Wednesday, April 30, 2014

#atozchallenge: Xipe Totec, (my) God of Literature

You probably know the pre-hispanic cultures of America weren't shy about extensive pantheons: it must take an army, after all, to keep the universe going in all its complexity, all its diversity. These multiple gods--sometimes even, because it wasn't already complicated enough, multi-faceted gods--have one universal quality in common:


To make the sun rise? And you'll be wanting this every day? Right, then. A few bloody, still-beating hearts should do it, old chap. 

The Mexica (Meh-SHEE-kah, though you probably know them as the Aztec) are most famous for goriness. But like the Romans, they absorbed the religious practices of the peoples they conquered; most of the grisly rituals they shocked the Spanish with were in use long before the Mexica ever rose into the horizon of Mesoamerican power. Xipe Totec, for instance, has his origins in the Olmec civilization, the oldest one in México; so old, in fact, that by the time of Christ it had been gone for centuries.

Xipe Totec (SHEEP-eh TOH-tek). The god of Spring. Renewal. Seeding. The elemental force of rebirth. The shedding of the husk that frees life.

Xipe Totec himself. (Image credit)
Note the "extra" skin on his face and arms.
The "extra" hands.
Yep, they actually did this.
Also called "Our Lord the Flayed One." And always depicted as a man wearing the skin of another man. During the celebrations dedicated to him, prisoners--men, women, and children--were flayed, and others would wear their skins. Their "husks."

(Trust the Mesoamericans to goryfy the Easter bunny.)

I like to think that, among the diversity of blood in me, a bit of pre-hispanic DNA might have survived. (My great-grandmother was a Purépecha indian--I have hope.)

Perhaps this is why I find so fascinating this idea of Shedding The Husk. 

The 2014: A Year In Stories project embodies this in a very literal sense: a year in the lives of. Think of your own year: on January 1st, where were you? Who were you? It's the end of April; where are you now? Who are you now? Where will you be by December? What marvelous things might have happened in your life? What wonderful people will you have met? How much will you have changed, what will you have learned?

Who will you be?

2014: A Year In Stories
A twelve-volume anthology published by Pure Slush Books

Good literature is about this Shedding of The Husk. 

So is a good life.

~ * ~

Thank you for the visit, and for your patience with the delay in posting. 
Y and Z coming soon.
Happy last day of A-to-Z-ing!


  1. Hi Guilie .. this is fascinating ... I've never heard of Xipe-totec or the flaying rituals associated with his peoples - apparently extraordinary .. yet I know here in little old England somewhere in East Anglia (sorry cannot remember where) there is a church door, which has human skin attached to it from the Medieval era ...

    I went to see a Power and Gold in ancient Colombia: Byond El Dorado exhibition at the British museum ... that was so interesting ... I bought the book .. but need to read it -

    I do find the idea of shedding the husk interesting but I'd rather not do it their way .. I'd be happy to transform, become and emerge ... as thankfully (if we put our minds to it) we can do ...

    Really interesting .. cheers Hilary

  2. Hi Guilie - I've just checked out the Church .. and I gather on recent DNA analysis at Oxford University ... it was not skin, but leather as would be logical for those times ... but the Vikings and Anglo Saxon were pretty rough in meting out their justice ... but not on this occasion .. cheers Hilary


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