Aztecs Go Big

Five Flower – Aztec God of Games

The above image of Five Flower, Macuil Xochitl (God of games, feasting, merry-making, music and dance) is simply click-bait.  He’s shown here in a cameo included in Icon #18–which is really, really close to being done.  Hope to post it for you in the next week or so.  Meanwhile…

All this fall my Aztec icon show Ye Gods! has on display again, first occupying our local Las Vegas for a month (hosted by Highlands University) and then hanging out at Santa Fe’s public library branch on the south side for six weeks.  Not sure how many folks really viewed them in either place, but at least that got their banners out of my garage and up on some walls, which is of course the point of it all.

Last week I arranged for the bunch to make a return appearance in early January to nearby Española, where last fall they’d made considerable noise at Northern NM College. Now they’ll be partying at the Ohkay Casino—Ohkay Owingeh used to be San Juan Pueblo—where the conference center is being redesigned with a huge lobby/hallway.  My proud deities will each have a vast wall from which to lord it over the conferring crowds.

In general, I’m thrilled silly to display my icons to multitudes of people, like the 2-3,000 expected for a conference on January 18. In particular, I’m totally pumped that these crowds will be what one might call “normal” folks who aren’t necessarily museum- or gallery-goers.  My weird gods and goddesses are bound catch their innocent eyes, and the fascinating captions might even get read.  I might well hit the visitation jackpot!

Even more specifically, I’m overjoyed that the casino folks want the show to be up for a long time—at least through the coming summer! Ye gods!  Imagine having one’s show up for nine months…  I’ve told them it can just hang there until they get tired of it.  It makes great décor.

Considering those vast walls, I plan to increase the size of the icons so they don’t get lost in all that space. They’ll bump up from 3’ X 4’ to 4’ X 5’, i.e. 1/3 larger, and will no doubt be at least that much more imposing.  I’m also inspired to add QR code-blocks to the captions for folks to scan and download the vector drawings.  Might as well get with the technology…

That will leave me with the smaller, original show to hang in less spacious spaces, and my first target will be our local Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA). I’d approached them back when first planning the show and basically got ignored.  Now that they actually have a gallery director, maybe there’s a chance, especially considering the show’s history of venues.

When Ohkay does eventually get tired of my rowdy crew, there are several other casinos and conference centers around where this deep Native American history might be appreciated. But in the meantime, I’m dreaming even bigger for the Big Show—the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City.  Wish me luck.

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Aztec Icon #14 – QUETZALCOATL, Plumed Serpent

Sorry to take so long to finish the 14th icon for my coloring book YE GODS!  My work was delayed by that time-consuming thing called life.  Anyway, the icon’s done and my digital wizard has turned it into vector drawings for free sizing.  Here you have the most famous Aztec deity of all, QUETZALCOATL, the Plumed Serpent:

Quetzalcoatl, Plumed Serpent

QUETZALCOATL (Plumed Serpent) {ke-tsal-ko-atł} is the god of intelligence, learning, writing, arts and crafts, the calendar, priests, and merchants and was the bringer of maize to mankind.  Opposed to human sacrifice, he is called the White Tezcatlipoca and is the 9th lord of the day and god of the West. As the planet Venus, he is known as Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli, the morning star, and his twin Xolotl is the evening star.  He ruled the Second Sun (Four Wind) and created the current Fifth Sun (Four Earthquake) by using his own blood to give new life to the bones in Mictlan.  He was known as Kukulcan to the Maya and a major deity in Teotihuacan, and Quetzalcoatl was the traditional name/title of the Toltec rulers of Tula.

This icon is available as 8X10 with a caption/sources page by clicking here.  The freely sizable vector versions are available by clicking here.

By way of explaining this new icon, I must first thank Eliseo Rosales, a tattoo artist in California, for his suggestions, particularly for the design on the pedestal and for the important theme of maize.

The central figure of Quetzalcoatl is based on an image from Codex Borbonicus with details of costume and accoutrements mostly from Codex Magliabechiano, though the serpent on his back is adapted from those on the Stone of the Suns. Don’t be surprised by his beard, which occurs in other codex images:  According to some, he was supposedly blond and white-skinned.

In his left hand, the deity holds the weapon known as Xiuhcoatl (Fire Serpent), and on his shield is his standard ‘cross’ symbol. His peaked cap of jaguar pelt is apparently a Huastec influence.  Sprouting from his forehead is a ritual ‘blooming shinbone,’ the significance of which escapes me.  The numeral by his left foot is Nine, of which he is the patron, and the day-sign One Reed directly over his head is his ceremonial day-name.

Now for the other motifs. The pedestal, as mentioned above, illustrates the depth of the history of the Plumed Serpent.  It comes from the frieze on the Temple of Quetzalcoatl in Xochicalco (c. 1000 AD), which was a city/culture that arose in the aftermath of the Classic civilizations of the Maya and Teotihuacan.  As evidence of his even deeper history, the two heads flanking his day-name are views of sculptures on the Temple of Quetzalcoatl in Teotihuacan (c. 600 AD).  The paired feathered serpents on his either side are taken from Codex Borbonicus and Codex Telleriano-Remensis, and the paired quetzal birds are merely grace-notes.

The border design is adapted from one of his images in Codex Telleriano-Remensis. The day-signs embedded in it represent the ceremonial calendar which the deity brought into Mexico in the dim past.  Each group of five days represents a direction in the Aztecs’ odd world-view.  At the bottom is West, of which he is the patron.  At the top is East, on the left North, and on the right South, the standard Aztec spatial orientation as it was also for the Maya.

Drawn respectively from the Cospi, Vaticanus, and Borgia codices, the standing deities in the upper section are: on the left, Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli, Lord of the House of Dawn (as the Morning Star), on the right Xolotl (as the Evening Star), and at the top his nagual (manifestation) as Ehecatl, God of the Wind.

In the upper corners are scenes representing his gift of maize to mankind. On the left is Tlaloc, the Storm (Rain) God, nurturing the goddess of maize Chicomecoatl, and on the right is the goddess of flowing water Chalchiuhtlicue tending the god of maize Centeotl.

That’s all the mythology I could manage to cram into this icon. Surely it’s enough.

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Another note of interest about Quetzalcoatl. In the September, 2017 issue of ANCIENT AMERICAN magazine, my article just appeared entitled “The Plumed Serpent in North America.”  Click here to check out a copy.

YE GODS! THE AZTEC CODICES

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.

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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

PATECATL

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.

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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.

Aztec Icon #12 – OMETEOTL, Deity of Two

Well, in a mere three months I’ve managed to finish Icon #12, OMETEOTL for the coloring book YE GODS!  Actually it took only about six weeks because I spent the other six weeks trying to work out a computer system upgrade.  I’ve been using the freeware GIMP (Gnu Image Manipulation Program), but a fantastic artist-friend convinced me to buy an iMac and look into another program for drawing.

After some weeks taking a community college course in Adobe Photoshop, I took a preliminary look at Adobe Illustrator—without being particularly impressed. I still have to take tutorials in Illustrator, particularly about drawing in vectors, but in the meantime I’m continuing my artwork on GIMP (on my PC) and relying on my graphic magician to turn stuff into vectors for me.

So herewith I’m posting the standard .pdf of this icon, and when my wizard has done his trick, I’ll provide the vector drawing in the various sizes. (Again, if you want his contact for similar vectorizing work, contact me at “rbalthazar” @ msn.com.)  You can also view and download the previous 11 icons from the coloring book page.

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.

 

Ometeotl, Deity of Two

Ometeotl, Deity of Two

OMETEOTL

Deity of Two

 OMETEOTL {o-me-te-otł} is the creative pair of Omecihuatl (Lady of Two) and Ometecuhtli (Lord of Two), conjoined as the supreme creator and parent(s) of the primary Aztec gods.  This deity of duality is transcendental, without cult, rites, or temples and exists somewhere beyond the stars.  Also known as Tonacacihuatl and Tonacatecuhtli (Lady/Lord of Sustenance), as Ilamacihuatl and Ilamatecuhtli (Lady/Lord of Creation), and as Citlalicue and Citlalatonac (deities of the stars), OMETEOTL represents unity through sexual dualism. The pair rules the highest (13th) heaven of Omeyocan where unborn souls reside. Omecihuatl chooses the days for their birth and consequently their fates.

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I should probably explain a few things about this icon. First off, the 20 symbols arrayed around the periphery are the day-names of the month.  The Aztecs named the days of their month and counted the days of their week (13).

