, it would be most advantageous to have maps available to show where the different sects came from. At the same time, the students would be able to learn about the present day geography of Mexico and its geographical relationship to the U.S. One could also have the student make maps of Mexico and of the United States.
The art of the people of Teotihuacan was much more innovating than that of the Olmec. Many of the former figures had animal characteristics which were powerful personifications of the forces of nature.
Quetzalcóatl, the god of winds, of life, and of the morning is one of the most prominent deities in the Aztec civilization where as, a Jaguar-god was worshipped by the Olmec. Quetzalcóatl not only has a long name, but he also has a complicated attire. In fact, there are at least four different plates that have each depicted him differently. He is also known by many other names out of which the two most common were: Ehecatl and Ce çcatl. This god is unique and quite colorful. Pictures and plates are recommended to initiate the creative expatiation process.
In the book, The Aztecs by Alfonso Caso, there are many color plates of the god Quetzalcóatl. It is suggested that the teacher use these pictures to better describe and understand this deity. This process would offer the students an opportunity to view the many “looks” of this chameleon-like god. Students would be able to write different descriptions about the different attributes of this god and thus also make an attempt at interpreting the symbolism involved. The author, Alfonso Caso, goes into a very complicated but interesting decoding description of one of these plates. This would make an informative comparison.
In some paintings, Quetzalcóatl generally wears a beard. Because of this, some considered him European. Others say that he wore a beard because he was a creator god. Students could be encouraged to research these contradictory legends to discover their source and also to prove or to disprove their validity.
Aztec mythology is difficult to understand because of the multiplicity of the gods and the diverse attributes of the same gods. One explanation would be that the Aztec religion was in a period of synthesis. And it was because of this that the people accepted Catholicism so readily. They were just following their beliefs. “And as in all pantheistic cultures, reality, nature, and experience were nothing but multiple manifestations of a single unity of being. God was both the one and the many. Thus, the deities were but his multiple personifications, his partial unfolding into perceptible experience. Therefore, it was not too difficult to make the transition to Catholicism.”3
The legend of the divine pair, Ometecihtl’ and Omec’huatl, also known as Tonacaticuhtli and Tonacac’huatl, tells the story of creation. This primitive couple had four sons who were entrusted with the creation of the other gods, the world, and man. These four sons were: Red Tezcatlipoca (Xipe), Blue Tezcatlipoca (Huitzilopochtli), Black Tezcatlipoca (Tezcatlipoca), and White Tezcatlipoca (Quetzalcóatl). Everything was grouped in accordance to the four cardinal points of the compass and the central direction of up and down. Therefore, the numbers four and five were extremely important just as the number three is to Christianity. Heaven and earth—up and down—were represented by the divine pair and the four directions were represented by the four sons.
Another Aztec legend that is quite interesting is the one about Quetzalcóatl. This is the story of the creation of the world, or another creation version. This story tells of Quetzalcóatl going to the world of the dead to gather up ossifications of past generations to create a new mankind. This legend has been adapted to a skit which can be found later in the unit. And because man was created through a godly sacrifice, man must then reciprocate by offering up a human sacrifice. But, Quetzalcóatl who was opposed to human sacrifice introduced the custom of drawing blood from different part of the body. In spite of this, the worship of Quetzalcóatl made the Aztecs one of the bloodiest cults around.
Another sanguinary cult worshipped Huitzilopochtli, the sun god. Legend has it that he was a young warrior born each morning from the womb of the old goddess earth. Every evening, he dies in order to illuminate with his dying light the world of the dead. This complete legend will also be retold in a skit form at the end of this unit.
After reading the skits, the readers will realize that the Aztecs as well as past generations and civilizations tried to explain celestial phenomena through myths. As a result of their incredible stead-fast observations of the skies, they achieved a very advanced stage in astronomy. In this way, they developed their own calendar, the Aztec Calendar. It would be most interesting to compare Aztec accomplishments with those of the Greek and the Roman. Questions like these would be a good point of departures: How do they differ? How are they alike? How do they share universal answers to universal problems such as the changing seasons, agricultural techniques and hunting techniques?
