What a strange concept to believe something as crazy as when an Aztec warrior died, his wife’s spirit was “broken,” meaning she was killed so she could be buried or cremated with her master (her husband) to serve him in the next world. This upon many is not a fascinating myth but one of many fascinating truths of and for the Aztec people. Like their sacred paths, I am about to embark on a journey of words drenched in art and myth, dream catchers and gods, past and the present.
Like a spider, the Aztec wove–not just baskets and blankets but an art we can still very much admire today. The art of weaving was one of many ways Aztecs expressed themselves. Only the best colors and intricate designs were woven for ceremonies and gifts. Following weaving, the Aztecs were artists in many aspects. The potter, the sculptor, the painter, the builder, and my favorite–the story teller. Art and words tied in great together for the Aztec. The beautiful perfected work was part of the story teller’s details. Tribal ceremonies were enriched with visual pictures; to the Aztecs, their art had life. Mothers painted on jars the potters made for them–zig-zag patterns to protect their children from getting bitten by snakes. It was art with magic. Some of the Aztec jars that the potters produced were left broken, cracked or not fully finished. They left an opening for a warrior’s ashes to escape to the heavens or next world after he passed. It was his wife’s duty to keep the jar, and if her warrior husband would die she then would be murdered and placed with him in the potted jar, thus leaving with him to the next life and continue serving as a good wife.
The art which the Aztecs made, prepared, and imagined were seen in life and somehow just as much seen and used for death. So the weaver of the Aztec world was not just a weaver, nor were the artists just artists. They spoke colors that haunted both realms. With pictures on rocks, tattoos, and perfectly built art, the Aztecs had words and visions with many unusual, beautiful, strange paths, and death with many lives.
The stories, the myths, the folklore
I’ve always enjoyed a clever story, and there is always some kind of truth to a legend. Every culture has their folklore and like many native tribes, the Aztecs had their share. Some stories make you shake your head and wonder who would tell such nonsense. Other stories make you laugh and enjoy the efforts they make. Some make you cry and teach you something about life and your spirit. And some leave you completely intrigued, such as “The Aztec Skunk.”
The Aztec Skunk
The skunk has always been a sign of bad power, for it brings conflict and sickness to anyone who gets near it. Once long ago an Evil shaman sent a skunk to a neighboring village. The skunk, being very lazy, would steal food every day and other supplies just to make the villagers’ lives harder. The skunk got away with doing these things because he was powerful. He produced poisonous odors that could kill anything and anyone. The people in the village grew tired of having their food, which they worked so hard to plant, stolen from them. But they feared the skunk and his powers too much to do anything about it.
One day the skunk was terrorizing the villagers so badly that they ran on top of a mountain. They found a large rock and heated it with fire. The skunk was furious and ran up the mountain ready to kill everyone. But the villagers waited until the skunk got near and pushed the fire rock down the mountain and over the skunk. It burned him severely, knocking his poison out of him. It did not kill the skunk, but it did break his bad powers. That is why today he is unable to kill anyone with his odor, and that is of course how the skunk got the stripe down the middle of his back.