Icon #20 – TLALOC, God of Storms

Usually creating these boggling icons for the coloring book YE GODS! has felt like giving birth, and this latest one, Icon #20 – TLALOC, God of Storms, felt rather like dropping sextuplets! I prematurely squeezed out two fully formed sections that I posted for the world’s delectation:  the historical delirium of Tlalocan and the phantasmagorical Earth Monster. With the thundering central figure and his four wet vignettes, delivering myself of the Storm God himself was like birthing quintuplets. I guess that makes septuplets. Whatever…

TLALOC, God of Storms

I apologize for the dazzling intricacy of this icon and the fact that the curious mural of Tlalocan doesn’t much lend itself to coloring. I mean, look at that minuscule detail of heavenly frolic. However, since it’s in 300 dpi, you could blow it up three or four times to color in. This icon is the story of the Storm God, so lots of detail needs to be explained. The first is that the deity hovers between two root images from his deep past, at the bottom the wild mural from Teotihuacan of the eighth heaven he rules, and at top center his stylized face as Chac from an ancient Mayan temple, both from a thousand years before the Aztecs.

More immediately, the four vignettes are significant in two ways. The figures in squares at the top corners represent specific seasons in the growth of the all-important maize. They’re drawn from Codex Borgia, but I don’t know which is what. Two of Borgia’s pages have five each of similar Tlalocs, and that quinqunx format is respectfully reflected in this icon. The figures in the circles are symbols of just two of the several solar months “ruled” by Tlaloc, Atlcualco (left—“Water Abandoned,” roughly in February) and Atemoztli (right—“Water Downward Falling,” roughly in December). So much for the solar calendar lesson.

Now we come to the central image I call the thundering Tlaloc. It’s drawn from a series of stylistically consistent Tlalocs in Codex Vaticanus. I see a strong relationship with the Codex Borgia vignettes, for whatever that obvious insight’s worth. While this guy wears the royal jaguar headdress, others in the Vaticanus series wear heads of heron, crocodile, or odd conical caps and sport distinctive regalia. One is even nude. Our fellow’s respectably robed and, like the Borgia figures, has raised his conventional goggle-eyed and fanged face to the sky in a thunderous roar.

The thunder also comes with the lightning emanating from his huge serpent. (The Borgia figures hold only puny little snakes.) The lightning bolts from its head suggest traditional horned snakes like those from Teotihuacan or the American Southwest. The lightnings swerving behind the vignettes define a nanosecond’s reality for this image—an eternal NOW between the bolt on the left striking the Earth Monster under Tlaloc’s tread and that sneaky bolt on the right about to strike under the god’s next footfall. I love this kind of visual legerdemain.

There are more tricks of that sort cued by the lightning passing behind the vignettes. The top Chac frieze and weird lightning-filled sky is even behind that, and the water curtains down the sides are probably way back there too. Meanwhile, Tlaloc very subtly stands in front of the vignettes, as shown by overlapping hand with axe, headdress feathers, and the fire serpent. Along with clues to perspective in Tlaloc’s posture and costume, these tiny details create a depth in the composition that’s very unusual for Aztec art, maybe even iconoclastic. I won’t apologize.

Once again, finishing the long haul on an icon, I hesitate to jump right into another one, but I’m already thinking about breaking alphabetical order yet again and tackling Tonatiuh, the deity of the Fifth Sun, to complete the Mesoamerican set of cosmological worlds. He’d be cutting in ahead of Tlazolteotl, Goddess of Filth, but I’ve already been tempted to insert the Lord of the House of the Dawn, Tlahuizcalpaltecuhtli (the Morning Star) ahead of her. With such a wealth of ethnographic and iconographic material to work on, I guess I can wait a little while to decide. In the meantime, I really should start writing on Chapter 9 of my memoir GAY GEISHA and recall my exciting life in 1975 when I stumbled on two impressive gigs for my Russian language skills.

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Making Lemonade

            Despite historic obstacles, 2020 turned out to be a very successful and productive year for me, both artistically and personally. It started with a celebration for completing Aztec Icon #18 – XOCHIPILLI, the Prince of Flowers on the last day of 2019. I’d first drawn this sun god thirty years ago for my book of days. The black and white icon, infinitely more complicated than this old four-color image, breaks all sorts of Aztec iconographic norms and conventions. Go to the link above to see this iconoclastic addition to the coloring book YE GODS!

Xochipilli – The Prince of Flowers – (God of pleasure, feasting, and dancing)

            On New Year’s Day, 2020 I posted the Flower Prince but still had much to do before adding his icon to my “travelling” exhibition YE GODS! Icons of Aztec Deities. In mid-January I mounted this show of large-scale banners at its seventh venue in a conference center—with the help of a tall French fellow I’d met during its sixth appearance.

            We’d hung the show by January 18 (for my mother’s 101st birthday), and I turned to our trip for the New Orleans Opera premiere of my new translation of Tchaikovsky’s heroic opera JOAN OF ARC on February 2 & 9. My clan gathered for the occasion at the Mahalia Jackson Theatre, and I enjoyed their acclaims, as well as those of appreciative audiences. I believe my linguistic work has turned the composer’s simply inspired piece into a masterpiece.

