Juchitán is a colonial town that predates the Spanish conquest. Home to the indigenous culture of the Zapotec, a third gender known as muxe (MOO-shey) – said to derive from “mujer,” the word for “woman” in Spanish – has long flourished here. The muxe gender encompasses a range of identities that are between the male-female binary. While a muxe would have different labels to choose from in the U.S. – “trans woman,” “gay man,” “genderqueer” – “muxe” spans all identities between male and female here. The term is unique to the Zapotec.
Stemming from pre-Columbian societies that had “mixed-genders” outside of male and female, the muxes are analogous to other “two-spirit” identities in indigenous populations of North America. Muxes traditionally have the freedom to dress in women’s clothing, wear cosmetics and grow their hair long. They can be seen wearing the traditional Tehuana costume of the region, a two-part gown made up of a huipil – a shirt with colorful embroidery – and a long skirt that usually matches the top. Called muxes vestidas – “dressed muxes” – they participate in more traditional female gender roles, such as working as seamstresses, than do muxes pintadas – “painted muxes” – who dress in men’s clothes, but still pluck their eyebrows and wear cosmetics.
When asked why a third gender is accepted in Juchitán, the townspeople invariably point to “the matriarchy” of Oaxacan households – women handle the finances of the family, since they’re the ones who work as vendors in the marketplace, giving them more of an equal standing with men than elsewhere in the countryside. Many mothers would sooner force an unaccepting husband to leave the house than kick out a muxe child.
The Birth of the Fifth Sun, the Mexica (Aztec) sacred narrative which tells of the birth of our current sun. The paintings are posted in order, and follow the progress of the narrative told below.
14.1 It is said that when the earth was still dark, when there was yet no warmth, nor day, nor light, the Teteo came together at Teotihuacan to take counsel, and there they lit the Spirit Fires, great blazes set atop the twin pyramids of the sacred city. For four years they burned. “Come here, oh Teteo! Who shall carry the sun? Who shall bear it? The warming, the dawning? The burning fire? The celestial Light? Who shall leap into the Spirit Fire?” Than forth stepped Four Flint, Tecuciztecatl, Our Lord of Snails, and he cried out, “Oh Teteo! Indeed, it shall be I!” Yoaltecuhtli and Tlaloc stepped forward, “You are one who must keep the sky and the earth.” 14.2 “And yet, another is needed,” said the Teteo. “Who shall be the other?” Yet the Teteo were frightened, and none among them stepped forth. They took counsel with one another, and summoned Nanahuatzin, The Pimpled Lord, the Crippled One, and summoned him to the counsel. Tonacatecuhtli and Xiuhtecuhtli stepped forward and said to him, “You are the one who must keep the sky and the earth.” Many tears did Nanahuatzin shed, for he felt unequal to the task, he, the worthless invalid. 14.3 The Teteo Nanahuatzin and Tecuciztecatl began their fasts, their sacrifices, in preparation for the Spirit Fire, the God Oven. Tecuciztecatl prepared himself with precious things. His fasting-ropes were of quetzal feathers, and his ritual branches of cotinga plumes. His grass heart was of woven gold, his incense of the finest copal. He did not offer his own blood, his own Yollia, but instead offered maguey thorns and lancets made of coral. Resplendent he looked, shining and beautiful, as he made his sacrifices. 14.4 Nanahuatzin, the Crippled Lord, the Teotl in poverty, formed his fasting-rope of grass and paper. His ritual branches were made of green grass and green reeds, tied in three bundles, bound bundles of nine each. His bloodletting spine was of bone, well reddened with his own blood. His only incense were his scabs, twisted off and cast into the fire. For four days they fasted, for four days they drew blood and meditated their sacred actions, there upon their respective pyramids. When they had completed their days of sacrifice, they burned their ritual branches, their bloodletting instruments, in the sacred fire. They were become slaves. They were become Gods. 14.5 To Tecuciztecatl, the gathered Teteo gave him his egret headdress, his elegant attire of quetzal and jade. 14.6 But Nanahuatzin was attired only in paper, only in cloth of Maguey. They painted the Teteo in white, they chalked them, and adorned them in eagle-down feathers. 15.1 Tecuciztecatl, as the senior Lord, approached the fire first, to leap into its heart. The fire roared, it crackled, it seared his eyes. He grew faint and afraid. He hesitated. He could not bring himself to leap into the fire.Than Nanahuatzin, the Crippled Lord, seeing the terror of the other, walked forward. Bravely he walked, slowly, so as to feel its heat. And when he reached the Spirit Fire, the God Oven, he leapt into its heart and was consumed. Tecuciztecatl grew ashamed, and found his spirit, and he too leapt into the Spirit Fire, but lacking the bravery of Nanahuatzin, he fell only into its embers and ashes, where he, too, was consumed. The Jaguar and the Eagle were among the company of the Teteo, and both leapt over the Spirit Fire. They were singed, they were burned, in its tongues of flame, and thus acquired their spots and dark feathers. For their bravery they were made warriors, ever to serve the sun.