The Indian gods, as were the gods of other great civilizations, were superhuman beings with individual characteristics and attributes from each taxonomical level. These gods could have thirty or more characteristics that defined, distinguished, or represented them. This in itself explains why the description of Quetzalcóatl is so complicated. And the Mexican honored the virtues not the vices of these gods.
And like the Greek and Roman gods, the Indian gods were also extremely active sexually. They also gave birth to human children with superhuman powers.
And they even had mythical animals that had combined characteristics of two or more animals. Here, it would be most appropriate to discuss heroes. What attributes should heroes have? Do these attributes make heroes special?
The students could also be introduced to some Mexican muralists such as Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco and David Alvaro Siquieros. The murals painted by these men are social and political statements. The artists’ preoccupation was simply to present the history of Mexico combining the art with the politics. Many of the murals deal with the problem of the races, the land, the Spanish conquest, and the conservative oligarchies. The teacher should have the students get a feel for these works by having them try to reproduce them. By so doing, the feelings and themes will be brought out.
Some of the murals painted by José Clemente Orozco can be found at Baker Library at Darthmouth College, New Hampshire and also at Pomona College, California. When retelling the story about Orozco’s background, the teacher should include the human interest tale about the artist who learned to do what he desired despite his handicap. As a child, José Orozco lost his left hand in an accident. But the painter never let this handicap interfere with his determination and success. It was in first grade that he had to pass a printing shop to and from school. There, he would watch a cartoonist making drawings. This was the inspiration that the boy needed to pick up a pencil and to begin to draw himself.
Before commencing the works of Diego Rivera, the students should be given some historical background information on the history of Mexico. Synopses should be given on the following figures: Father Miguel Hidalgo, José Morelos, Montezuma, Hernán Córtez, etc. Students should also be encouraged to do their own research and to write reports on these figures. Having students make maps would also be recommended. One of the locations to be mapped could be the town of Dolores. This will lead into the Mexican Revolution with the famous “Grito de Dolores”. Most of Rivera’s murals depict the Mexican peasants or the downtrodden. His huge paintings show the suffering and pain as well as the exploitation of the Mexican people.
The innovative educational possibilities of this unit are endless. Before the skits are presented, short resumés on the Mesoamerican gods should be given. One way of doing this would be to borrow as many books as possible from the public library to keep in the classroom as reference since many of the students lack good library research techniques. This will encourage further research and study. The students can even be required to do more detailed oral and written presentations.
The skits that have been included in this unit were adapted from Alfonso Caso’s book, The Aztecs. But any text on Mesoamerican mythology may be used. In Time Machine, the story of the creation of mankind by Quetzalcóatl, I used Wilbur L. Cross High School as the location where the machine was being built. Teachers should use their own particular schools as well as the real names of the participants whenever possible to encourage a more enthusiastic involvement.
Also, upon introducing the skit, an ingenious instructor can also teach grammatical structures. Some of these may includes the simple present, the simple past, irregular verbs, formation of questions, formation of negatives, the imperative, and much more.
Another method that would ensure learning vocabulary would be to translate the main idea into the students’ native language. By so doing, the students will have to memorize lexicon and thus they will know what they are saying.
The teacher should utilize the skits that have been prepared especially for this unit to economize on both material and time. Prior taping of the skits by native speakers is strongly recommended since students need to listen, repeat, and imitate. By so doing, the teacher will be able to conserve physical energy and thus channel it more creatively. I would suggest that the teacher spend a minimum of two weeks on each skit since students will need the time to memorize it.
Finally, the teachers should provide the students with an opportunity to adapt their own skits. This can best be accomplished by having the students work together in groups first. The students should be able to select their own legends and their own parts. This technique is a wonderful tool that gives students a chance to practice their writing skills.
Quetzalcóatl: the god of wind, of life and of the morning; creator of mankind. Mother: James’ mother.
James: lost traveler; student at W L. Cross H.S.
Xólotl: Quetzalcóatl’s twin brother.
Mictlantecihtli: the god of the underworld.
Tezcatlipoca: the god of death; Quetzalcóatl’s rival.
Xochiquetzal: the goddess of beauty and love.
Act one-Scene one
(Two Indian gods are startled by the appearance of a student who seems to have fallen from the heavens.)
