More Aztec Whoopee

Here we go again! My informational art exhibit YE GODS! ICONS OF AZTEC DEITIES will show for the fourth time at NEW MEXICO HIGHLANDS UNIVERSITY in beautiful Las Vegas NM from September 30 to November 2, 2019 at BURRIS HALL GALLERY, 903 National Avenue.

In 2018 the first 15 icons showed at El Museo Cultural de Santa Fe and at Northern New Mexico College in Española, and in 2019, with the addition of #16 (TECCIZTECATL & METZTLI, Deities of the Moon), they were displayed at Santa Fe Community College. This iteration at NMHU will include another new icon, #17:  TEPEYOLLOTL, Heart of the Mountain, the god of caves, volcanoes, and a bunch of other neat stuff.

Currently working on the next icon for the coloring book, #18: XOCHIPILLI, Prince of Flowers, I’ve broken out of my alphabetical sequence to manifest the splendid deity that I consider my personal patron (appearing above in my website banner).  I’m also breaking several Aztec iconographic conventions for this one, not the least of which is running wild with floral motifs.  One of my favorite details is a tiny Aztec bee:

Aztec Bee

You’ll just have to wait a while to see the rest of this literally iconoclastic icon.

Along with the NMHU show, I’ll give a slide lecture on the Aztec Codices for their Art in the Americas class and a gallery talk for their Día de los Muertos celebration on November 1, just ahead of a concert to be directed by my music prof friend Andre Garcia-Nuthmann. Of course, Mictlantecuhtli, Lord of the Land of the Dead, will be featured, as will Tepeyollotl, Heart of the Mountain, who guards the entrance to Mictlan.  That dire place is always shown as the mouth of the monstrous, hermaphroditic Lord of the Earth, Tlaltecuhtli:

Entrance to Mictlan

Meanwhile efforts continue to line up more venues for the show, including other educational institutions around New Mexico. If anybody out there has hot ideas for presenters anywhere else, sic them on me!  I’ve been trying to interest places in surrounding states but so far have struck out.  (Read that as:  My approaches have been roundly ignored.)  I’d really love to hang the show at Mexico City’s National Museum of Anthropology, but I expect the materials should be translated into Spanish, actually not such a bad idea…

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Exultate Jubilate

I’m totally exultant! Yesterday I discovered that in July wonderful WordPress has started registering downloads.  This is a ginormous deal since for the past five years all I could do was hope (pray and wish) that you folks out there were taking the fabulous stuff I’ve been trying to give away on this website.  Now I’m jubilant that you apparently are indeed and may actually have been accepting my gifts in the past.  Not to be greedy, but I’d love to get some comments back about my artwork and writing—appreciation, criticism, gratitude, or whatever.

There were some splendid surprises in the first six weeks of download data. I’d been pleased with getting an enormous number of hits (from literally all over the world) on my Aztec materials, and now I find that they’re being downloaded like hotcakes.  To my joy, the treatise The Aztec Codices and encyclopedia The Aztec Pantheon seem hugely popular, but even better, the YE GODS! coloring book is flying out the door, both as the collection, The Aztec Icons, and as individual black and white images.

Through Google Image searches, I’d already observed that my earlier four-color images of Aztec deities were being used for various purposes like T-shirt designs and other graphics, and now I see that they’re still being downloaded frequently. As hoped, my art is now truly taking on a life of its own in the wide world—beyond the several exhibitions of icons I’ve managed to organize.  The next show will be at New Mexico Highlands University in Las Vegas NM this October.

The other thrill is that folks are also taking my books. No longer do I feel like a writer scribbling invisibly in the wilderness.  Folks are downloading my first novel Bat in a Whirlwind, my first memoir There Was a Ship, and the nonfiction books: Remember Native America, Celebrate Native America, and Getting Get.  My second novel Divine Debauch is only available through an online publisher, but some have linked to that too.  Weirdly, my most popular book seems to be the biography Ms. Yvonne, The Secret Life of My Mother.  Go figure.

Now I can even look forward to reports of folks accessing my Pre-Columbian artifact drawings and related Indian Mounds photos, as well as images of my sculptures, photographic art, shorter writings, and my long, fascinating, and sometimes sordid life.  Of course, you can also feel free to download my shorter, but still fascinating and sometimes sordid blog posts—like this one.

Now back to work on my next memoir titled “Lord Wind, My Second Coming Out” and on Aztec Icon #18, Xochipilli, Prince of Flowers.