            By Monday, February 11, I was gratefully back in Santa Fe for my comfortable retired life in my eyrie apartment, my Casa Arriba penthouse high above the world. With a gratified sigh of relief, I slipped back into my splendid routines of writing/drawing, gym, dinners out, and especially the ecstatic dancing on Wednesday and Thursday evenings.

Casa Arriba

            After a couple leisurely weeks, I started on my second memoir, picking up my sordid tale of after marriage when I came out for the second time. Covering the next two traumatic and extremely sexual years of my fourth persona (the HIPPIE POET, footloose and feckless), I pretentiously included my own poetry, a device stolen from “Dr. Zhivago.” My routines and retrospective writing trance held me nicely right up almost to the middle of March.

            In my Mesoamerican fascination, I consider Friday, March 13, 2020 or the Aztec day Four Rain to have been the emphatic end of the Fifth Sun, the Sixth Sun starting on Saturday.  Suffice it to say that Friday the Thirteenth brought enormous turmoil into my life when my gym closed down due to a virus they were already calling a pandemic.

            On March 14, 2020 everything locked down (my show as well), and since then I’ve fortunately been living safely and comfortably in Casa Arriba. The loss of gym, dinners out, and ecstatic dancing has left me with only the splendid routine of writing and drawing. Right away I replaced my gym workouts with walking/running around the nearby track, but I could do nothing about the sauna except miss it miserably. Cooking simply, I didn’t miss restaurant food—just my regular companions at meals. I was driven to solo dancing to radio reggae and salsa in my living room and to sorely missing all the young bacchantes at Paradiso.

            I joked about going into solitary confinement but didn’t really feel that way. I deeply appreciated being made to step away from the world’s sound and fury, to take care of my physical needs simply in solitary peace, and to do my work on my natural schedule without distractions. I found it fascinating to watch my hair grow, now longer than it’s ever been, and I rather like it. Perversely, I didn’t feel lonely, isolated, or confined at all, but instead felt blessedly secluded, a secular anchorite. Six decades later, this new Sixth Sun feels like a confirmation and redemption of my solitary youth in backwoods Arkansas.

            Staying snugly at home (except for walks at the track and to grocery stores), let me focus on the memoir, which I titled LORD WIND, alternating between writing it and drawing on Icon #19 – TEZCATLIPOCA, The Smoking Mirror. By mid-May I’d finished and posted the icon, which went much deeper into the god’s story than this old drawing for the book of days.

Tezcatlipoca – Smoking Mirror – (Lord of the Night Sky)

  And by early June I’d finished the memoir. Rejoicing, I posted LORD WIND on the web as individual chapters or entire text.

           On the urging of my French friend, in June I began conjuring up visions of Tlaloc, the God of Storms, and at the same time started the third volume of memoir, soon entitled GAY GEISHA, about my stylish gay life in Washington DC in the 1970s. Once again, for sanity’s sake, over the next months I switched back and forth between creative processes.

            Meanwhile, a few important things happened in the solitude of October. First, I rode my bike to the Convention Center and voted early against the scumbag, whereupon I put it and its filth out of mind. Next, I finally struck my icon show after nine months’ lockdown—with the kind assistance of my tall grandson. Then, accepting that my life was utterly changed for the foreseeable future, I gave him my little red car and happily became a true pedestrian.

            In mid-November I started posting chapters of GAY GEISHA serially and by mid-December had published eight covering about a quarter of the decade. The switch then back to the icon was for a final push, aiming to finish it by New Year’s. I didn’t quite make it though. Only the other day, almost two weeks into 2021, I finally wrapped Tlaloc up, though he doesn’t look much like my first fanciful drawing of him for that old book of days. Still, that goggle-eye and fangs are standard features.

Tlaloc – (God of Rain)

            Please allow me to count Aztec Icon #20 – TLALOC, God of Storms, as an accomplishment for wretched but productive 2020. (I’ll post it very soon.) I’m tremendously gratified by creating my three icons, memoirs of gay liberation, and the operatic masterpiece.

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The Earth Monster

Nowadays we sometimes think (and some of us worry) about the planet Earth, this infinitesimal speck of dust in the infinite cosmos, as our mother—and quite reasonably so. In scientific fact, like all life, we’re indeed children of the female Earth sired by the male Sun. However, the ancient Egyptians believed we’re the offspring of the male Geb (earth) and the female Nut (sky).

In the Judeo-Christian, Islamic, and Hindu traditions, people were purportedly created magically (asexually like amoebas?) by a male deity with the Earth playing no role except as a location to hold dominion over. Characteristically, Buddhists don’t have a creation story since they consider the notion of origins meaningless. Take your pick because it doesn’t really matter anyway.

Meanwhile, ancient Mesoamericans believed people were created by the Earth as a deity named Tlaltecuhtli, which was conveniently a hermaphrodite—and not at all anthropomorphic. Most often it was depicted as a huge, gaping maw, a two-way street through which people were born and then on death passed back into the Underworld, the Earth being the mystical source and destination of all life. Creation wasn’t considered a one-shot deal but an ongoing process.

When not a mouth spitting out or devouring people, the deity of the Earth was generally shown as a monster with impressive fangs and claws. Its species was apparently the crocodile (caiman), a creature called Cipactli (also the name of the first day of the month in their calendar).

