Aztec Deities At It Again!

Announcement:

YE GODS! Icons of Aztec Deities

October 22 – November 16, 2018

NICK SALAZAR CENTER FOR THE ARTS

Northern New Mexico College

The Nick Salazar Center for the Arts in Española, New Mexico, presents an exhibition by local artist Richard Balthazar, who was formerly the Used Plant Man (or Iris Man) at the Santa Fe Farmers Market and once upon a time sold plants at the Española Farmers Market. Presented in large-scale format on vinyl banners, his 15 black and white drawings are designed for a coloring book, and prints for coloring and/or framing are available for free download from his website:

www.richardbalthazar.com.

Ehecatl, Aztec God of the Wind

The icons were drawn digitally (using a computer graphics program), allowing the artist to achieve a rare level of fine detail. The deities are so striking and startling that everyone will surely exclaim, “YE GODS!

Essentially a crash course in Aztec myth, history, and culture, the deities are portrayed in their full contexts, in authentic Aztec iconography.

Each deity is accompanied by a description and images from the surviving Aztec codices (picture-books) that served as models or themes and show the authentic colors used by Aztec scribes.

Cultural and educational groups are cordially invited to contact Mr. Balthazar to arrange for tours of the exhibit and gallery talks on the mythology and history of the images.

For more information or tour arrangements, contact Richard Balthazar at rbalthazar@msn.com.

 

Ancient Coin Identified

Before revealing the positive ID on that ancient coin I found a half-century ago in Ann Arbor, Michigan, which I also wrote about in Ancient American, Vol. 22, Issue 119, I really must commend that magazine as an excellent forum for dialog among independent researchers. Rather than the establishment authorities that I contacted (with no response), it was readers of Ancient American who told me what I’d found.

Among other responses with pieces of information, most explicit was the wonderful email from Steve Moore with a photograph of the same coin in fantastic shape:

Roman coin of Maximianus 298-299 AD

and an arcane collectors’ description: “Maximianus (298-299 AD) AE Follis, 9.92 grms, 28 mm,Ticinum mint; Obv.: IMP C MAXIMIANVS PF AVG, Laureate head right.Rev.: GENIO POPV-LIROMANI, Genius naked.” Steve added that the genius is holding a “pater” (plate for offerings) in his right hand. Mystery solved; probably deposited in the early 4th century AD.

A few respondents wrote about who Maximianus was, namely the co-Emperor with Diocletian. A researcher on Roman history, Richard Stross noted that “Rome’s most severe persecution of Christianity was the Great Persecution of AD 303 to 313.” He felt it reasonable that persecuted Christians or supporters of losing political rivals might well have come to this continent. So do I.

I also found Stross’ other thoughts very informative. For instance, about artifact finds, he remarked: “Perishable materials such as wood, cloth, and leather would have rotted. Iron implements generally would have become unrecognizable masses of rust. A small expedition would not build stone buildings, and Romans generally did not use stone for small implements. Gold and silver were rare and expensive, so there would be very little if any on the expedition. The artifacts we would expect to find would be items of bronze, ceramics, or glass. The bronze items, in addition to coins, would be small common articles such as buckles and pins.”

But that’s not all. Stross adds an interesting perspective: “Except for coins, the small bronze artifacts may appear similar to modern scraps of metal. Artifacts of bronze may have been found, but not reported because they were not suspected of being ancient. Roman potshards may have been found, and ignored because they appeared to be broken pieces of modern ceramics. Even an intact cup, bowl, or jug may have appeared to be modern and therefore ignored. An exception would be the small ceramic oil lamps.”

And he knew of such an exception: “It appears that at least one oil lamp may have survived in America. I read a newspaper article in the 1980s of one that was discovered in Chillicothe, Ohio. It was buried several feet deep, so it was not lost recently; it was either lost in ancient times or was intentionally buried. It was examined by an expert, and verified as a genuine antiquity.” Several others have apparently been found…

Some respondents ventured to explain how my coin might have gotten into that flower bed in Ann Arbor. One fellow proposed: “At one time someone made the grand tour of Europe and either found it or bought it as a souvenir. Or perhaps a soldier in WWII found it while on his Tour of Duty over there. Either way, it simply got lost. This would also explain that hoard ‘found’ in 1993 as well as most of the rest.”

Recognizing his facile explanation as Chapter and Verse of the academic dogma, I noted that the site had been in an agricultural field until my house was built, so he quickly revised his scenario to a farmer out plowing who loses his watch-fob. Convenient. The well-trained fellow simply ignored my other note about mineral encrustation from centuries underground.

