I am currently painting the story of the creation of the first men, in which Xolotl appears prominently, so I thought I would write about him.
Xolotl is the patron of those born on the day-sign Ollin. He is the God of Twins, and patron of the ball-game. His name signifies that he is Our Lord, “The Double Maize Plant,” the stock of corn which grows with two heads. He is thus our sustenance, our body itself, twined, to encompass all men and women. He is the lord of the monstrous and the uncanny. He is the Nahualli of Quetzalcoatl, Lord of Creation, his spirit double, and accompanied him to the underworld to retrieve the bones of our ancestors; it was through his wisdom, trickery, and bravery that the quest proved successful. However, he proved a coward later; after the Our Lord the Sun rose into the sky at his first dawning, he stopped in the center of the heavens and declared he could go nor further; he demanded the blood of the gods as sustenance before he could continue his journey. All the gods submitted, save Xolotl alone, who ran fearfully away. His sorrow was so great he wept his eyes from out of their sockets, and he hid in the maize fields, transforming himself into the Xolotl, the double maize plant, then the Mexolotl, the double agave plant, and finally the Axolotl, a type of large and monstrous salamander, when he was finally caught and sacrificed.
Xolotl is a dog, and represents death and Tlazolli; which is to say, “trash” or disorderliness. This is the principle which governs life, in which beings are born in sex and rot, in which all living things both bloom and decay. Dogs eat rotting meat and excrement, and in so doing transform death into life, a quality which is further emphasized by their sexual promiscuity. These are the qualities of Xolotl, who resides in the Underworld, in the belly of the Earth Mother.
Quetzalcoátl and Xolotl are the doubles of one another; Quetzalcóatl represents birth and Xolotl death. Neither is possible without the other. In the ancient world, twins were considered terrible monstrosities, and in myth, Xolotl is Quetzalcoátl’s twin who was slain upon his birth. One therefore dwells in the world above, in the light of day, while Xolotl, the other, dwells in the underworld among the dead.
Both Teótl are manifestations of Venus. Quetzalcoátl is the Morning Star, the light which rises before the sun and guides him into the daytime sky. Xolotl is the Evening Star, who rises before the setting sun and leads him into death. In the underworld, Xolotl carries the sun on his back and leads him through the dangers of the Underworld, to deliver him to his brother and spirit double Quetzalcoátl and to the rebirth of day. Together they are the principle of Ollin, of endless oscillation and movement, and guide the eternal cycles of the cosmos.
In the top painting, Xolotl as he appears in the Codex Borgia. He wears the costume of Quetzalcoátl, for the two are in fact one, and wears in his headdress a device of macaw and crow plumes which symbolizes the nighttime sun, the dead sun who travels through the underworld. The following two paintings are from my version of the Tonalamatl; in the second he is wrapped in a shroud, as a Teótl of death. At the bottom, the two Teótl appear together, in a detail from my newest painting, bowing before the Lord of Death, and finally, a sculpture of Xolotl discovered in the ruins of Tenochtitlan.
Mexican artist Luz Gamboa’s oil and acrylic paintings on canvas depict the indigenous communities of her home state of Durango, where she has lived and studied the ways of life. Interested in the mores and traditions of these societies, particularly the women, Gamboa’s richly hued paintings depict the everyday realities of the beautiful culture these women have maintained against the grain of modern day society.
Artist Luz Gamboa was born in a distant region of Durango, Mexico and currently lives and works in Mexico City.
Today is the day Five House, whose Tonal is ruled by Tepeyollotl,
the Heart of the Mountain, the holy jaguar who is the Nagual or Spirit
Animal of Tezcatlipoca, Teótl of chaos and destruction. Tepeyollotl is
the Teótl of earthquakes, echos, jaguars, and jaguar warriors. He is a
representative of the night and its mysterious forces. He is of the
female principle, counterpart to the Eagle who represents the male. He
is darkness, chaos, death and creation,
and the generative forces of the female force. He resides in the
mountain, which is to say, Tlalocan, the paradise of Tlaloc, where souls
go to dwell before being reincarnated on the earth; he is therefore the
guardian of the Storehouse of Souls. He is the sound of the drum; the
drum, played in ceremony, is his voice carrying our intentions and
prayers to the realm of the spirit.
Here, he is represented in three manifestations. He appears as the holy
jaguar, whose coat is adorned with flint knives and stars; stars for he
is the night, knives for he is the warrior who gives his life in
sacrifice. He appears in the guise of a man, with long braids falling
from his temple, and two tufts of hair on his head. His mouth is spotted
with a jaguars skin, and he plays a conch, as a lord of ceremonial
music; this represents his frightening roar. And finally, he appears as
Our Lord Tezcatlipoca, wearing the skin of a jaguar. Or perhaps, it is
the jaguar himself, from whose open mouth Tezcatlipoca peers. In all
manifestations he wears about his neck the White Ring of Tezcatlipoca,
and his foot is often replaced with the smoking mirror with which
Tezcatlipoca peers into our hearts. The final image comes from the Codex
Borbonicus; the others are from my own version of the Tonalamatl.