James: (Frightened, but he manages to approach and to address one of the gods.) Sir, I am lost. Would you please tell me where I am and who you are?
Quetzalcóatl: I am Quetzalcóatl, the god of wind, of life and of the morning.
Xólotl: I am Xólotl, Quetzalcóatl’s twin brother. And you, stranger, are in Tula.
James: Tula? I must be in what is present day Mexico. I remember this because we studied about Quetzalcóatl in my Spanish class. Oh, by the way, let me introduce myself also. My name is James. I am a student at Wilbur Cross High School. In fact, I was tinkering with this time machine that we had built when all of a sudden, there was an explosion and everything went up in Smoke.
James: Would you mind telling me more about yourselves?
Quetzalcóatl: I am the creator of mankind. I will tell you how I created man. In order to recreate a new man after the last catastrophe, I had to travel to Mictlan, the underworld, to obtain bones of dead men. I decided to take my twin with me because there is strength in numbers.
Xólotl: Upon arriving, we made our plea before Mictlantecuhtli, the god of the dead, But since Quetzalcóatl knew that this god was double-dealing and not to be trusted, we were extremely cautious.
James: Ah, you must have gone to what we call Hades and you probably saw Pluto, the god of the Underworld.
Quetzalcóatl: Yes, you still use the Greek names. But, as I was saying, as soon as we received the bones, we ran as fast as we could.
Mictlantecuhtli: (Appears from nowhere.) I am Mictlantecuhtli! Who dears speaks my name? Who dears to retell that story that had angered me so? (No one speaks.) I was so angered by his escape that I pursued him and I ordered the quail to attack him.
Quetzalcóatl: (laughs) I slipped during my flight and thus, I was attacked by these birds. When I fell, I broke all the bones. I scarcely had time to pick up the fragments and escape with them from the underworld,
Xólotl: When we reached safety, we had a conference. And in spite of the fact that the affair did not turn out as well as we had hoped, Quetzalcóatl offered a sacrifice over the bones.
Quetsalcóatl: I sprinkled my own blood over the bones and a new race of men was created.
Mictlantecuhtli: But, since the bone fragments were of different sizes, so too are the men and women of the earth.
Xólotl: The quail, as a result of their daring pursuit of the god, were to be sacrificed and their blood sprinkled on the sacrificial altars, for they were the collaborators of the god of the underworld and had attempted to prevent my brother from carrying out his mission.
(This next section can be a continuation of this skit or it can be a new skit with a new cast,)
James: But, I had learned that you had to flee Tula. Was there any truth to this?
Quetzalcóatl: As the god of life, I was the benefactor of mankind. After having created man with my own blood, I also sought a way to nourish him. I discovered corn hidden by the ants within a hill. I changed my form into an ant and I stole a grain which I later gave to man. I taught man how to polish jade and other precious stones. I also showed him how to locate deposits of these stones. I taught man how to weave multicolored fabrics from cotton. I taught him how to do mosaic work with the feathers of the quetzal bird, the macaw, the bluebird, and to other birds with brilliant plumage.
Xólotl: Above all, my twin taught man science. He endowed man with the means to measure time and study the movements of the stars. He taught man how to arrange the calendar and how to devise ceremonies and how to fix certain days for prayers and sacrifices.
James: But, I don’t understand! I can see that you are the very essence of saintliness. I have heard of your life of fasting and penitence, your priestly character and your benevolence toward your children, mankind. What could you have possibly done to have to flee Tula? How did you sin?
Quetzalcóatl: Sin is a moral filth. Sin to us means drunkeness and failure to observe sexual abstinence. I allowed myself to be dragged into drunkeness and incontinence!
Tezcatlipoca: (Appears from nowhere gloating.) I am Tezcatlipoca, the god of evil. Quetzalcóatl and I have long been rival gods. And we are still carrying on our long drawn-out struggle; creating and destroying the universe only to create and destroy it again. It seems that we will be struggling until the end of time.
Quetzalcóatl: Tezcatlipoca, be gone from here! You are not wanted here!