More charming, if even less credible, was one woman’s “half-cooked, caffeine-induced theory … that early French explorers venturing down into Michigan used the coins to trade with local Native Americans.” I don’t think so. Using Occam’s razor, I’d say my coin was most likely buried in the early 4th century in a small mound on that hilltop overlooking the Huron River.

As a matter of fact, Angelina Spencer wrote that: “I too, along with my brother, found similar coins near a plowed ‘hill’ outside of Monroeville, Ohio near our Huron River.” [She added an intriguing note touching on another important ancient mystery: “Some Firelands settlers accidentally dug up native burials back in the 1800’s (all sitting, facing West), but some were tall with Red hair (whether this is true or hyperbole I do not know). Copper armbands and black pearls were found as well as coins.”]

Some respondents were confident that other artifacts could surely be found on that Ann Arbor hilltop. One fellow, an adept at finding lost objects, virtually guaranteed that gold was to be found there. Now, I’m not particularly allured by “treasure,” but I’m just as certain that other coins are lurking in that vicinity—and maybe an entire burial complex.

All it would take is a good metal detector, appropriate permissions, and someone to wield the machine. There’s bound to be a bunch of accomplished detector folks out there. If such a “someone” wants to take on the project, I might be convinced to supply the address, maybe even convince me to go on the expedition!

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Heretical History

During my recent exhibition (entitled YE GODS! Icons of Aztec Deities), I gave a series of 15 lectures on the Aztec codices and Aztec mythology, culture, and history, branching out in later sessions to New World history in general. From the beginning, I stressed to my listeners that as an independent researcher and theoretical historian (a “historician”), I like to consider probable answers for puzzling questions which the academic establishment refuses even to recognize. I warned them to get ready to hear some historical heresy.

For example, in lecture 10 (Continuity of Culture and Art in Mesoamerica), I discussed the continuity of the ceremonial calendar from the Olmec through the Maya and into the cultures of central Mexico (culminating in the “Aztec calendar”). Then I proposed that the calendar may well have been invented at Chavín de Huantar in Peru.  I published the convincing circumstantial evidence in the article “Source of the Mesoamerican Ceremonial Calendar” in the magazine Ancient American (Issue No. 115) and noted probable diffusion via sea-farers sailing north up the Pacific coast to reach the early Olmec.  That was Heresy No. 1.

Then in lecture 12 (Mesoamerican Relations with Mississippi), I broke some startling news which was corroborated by the website www.peopleofonefire.com, issued by Richard Thornton, a researcher of Native American heritage.  He has discovered convincing linguistic, DNA, and archaeological evidence that populations from Meso- and South America migrated into the Southeast of North America hundreds of years before the European “discovery.”

Independently, I had previously identified a shell gorget from northwestern Alabama depicting the Mesoamerican Fifth Sun, Four Earthquake, and in my article “Mesoamerican Influences in Mississippi” in Ancient American (Issue 118), I presented ethnographic testimony that (probably under pressure from the aggressive imperialism of the Toltecs), a tribe of Totonacs from Vera Cruz had migrated into the Muscle Shoals area to become the Chikasa (Chickasaw).  Though well-documented, that was Heresy No. 2.

In lecture 14 (Mesoamerican Relations with the Anasazi), I expanded on a proposal by Frank Joseph in “Advanced Civilizations of Prehistoric America” that the Huari of Peru (likely an evolution/reincarnation of the more than three millennia-old culture of Tiwanaku from Lake Titicaca) had migrated up the Pacific coast, through the Sea of Cortez, and up the Colorado River to become the Anasazi of Chaco Canyon. So I was merely guilty of repeating Heresy No. 3.

However, in that context I uttered my own Heresy No. 4: that some populations from the west coast of Mexico may possibly have sailed up the coast and “colonized” the Pacific Northwest.  As I noted to my audience, I made this heretical proposal simply on the basis of a linguistic coincidence (something I generally don’t much appreciate in others’ arguments).

Namely, the city of Seattle was supposedly named for the “chief” of a Native American tribe on the Olympic Peninsula. Well, it just so happens that Ce Atl is the Nahuatl day-name (One Water) of the goddess of water, Chalchiuhtlicue, the Jade Skirt.  She was earlier the Great Goddess of Teotihuacan, likely with the same calendrical name, which may have also held for the Maya goddess of water, but deity names in that even earlier culture are rather confused.