The Mesoamerican Earth Monster

I drew this surreal image of the Earth Monster as a detail in my next icon for the coloring book YE GODS! It’s based on a smaller version in the Codex Borgia. In some other instances in the codices, Tlaltecuhtli/Cipactli has no limbs, but the fanged jaw was put to good use in biting off the left foot of the god Tezcatlipoca. That’s another story.

Of the various creation fantasies, I much prefer the Mesoamerican narrative since it recognizes that our planet Earth is the parent of life and illustrates the principle of dust to dust. It really does matter after all to acknowledge that our Earth is a living creature, a metaphorical monster not to be dominated but to be cherished and nurtured. Remember, even planets can die!

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My Third Gay Memoir

What with increasing urgency in the Corona virus calamity, it has become clear to me that I’m going to have to change my mode of operation in writing my memoirs. Before, I always waited until a volume was complete before publishing (posting) it on my website—in order to have the luxury of skipping back to earlier sections to add, delete, or tweak the material.

Now that I really can’t predict hanging around on this planet long enough to finish the current (or any future) volumes, I’m going to post chapters serially as they’re completed, adding them to the Table of Contents for individual access. Too bad for second-thought revisions, but that’s how this wretched Covid cookie is crumbling.

Recently writing on Chapter 6 of the current volume, I’ve only just now found the title for this memoir. It’s the registered name for a spectacular variety of iris I used to sell at the Farmers Market a long time back when I was the famous Iris Man:

GAY GEISHA

As I told a dear friend, these two words are the most cogent description I can imagine of who and what I was in the 1970s in Washington DC. My third real memoir (actually the sixth volume in the story of my unique life), GAY GEISHA covers 1972-80, a time of glorious gay liberation, when I lived and graciously entertained gentlemen in a grand Victorian mansion at historic Logan Circle.   

GAY GEISHA provides the dramatic and often lurid details behind that old summary of my fifth persona which I prophetically entitled “Courtesan.” With this posting, I’ll provide now the first five chapters covering my arrival in DC, finding a job and places to live, encounters with old and new paramours, moving into the mansion, our historic neighborhood, sudden social whirl, and a remarkable affair with a friendly neighbor. Shortly, I’ll add the next chapter and forge on from there.

To start reading, just click on GAY GEISHA.

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Update on the Pandemic Pandemonium

UPDATE: November 8, 2020

As my daughter Aimée’s birthday and the day after a most joyous occasion—the calling of the 2020 election and consignment of the scumbag to the trash heap of history—today’s a great time to report on the past four months of pandemic pandemonium as an update to my biographical age on the Venerable Old Queen

1) THE FLAP AT THE TRACK

The most alarming event was on August 18 when a security guy hailed me on the track at the Aspen School and advised that I’d have to leave because school was starting on Monday, and they were closing the grounds to protect the kids from the virus. I ignored him and continued on my way, but that weekend they shut the big gate at La Madera with a chain and lock. I couldn’t do my walk on Saturday or Sunday.

On Monday I looked out my window and saw the gate open, so I went to walk, and there was no one there of course, because the students had to stay home—except a couple cars parked way off by the back building for the teachers running the distanced learning classes. That night the gate was locked again but open by six the next morning. I walked the track peacefully, marveling that the schools were so irrationally paranoid as to lock up weekends and nights when absolutely no one was around and open up again when only a few folks were way off over there.

And I wasn’t looking forward to missing my next Saturday and Sunday walks. By Wednesday I got to feeling really irked and noticed that the lock and chain were just hanging there loose at the gate. I put them in a paper bag, placed it under a board just outside the fence not six feet away, and left a note: “The lock and chain have not been stolen; they’ve been hidden.” That night the gate was closed but not chained—and open again in the morning.

Pitying the stupidity, on Thursday morning I moved the bag to within three feet of the gate, just behind a piece of fence leaning there for no apparent reason. Any idiot couldn’t miss it. And that night they performed the empty exercise again, obviously not even looking for the bag. Friday morning I traipsed onto the track and worried they’d actually find the lock and chain and close me out for the weekend. Something told me I’d have to fight fire with fire.

Three miles later, I went home to my hermitage and emailed the Fire Marshal, advising that the school had started (irrationally) locking the grounds—which cut off emergency access to the several buildings at the back of the campus. A fire engine couldn’t get anywhere near them. He didn’t respond to me, naturally, but I saw a fire engine roll by around seven just checking, and since that night the gate has stayed open. And the bag still sits there for any idiot to find. My Nepali friend, the guys who play soccer on Saturday mornings, and a multitude of other community folks can still enjoy the facility.  

2) AZTECS STILL ACTIVE

My show of Aztec icons (YE GODS!) went up last January at the conference center of the Ohkay Casino in Española and in mid-March got locked down with the rest of the world. The manager said he didn’t know when they’d get the center open again and had no problem with me just leaving it there. Nevertheless, I went up last month with my grandson to retrieve my artwork. I’ve no idea where I’ll ever manage to hang the show again—or when. But that hasn’t stopped my working on the next icon, #20: Tlaloc, the god of storms (water, lightning, etc.).

