Coyolxauhqui watch over me: a prayer
Institutional price $76
12" x 18"
5-Color Handmade Screen Print (Includes two metallic silvers) , 270gsm/100lb Digital Smooth Cougar paper, Printed in my kitchen, San Leandro, CA 2020
Edition of 50
In 1978 electrical workers unearthed a massive circular stone of Coyolxauhqui when they were doing work on the Mexico City Metro (rapid transit system). "Coyolxauhqui, 'She whose cheeks are adorned with bells," is the moon goddess, daughter of Coatlicue and sister of Huitzilopochtli. War broke out when Coyolxauqui conspired to defeat her brother after finding out her mother was pregnant with him. Feminist readings of Huitzilopochtil's explosion into the work as the coming of war and patriarchy as he takes revenge on his siblings Coyolxauhqui and their 400 brothers when he pushes his sister to her death from great heights fragmenting her body into pieces and decapitating her while also killing his brothers. They are thrown up to the sky to become the moon and stars.
Some readings of the symbolism of this family interpret the relationship as:
Huitzilopochtli's decapitation of Coyolxauhqui can be interpreted as a symbol of political conquest linked to the triumph of the sun over the moon. Analysis of Coyolxauhqui's imagery and mythology indicates that she represents the full moon eclipsed by the sun.
Cherrie Moraga's revision of the story is significant:
"Según la leyenda, Coatlicue, ‘Madre de los Dioses,’ is sweeping on top of the mountain, Coatepec, when she discovers two beautiful feathers. Thinking that later she will place them on her altar, she stuffs them into her apron and continues sweeping. But without noticing, the feathers begin to gestate there next to her womb and Coatlicue, already advanced in age, soon discovers that she is pregnant.
When her daughter, Coyolxauhqui, learns that her mother is about
to give birth to Huitzlopotchtli, God of War, she is incensed. And, along with her siblings, the Four Hundred Stars, she conspires to kill Coatlicue rather than submit to a world where war would become God.
Huitzilopotchtli is warned of this by a hummingbird and vows to
defend his mother. At the moment of birth, he murders Coyolxauhqui, cutting off her head and completely dismembering her body.
Breast splits from chest splits from hip splits from thigh from knee
from arm and foot. Coyolxauhqui is banished to the darkness and
becomes the moon, la diosade la luna (1993: 73).
In 2005, a year after reading Xicana feminist interpretations of the significance of Coyolxauhqui, I was able to visit Mexico City and be in the presence of the massive stone as well the colossal stone head representation on which I based my illustration. During this trip we also met a danzante in the zocalo who talked to us about the moon ceremonies that happen in honor of Coyolxauhqui. It's difficult to convey in words how powerful the energy from these stones is. For all the years I felt broken by the force of patriarchy and oppressive forces in my life to see a representation of such an old and powerful force was incredible.
In this piece I pair the Coyolxauhqui moon and her star siblings in the sky over the Mexica (Aztec) "pyramid"/temple of the moon and the long foot path toward the temple. When ever I feel deeply isolated I say a prayer to the moon that watches over me no matter where in the world I have my feet planted.
To read more interpretations on the significance and symbolism of Coyolxauhqui see the following:
- Light in the Dark / Luz en lo Oscuro: Rewriting Identity, Spirituality, Reality by Gloria E. Anzaldúa, Edited by Analouise Keating
-Woman WHo Glows in the Dark: A Curandera Reveals Traditional Aztec Secrets of Physical and Spiritual Health by Elena Avila, RN, MSN with Joy Parker
- The Last Generation by Cherrie Moraga