Mesoamerican goddesses of water

As a name for the Pacific Northwest area, a people, an important “town,” or even a chief, One Water seems a legendarily appropriate name for a Mesoamerican “colony” in that area. Such a colony might have happened due to social turmoil amongst the classic Maya, to later aggression by the Toltecs on populations in western Mexico, or even as more recent Aztec (Nahua) imperial “exploration.”  In any case, my heretical suggestion was basically a frivolous “teaser.”

For a couple weeks, that’s what it was for me too, simply an intriguing possibility—until I started reading “The Journals of Lewis and Clark” (edited by Bernard DeVoto). Their first mentions of the Salishan (“Flathead”) tribes in the western Rocky Mountains didn’t give me pause, but when that characteristic kept appearing amongst the tribes down the Columbia River, I had to stop and wonder.

While that exploratory expedition wintered at the mouth of the Columbia, they had much communication and commerce with the many coastal tribes. On March 19, 1805, Captain Lewis took the time (in his fairly “scientific” manner) to write:

“The Killamucks, Clatsops, Chinooks, Cathlahmahs, and Wâc-ki-a-cums resemble each other as well in their persons and dress as in their habits and manners. their complexion is not remarkable, being the usual copper brown of most of the tribes of North America.  they are low in statu[r]e, reather diminutive, and illy shapen; poss[ess]ing thick broad flat feet, thick ankles, crooked legs wide mouths thick lips, nose moderately large, fleshey, wide at the extremity with large nostrils, black eyes and black coarse hair.  their eyes are sometimes of a dark yellowish brown the puple black.  the most remarkable trait in their physiognomy is the peculiar flatness and width of forehead which they artificially obtain by compressing the head between two boards while in a state of infancy and from which it never afterwards perfectly recovers.  this is a custom among all the nations we have met with West of the Rocky mountains.  I have observed the heads of many infants, after this singular bandage has been dismissed, or about the age of 10 or eleven months, that were not more than two inches thick about the upper edge of the forehead and reather thiner still higher.  from the top of the head to the extremity of the nose is one straight line.  this is done in order to give a greater width to the forehead, which they much admire.  this process seems to be continued longer with their female than their mail children, and neither appear to suffer any pain from the operation.  it is from this peculiar form of the head that the nations East of the Rocky mountains, call all the nations on this side, except the Aliohtans or snake Indians, by the generic name of Flatheads.”

Chinook woman and child

Surely I am not the first to note that Captain Lewis has described in exquisite detail the traditional Maya practice of skull deformation. (That same practice also occurred in other parts of the world and among certain tribes of the American Southeast who—per Heresy No. 2 above—migrated there from Mesoamerica.)  With this official testimony, it seems more than probable that this widespread cultural practice in the Pacific Northwest came from a coastal colony of the Maya. The also widespread practice of nose-piercing (as in the Nez Perce tribe and others) could just as easily have disseminated from such or later Mexican settlements.

Considering this distinct possibility, I believe it’s high time someone ran a DNA study of the surviving Northwest tribes to see if they actually do have markers of Mesoamerican populations. Likewise, it would make sense for someone with the expertise to compare the languages of those tribes with those of Mesoamerican peoples. There is a distinctly Nahuatl-ish sound to the names of the Tlingit and Kwakiutl tribes…

But even without such genetic or linguistic evidence, I will now make bold to propose that there was indeed a Mesoamerican colony (or colonies) on the Pacific Northwest coast. And having uttered that blasphemy, I’ll prepare for the academic inquisition to try and burn me at the stake.

YE GODS! There Was a Ship…

It’s been a couple (few?) months since I raised a big whoop about my show of black and white Aztec icons (for a coloring book), and that’s what mostly has occupied me lo that many moons.

Richard Balthazar at opening of YE GODS!

Actually, June and July at my show were splendid! YE GODS! opened on June 1 with a wonderful crowd.  There was delicious food (catered by my old Backstreet Bistro and spa buddy David Jacoby and his wife Melanie as our lovely “soda server”) and a marvelous group of female dancers, Danza Azteca, who blessed the icons (and me) and danced ceremonies around a big Aztec drum (the huehuetl).  They even got some in the crowd to join in a friendship dance.

Throughout the run of the show I spent a couple hours each afternoon at El Museo Cultural (de Santa Fe), just to be there and talk to visitors—but also to give the inexhaustible Maria Martinez a bit of a break from staffing the gallery to attend to her many other duties around the nearly 2-acre cultural facility. She is the peaceful animus of the Museo, and I am deeply grateful for all her help and encouragement.

Entrance of Danza Azteca: David Jacoby and Maria Martinez on left, Concha Garcia y Allen center

By the way, the above photos are to be credited to my friend Seth Roffman, who is editor of “Greenfire Times.”

Visitation at the show was steady, even without publicity during July. I greatly enjoyed meeting folks of all walks—and bending their ears about the icons, their mythology, and elements of history.  In particular, I stressed that only one icon in the show was actually a genuine Aztec deity (Huitzilopochtli).  The rest were from long before the arrival of the Mexica (Aztecs), who simply adopted the culture, mythology, and cosmology of the peoples living there already.

What I enjoyed most of all was the series of 15 lectures I slapped together and delivered off the top of my head. Half were about the Aztec codices (picture books), showing pages and discussing their mythology, iconography, and social implications.  The other half were focused on cultural and historical subjects that went from Aztec-specific through general Mesoamerican to all the Americas and then into probable interactions between those societies. I was blessed to have a corps of several interested listeners who came to most of my talks.  After the finale on Codex Vindobonensis, six of them took me out to dinner, and we had a long, leisurely chat about our lives—and of course, some follow-up questions about the whole Aztec thing.

Now that it is over and the icons are stored in my garage, I’m intending to approach many places here in NM and around the country (and internationally?) about hanging YE GODS! It’s a fantastic educational (informational) show, after all, and I’d offer it to presenters free (charging only for the minimal shipping).  I’d also be available to do my scalable series of lectures (for expenses), and presenters could sell the separate prints for coloring.  WHAT A DEAL!

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Meanwhile, several other things transpired. Most must wait for later posts, but I’ve totally got to let you know right now about another BIG DEAL!  My cousin visited, and when she decided to read my memoir THERE WAS A SHIP, we discovered that there was no link from the web-page to the text.  Two years ago (!) I’d posted a blog (Gay Memoir Redux) with a link to it, but neglected to link it to the page.  Mortified, I corrected the situation immediately.  Now you can go to the text of my memoir from its drop-down page, just like from here.

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News about MORE BIG DEALS as soon as I can get around to announcing them!

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BIG WHOOP!

Time to make BIG WHOOPEE!  After plugging away for over four years at drawing Aztec gods and goddesses for my coloring book, I’m having an exhibition of my fifteen epiphanies!

Here’s the flyer for the show with dates, location, and all that.

The large-scale icons (3’ x 4’) are black and white drawings, but I’ve put my colorful patron god Xochipilli on the flyer, poster, and show-banner to catch the eye. And of course, the Flower Prince has been my “insignia” for a long time, including on the banner for this website.

I know you all can’t come to Santa Fe for this art event of the century, but maybe some… In any case, let all your social media know about this great opportunity to see bona fide weirdness!

Aztec Icon #15 – QUIAHUITL, God of Rain

I’ve just checked the date when I posted Icon #14, Quetzalcoatl, for my serialized coloring book YE GODS! and must hang my head in shame that it’s taken me nearly six months to finish Icon #15, Quiahuitl, God of Rain. I understand that nobody out there has been waiting with baited breath to see my latest work of genius, but I managed to draw the earlier deities much more quickly, 14 of them in 3 ½ years.  My excuses are that this past winter I spent a lot of time on my second memoir, and for what it’s worth, this icon turned out to be just about as detailed as Icon #11, Ocelotl (Jaguar).  There’s a lot going on in it.

Quiahuitl, God of Rain

This icon is available as 8X10 with a caption/sources page by clicking here.

In the central image, Quiahuitl {kee-a-hweetł} is shown emerging from the Underworld, rising up out of the maw of the Earth Monster.  The Aztecs understood that moisture mysteriously rises from the earth to the sky (the crest across the top), where the god turns it into rain.  Every locale had its own Quiahuitl to conjure and appease, as indicated by drops falling on trees which symbolize the cardinal directions.

Quiahuitl is of crucial importance to the cultivation of maize, and the lower panel is a homage to that crop. In the center, the plant grows out of another Earth Monster, and on it perches a mythical bird, which is actually a motif inherited from the ancient Maya, Itzamnaaj—the Bird of the Sun.  Just above it is another nod to the Maya, the head of a centipede which they saw as the face of the Underworld.  On the left is Chicomecoatl (Seven Snake), chief of the several goddesses of maize, and on the right is Centeotl, the main god of maize.

But that’s not all. The four big dots indicate that the god is also a day-sign in the ritual calendar, Four Rain (Nahui Quiahuitl).  You’ve already seen the same thing in the icons of Four Water, Four Wind, and Four Jaguar.  I haven’t yet made it alphabetically to the god Tonatiuh and Four Earthquake, the Fifth Sun, our current era.

