More Indian Mounds

It’s been a good while since my last posting in June about the Aztec Codices, but that doesn’t seem to have bothered my multitudinous non-readers worldwide.

Shortly after that, I went on the family vacation I mentioned in the first week in July. We went to a place on a lake near Hot Spring, Arkansas and had a lovely rural time of it, though we came home with a bunch of chiggers.

While there, we visited the Toltec Mounds Archeological State Park near Little Rock, a site I’d never seen before, though I’d included a drawing of it in my old book on the Indian mounds called “Remember Native America.” It was a rainy afternoon, but I still managed to take some pictures of two of the surviving pyramids, which I’ve finally managed to figure out how to add to the Gallery of Indian Mounds.

AR one pyramid, Toltec Mounds

AR another pyramid, Toltec Mounds

The Toltec mounds (no connection whatsoever to the Toltecs of Mexico) are an early Mississippian site, abandoned by 1050 AD, which may actually be related to the Mayan civilization. It might well have developed under the influence of Maya or Teotihuacan traders, or even migrations at the collapse of those civilizations around 800 AD.  We’ll just have to see what further research makes of that possible connection.

Meanwhile, I’ve also uncovered a number of earlier photos (slides) I took of other mound sites and have also added them to the Gallery: more from Moundville AL, Cahokia IL, Marietta OH, Crystal River FL, and Nanih Waya MS.  Check them out.

Which brings us back to my suggestion from when I put the Gallery together nearly four years ago: Surely there are other folks out there who have good pictures of Indian mounds, and I would love to include them in the Gallery.  Email them to me at rbalthazar @ with the state and site name.  I’ll plug them in to this collection, which as far as I know, is the only one of its kind.


Here it is at last, the third part of YE GODS!  This is the promised illustrated commentary on the Aztec Picture-Books, a unique discussion with examples of the fifteen codices that survived the book-burning during the Spanish Conquest of Mexico.  I can guarantee you’ll never have seen anything like this in terms of art history, mythology, and Aztec ethnography.

Click here to view or download YE GODS!  THE AZTEC CODICES

Or click here to visit the cover page for the new section

It’s been a couple months since I last posted anything, (not that anybody out there really cares, I suspect), but the time has been well spent on completing this project, in and around many other developments in my life.  Not the least of those was running around trying to set up an exhibition of the Aztec Icons, without success to date, and to interest a local non-profit publisher called Radius Books in making a book on the whole three-part YE GODS! shebang, which may still materialize.  The next epiphany of 13 icons still remains to be drawn.

In other developments, it took these couple months to move to a new apartment, including some weeks to move my iris garden to the new place.  It’s splendid with a huge balcony/porch and a big area for a garden and enormously convenient to my gym and other amenities.

In terms of iris, I’m thrilled to report that after five years of looking and wheedling, I’ve finally found someone to start up my plant recycling business again.  A young fellow named Aaron jumped in with his shovel and has already been selling iris on Craigslist like hotcakes.  He plans on selling at farmers markets around here and should do a land-office business, so to speak.

Now my big plan is to go with the family for a vacation during the first week of July at Hot Springs, Arkansas.  It should be a sentimental time because it’s quite close to my childhood home in the southwestern woods of that state.  Maybe I can even get my grandsons to read BAT IN A WHIRLWIND!

Coloring Book Overhaul – The Aztec Icons

BIG NEWS FOR ALL YOU COLORING ENTHUSIASTS! Whether you’re new to this website, have just been keeping your eye on it, or have actually colored some of my unusual icons of Aztec deities, you’ll find my overhauled coloring book now has a lot more to offer.

While there are no more icons beyond the currently completed 13, each is now accompanied by a page with its descriptive caption and full-color images from the Aztec Codices that served as models for drawing the icon. Those images will give a good idea of the varying styles of the ancient picture-books and maybe even suggest authentic colors to use in your own coloring.

Check out this example of the caption/model page for CHALCHIUTLICUE, the Jade Skirt.

caption-model page for Chalchiuhtlicue

As before, all the icons can be viewed or downloaded individually from the coloring book page, either as a pdf file with caption/models page or as freely sizable vector drawings. But now they are also all bundled together into an actual book:  YE GODS!  THE AZTEC ICONS.