In this Aztec context, there have been some other developments. A few weeks ago I heard from a young woman fashion designer in Chicago that she wanted to use my images on clothing; the sample hoodie with my Ocelotl on it was stunning. I told her to go for it. Last week I heard from a guy in California that he wanted to paint my old calendar deities, and I told him to go for it—and to take a look at the icons. This is the kind of action I’ve been hoping for.

Another recent Aztec connection is with Marguerite Paquin (in British Columbia) who does a Maya horoscope blog. See https://whitepuppress.ca/the-ok-dog-trecena-oct-30-nov-11-2020/.  Since the Maya calendar is basically the same as the Aztecs’, she started using the images from my old book for the trecenas (13-day weeks), and now that she’s worked through that ceremonial year, I’m re-creating the pages from the tonalamatl (book of days) from Codex Borgia for her. For when she’s worked through those 20 weeks, I’m also re-creating the tonalamatl from Codex Rios—which entails combining separate pages into a single layout and considerable artistic refinement. When these calendars are complete (and there are still others left to work over), I’m going to load them as galleries here on this website, so watch for them!

3) THE GRANDFATHER IN SECLUSION

For months I walked around my car sitting in the yard, a 2014 red Toyota Corolla, and maybe drove it twice a week to a grocery store. Then in early October I realized that my grandson Jammes was soon to turn 18, and ever the generous grandfather, I decided to give him my car. I can easily walk to the grocery stores, and he’ll give me lifts home when I’ve got too much to carry or take me on errands.

In this connection, my ecstatic dance group started getting together again (clandestinely). Jammes took me there last Wednesday, joining in the dance, and now he’s ready to take me weekly. Maybe even bring a friend along? There’s reasonable distancing and some masks, and so it’s only slightly contrary to mandated practice. After all, we’re not talking here about a Republican political rally. It’s such a joy to have something to look forward to each week, lots more fun than my usual solo dancing around the apartment to salsa or reggae.

In between Wednesdays, however, with all my art and writing projects, the days seem to fly by. An example:  Every day before lunch I have half a cup of water with a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar—recommended to me by a curandero friend—and today when I went to mix it, I got the distinct impression I’d just done that like five minutes before. Twenty-four hours of eating, walking, reading, napping, writing, drawing, cooking, watching a silly movie, and sleeping a healthy 7 ½ hours had collapsed into a mere five minutes. This is how we get so old so fast.

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Tlalocan II – The Drawing

After showing you my reconfiguration of the Teotihuacan mural of Tlalocan in early July, it took me these past three months to turn it into a black-and-white drawing. As such, it will become the lower register in Icon #20 for my digital coloring book YE GODS!

For several centuries the enormous city-state of Teotihuacan “ruled” central Mexico (and parts of the Maya world as well). Painted about 1,500 years ago, the tremendously ornate mural is a fascinating window into that vanished metropolis, a panorama of its people enjoying afterlife in the paradise of their water (storm) god—whom a thousand years later the Aztecs called Tlaloc. My drawing gives you an intimate look at the actual people who lived in the Place of the Gods. (It’s greatly reduced in this illustration, but you can click here to download a full-scale image—at almost three feet long and one foot high.)

Tlalocan – The Paradise of Tlaloc

Within that eye-boggling border, the first telling detail to notice is that there are no women, which may say something about a sexist society in Teotihuacan. Of course Tlaloc’s Eighth Heaven was reserved for victims of drowning and children sacrificed for life-giving rain, but one thinks maybe some women might also have drowned and girl-children been sacrificed too. In all likelihood (if the eschatology of Teotihuacan is reflected in that of the Aztecs), women may well have had their own paradise among the thirteen heavens. But there’s no mural of that one.

The Aztecs definitely inherited the concept of Tlalocan from Teotihuacan, and the iconography of the ancestral water (storm) god is also clearly reflected in that of the much later Aztecs.

Teotihuacan Water and Rain Gods

Tlaloc’s goggle-eyes and fangs crossed the centuries into the figure from Codex Borgia, as well as the head-pitcher he holds for pouring out water:

Aztec Tlaloc and Quiahuitl Day-signs

Teotihuacan’s rain-god image carries over directly into the Aztecs’ golden Four Rain sign (day-name of the Third Sun) on their Stone of the Suns. The Rain day-sign to its right is based on it—drawn thirty years ago for my book of days before I ever learned of the raindrops on the Teotihuacan image. The two lower signs are stylized versions for the calendars in the Fejervary-Mayer and Vaticanus codices; those in other calendars are similar, but often less formal.

Now let’s look into this window on the people of Teotihuacan. First, check out their quite varied fashions in clothing:

Teotihuacan Fashions

Not surprising are the loincloths or breechclouts worn by figures on the left with varying numbers of sashes. Note that children can be nude or just wear “panties.” But then the costumes get weird, like the top center fellow wearing a midriff T-shirt and toreador pants and the guy just below with a full-length T. The runner to his right may be wearing similar pants, but he also has gloves. The guy below is wearing “clam-digger” pants with breechclout; the guy with the tears (ignore those for now) only wears gloves and socks/slippers, as does the cross-legged kid below. On the far right the top figure wears shirt and pants under a loincloth, and the lower figure wears pants/leggings under a kilt with sash.

