More Aztec Whoopee

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

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

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

Aztec Bee

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

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

Entrance to Mictlan

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


Aztec Icon #10 – MICTLANTECUHTLI, Lord of the Land of the Dead

Though there were times when I wondered if I’d ever finish this drawing, I’ve actually managed to complete the next icon in the series for the coloring book YE GODS!  THE AZTEC ICONS.

This icon of the Lord of Mictlan, the Land of the Dead, contains a lot more mythological narrative than even hinted in the caption.  Starting at the upper left and moving clockwise around the temple, dead persons enter Mictlan at the mouth of the Underworld.  Then the monstrous deity Xolotl serves as their guide (psychopomp), and the dog Itzcuintli is their companion through Mictlan, where they must climb eight hills and cross nine rivers (in four days).  The realm of Mictlantecuhtli is an empty place of darkness, dust, and vermin/vile insects (centipedes and scorpions among others), but that’s where most people had to go after death.  I wonder why they ever bothered to struggle over all those hills and rivers just to get to a nowhere like that.

Meanwhile, in the center of the lower register the wind deity Ehecatl (nagual of Quetzalcoatl) negotiates with the Lady of the Land of the Dead, Mictlancihuatl, for the bones from the Fourth Sun (Four Water).  He then breathes life into those bones to create the people for the current Fifth Sun (Four Earthquake).

(You can still see or download the previous nine icons by clicking on them in the list on the page for the coloring book.)


(Lord of the Land of the Dead)

To download this icon as a pdf file with a page of caption and model images from the Aztec Codices, right click here and select “Save Target (or Link) As.”  You can also download it in freely sizable vector drawings from the coloring book page.

Mictlantecuhtli, Lord of the Land of the Dead

Mictlantecuhtli, Lord of the Land of the Dead

MICTLANTECUHTLI {meek-tłan-te-kooh-tłee} is the most prominent of several deities of death, 5th lord of the night, and 6th lord of the day.  His worship reputedly involved ritual cannibalism.  (Counter-intuitively, skulls and skeletons were symbols of fertility, health, and abundance.) His wife is Mictlancihuatl.  Only souls who died normal deaths went to the Land of the Dead, Mictlan; souls of heroes, warriors, sacrificial victims, or who die in childbirth joined TONATIUH in the Fourth Heaven, and those who drown went to TLALOC’s Eighth Heaven, the paradisiacal Tlalocan.