But that’s almost the least of the overhauls. In addition to that book, there is now a major revision and expansion of the earlier catalog and appendix—a complete illustrated encyclopedia of essentially all the Aztec deities:  YE GODS!  THE AZTEC PANTHEON.

Its 88 alphabetical entries include some 1,300+ divinities (depending on how you count), and there’s usually an authentic image for each selected from the Aztec Codices. Again, the images illustrate their varying styles and provide even more suggestions for coloring the icons.

Here’s a sample page from the encyclopedia:

sample page – The Aztec Pantheon

Of itself, YE GODS! THE AZTEC PANTHEON amounts to a crash course in ancient Mexican mythology, history, culture, and art.  YE GODS!  THE AZTEC ICONS takes this another step further—into illustrating details of Aztec society.

For perhaps excessive example, with Huehuecoyotl, the Old Coyote, there are vignettes of people playing musical instruments, singing, and dancing; with Huitzilopochtli, Hummingbird of the South, there’s a pictorial narrative of the legendary migration of the Aztecs to Tenochtitlan; with Mictlantecuhtli, Lord of the Land of the Dead, there’s a vague map of the soul’s way to Mictlan; and with Patecatl, God of Medicine, there are scenes of medical practices and medicinal herbs. Each icon contains its own type of social commentary.

I haven’t quite started on Aztec Icon #14: Quetzalcoatl, the Plumed Serpent, but hope to do so shortly.  In the meantime, I’m working on yet a third component of my Aztec project, another section on the Aztec Codices themselves.  It will be a description of and commentary on each of the 15 surviving picture-books, including sample pages and Internet sources to view the whole documents.  I perhaps unrealistically hope to complete it in the next couple months, and guess what:  I’ll call it YE GODS!  THE AZTEC CODICES.  Watch for a post announcing it.


History Redux

This morning over my grapefruit, I serendipitously read an essay that ruined my breakfast with the bitter taste of irony. The quotes that follow have been redacted to mask the actual subject.  Please read them and guess who.  Afterwards, I’ll reveal his identity and that of the writer, publication, and other references.

“[The subject]…arrived on the national scene just in time to capitalize on the [current ‘scare’].  An unprincipled political opportunist, he began to make an issue of [purported enemies]…, thereby drawing attention to himself and nurturing his hopes for a continuing political career.

“…[He] made a speech during which he [claimed to have a list of people] known to be [enemies].  [At the time] this was not at all an illegal affiliation, but the [group] was certainly a suspicious [class of people].  …that list itself never existed.  It was a fiction, a prop for [his] political theater. … But that hardly mattered.  With his trumped-up list, [he] had struck a mindless nerve in the body politic, and the Age of [Fear] had acquired its messiah, a leader of the yelping pack.

“[He] proved himself a master of reckless accusation, unabashed equivocation, and outright lying.  He determined guilt by association and made liberal use of innuendo, half-truth, character assassination, and intimidation.  When officials questioned his allegations, [he] countered by questioning their loyalty and their intentions.  Since he … was the champion of the [anti-enemies], anyone who raised any doubts about him was interfering with his patriotic work, seeking, presumably, to stop him in this noble pursuit.  Those who[m] [he] cast aspersions upon were often unemployed or disgraced shortly thereafter.

“Many people recognized at once that [he] was a fraud…

“Chairing a committee charged with investigating [his] allegations, [the Chair] issued a report … that found not a shred of evidence in support of his charges.  He was effectively branded a liar.

“[His] reaction to this supposed reverse is instructive. [He] said, ‘The most loyal stooges of the [enemy] could not have done a better job of giving a clean bill of health to [foreign enemies] in this country.’  [The committee chair] was giving ‘aid and comfort’ to the enemies of the United States.  …he said, ‘let me make it clear … that this fight against [the enemy] shall not stop, regardless of what any group … may do.’  He was undaunted and undeterred.

“He was a genius at manipulating the news media. He understood, apparently, that the press was a knee-jerk institution.  [He] quickly mastered the techniques necessary to dominate the news.  He would call a press conference to announce that he would have a press conference the next day, and the day’s papers would carry headlines heavy with proclamatory import…  And when some allegation of his was proven completely wrong, [he] simply shifted his attack and targeted a new victim.  The sensation of his new charges drew fresh headlines, displacing stories about his errors.  His was the tactic of a guerrilla raider, and he used it time and again with astonishing effectiveness.