Tezcatlipoca: I shall leave, but not before I humiliate you in front of your visitor. (Turns to James.) Do you want to know how the most holy Quetzalcóatl has sinned? (Does not wait for him to answer.) I left pulque where it was easily accessible. At the same time, I instilled in him a thirst that he could not seem to quench. So he drank and drank the pulque! (He laughs.) I had never seen anyone as drunk as he was. (laughing.) Part of the plan was to have Xochiquetzal, the goddess of beauty and love seduce him.
James: (To himself.) Xochiquetzal must be Aphrodite or Venus and he must have drunk too much nectar. Now, I am beginning to understand.
Xochiquetzal: I, Xochiquetzal, the goddess of beauty and love, waited for him in his bed. And the fool could not resist me. (She and Tezcatlipoca laugh until they leave the stage.)
Quetsalcóatl: What they spoke was the truth. I had to leave Tula because I had sinned. I left to go to Tlillan Tlapallan, the land of the black and the red. But, I made a promise to my people that someday I would return from the east in the year of my name “Ce çcatl”. It was because of this prophecy that when the conquistadores landed at Veracruz in the year 1519, called “Ce çcatl” (one reed) in the Aztec calendar; that Montezuma gave up without a struggle. Montezuma believed that I had returned to take possession of my kingdom.
James: Thank-you for helping me understand. Now I must find a way to get back to Cross so that I can help spread your legend and in this way, you will be able to live on.
Act one—Scene two.
Mother: Jimmy, wake-up, you’re late for school. Jimmy...
Cast of characters:
Coatlicue: the goddess of the earth; mother of the sun, mother of the moon and of the stars.
Huitzilopochtli: the sun god.
Coyolxauhqui: the moon.
Centzonhuitznhuac: three or four stars.
Act one—Scene one
Coatlicue: (sweeping) Good morning, I am Coatlicue, the goddess of the earth. I am not as young as I used to be. (Points to the sun). That’s my son. Isn’t he brilliant? Would you like to know how he came to be... and how day turns into night and night into day? Let me tell you my story. Now, you have to listen very carefully. I am also the mother of the moon, Coyolxauhqui, and the stars, Centzonhuitznáhuac. But, they are not as bright as my Huitzilopochtli.
Huitzilopochtli: (enters) Good morning, mamá earth. Whom are you talking to?
Coatlicue: Buenos d’as, hijo m’o. I am talking to mankind. I am telling them our story.
Huitzilopochtli: Oh, let me assist you mamacita. One day, many, many moons ago before I came to be; my mother, who was a priestess in the temple, came across some down. My mother led a life of retreat and chastity after giving birth to my brother and my sisters.
Coatlicue: Yes, on that dark day, while sweeping, I picked up a ball of down and I tucked it away in my waistband. How was I to know that I was being tricked by some god?
Huitzilopochtli: After finishing her tasks, she looked for the ball of feathers, but it had disappeared.
Coatlicue: That’s when I realized that I was pregnant.
Coyolxauhqui and Centzonhuitznahuac: She betrayed us!
Coyolxauhqui: When we learned of her delicate state, we became so furious that we also became determined to kill our mother.
Coatlicue: (crying) I could not believe that my children had planned to do away with me after having raised them with all my love and tenderness.
Huitzilopochtli: But, I managed to speak to my mother from her womb and I tried to console her. I assured her that I would be able to defend her from her enemies.
Coatlicue: My son was born just as my children came to kill me.
Huitzilopochtli: My rays, the serpent of fire, cut off Coyolxauhqui’s head, and put the Centzonhuitznáhuac to flight.
Centzonhuitznáhuac #1: So it was that when the sun god was born, he a to combat us, his brothers, the stars, and his sister the moon. Armed with the serpent of fire, he puts us to flight every new day.
Huitzilopochtli: My victory signifies a new day of life for men.
Centzonhuitznahuac #2: When he consummates his victory, he is carried into the center of the sky by the spirits of warriors who have died in combat or on the sacrificial stone.
Centzonhuitznahuac #3: When afternoon commences, he is picked up by the spirits of women who have died in childbirth, for they are equal to warriors because they, too, died taking a man prisoner—the newborn child.
