Time and the Ancestors, chapter 2: Life-Death-Life

Detailed discussion of the different ways that human remains were dealt with in precolonial Mesoamerica and the religious implications of the contents of Tomb 7 at Monte Albán. What do the imagery and the arrangement of the deposited artefacts teach
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  © 󰁫󰁯󰁮󰁩󰁮󰁫󰁬󰁩󰁪󰁫󰁥 󰁢󰁲󰁩󰁬󰁬 󰁮󰁶, 󰁬󰁥󰁩󰁤󰁥󰁮, 􏿽󿿽�󰀷 | 󰁤󰁯󰁩 �󰀰.��󰀶󰀳/󰀹󰀷󰀸󰀹󰀰󰀰󰀴󰀳󰀴󰀰󰀵􏿽󰀷_󰀰󰀰󰀴 󰁣󰁨󰁡󰁰󰁴󰁥󰁲 􀀲 Life – Death – Life In Mesoamerica the artist, the historian and their public were well aware that the arts, and particularly songs, ceremonial discourse and painting (pictogra-phy), had srcinally been taught to humankind by the Plumed Serpent, the divine whirlwind as culture hero, who had also brought rain and fertility to the  world and had de󐁦󰁩ned the appropriate sacred dates for all the towns to start their respective ritual cycles.󰀱 Codex Yuta Tnoho (Vindobonensis), p. 48, lists his names, titles or invocations; here he is called ‘the writer of books’ and rep-resented as painting a codex in red and black. His is also the primordial singer and speaker of ceremonial discourses, one from whose breast 􀁦󰁬ow beautiful  words, who carries the divine power (Ñuhu) and the power of the ancestors in his heart.󰀲 Also in the Nahuatl tradition, Quetzalcoatl, the Plumed Serpent, is a god of creation and priestly knowledge, as well as a culture hero. On the other hand, this name or title appears in the sources as that of an emblematic leading per-sonality (ruler/god) of Toltec civilisation.􀀳 Cultural creations, the making of an art work, as well as writing and performing were therefore ritual acts, a legacy of the Plumed Serpent, a personal encounter with his power. When we seriously want to understand the meaning and spiritual value of such a religiously charged place as Tomb 7 and of the related scenes in the Books of Wisdom (Teoamoxtli Group), we have to prepare ourselves men-tally to study these ancient remains with the religious respect that is proper in the age-old civilisation to which they belong. We also have to situate our 󐁦󰁩ndings within the Mesoamerican worldview and its cultural memory, its cultural logic.􀀴 We will therefore develop our interpretation from a personal 􀀱 See Codex Yuta Tnoho (Vindobonensis), pp. 48–49 and our commentary (Anders, Jansen and Pérez Jiménez 1992a; cf. Jansen 1997 and Jansen and Pérez Jiménez 2007a). On the Plumed Serpent in the contemporary Ñuu Dzaui world see also Witter (2011).󐀲 He carries in his heart the so-called Xipe bundle, which consists of sticks or sta󰁦fs bound together. The idea transmitted seems to be that of a combination of sta󰁦fs of o󰁦󐁦󰁩ce, i.e. of social forces (Jansen and Pérez Jiménez 2011: 254–255). The con󐁦󰁩guration is similar to that of the bundle made in the Aztec Tititl feast, which is explicitly dedicated to the ancestors and clothed as their image or ixiptla  (Codex Magliabechi, p. 44v). Most likely, therefore, this Xipe bundle represents the combined power of the ancestors.󰀳 See for example the studies by Carrasco (1982) and Nicholson (2001).󰀴 For the concepts see Assmann (1999) and Fisher (1999). Maarten Jansen and Gabina Aurora Pérez Jiménez - 9789004340527Downloaded from Brill.com10/15/2019 12:25:18PMvia free access  󰀹󐀳 󰁌􀁩󰁥 – 󰁄󰁥󰁡󰁴󰁨 – 󰁌􀁩󰁥 acquaintance with Mesoamerican symbolism, particularly the ideas associ-ated with Mother Earth and the ancestors. 