“[He] was by no means laying waste to cherished American freedoms without being criticized. Many newspapers attacked him on their editorial pages—while giving him headlines on their front pages—but nationally prominent political figures were slow in rising to the challenge.  When a [prominent journalist] fired a shot or two, [he] rounded on him.  He insinuated that [the journalist] was a tool of [the enemy] and advised people [to boycott the writer’s sponsor].

“Television journalists were nearly silent. Finally…one of the most prestigious journalists in the world attacked [him] … [with] an exposé [that] alternated film clips of [him] making charges and assertions with shots of [the journalist], live, presenting the contradictory facts.  The relentless rhythm of lie refuted by truth again and again drummed in the flagrancy of [his] perfidy.  Given [his] power, going on the air with any sort of an attack at that time took guts.

“…With many of the journalistic fraternity, [a syndicated cartoonist] had long ago recognized that he was at least a charlatan and perhaps a monstrous one, spewing the sulfurous fumes of intimidating invective with every press conference…ripe as a subject for satirical ridicule. [He] was still riding high, with his minions and his actions claiming headlines daily on the front pages of the nation’s papers.

“[The cartoonist] conjures up nightmares of book burning, evoking memories of the Nazi regime in the 1930’s.

“On various editorial pages throughout the land some perceptive souls recognized that [he] was employing methods that had been used to advantage…earlier by an Austrian paper-hanger and his gang in Nazi Germany.”

Okay, no matter your obvious first guess, this damning verbiage was actually about Senator Joseph R. McCarthy of Wisconsin in the early 1950’s. The [enemies] weren’t foreign terrorists but Communists.  The truth-finding committee chair was Senator Millard Tydings of Maryland, and the brave journalist was Edward R. Murrow.  The [syndicated cartoonist] wasn’t Gary Trudeau in “Doonesbury,” but Walt Kelly in “Pogo.”  The prophetic essay, ironically titled “Swamp Talk” by R. C. Harvey, appeared in “Pogo, Evidence to the Contrary,” the Complete Syndicated Comic Strips, Vol.  3, published by Fantagraphics in 2014.

Let’s remember the quote from philosopher, essayist, poet and novelist George Santayana:

            Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

The horror is that historical travesties seem to get worse with each new iteration. Elevating travesty to tragedy, our current villain hasn’t been discredited and disgraced, but has managed through demagoguery, hate, and lies to become, as Pogo might say, President of the ever-lovin’ blue-eyed U. S. and A, and now our nationable future looks dog-bone miserabobble.

Honestly, I don’t blame those terrified, thoughtless, and forgetful folks who voted for him. It’s the fault of all those apathetic and forgetful folks who didn’t vote for anybody.  And the fault of the craven cowards in Congress who are letting their rogue elephrump run rampant in our beloved Okefenokee.


Aztec Icon #13 – PATECATL, God of Medicine

So—six weeks now seems to be my new average to produce an Aztec icon for the coloring book YE GODS! Here’s Icon #13, PATECATL, which I drew on my old system (GNU) and believe it or not, using the mouse in my left hand.  Back while drawing #12 I started getting pains in my right hand from all the clicking—so I switched.  Nothing to it!

This is a standard pixelated image, and it’s currently winging its electronic way to my graphic wizard for conversion to vectors. The vectorized files for #12, OMETEOTL, have now been added to the list on the coloring book page, where you can also view and download all the previous icons.

To download this one as a pdf file with a page of caption and model images from the Aztec Codices, just right-click here and select “Save as.”  You can also download it in freely sizable vector drawings from the coloring book page.

Patecatl, God of Medicine

Patecatl, God of Medicine


God of Medicine

PATECATL {pa-te-katł} is the god of healing and fertility, medicine (herbology) and surgery, who gives comfort in illness. Logically he is patron of day Grass.  Husband of MAYAUEL, he is the father of the Centzon Totochtin (400 Rabbits), the gods of drunkenness led by Ome Tochtli (Two Rabbit). As well as being a pulque god like his wife, he’s the deity of intoxication by peyote, hallucinogenic mushrooms, and psychotropic herbs such as datura (jimson weed), morning glory, and marijuana. These plants were used in healing, fortune telling, shamanic magic, and public religious ceremonies, hopefully also to tranquilize sacrificial victims and enhance the sacramental nature of the ritual.


There are several points of interest in this icon:

  1. The god’s physiognomy is iconographically authentic, quite the way he appears in Codex Borgia, nose, buck-teeth, and all. His eye is just as baleful in the model, where (as is often the case with gods, male and female) it’s horribly blood-shot. I won’t even guess what that’s all about.  Also, since it’s so obvious here, in general the Aztecs didn’t bother with the difference between right and left feet, but they usually tried to distinguish between right and left hands.
  2. The vignettes in the upper section of the icon are based on medicinal scenes from various codices, including Nuttall, Borgia, Fejervary-Mayer, Vaticanus, and even the post-Conquest Florentine Codex.
  3. The vignette of nose-piercing is remarkable for two reasons. In the Nuttall model, the patient is not only bearded, but black. Throughout the codices there are frequent black personages, both human and divine, and indisputable beards.  Make of that what you will.
  4. The plants scattered around the icon are actual medicinals, several adapted from early herbal illustrations, from Nuttall, and from nature.
  5. Meant as a House of Healing, the temple in the upper right may be a bit over the top ornamentally, but it’s stylistically real.  The figure of the snake ingesting a rabbit is based on a page from Vaticanus, where an eagle is also seizing the snake.  I’ve included it to symbolize life as a food cycle, very much the way the Aztecs saw it.

Now Some Uncommon Sense

[If anybody knows how to bring my recent essay and this post to the attention of the President-Elect, I (and possibly the world) would be tremendously grateful.  I don’t “tweet” and hope I never have to, and besides these matters aren’t such as can be expressed in that limited medium.] 


            When I posted that rant the other day about public enterprise, I wanted to stop thinking about the political situation here in the US, but all the same I kept on thinking that this is the only way we’re ever going to fix our terminally infected system.

Otherwise, we’ll remain colonies of corporations until they’ve drained our personal lifeblood and absconded with all our national treasures, our common wealth.  Next, and this abomination is already in progress, they’ll try to do the same to the whole world.

Playing the cards they were dealt by the obsolete tradition of private enterprise and the short-sightedness of our Founding Fathers about economic psychodynamics, corporations have been running the Roman gambit to control and exploit their captive public:  bread and circus.

Corporate agri-business has been keeping the American populace too well fed (to judge by our obesity epidemic), and corporate media entertain us within an inch of our lives.  We are inundated and consumed by movies, politics, news, sports, sensationalism, nonsense, and most obnoxiously, the celebrity syndrome, video games, and social networking.

As a result, our people are stunned, hypnotized, and incapable of thinking for themselves or questioning our nation’s critically ill condition.  This sickness requires intensive treatment, even radical surgery, to set new rules of play.  In this life-and-death game of providing public benefit, the public good must always trump private interest, or it’s all over.

I haven’t been a supporter of President-Elect Trump for more reasons than I can count, but I have to acknowledge his election, however it was accomplished, and rightfully expect real results on his promises to “fix the system.”  He hasn’t explained what he hopes to do about it, but I maintain that this public enterprise ideology is his and our country’s best and perhaps only bet.  Besides, it’s also a sure way to renew our country’s greatness.

My uncommon sense says, counter-intuitively, that evolving this private enterprise economy into a dependable, productive system of public life-support will probably take an autocratically inclined oligarch who intimately understands it, is not beholden to any of its special interests, and has the courage and chutzpah to do what’s absolutely necessary for the public good.  Run-of-the-mill politicians wouldn’t even try.

Call me Machiavelli, but any presidential prince who would rein in the corporate nobility and their colluding politicians will have to use all and any strategies and tools available, within humanitarian and ethical limits, of course.  The American Evolution of our economy to public benevolence will be, without exaggeration, the biggest social advance in human history.

This new ideology of public enterprise will also serve well for any government with the best interests of its people at heart, be it a democracy, autocracy, theocracy, or whatever.  Modestly, I foresee our American Evolution inspiring the “benevolution” of economies around the world and bringing unprecedented global prosperity.  And seriously, I’d call the uncommon person who creates such a brave new world order a super-hero.

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Some More Common Sense

It’s been 240 years now since Tom Paine’s “Common Sense” came out, and it’s high time to apply some more of that to what’s going on here in America.  Paine’s little pamphlet helped spark the American Revolution, leading to an enormous step forward in human civilization.  We changed history by creating the first real democracy (only 2,600 years after that of ancient Athens), a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.

All through history rulers have governed by totally controlling their people and all their activities, exploiting them like livestock.  Our Revolution then led into our great Constitution, also a total game-changer by proclaiming the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness and promising not to control our thoughts, beliefs, and many individual rights.

This new form of government now controls our lives and activities, (ostensibly by our consent), treating us as citizens rather than subjects, serfs, or slaves, and our revolutionary model has since spawned many other democracies around the world.  But enlightened though it may be, after a couple hundred years, something in our exemplary system is apparently going awry.

Ideally our democracy should be governed by “all the people,” as was mostly possible in tiny Athens, but on today’s mega-scale of everything, that’s pragmatically highly improbable.  Consequently, for a long time our nation has steadily been devolving into a government of the many by the few, especially since fully half of our electorate in the past election was willing to leave their governance to the few.

Democratically speaking, our nation is suffering a severe skew to the few and losing the commitment of far too many.  To cure this life-threatening condition, we must curb, if not curtail, the corrupting influence of money (more exactly, of corporations, the media, and other vested interests), and find ways to engage and invest as many citizens as possible in the system.

Instead, in the last election through fear, demagoguery, and yes, misogyny, we the people handed our country over to the oligarchs.  That’s precisely what happened in idealistic Athens and led them into tyrannies, as has already happened to many of the world’s new democracies.  Just look how quickly the promising Russian democracy degenerated into oligarchy, and those poor people now suffer autocracy once more.

So why does democracy seem pathologically susceptible to the wealthy few?   The US is indeed a government of (nearly all) the people and by (some of) the people, and it claims to be a government for (all) the people.  In other words, the government’s purpose is to benefit us the people.  But there’s a terrible flaw in the system.

To provide those benefits, our nation relies on an economic system based on the concept of private enterprise (capitalism), a system inherited from millennia of common economic practice.  For all its wisdom, our Constitution simply took that for granted, never mentioning or defining an operating principle to be our life-support system.  Recently, for the first time in history, capitalism was threatened (unsuccessfully) by a new concept (communism), but it has since encountered no other rival system and meanwhile remains unexamined and unquestioned.

While our democratic purpose is to benefit the many, capitalism’s purpose is to benefit the few.  That’s a lethal disconnect between public and private intent.  There being no motivation stronger than self-interest, our private enterprise economy is reluctant, recalcitrant, and even unwilling to provide the public benefits which our government requires of it.  Instead, the wealthy few try to limit and control our government to preserve their profits and privileges.

The vast proportion of the profits of private enterprise are “earned” by exploitation of our publicly owned resources and of our citizenry as captive workers and customers.  As a result, our national treasures and we the people are treated by corporations as subject colonies, as sources of unimaginable wealth deserving only the overlords’ charity and forbearance.

Mr Paine said much the same thing about the American colonies under the harsh rule of England and proposed that those little colonies could manage their economy much more productively on their own, without the overlord.  Through our Revolution, we built a new social order, and now we’ve got an opportunity to create an even newer order to do the same.

We the people have empowered our democratic government to direct our activities, namely, our social and economic systems.  As a matter of national security and survival, it has the power to and must draw a formal distinction between private and public enterprise.  It is counter-productive and frankly, unconscionable for industries that exploit our national resources and the life-sustaining needs of us the people to be privately managed—for private benefit.

Our resources and public needs should be managed and benefitted by public enterprise.  While private enterprise must remain possible and be encouraged to provide the niceties and luxuries of personal life, our national treasures belong to us the people.  The time has come for an American Evolution out of capitalism into an economy of publicly managed enterprises.

Held in public trust, those enterprises will most effectively be structured and managed democratically, involving and investing everyone in the industry.  Logically, the government must still direct and coordinate them for national purposes, but the management of those industries must be the responsibility of and to the benefit of the people.

Unless we evolve our economy, our splendid democracy will die.  Call me utopian, but my common sense tells me that converting into a public enterprise economy will be the biggest giant step ever in mankind’s history, a brand new paradigm of human progress.  Our American Evolution will once again set an amazing example for the world—making America not only great again, but spectacularly successful.  We the people can do it.

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