Centzonhuitznahuac #4: During the afternoon the souls of the mothers lead the sun to its new setting, where we, the stars, die and where the sun, like the eagle in his fall to death, is gathered close to her bosom by our mother earth.
Coatlicue: Each day this divine combat is begun anew, but in order for my sun to be triumphant, he must be strong and vigorous, for he has to fight against the unnumbered stars of the North and the South, his brothers, and frighten them all off with his arrows of light.
High Priest: (enters) For this reason, man must give nourishment to the sun. Since the sun is god, he disdains the coarse foods of mortals and can only be kept alive by life itself, by the magic substance that is found in the blood of man, the Chalch’huatl, “the precious liquid”, the terrible nectar with which the gods are fed. Thus, war is a form of worship. Its purpose is to take prisoners for sacrifice to the sun. In this way, the Aztecs, the chosen people of the sun, prepare from birth to become warriors.
(A young male warrior enters, and lies down on a sacrificial stone. The priest with a daggar in his hand approaches her and offers her up as sacrifice.)
- A. Warm-up
- Day one (48 minutes)
- 1. Present students with a list of some of the Mesoamerican gods along with their characteristics.
- 2. Define what qualities make a god divine.
- B. New Material
- 1. Introduce twenty-five vocabulary words from the word list to the skit Time Machine. Study for quiz.
- 2. Present a few plates of Quetzalcóatl and have students orally describe what he looks like.
- 3. Assign a project—students will draw different poses or looks of Quetzalcóatl.
- C. Homework
- 1. Have students write sentences using the new words correctly.
- Day two (48 minutes)
- A. Warm-up
- 1. Review some of the new vocabulary.
- 2. Review pronunciation of the gods and their attributes.
- B. New Material
- 1. Introduce the next twenty-five words.
- 2. Have students role-play the different gods. What would they say?
- 3. Show slides on the Mesoamerican Indian art available at the Yale Art Gallery and at the Peabody Museum.
- 4. Discuss what the message of each art work is.
- C. Homework
- 1. Write a composition about the gods using as many new words as possible.
- Day three (48 minutes)
- A. Warm-up
- 1. Preview gods and their attributes.
- 2. Review vocabulary.
- B. New Material
- 1. Introduce the next twenty-five words.
- 2. Assign the parts to the skit, Time Machine.
- 3. Read the skit outloud.
- C. Homework
- 1. Have the students describe the legend of Quetzalcóatl in prose.
Cetzontotochtin: four hundred rabbit; a god of pulque.
Centzonhuitznáhuac: four hundred stars; sons of coatlicue.
Coatlicue: the old goddess of the earth; like a Demeter; mother of the moon and stars and also of the sun, Huitzilopochtli.
Coyolxauhqui: godess of the moon; daughter of Coatlicue.
Huehueteotl: god of fire; wrinkle old man carrying a brazier on his head.
Huitzilopochtli: the Blue Tezcatlipoca; like the Greek Helios and Ares combined; son of the divine pair and of Coatlicue; god of the South; god of war; name meant hummingbird from the left.
Macuilxochitl: five flower male.
Mayahuel: goddess of pulque; conceived of a woman full of milk; she had four hundred breasts.
Mictlantecuhtli: god of the underworld, Mictlan; like Pluto in Hades; figures with bony mask; sat among owls and spiders.
Michlacihuatl: mistress of the underworld; Mujer enredadora; Cihuacoatl, woman snake; Tlazolteotl, filth deity; abandoned mistress; unloved wife; immature sexuality and dirty things; related to the deer; sexually abnormal.
Omecihuatl: (Tonacacihuatl), the goddess of the earth; a cross between Hera and Demeter; mother of the four Tezcatlipocas; member of the divine pair; symbol of fertility; she directs and grants mankind their wishes.
Ometecihtli: (Tonacatecuhtli) god the creator; like Zeus; member of the divine pair; also known as two rabbit god; another god of pulque; symbol of fertility; he directs and grants mankind their wishes.
Quetzalcóatl: the plumed serpent; human face; West; body of a snake; White Tezcatlipoca; god of the winds and of life; like a Prometheus; flying snake; precious twin or Quetzal twin.
Texcatzoncatl: god of wine; a lesser god; like Dionysus.