The variety of outfits may have to do with social classes—or maybe not. But I can say that the cross-legged kid in gloves and socks is remarkably unique in being presented full-face. All the other faces are done in profile—the standard view used by the Aztecs for faces and bodies as well. However, the ancient artist made free to show figures frontally and from many other realistic angles, an iconographic freedom apparently lost over the centuries.

Note also the varying hairstyles: Figures are frequently bald (or with shaved heads?), but many have hairdos of various lengths. The kilted fellow on lower right may be an elder with receding hairline and gray hair. In the mural you can’t tell if the guy at center-top has a topknot or feather headdress. Speaking of hairstyles and headdresses, there is also a wide assortment of such on other figures which again may have something to do with class or occupation—or maybe not.

Teotihuacan Headgear

Here we see several types of hats, headbands, skullcaps, and turbans. Notable is the figure on the upper left wearing an ear-flare, the only one in the whole mural—a fashion that became almost universal under the Aztecs—but there are no nose ornaments. Again, note the cross-legged kid on the lower right wearing what looks like a slightly cocked beret. The flirtatious fellow to his left possibly sports a half-Mohawk crest—or a feathered hat?

So now we know what (at least male) Teotihuacanos looked like! Here are a couple vignettes of their playful activities:

                    Teotihuacan Dancers

  Teotihuacan Toss

 Both of these group activities well illustrate the ancient artist’s stylistic freedom, as well as elements of perspective that the Aztecs would never have attempted. (The curlicues are shouts or songs of joy—a convention that totally carried over into Aztec iconography.) The scene of the tossing is probably celebratory—as happens in many cultures—and not a punishment like that undergone by Sancho Panza in “Don Quixote.”

Now we come to some distinctly odd images that I have a hard time parsing:

             Teotihuacan Oddities

This guy with the tears (in gloves and socks) seems to be singing loudly or shouting, but why is he crying and waving a branch, and what’s he got flowing from his chest? In the mural the flow doesn’t seem to be blood, and why should it be? The guy with the long stuff flowing from his head (hair?) seems to be chewing on a stick (sugarcane?). The four fellows holding each other’s wrists maybe are playing some game? Since this is in Tlalocan, whatever’s going on must surely be joyful fun.

I hope my little drawing has given you some visual notion of the lost and almost forgotten world of Teotihuacan.

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The Old Queen’s Proclamation

When I began this website back in late 2013, I suggested that in 2012 I’d “incarnated” in my eighth identity or persona as a writer and artist. Now seven years later I’ve written a webpage to characterize this incarnation (thus far) as the Venerable Old Queen. In it you can read about this time of monkish peace and great productivity in books and art, all utterly fascinating.

I hope to continue being peaceful and productive for a long time yet in spite of our dire new reality. The old reality of our world recently underwent a total paradigm shift. As your Venerable Queen, I declare that Friday, March 13, 2020 was the end of the world as we’ve known it. To my neo-Aztec mind, on that day the Aztec Fifth Sun (World) came to an emphatic end. In their calendar, this was the day Four Rain, ominously the day-name of the Third Sun, which was destroyed in a rain of fire. That apocalyptic detail aptly marks this ending of the Fifth Sun.

In Aztec cosmology the Fifth Sun was called Four Earthquake (Nahui Ollin) and was destined to end by earthquake. However, “ollin” means more broadly “movement,” not only the terrestrial kind but the abstract as in “motion” or “dynamism.” If ever anything has moved dynamically, it’s the Corona virus sweeping the world—and destroying the Fifth Sun.

In addition, my venerable highness proclaims that the next day, March 14, 2020, was the first day of a brand new Sun, the Sixth. In my 1993 calendar book, I’d proposed that the Sixth Sun began with the fall of Tenochtitlan in 1521; since the invaders actually arrived in 1519, on the average I was only off by precisely 500 years.

In my youthful enthusiasm, I gave the Sixth Sun the day-name Four Flower (Nahui Xochitl) and assigned Xochipilli and Xochiquetzal as its patrons to foster “love and happiness, artistic inspiration, fertility, pleasure, feasting, music, dancing, beauty and peace.” Obviously, I was feeling optimistic, even utopian, about the Sixth Sun, and now in spite of serious counter-indications, I’m trying to be the same as it begins for real. I do indeed accept Four Flower as this new Sun’s day-name and the divine patrons I channeled for it in 1993. The illustrations below are from the old book, and I use this image of the Prince in the banner on my webpages.

        Xochipilli, Prince of Flowers, and Xochiquetzal, Flower Feather, Patrons of the Sixth Sun Four Flower

Let’s look at the divinatory portents in the ceremonial calendar.

Per Azteccalendar.com, March 14 was the day Five Flower (Macuilxochitl), which is the day-name of the deity of games, music, dancing and singing. Five Flower is a nagual (manifestation), of good old Xochipilli, Prince of Flowers, the youthful solar deity of vegetation and abundance, as well as of pleasure, male beauty, learning, and the arts. His day-name is Seven Flower (Chicomexochitl), and coincidentally he’s the patron of both the sacred ballgame tlachtli and of homosexuality. Maybe it was for that latter fact that I chose him, but obviously he’s already become the divine patron of this new Sun without my puny gay-mortal help.