Anyway, Four Rain is the day-name of the earlier Third Sun (era), a paradise ruled by the Storm God Tlaloc. However, when Tezcatlipoca abducted his wife Xochiquetzal, Tlaloc destroyed that world in a rain of fire.  Its poor humans were turned into butterflies, birds, dogs, and turkeys—which I rather doubt was a great deal of help in the rain of fire.

As I said before, there’s a lot going on in this icon, and there were times I wondered if I was ever going to complete it. Besides, all these past months we’ve been suffering severe drought, and I started to fear it was because I hadn’t finished the god’s icon.  Well, I finally did it last night—and it still hasn’t rained!  I’ve done what I could…

This morning I fired #15 off to my digital wizard in Bangladesh to be turned into a vector drawing, which will be added to the coloring book page.  Then it will follow the other 14 to my print shop. At Santa Fe Signs & Images, they’re being printed on 3’ x 4’ vinyl banners for my upcoming exhibition.

NEWS FLASH!

I’ve recently arranged to have a show of my coloring book pages to be called YE GODS! Icons of Aztec Deities.  It will be at El Museo Cultural de Santa Fe, opening June 1, 2018 and running through July 29.  There’s much to be done in preparation, of course, and I’ve at least gotten calendar listings out to the media.

Now come the million details, and I seriously doubt that I’ll even get started on Icon #16, Tecciztecatl, God of the Moon, till later in the summer. According to the original project plan, I’ve still got 11 icons to go, which at this rate will take a minimum of three more years, maybe four.  What the hell!  I’ll only be 80!

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Ancient Coin Found in Ann Arbor MI

While a grad student at the University of Michigan, in the summer of 1967 I moved with my young family into a new subdivision on a sloping street in Ann Arbor. Perched on the gentle slope on a pad levelled by a slight scraping into the rise behind, the house backed up to the low, rounded crown of the hill overgrown with brush and bushes.  I immediately planted some flowers in the strip of freshly disturbed soil between the house and the newly laid sidewalk.  In my digging, I came upon an obviously ancient, apparently bronze coin.  I washed the loose soil off of it but didn’t disturb the lighter-colored material encrusting about 75% of the piece.

 

The coin notably measures precisely 1 inch in diameter. At first I put the coin in with other keepsakes and then some decades ago placed it in a small plastic bag with a note of where it was found.  For the past 50 years it has been only very minimally handled and shown to just a few friends as the one true mystery in my life.

In past years I occasionally read about Roman coins being found around the American Midwest, mostly along major river valleys, and marveled that I too had found one. Mine was found in the low hills of southern Michigan but not far from the Huron River.  Reading more recently about mounting evidence for a Roman presence in pre-Columbian America, I tried to identify my coin by researching the databases of the American Numismatic Society but was overwhelmed by their 42,000 + examples of Roman coinage.

After inspecting only a couple thousand of the coins in their collection, I noted that in the mostly illegible legends on mine the “IMP” on the obverse is standard for “Emperor.” Meanwhile, I found no portraits resembling the head, none with that tassel or braid at the back of the head, and none with that decidedly un-Roman nose.  On the reverse, the standing figure differs in posture from more usual standing figures of Apollo and holds something like a bag in the right hand and possibly a floral bundle in the left arm.  Also, the legend or symbols uniquely continue beneath the figure’s feet, and a strange rayed symbol peeks through the encrustation by the knee.

I’m sending this description and image to the following authorities in hopes:

1) that the American Numismatics Society will authoritatively identify this coin;

2) that the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology will advise on appropriate steps for analysis and conservation and suggest means for further research at the discovery site;

3) that the Historical Society of Michigan will advise me of similar or related finds in the state and suggest an appropriate repository for the artifact; and

4) that the City of Ann Arbor will facilitate any further research at the discovery site and any publicity that might follow.

Meanwhile, I’m posting this letter on my website www.richardbalthazar.com and requesting similar input from the Internet world at large.  Please email me at rbalthazar @ msn.com.  I will incorporate any responses in more web postings and plan to publish an article on the artifact in the magazine “Ancient American.”

About the discovery site, I researched my old address on Google Earth and found the house still there. The low hill behind is still undeveloped after these 50 years and covered with large trees.  After some decades of researching Indian mounds (and publishing the book “Remember Native America, The Earthworks of Ancient America”), I reasonably suspect that the hilltop could well be a mound containing far more prehistoric material than a single coin.