Tezcatlipoca: the Black Tezcatlipoca; god of death; North; disguise—jaguar; god of darkness and of sorcerers and of destruction, patron of princes, young warriors, and bachelors; god of fire; also like a Zeus and Pluto combined; name meant smoking mirror.
Tlaculteotl: goddess of lust and carnality; Aphrodite.
Tolac: the rain god; mouth of a tiger with circles under the eyes; beneficent god with powers to unleash storms; children were sacrificed to him; like a Poseidon.
Red Tezcatlipoca: also known as Xipe and Camaxtle: East.
Xochipilli: flower prince.
Xochiquetzal: linked to Xochitl; goddess of youthful sexuality; patroness of flower arrangers, prostitutes, embroiders, precious flower; goddess as beautiful as flowers or Quetzal feathers.
Xochitli: a flower; the female who invented pulque, a maiden who was ravished by one of the kings of Tula.
Xólotl: twin brother of Quetzalcóatl; dog-headed god.
- A. Flying Class:
- (“Included the bird class, but it also included the butterfly. Sub-classifications were made according to size, color, flying altitude, behavior, eating habits, sleeping schedules, etc. Each flyer was said to be a messenger between the earth and the heavens. The most recurring mythical symbols were: the butterfly, the owl, the eagle, the turkey, the parrot, and the hawk.)”4
- 1. Bat: since it is believed to be a transformed mouse, it symbolizes winter and the forces of darkness.
- 2. Butterfly: the soul and olin (the passage of time in space).
- 3. Eagle: transformed souls of warriors; the sun.
- 4. Hawk: symbolically equivalent to eagles.
- 5. Hummingbird: rebirth or resurrection; springtime; special because they can fly in reverse and they can hover; sexual conquest.
- 6. Owl: darkness and sleep; the underworld of the soul after life; nighttime and death.
- 7. Parrot: non-warrior images.
- 8. Raven: winter; crops in postharvest period; responsible for giving man corns bract, but not black.
- 9. Quail: collaborators of the god of the underworld.
- 10. Quetzal: non-warrior images; priestly god the wind; pacific against sacrifice.
- 11. Turkey: Tezcatlipoca’s most common theophanic form; another calendar deity; replaced by the rooster or chicken.
- B. Mammals:
- 1. Deer: forest image.
- 2. Dog: messenger of the gods of death; guardian of Hell like the Greek Cerberus.
- 3. Jaguar: god of the underworld and of night; patron of witches, sorcerers, or priests; growl like thunder or rumbling of earthquake; associated with water since it does much nocturnal hunting.
- 4. Monkey: unfinished or imperfect man.
- 5. Rabbit: Fertility; image on the full moon.
- C. Crawlers and Insects:
- 1. Ant: gave man corn; both black and not black.
- 2. Bee: assigned to each quarter of space-t time continuum; in European culture = lust.
- 3. Snail: head inside = womb; head outside = birth; empty =zero.
- 4. Snakes: ubiquitous symbols; lightning, male fertility.
- 5. Spiders: represented the underworld.
- 1. twin: being one with a pair.
- 2. Tula: ancient city of Mexico.
- 3. to tinker: to attempt clumsily to mend something.
- 4. creator: one who creates.
- 5. to create: to make, to originate.
- 6. catastrophe: any sudden disorder.
- 7. to travel: to go from one place to another.
- 8. traveler: one who travels.
- 9. underworld: Hades, Hell.
- 10. strength: the state or quality of being strong.
- 11. plea: a statement in defense; excuse request.
- 12. double-dealing: duplicity.
- 13. distrustful: a lack of trust; doubt.
- 14. cautious: full of caution; careful to avoid danger.
- 15. to beg: to ask earnestly; entreat.
- 16. bones: any of the parts of hard tissues forming
- the skeleton.
- 17. race: any distinct group of people.
- 18. escape: to get free.
- 19. to anger: to make or become angry.
- 20. to pursue: to follow.
- 21. quail: a small game bird resembling a partridge.
- 22. to attack: to use force against in order to harm.
- 23. to slip: to slide; to lose footing.
- 24. flight: the act, manner or power of flying.