16.1 When, in this way, the two Teteo had thrown themselves into the God Oven, when they had burned to ash, the Teteo sat awaiting to learn from whence they would emerge. Long they waited, meditating in the darkness, when all at once everywhere it became red, everywhere the light of dawn, the reddening of dawn. The Teteo knelt down, facing each of the four directions, to see from whence the sun would emerge at this first dawning of the Fifth Sun. The Teteo fell into confusion; they turned in circles, they faced all directions. The traditional orations, the traditional words, did not bring clarity to the Teteo. Some thought he would emerge from Mictlán, the Place of the Dead, and faced North, to find him there. Some thought The Place of Women, and faced the West, some, The House of Thorns, and faced the South, for the light of the dawning encircled all things, and confusion reigned. Yet some of the Teteo faced the East, the Place of Light, and cried out, “Already, is he there, already, his light illuminates his Eastern Palace! Behold, he is emerging!” Those who waited there, who pointed there, were Quetzalcoátl and his nagual Xolotl. There too was Our Lord Anahuatl, the Red Tezcatlipoca, and the Mimixcoa without number. And there awaited four women; Tiacapan, Teicu, Tlacoyehua, and Xocoyotl. And as the sun rose, his light spread like the red Cochineal dye throughout the East, his dazzling brilliance was such that he could not be faced. He shone, he illuminated, and light came into this world. And afterward, Tecciztecatl, too, arose from the Place of Light, also golden and shining, impossible to behold; a second sun. 16.2 And the Teteo said; “How can this be? Shall there be two suns, who both shall follow the same road, who both shall shine in the same way? The brave Nanahuatzin and the unworthy Tecciztecatl?” And so, Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli, The Morning Star, snatched a rabbit from the earth and flung it in the face of Tecciztecatl. Thus, was his face wrecked and his light dimmed, and he fell into the ashes. 17.1 The Teteo declared, “No longer shall he be known as Nanahuatzin, the Pimpled Lord, the Crippled God. He is Tonatiuh, Our Lord the Sun!” And Tonacatecuhtli and Tonacacihuatl, the Lord and Lady of Our Flesh, Our Sustenance, rose to his place at the center of the sky. They bathed and anointed him. They sat him in his Quechol chair. They adorned his head with the butterfly crest, the red-leather thong. 17.2 But he would not move from his place. Four days he remained at the Zenith, at the center of the sky. “Why does he not move?” asked the Teteo, and they sent the Falcon of the Obsidian Blade to ask why he was immobile in the sky. “I hunger!” replied Tonatiuh. “I need their blood, their precious color, their Yollotl, to find the strength to move across the sky. I need the blood of those who sent me to the Spirit Fire!” 17.3 When the Falcon returned to the gathered Teteo and gave them his message, they were much saddened and afraid. Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli grew angry and cried out, “I will shoot him! He must not stay immobile in the sky!” But his arrows could not reach the sun. Yet the sun, from his lofty perch, shot down his own arrows, his shafts of flame, and they burned the body of The Morning Star, and with the Nine Layers covered up his face, and transformed him into Itztli, the Teótl of the Obsidian Blade, of cold, frost, snow, and judgement. 18.1 Quetzalcoátl raised his eyes sadly to the sky, and spoke to the gods at Teotihuacan. “May he be revived. May we all die!” And the gods mournfully submitted to his will. And so with the Sacred Flint Blade he slit the throats of the gathered Gods; of Titlacahuan, and Huitzilopochtli, and the Goddesses Xochiquetzal, Yapalliicue, and Nochpalliicue. But Xolotl, the god of twins and monstrosities and who is the sprit double of Quetzalcoátl, did not want to die. He fled Quetzalcoátl and his terrible blade. He wept so that his eyes fell from their sockets. “Send me not to the blade, oh Gods! Let me not die!” 18.2 He fled, and Death quickly followed. He followed him to the fields of young corn, were Xolotl transformed himself into the young maize with two stalks in order to hide from Death. He became the Xolotl of the Field. But he was seen by the eyes of Death there among the corn, from whom nothing may be hidden, and so he ran to the Maguey field, and there he turned himself into the double maguey, the Maguey Xolotl. But there too was he seen by the eyes of Death, and so he escaped to the lake, and there turned himself into the Axolotl, the lake-salamander. But there was no more escape, and Death caught him, and Quetzalcoátl slit his throat, amid his tears and lamentations. 