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Monetary Mammoths

Long ago the late great British writer Wolf Mankowitz, for whom I briefly worked as a secretary/scribe, made a penetrating comment that I’ve never forgotten. In response to some news phenomenon of those early 80’s, he remarked that though Europeans would never believe such a thing, “Americans equate being rich with being good.”

Over later years I’ve watched our national “mentality” start believing that wealth itself is virtue, i.e., that money is a god—good old Mammon. Notice the religious awe with which Americans contemplate the iconic dollar sign—and really big numbers.  Millions used to be a lot, then it was billions, and now we toss around trillions.  Mammon is obviously a megalomaniac.  I’ve recently come to believe that the operative word for our civilization is “More.”

The holy magic of numbers of dollars is nowhere more rampant than in the electoral process. Political races have come to be characterized and predicted by the amount of funds raised by the candidates.  The media blithely compares fundraising totals as clues to who is running “ahead,” as though dollars equal votes (and political virtue), as though reporting on a horse race.

In the electoral process, a composite total of many mega-millions—perhaps billions— is raised from supposedly civic-minded donors, all looking for a bang for their bucks. And then there are the mega-millions the government has to spend to manage the process at thousands of polling places—as well as staff costs for the counting/accounting.

Overall, I expect that elections are a trillion-dollar industry right now—tomorrow it will probably be a jillion. Some might say that’s not a high a cost for running our huge democracy, and sadly they could be right.  My problem comes from seeing where that trillion goes.

The tax money that the government spends naturally goes to the enormous workforce needed to operate the electoral process—a job program. But what about the countless millions raised for campaigns?  And public financing means that the government is paying for a large part of that. Some funds do pay for a temporary job program and operations to organize trips and events, but the lion’s share of election funds flows directly into the media/advertising industry.  For it, elections are bread, butter, and roast beef—simply for playing both sides against the middle.  Our election cycles have become the media’s cash elephants!

Humility Redeems All Species.

I have a distinct problem with this being a closed financial loop. You see, campaign donors are basically the same class of people who are getting paid by the campaigns.  What’s more, they get a tax-break for donating (ultimately to themselves).  Sounds like a racket to me.

Instead, let’s get honest and admit that our elections are in truth theatrical fundraising races. Why not just admit that whoever nets the most money over campaign (i. e., fundraising) expenses should win.  Big spending then would become a handicap, most government expenses would be eliminated, and the public wouldn’t have to suffer through empty or obfuscating campaign rhetoric, except as pleas for donations.

And to make this a really sweet deal: Whatever campaign funds the candidates, winners and losers, don’t spend would have to be turned over to the government for the imperiled Social Security Trust Fund and the crucial Medicare/Medicaid programs.  Political donations thus would become reasonable tax-deductions, and the onerous governmental process of elections would produce revenue rather than expense.

Of course, the media industry would raise holy hell about trading its monetary mammoths for mere cash cows. No matter how rational and reasonable this proposal, it wouldn’t mean More for them, just More for the public weal.

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A Trans Deity

Suddenly I’ve found something dramatic and significant to add to the burgeoning trans phenomenon. As a plain old faggot I haven’t been involved, but I’ve always welcomed the T in our LGBT acronym.  The QA+ETC simply go without saying…

Anyhow, this goes back to that book I mentioned in an earlier post called Chinese Myths and Legends, edited by Jake Jackson. Sorry I can’t give a full citation or authoritative quotes because I gave the book to the library at my grandson’s high school.  After some horrific legends of dragons, monsters, vengeance and murderous arbitrary fury, I was pleased to come upon a very curious legend of the goddess Kwan Yin.

Some may not be familiar with this goddess, who is known and venerated all across the orient and even India. I’ve been collecting her statues/figurines for lo these many and gathering her lore.  Kwan Yin is a complex deity:  goddess of compassion, travellers, sailors, children, motherhood, wisdom and enlightenment.  She’s the female Buddha—who achieved nirvana but declined to go “there” until all humanity can accompany her.  In that respect, I think we should also call her the goddess of patience.  She’ll need it!

Back to the curious legend. It struck me on the reading, but only now have I realized what an important piece of LGBT cultural history it is.  At some time way back in ancient history among the imperial BC dynasties, a virtuous young prince took to the spiritual/religious life and became a nun, who eventually got deified.  That’s right:  The young man became a young woman.  As I recall, the legend didn’t go into any detail about this primordial transsexual process, but he became the goddess.