- 25. pulque: powerful drink, dangerous because it caused drunkenness and sexual license; inducer of fertility; thick like semen.
Braden, Charles. Religious Aspects of the Conquest of Mexico. Durham, North Carolina: Duke University, 1930. This text gives an excellent description of the religion of the MesoAmerican Indians. It also goes into the religious practices and the similarities between the Mexican religions and Christianity. Superb reading.
Brenner, Anita. The Wind that Swept Mexico. Austin, Texas: University of Texas Press, 1971. Only one hundred pages of text on the Mexican Revolution (1910-1942) with one hundred eighty-four historical news photographs. This is a good text to use when explaining the Mexican struggle.
Caso, Alfonso. The Aztecs: People of the Sun. Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press, 1958. Fabulous fountain of historical facts about the Aztecs. It deals with the character of the Aztec religion along with the many gods and their legends. A must reading.
Coe, Michael D. The Jaguar’s Children: Pre-Classic Central Mexico. Greenwich, Connecticut: The N.Y. Graphic Society, 1965. This book discusses in detail the were-jaguar. It is full of color illustrations of Pre-classic Central Mexico. Very informative.
Covarrubias, Miguel. Indian Art of Mexico and Central America. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1957. This text, written by a renowned Mexican artist, emphasizes the common traits that are present and absent in the civilizations of the North, Middle, and South. It also includes many drawings by this artist.
D’az de Castillo, Bernal, Historia verdadera de la conquistada de la Nueva España. South America: Fernández Editorial, ND. Incredible book written in Spanish from first hand knowledge of the conquest. It includes bibliographies on most of the first books written on Mexico along with a bibliography on the indigenous characters of Mexican History.
Fehrenbach, T.R. Fire and Blood. New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1973. Another excellent account of the atrocities of the tyrannies that have enslaved the Mexican people. It contains valuable historical information.
Gibson, Charles. The Aztec Under Spanish Rule. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1964. A history of the Indians of the Valley of Mexico between 1519-1810. It describes how the Indians were converted.
Hunt, Eva. The Transformation of the Hummingbird. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1977. This is a fascinating account of a Zinacantecan mythical poem. It includes much symbolism, myth, and ritual.
Keen, Benjamin. The Aztec Image in Western Thought. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers’ University Press, 1971. This book attempts in a non-technical way to give an account of Aztec life and thought. It also dwells on Aztec influences and images on Western ideas.
Sanders, William and Barbara J. Price. Mesoamerica: The Evolution of a Civilization, New York: Random House, 1968. This is a text on the theory of civilization. It concerns itself with the processes of growth that cause urbanization.
Soustelle, Jacques. Arts of Ancient Mexico, N.Y.: Viking Press, 1966. This text includes two hundred six photographs on Mexican art. It also provides an excellent ancient map of Mexico. A wonderful reference book.
Soustelle, Jacques. Daily Life of the Aztecs on the Eve of the Spanish Conquest. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1961.
Wonderful description of the city, the society, the world, the man, and his relationship to time on the eve of the Spanish conquest. Fantastic reading which comes highly recommended.
Thompson, J. Eric. Mexico before Córtez. New York: Charles Scriber’s Sons, 1933. This text depicts the daily life, religion, and ritual practices of the Aztecs. It includes many awesome plates on the gods. Highly recommended.
Von Hagen, Victor Wolfgang. The Aztec: Man and Tribe. New York: New American Library, 1961. A revealing archaeological history of the Aztecs with many startling contrasts.
Weaver, Muriel Porter. The Aztecs, Mayas, and Their Predecessors: Archaelogy of Mesoamerica. New York: Seminar Press, Inc., 1972. An Outstanding publication with extensive illustrations that include maps, plates, and charts. It dwells on the sequence of events by geographical areas while emphasizing the cultural changes and trends.
- 1. Micheal Batterberry and Ariane Ruskin, Primitive Art (New York: MacGraw Hill, 1973), p. 37.
- 2. Ibid., p.39.
- 3. Eva Hunt, The Transformation of the Hummingbird (New York: Cornell University Press, 1977), p. 55.
- 4. Ibid., pp. 58-59.
Contents of 1984 Volume III | Directory of Volumes | Index | Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute