Like a perverse Prometheus, Tohil gave man the gift of fire, but the price was steep. In an attempt to appease the ancient god and to repay the debt, early man offered up gifts of precious metals. The haughty god refused such paltry offerings, only flesh and blood would satisfy this god’s insatiable hunger:
“It remains for you to give thanks, since you have yet to take care of bleeding your ears and passing a cord through your elbows. you must worship. This is your way of giving thanks before your god…” An Illustrated Dictionary of the Gods and Symbols of Ancient Mexico and the Maya (144).
Auto sacrifice wasn’t all Tohil demanded, according to the same source, Tohil ” insists upon the right to drink not milk from the breast, but blood: to be suckled by Tohil is to have one’s heart ripped out” (170).
This insatiable god would prove a false god, setting into place the sacrifice tradition ; which would cause much enmity between the ruling Aztecs and their tributary neighbors. Ultimately causing the collapse of this great empire.
“T” is for Tohil:
“T” is for Tohil
watercolor on paper
11 by 18 inches
In my studio,and in my life I face many false and demanding gods , as ruthless as Tohil. These gods, the ideals I hold myself to may in fact be a death wish.
What I strive for, what I value and cherish may be my undoing. What inspires me may in fact hinder my progress in life and in authentic expression. What seems so rich often leaves me feeling impoverished when I am unable to reach such lofty goals :physical beauty in the face of my own crumbling shell; envy triggered by the seemingly golden charmed life of others; the greatness achieved by past masters that make a mockery of my own weak daubs.
My own country seems intent upon adhering to an Ideal that is no longer suitable (or possible) ; formerly represented by the ruling WASP class, certain angry factions now bristle at an “uppity” black president , an”ungrateful , greedy” immigrant class, “unholy” gays demanding full inclusion , fair social programs for the “takers” and woman seeking full autonomy. Isn’t this archaic ideal a false idol ?, won’t clinging to it surely be the death knell of this nation? This stubborn resistance to progress seems a death wish.
I understand this resistance I just experience it in different ways.
What drove the Aztecs to cling to their false gods, gods that were in the end, their downfall. It is easy to blame the Spaniards but history is revealing a more complex narrative, how disgruntled neighbors of the Aztecs, notably the Tlaxcalans, facilitated the destruction of this great empire (that and smallpox) . Neighboring Indians, weary of offering human tribute to the insatiable gods of the Aztecs, realized the wisdom of aligning themselves to the enemy of their enemy. What would have happened if the Aztecs had looked beyond the shiny facade of their gods with their impossible demands . Was there no point when the divine demands became too much to bear, too bloody, too insane. Did anyone think there must be another solution or were they at that time just too entrenched .
I for one do not want to become too entrenched in my own damaging practices, I hope to break free and reject my false gods and push against my own death wish .
With that, good night, take care and be well,