Representations of Kwan Yin (unless heretical), always show her dressed as a beautiful woman without breasts. Many show her bare-chested, and there are no mammaries there.  Here are six such figures of the legendary trans deity:

The Trans Deity Kwan Yin

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Jaguar of the Night

I really must devote a word or two to a favorite detail from my Aztec Icon #17, Tepeyollotl—just in case it slipped your notice. It’s my rendition of the Jaguar of the Night, one of the various manifestations of the Heart of the Mountain.  The divine Jaguar leaps at the rising sun, greeting it with its roars (those odd wavy sound symbols).

Jaguar of the Night

                             From Icon #17                                          Model from Codex Nuttall

One reason I’m showing you this drawing is to sing the praises of my sweet graphics program, GIMP.  (You can Google it for free download!)  It really makes me feel like a magician.  I took the splendid image of a jaguar from Codex Nuttall and with a few adjustments in proportions and position turned the rampant figure into a leaping one.  Of course there were many pixels to wrestle with, but that’s the name of the digital drawing game.

Also: I’m quite pleased with this drawing of my totem animal and rather proud of it.  Hope you like it too.

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Trouble in Paradise

Lots of folks around Santa Fe, New Mexico consider this little city and its high desert environs to be a very special, natural place, if not actually a paradise. I’ve been living here for some forty years, and though not a believer in heavens on earth, I do think of Fanta Se as a place blessedly removed from the worst evils of modern life.  Or at least until recently.

This past spring I once more watched a splendid cherry tree outside my kitchen window explode in white blossoms.

Cherry Blossoms

After a couple days of such a floral vision, I started wondering why there were relatively so few bees around the blooms in comparison with earlier years. It was disturbing, but at least I got to watch a modicum of fruits forming among the new green leaves.

Now in the past weeks of late spring and early summer, my garden has again exploded in a bumper crop of larkspur. Given a chance, they really do spread like weeds, and if they show up in the wrong place, I simply yank them out.  What’s left seems ample for survival of the species.

In previous years, the zillions of larkspur flowers (that look like birds with little wings), would always be crowded with buzzing bees—even fat bumblebees lumbering around like trucks.

Larkspurs in my garden

This year there are no bees. I do not exaggerate.  No bees!  The only pollinators I’ve seen this year are one hummingbird moth in the dim twilight—once—and one single, solitary tiger-swallowtail butterfly flitting about the flowers most mornings.  Its yellow-striped wings are a beautiful contrast to their purple/blue, but it’s too flighty to work through the masses of flowers.  Now I find many of the bloom stalks not making seed pods.  This is beyond disturbing.

This past week I’ve been even more horrified to see the cherries ripening on the tree next door—and simply hanging there till over-ripe and falling to litter the ground. Always before, as the cherries started to turn red, the tree would be a-flutter with flocks of birds pecking the heck out of them.  Now I’ve seen no more than three or four little birds struggling to reach a fruit or two.

Where have all the bees gone? Where have all the birds gone?  What’s going on?

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Icon #17 – TEPEYOLLOTL, Heart of the Mountain

So… It’s been another long haul to complete the next icon for my coloring book YE GODS! Something like four months, but no apologies.  I’ve had to take a lot of sanity breaks—to continue writing on my next memoir and to deal with the sorrows of life.  Namely, in late March, at the tender age of 18 my eldest grandson Ike chose to end his life.  We know nothing about why but can only respect, accept, and lament his decision.  That’s my reason for tearfully dedicating this Icon #17 – Tepeyollotl, Heart of the Mountain to him.

Tepeyollotl, Heart of the Mountain

Tepeyollotl (Heart of the Mountain) {te-pe-yol-lotł} is the god of caves/mines and echoes and causes earthquakes, avalanches, and volcanos.  As the Lord of Jewels and underground treasures, he is the male spirit of the earth and a nagual of the hermaphroditic Tlaltecuhtli, Lord of the Earth.  A deity of witchcraft, he cures and causes diseases and guards the entrance to Mictlan (the Land of the Dead). Tepeyollotl is the ancestral were-jaguar and may be the God L of the Maya. Also a nagual of Tezcatlipoca, he is the Jaguar of the Night whose roaring heralds the sunrise, and as 8th lord of the night he is sometimes depicted as a jaguar leaping toward the rising sun.  

I’ve already posted a couple pieces about this icon in process, The Divine Volcanoes and Jaguars Changing Spots, and the above caption gives the rest of the information I’ve learned about this deity. On the coloring book page I’ve now listed a free download of it with caption and models, and when it comes back home to me in vectors from Bangladesh, I’ll add the two versions for sizable prints.

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