Friday, 11 May 2012

Flower Power - Hippy Aztecs

There’s an old English saying which goes “March winds and April showers, bring forth May flowers”.
picture of Xochipilli from an Aztec
codex.

So far in this little series on lgbt flower-lore I’ve concentrated on individual flowers. As a contrast today I’ll celebrate the arrival of May flowers by bringing you what appears to be a transsexual flower god of who was also a patron deity of gay sex.

The name of the Aztec god Xochipilli translates as “flower prince”. Several Aztec gods have a dual nature – both male and female. Both natures existed separately but together, each with slight differences in function. Imagine it as a twin brother and sister being one person.

Xochipilli and his trans/twin Xochiquetzal were the gods of art, beauty, flowers, dance – and sex. They presided over one of the Ages of Mankind, specifically the one preceding our own. They called it the Age of Flowers, in which the Aztecs abandoned the “manly virtues of warfare, administration and wisdom” and pursued the joys of love and sex. Sounds like 1960s Flower Power hippy movement – and they thought they were doing something new!

Xochipilli’s various manifestations reveal a very positive image compared to the more blood-thirsty gods. He was one of the 2 “excellent” Lords of the Night and one of the Lords of the Day. In this latter aspect he was the god of pleasure symbolised by a butterfly. What is appropriate is that the Spanish word for butterfly, mariposa, is often used in the Spanish-speaking world (including Mexico) for a gay man. It’s a bit like the word “pansy” in the 20th century. I wonder if the butterfly’s association with Xochipilli, the patron deity of gay sex, is the reason?

As a Spirit of the South Xochipilli was also a god of voluptuousness, and with his brothers presided over good health, well-being and pleasure – perfect role models for the message of safe sex. Xochipilli rules the 11th day of the Aztec week, a day also associated with pleasure. Statues of him are often decorated with garlands of  flowers and butterflies – again I’m reminded of 60s Flower Power.

Xochipilli’s female aspect, Xochiquetzal, was the goddess of fruitfulness. She personified love, beauty, domesticity and physical love. She is said to have given birth to the human race. She too also rules one of the Aztec days, the 20th and last in their week.

Gay sex was not unknown in the Aztec world, and Xochipilli’s place as its patron deity seems to represent the non-procreative, pleasurable nature of sex among gay men, all part of what they called the Dance of the Flowers.

Aztec gods were celebrated in ceremonies which involved consuming large quantities of an alcoholic drink called pulque. Drinking to excess was believed to produce magical powers – drunken hallucinations, no doubt. In fact, the more I think about it the more stereotypically gay Xochipilli seems!

Xochipilli as envisaged by California student
Gloria Gonzaga.


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