The sequence starts with the second up from the bottom on the right side and proceeds counter-clockwise to end in the lower right corner: Cipactli (Crocodile), Ehecatl (Wind), Calli (House), Cuetzpallin (Lizard), Coatl (Snake), Miquitzli (Death), Mazatl (Deer), Tochtli (Rabbit), Atl (Water), Itzcuintli (Dog), Ozomatli (Monkey), Malinalli (Grass), Acatl (Reed), Ocelotl (Jaguar), Cuauhtli (Eagle), Cozcacuauhtli (Vulture), Ollin (Earthquake), Tecpatl (Flint), Quiahuitl (Rain), and Xochitl (Flower).

The days in the middle of each side are also the year-bearers for the 52-year count, starting at the top and again going counter-clockwise: Rabbit, Reed, Flint, and House.

Meanwhile, the little creatures being “spit out” by the odd serpents all wear the traditional mask of Ehecatl, God of the Wind, (See Icon #5), who is the life spirit. So these “breezes” represent the new (or recycled?) souls being born.  They have claws, I assume, because most supernatural beings seem to have them.  They are based on images from Codex Borgia.

The four smaller gods represent the primary god-descendants of Ometeotl. Again counter-clockwise from lower right:  Tlaloc (based on Codex Borgia), Quetzalcoatl (based on Codex Borbonicus), and Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli (based on Codex Borbonicus).  I had intended the last to be Xiuhtecuhtli, but I made a mistake in identification.

The medallion at top center is based on an enigmatic design from Codex Borgia which I take to represent the concept of duality. The dual image of Ometeotl is drawn from Codex Fejervary-Mayer, the only image I’ve ever been able to find of that transcendent deity.  Otherwise, I haven’t a clue about the horn-like thing that Omecihuatl holds or what it may signify.

 

Aztec deities in vector drawings

Great news for all you coloring enthusiasts out there! I’ve now managed to get the icons of Aztec deities for the coloring book YE GODS! turned into vector drawings.  This may not sound like a big deal, but it actually is because the lines are now clean-edged, and the .pdf files can be enlarged or shrunk without affecting line-quality.  At least that’s what they tell me…

(The work of converting all my insane pixel drawings into vectors was done magnificently and quickly by a brave young fellow in a distant country, saving me many months of boggling labor. Contact me, rbalthazar at msn.com, for his details.)

On the coloring book page, as well as below, I now include three free download options for the icons completed thus far. The regular download is still for the original 8X10 pixel-image with title and caption.  In addition, you can choose an 8X10 vector drawing or another at 16X20, which will no doubt be much better for coloring the intricate details.  But you can also size these vectorized images however you wish.  Go for it!

(to download, right-click on link and select “Save as”)

(Images on pages are in pixels and sized at 8” x 10” w/ captions for legal paper at 300 dpi.  You can also download the images as vector drawings in two sizes which can be enlarged or shrunk with consistent line quality.)

#1 Atl                                      Page 1 with caption         8X10 vector           16X20 vector

#2 Chalchiuhtlicue              Page 2 with caption         8X10 vector           16X20 vector

#3 Chalchiuhtotolin            Page 3 with caption         8X10 vector           16X20 vector

#4 Chantico                          Page 4 with caption         8X10 vector           16X20 vector

#5 Ehecatl                             Page 5 with caption         8X10 vector           16X20 vector

#6 Huehuecoyotl                 Page 6 with caption         8X10 vector           16X20 vector

#7 Huitzilopochtli               Page 7 with caption         8X10 vector           16X20 vector

#8 Itzpapalotl                      Page 8 with caption         8X10 vector           16X20 vector

#9 Mayauel                          Page 9 with caption         8X10 vector           16X20 vector

#10 Mictlantecuhtli            Page 10 with caption       8X10 vector           16X20 vector

#11 Ocelotl                            Page 11 with caption       8X10 vector           16X20 vector

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By the way, here’s a progress report on the next icon for YE GODS! I’m about half-way through Aztec icon #12, OMETEOTL, the Deity of Two.  A “duity” (duality) deity, if you will, it’s a composite of Ometecuhtli and Omecihuatl, the Lord and Lady of Two.  Here’s a little detail which I interpret from a page in Codex Borgia as a symbol of duity.

Aztec duity symbol

Aztec duity symbol