About Flower days in general, that day is ruled by Xochiquetzal, Flower Feather, so again I was right on in my channeled inspiration. She’s the ever-young goddess of love, beauty, female sexuality, and fertility and is the twin sister and wife of Xochipilli. She protects young mothers in pregnancy and childbirth, and is patron of weaving, embroidery, artisans, artists, and prostitutes. The calendar website says that a Flower day is one for creating beauty and truth, which fits right into my forecast, and significantly adds that the day tells us that life, like the flower, is beautiful but quickly fades.

The 13-day week (trecena) that the day Five Flower occurs in (One Vulture), is ruled by Xolotl, the Evening Star. I write in my encyclopedia of the Aztec pantheon that he is the god of sickness, deformity, monstrosities, malice, treachery, and danger, and represents the animal aspect of behavior and the unconscious. It’s rather ominous that he’s also the psychopomp (like the Greeks’ Charon), who leads the dead through the Land of the Dead, Mictlan.

Azteccalendar.com remarks that a Vulture week itself signifies the wisdom and freedom of old age, a fact this venerable old queen can relate to. Terribly right on in its generality for the time around March 14, 2020, it adds that these are good days for disengaging and bad days for participating.

This horoscopic reading for Saturday, March 14 seems uncannily perceptive in our shifted paradigm, and the Flower World it portends is an actual theme in the theology of northwestern ancient Mexico, complete with Xochipilli as its sun-god. Now that he rules this Sixth Sun, I think it would be entirely appropriate to create a new ballgame in his honor.

Let’s play with the idea of tlachtli and maybe call it “Xochiball.” It’s played on a circular court 50 ft. in diameter, where two teams of two players try to knock a soccer-size (but softer?) ball through a vertical hoop (possibly spinning) which is suspended over the center of the court. No catching or hitting the ball with hands is allowed, and the losers don’t get sacrificed. Feel free to make up the rest of the rules.

By the way, on my new page for Venerable Old Queen I didn’t mention the harsh lesson of this eighth persona: The rarest thing in the world is people who get what they really truly deserve. As a case in point, there’s no earthly way I truly deserve the many blessings I’ve had in my long life. When you get right down to it, again as the Aztecs believed, human life is simply a matter of dumb luck, and we’ve got to do everything we can think of to appease and flatter any deities who supposedly control our fortunes. Myself, I’m not poking any thorns through my tongue.

          Aztec Penance

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Tlalocan – The Paradise of Tlaloc

Occasionally I’ve interrupted drawing for my coloring book to remark on particularly interesting details (like the Divine Volcanoes and Visions of Tezcatlipoca), and here I go again.

The icon I’m working on right now is for Tlaloc, God of Storms (as well as rain and weather in general), a very ancient deity with antecedents among the Maya as Chak and in Teotihuacan, his actual name unknown, at least a thousand years before the Aztecs. In conceptualizing the icon, I’m including as the base register an image of Tlalocan, the Paradise of Tlaloc, adapted from a mural at Teotihuacan (c. 500 CE).

In my process, I first gather, massage and manipulate source material to create a layout. After settling on the composition, I turn the images into line drawings. Working with a mural from Teotihuacan—and snitching a neat piece of Codex Vindobonensis—I’ve reconfigured it to be what I call the Tlalocan, the Paradise of Tlaloc, restoring the heavily damaged left half:

Teotihuacan Mural Reconfigured by Richard Balthazar

Keep in mind that the Teotihuacan mural (with an obfuscating deep red background), was painted some 1,500 years ago—before European monks ever started illuminating manuscripts.

Some scholars argue that this mural represents the sacred Water Mountain—Cerro Gordo behind the city—and was associated with the (also nameless) Great Goddess. While her mural is positioned right above this one, I heartily disagree and have removed the arguable “mountain,” moving in the centerpiece from the upper border (enlarged), an indubitable image of the fanged, goggle-eyed deity the later Aztecs dubbed Tlaloc.

The deity also holds “head”-pitchers like those Tlaloc holds in Codex Borgia pouring water onto the maize-fields. As well, the dedication to Tlaloc is tripled by the matching busts of the iconic water deity in the upper corners. In upper center, I’ve installed an anachronistic Mouth of the Earth pouring forth water (from Vindobonensis). The name Tlaloc means “He of the Earth.”

I have no problem with Cerro Gordo being the sacred Water Mountain of Teotihuacan. That nearby massif may well have sourced lots of springs and streams, and I gather there’s evidence of intensive agricultural terracing and other works on its slopes and summit. The original Water Mountain image in the mural I assert to be in fact the way of entry into the afterlife of Tlalocan. The figures in its waters aren’t just gaily swimming around but struggling, sinking, maybe drowning, and ultimately erupting into the Paradise of the god later known as Tlaloc. Note the attempted life-saving. I found the image nice but unnecessary. After all we’re worshipping LKA Tlaloc here.