1 Tale of a Grandmother  In the middle of the 1970s we embarked on our life journey together. At the same time, we started our work, re􀁦󰁬ections and research on the life and his-tory of Ñuu Sau (Ñuu Dzaui), the Mixtec people in southern Mexico. For Au-rora, this is a familiar culture, inherited from her parents and community in the village where she grew up: Ñuu Ndeya (known also by its Nahuatl name Chalcatongo), but this research process meant progress in the understanding of the people’s history and of the reasons behind its social reality, its colonial condition. For Maarten, coming from a European, Dutch, srcin, it meant the privilege of being guided to and connected with another culture, and a pro-gressive understanding of how the interpretation of a culture’s ancient art and texts depends on a knowledge of its living traditions, and vice versa a search for their messages for the present. For both of us it meant the beginning of a quest of trying to contribute to the decolonisation of historical knowledge and the reintegration of indigenous cultural memory.In those early years an elderly aunt of Aurora’s family, who already had the status of a grandmother, Mrs María Jiménez, told us an ancient narrative about the temazcal  , the traditional steambath used by women for regaining strength after giving birth, but also in general for health-related purposes (like the North American sweat lodge). It generally consists of a small and low building of stone and adobe or a temporary structure of reed arches, covered with blan-kets. A low opening is the entrance to the main chamber, with – on one side or in one corner – a pile of stones that functions as an oven or 󐁦󰁩replace, which has its own small outside entrance. In the codices the temazcal   is typically painted as having a formal door-like entrance with next to it the triangular opening of the oven. This corresponds quite closely to forms that can be found in the Ñuu Dzaui (Mixtec) region today.󰀵Here we will take this narrative as a point of departure for exploring Meso-american symbolism. The narrative that grandmother María Jiménez told us is situated in the time of creation, before the 󐁦󰁩rst sunrise. We reproduce her text in Sahin Sau, the local variant of Mixtec (Dzaha Dzaui). 􀀵 For the workings of the temazcal   see Alcina Franch (2000) and, speci󐁦󰁩cally for its use in the Ñuu Dzaui region, Jansen and Pérez Jiménez (1980) and Katz (1996). Maarten Jansen and Gabina Aurora Pérez Jiménez - 9789004340527Downloaded from Brill.com10/15/2019 12:25:18PMvia free access  󰁣󰁨󰁡󰁰󰁴󰁥󰁲 􀀲 󰀹󐀴  Niyoo in nanañuu ja jahan jahan yuku, ja ndehe ɨn isu te nijayaka staa jiin ndeyu ja niyee isu uan.Uu sehe yii uan niyoo. Nikandikin sehe yii uan onde nuu yuku uan, te nikajini ja jakee isu nijayaka te nindatuhun jiin isu uan. Nikandatuhun ndenduu sehe yii uan ja maa kiyaka jakee isu. Nikakei jini naa: ‘Vina te maana kiyakana jakee taana te ndooni vehe’, nikakei jini naa.‘Vee, kuahan nu kingoyoro te nandoori nusaa’.Te nikajika kuangoyo ndenduu jayii uan, nikajaa yuku uan. Nikajahni, nikatava ñii isu.Te nikanduku timii tɨndaka te nikataan ini ñii isu, te nikakiku uan te nikasn-dukoo isu uan. Ɨnga kɨu nikee maa naa kuandehe isu nuu yuku. Nijaa te nikejaha kahan jiin isu, te maa isu nuyuuni iyaa tu kuɨtɨ kahan. Nikatu ndaha sɨkɨ isu: ‘Kahan, ¿najaha tu kahanro?’ kei jini isu.Te isu ninduani kuahan, uanna nikakenda timii tɨndaka. Te nikakejaha katuu nanañuu uan. Nijinu nanañuu kuanoho vehe ninajaa vehe.Te nikejaha kanitahan nuu ndenduu sehe yii uan: ‘¿Nou nikasaharo jiin taaro ja nikajahniro?’. 󰁉􀁬􀁬󰁵󰁳󰁴󰁲󰁡󰁴􀁩󰁯󰁮 􀀲.􀀰󐀱  Temazcal of adobe bricks, Chalcatongo. Maarten Jansen and Gabina Aurora Pérez Jiménez - 9789004340527Downloaded from Brill.com10/15/2019 12:25:18PMvia free access  󰀹󐀵 󰁌􀁩󰁥 – 󰁄󰁥󰁡󰁴󰁨 – 󰁌􀁩󰁥 󰁉􀁬􀁬󰁵󰁳󰁴󰁲󰁡󰁴􀁩󰁯󰁮 􀀲.􀀰􀀲  Temazcal of reeds and mats, San Miguel el Grande. 󰁉􀁬􀁬󰁵󰁳󰁴󰁲󰁡󰁴􀁩󰁯󰁮 􀀲.􀀰󐀳 Oven of a temazcal (without cover). Maarten Jansen and Gabina Aurora Pérez Jiménez - 9789004340527Downloaded from Brill.com10/15/2019 12:25:18PMvia free access  󰁣󰁨󰁡󰁰󰁴󰁥󰁲 􀀲 󰀹󰀶  Nikakei ndenduu sehe:‘tukuɨtɨ nuu nikasahana jiin taana, ko ñahani kaani ñihi chi shraan nikatuu timii tɨndaka nihi’, nikakei jini naa.Te nikachindee ini ñihi nuu nduu ñihi uan, te nikajasu yuhjuehe ñihi.‘Kaani nuu nduu uan, kuyaani’, nikakei jini nanañuu uan.Uan nikasaha sehe yii nanañuu.Santa Teresa kuu nanañuu ñihi uan, te shraan ii chi katuni yoho, nu nou kuu, tu kuu kɨtɨ iniyo chi shraan shraan ñihi.󰀶  There was [once] a grandmother (elderly woman) who always went to the mountain to visit a deer, she brought him tortillas and food to eat.She had two sons.These sons [once] followed her to the mountain and realised that she brought food to the deer and that she conversed with the deer.The two sons made a plan that they wood take the food to the deer.They said to their mother: ‘Today we take the food to our father, so you can stay home’.‘Yes, go, if you will, and I stay here’.So both boys went and reached the mountain.They killed the deer and removed the skin.Then they searched for wasps ands put those inside the deerskin, they sewed it and placed there the [dead, stu󰁦fed] deer.The next day their mother went to see the deer on the mountain.She arrived and started talking to the deer, but he stood there still and did not respond.She slapped the deer on the shoulder: ‘Speak, why don’t you talk?’ she said to the deer.The deer fell down, and there the wasps came out. And they began to sting the grandmother.The grandmother ran back and 󐁦󰁩nally got home.She began to scold her two sons: ‘What did you do to your father? You killed him!’.The two sons said to their mother: ‘We didn’t do anything to our father,  you had better come and take a bath in the temazcal  , because the wasps have stung you a lot’. And they put her inside the temazcal  , on the 󐁦󰁩replace, and closed the entrance.‘Sit down on the 󐁦󰁩replace, stay there’, they told the grandmother. 􀀶 See also the publication of this text in the manual for studying the Sahin Sau language (Pérez  Jiménez 2008: 68–70). A similar text has been published by Dyk (1959: 10–16). The narrative is  widespread in the Oaxaca region: Weitlaner (1977: 52–62) presents a Chinantec version and Boege (1988: 94–98 and 108–112) a Mazatec version. Maarten Jansen and Gabina Aurora Pérez Jiménez - 9789004340527Downloaded from Brill.com10/15/2019 12:25:18PMvia free access
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