“Water Mountain” from Original Mural at Teotihuacan

Circumstantially, priority entry into Tlalocan, a joyful place of games, butterflies and flowers, was granted to victims of drowning, then to children sacrificed to Tlaloc—note the many children in the mural’s pastiche—and only afterwards to victims of certain diseases such as leprosy. Those less than enviable passports aside, Tlaloc’s 8th heaven (out of the 13), was a great place to wind up, all dancing, singing, and having fun. In the other heavens, not so much…

If you squint at the little figures in the mural, you’ll see groups engaging in several games. On the far left it’s with soccer-type balls while another guy runs in perhaps a hybrid of bowling and hopscotch. Moving to the right, we come to a bunch of dancers, and beside them a guy getting tossed into the air. On the deity’s crest, four fellows play perhaps some version of leapfrog. On their right, kids play marbles, and four guys play on something maybe related to a teeter-totter.

Historically significant are those little curlicues issuing from the figures’ mouths, the symbol for song: These folks are rejoicing, singing out their joy. Even the birds I lifted from the Great Goddess mural are singing as on far right. (In the original a tiny worm also sings!) I know this symbol because it’s widespread in the Aztec codices of a thousand years later meaning the same.

I’m taken with the little guy on the lower right bending to admire a flower. This stretch of plants and figures has been called a scene of farming, but that’s just nonsense. Farming in heaven? The man standing on the far right might be yodeling, and the kid under the bush is merrily waving a flower, not particularly agrarian activities. Various other figures scattered around seem to be telling stories or doing tricks. A good time is being had by all.

Generally, I try not to engage in much speculation, but this time it’s terribly tempting. Let me suggest an intriguing possibility. Perhaps with the Water Mountain adjacent to their prosperous city the Teotihuacanos came to think of their world as literally Tlalocan on earth. Maybe they didn’t, but Mesoamerican history could have—taking that long-gone civilization into their cosmology as the Third Sun, Four Rain.

According to the Aztecs, Four Rain was ruled by Tlaloc while consorting with Xochiquetzal (Flower Feather), who might have been the Great Goddess, though She was usually seen as the proto-Chalchiuhtlicue (Jade Skirt). Lore has it that when Tezcatlipoca (The Smoking Mirror) abducted his goddess, Tlaloc raged and destroyed the Third Sun in a rain of fire.

This apocalyptic detail suggests another possibility. I’ve read that right around 600 CE there was a major eruption of Popocatepetl which, besides raining fire, spread a pyroclastic flood of toxic gases all over the valley of Anahuac (Mexico). Is it just coincidence that at exactly this time the civilization and people of Teotihuacan vanished?

Just wondering…

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The Faces of Death

In this dire virus situation, we are all looking death in the face, but we can’t really see what it looks like wearing a mask and standing at a sociable distance. So I tried to get an up-close look at the face of death through the sanitized lens of Aztec art. They were intimate with that inevitable fact of life and drew many detailed pictures of it.

In their calendars, the Aztecs represented the day Death, Miquitzli, the sixth in their 20-day month, as a skull, often fancifully ornamented:

Signs for the Aztec Day Death

While the examples from Codex Cospi are the most varied and almost playful, they’re not exactly “fun” or amenable. Not that they were supposed to be… By the way, notice the tassels fed through the earlobes. Ears on a skull? This could become a new fashion fad!

The Aztecs also personified, or if you will, deified death as Mictlantecuhtli, Lord of the Land of the Dead (Mictlan). He was portrayed in various styles with many common motifs as a skeleton, often with a sacrificial knife for a nose and a semi-circular headdress, usually with a central spike. (Note two incipient examples of the spike among the Cospi signs above.) In Codex Borgia, he often wears a hand as a tassel through his earlobe. In the display below I skipped the skeletons and show only the skulls. None of them is particularly warm and cuddly, but again I guess Death’s heads simply aren’t.

Heads of Aztec Lord of Death

These gruesome images, which underlie many Day of the Dead graphics, weren’t especially frightening for the Aztecs who had a deep reverence for Mictlantecuhtli, even to the point of ritual cannibalism. I felt a similar, though not so hungry, reverence a few years ago when I drew the icon for the Lord of Death. He’s existentially pretty grand, but his beckoning gesture isn’t very enticing. Note the spiked ornament and the Magliabechiano headdress. Besides a vaguely realistic jaguar pelt, I used my artistic license to hang that spider web across his midriff. Oh, and those are eyeballs hanging from his cape. They do look a bit like googly eyes.

Aztec Lord of Death

These boney specters were the way I saw the Aztec face of Death until quite recently when I decided to re-create the book of days (tonalamatl) in the Codex Rios. I suddenly got glimpses of his real face instead of a fleshless skull.

They say that Codex Rios (one of the zillions of documents held by the Vatican Library) is a 16th-century Italian copy of the more or less pre-conquest codex called Telleriano-Remensis. As a copy it wasn’t terribly faithful, taking many liberties with images—some really worked; some didn’t—and making several mistakes in the numbering of days. But it was good that Rios took liberties because T-R is crude artistically speaking, though at times the copy itself was sloppy.

The T-R tonalamatl was drawn in pieces, each 13-day week (trecena) laid out with the first five days and main patron on one page and the last eight on another with the second patron/symbol. Rios followed that format exactly. In my re-creation, the weeks will be presented whole on their own pages to give an integral view of the time periods and supernatural characteristics.

The T-R and Rios tonalamatls include the nine Lords of the Night in sequence with the days, a cycle taking many years to complete (9 Lords/260 days). These Lords also appear (very sketchily) in Codex Cospi and in the complicated layouts of Codex Borbonicus and Tonalamatl Aubin along with Lords of the Day and totem birds, but in T-R/Rios the Lords of the Night are shown prominently alone in distinctive portrait busts.

The fifth Lord of the Night—and Lord of the fifth (mid-night) hour of the night—is none other than Mictlantecuhtli. He occurs 29 times during most of the 260-day years. In T-R he’s rendered as a full-fleshed “person” with remarkably consistent accoutrements. There are only 22 faces of Lord Death below because I don’t have copies of a few of the T-R pages. I doubt the missing pages will contain any surprises:

Faces of the Lord of Mictlan (Codex Telleriano-Remensis)

Again, the headdress with spiked ornament is standard, as well as a black lower face. Since these are given in order, there seems to be a greater finesse in the first several busts, if only for the green on the scarf “flaps.” The artist probably got tired as the days rolled by.

Note the plus signs on most of the scarves—they’re NOT crosses but a geometric motif possibly having to do with the four directions and center. Most consistent are the profiles of the Lord. The protruding mouth and often pendulous lower lip must have some iconographic significance, but unless it’s meant to convey menace, I haven’t a clue. Note also the almost identical noses—which appear on several other T-R Lords of the Night. This ancient artist had a clear template.

On the other hand, the artist(s) of the Codex Rios copy did not have a standard physiognomy for Mictlantecuhtli. Even standard formats in Rios tend to vary widely in execution and detail. As well, the artist(s) had to squeeze the day- and deity-images to accommodate notes (in Italian) naming the days and good, bad, or indifferent luck. With mostly consistent traditional ornamentation, the faces of Death in Rios are strongly individual:

Faces of the Lord of Mictlan (Codex Rios)

In my re-creation of the Rios tonalamatl, I won’t render all the variant images of the deities but will repeat an established portrait of each one using the modern magic of copying. I cherry-picked among the above 29 images to choose my favorite details and distilled them down to this interpretation of Mictlantecuhtli, the face of Death.

Lord of Mictlan

When I peered through Aztec art and discovered this evocative human face, I fell in love with lovely Death. Now I can look this beautiful Lord in the eye and happily know he awaits. I plan on making him wait for a great long while, but when he beckons, it will be good to fall into his arms.

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Memoir of My Second Coming Out

Over the past few years I’ve switched back and forth between drawing Aztec icons for my coloring book and writing on my second memoir. At last I’ve wrapped the latter up and have just added it to the growing list of my Writings. Note that I don’t copyright my writing; people shouldn’t have to pay to enjoy my art, graphic or literary. So I post it for free download and avoid noxious commercialism. The more folks to read or see my work the better. Or to do something with it if they so feel like…

LORD WIND is the memoir of my second coming out in Milwaukee in 1970. My first coming out was in New Orleans in 1961 (in the gay Stone Age when we lived in caves of secrecy), and I’ve written about my unusual life as a gay man both in my (semi-fictional) novels BAT IN A WHIRLWIND and DIVINE DEBAUCH and in my first (also semi-fictional) memoir THERE WAS A SHIP. The latter (1964-66), was my scandalous tale of going back into the closet.

Now the purely non-fictional LORD WIND (1970-72), picks up again after years of wedlock when I escaped from my cage—and discovered that gay life had evolved into a (Post-Stonewall) Neolithic Era. As a former French Quarter faerie/slut, and now a divorced father and esoteric scholar of 28, I had to deal with the realities of the strange gay “civilization” and make a new life for myself in it.

Richard Balthazar in December, 1970–newly come out for the second time

No longer an outlaw, I still wasn’t exactly socially condoned, but in the new gay atmosphere of openness and promiscuity, I quickly found romantic/sexual entanglements to complicate life. In those two years I learned a heck of a lot about loving men and several hard lessons in maturity.

I’m trying a new format with this book on the web—for ease of access. The webpage is actually its Title page and chapter list, and each can be directly accessed through its link. No more bulky .pdf files of entire texts. I’ll try to convert the others to it too. Early on I issued each chapter of BAT IN A WHIRLWIND separately in blogposts, so that one will be easy to convert.

Wrapping up this book is a really great feeling for me. With it I’ve now built a four-volume saga (epic?) of my life from innocent adolescent through lascivious, debauched youth and responsible, though philandering, husband to a maybe more mature, but at least way more experienced, gay man of 30. This is gay ancient history according to moi… Now I can start the third memoir covering the 70s in Washington DC. In many ways that decade was a Classic Age of gay life and DC an epicenter, and I was right in the middle of it.

However, before I write a word of it, I’ve got to make some good progress on the next icon (#20) of the God of Storms, Tlaloc. While on that subject, you’ll notice that I simply had to use my drawing of Ehecatl, Aztec God of the Wind as a most appropriate title image for LORD WIND.

BTW, my YE GODS! Show is still under lockdown at the Ohkay Conference Center. There’s nothing else I can do with it, so why not?

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