19.1 The blood of the Gods rose to the heavens and Tonatiuh drank the sacred strength of their Yollia, on the day Nahui Ollin, Four Movement, the sacred name and destiny of the Fifth Sun. Yet still he could not move, still he could not follow his path. 20.1 But Quetzalcoátl, who had shed the blood of the Gods, who had released the divine force of their Yollia, grew strong and straight. He ran, and blew lightly in the face of the sun, and so pushed him along his path, and than slit his own throat, that his blood and divine Yollia might make the revolutions of the heavens eternal. Thus it was that as the sun was entering into the earth again, into the open jaws of Our Mother, Tlaltecuhtli, the moon arose from the ashes into which he had fallen, and there at the crossroads met the Tzitzimime, the Star Demons, and the Coleletin, and they detained him a while, and dressed him in rags. He who would have been the sun, who would have been clothed in splendor. And thus it is that on the day Four Movement night and day came into being, and the deaths of the gods established the covenant of sacrifice with men.
Because I was taught to stay away from certain styles because they were too “mexican”. With phrases like “the bigger the hoop, the bigger the hole” when I loved wearing big earrings. Being told that red hair against my brown skin looked “ghetto” instead of fierce and bold. Wearing stylish flannels like the pretty pastel haired girls on tumblr and being told I look like a “chola”. Working hard to get rid of my slang because society taught me that it was “unflattering”. That bright red lips were too much. That my natural intense brows are now a makeup “fad”. When in reality all this shit was made up by people that want to put us down for claiming our own identity.
I was just thinking about how gross I look in this pic but then I remembered the only reason I thought I looked weird was because I was taught by society that if I don’t fit Eurocentric beauty standards, I’m ugly. Indigenous features are hard to get used to. So I’m just gonna leave this picture here and try not get all insecure and delete it by tomorrow. MeXICANX pride exudes through me as it should through you all as well.
If someone is not treating you with love and respect, it is a gift if they walk away from you. If that person doesn’t walk away, you will surely endure many years of suffering with him or her. Walking away may hurt for a while, but your heart will eventually heal. Then you can choose what you really want. You will find that you don’t need to trust others as much as you need to trust yourself to make the right choices.
First and foremost, every day is cranberry pie day
While students do have robes, the clothes they wear underneath the robes are not uniforms. There is an eclectic mix of tastes, from the very serious horned serpent who wears button-downs and ties every day, to the wampus who has enchanted their graphic t-shirt to move, to the thunderbirds and pukwudgies who mutually exist solely for sweater weather.
Every year on James Steward’s birthday, there is a school-sponsored cranberry pie bake-off. Pukwudgie house nearly always wins. Once, thunderbird won and good lord you would think it was the civil war all over again
There are a lot of local professors, of course, so you get some really thick Boston accents, but there are also professors with southern belle accents who serve iced tea in class, professors with Canadian accents, professors with midwest accents, several Native American professors with smooth, lulling accents, and some Mexican professors who slip into Spanish when they get super excited about their subject. There was a visiting professor from Ireland once, and 96% of female students (and some male students) had major crushes on him.
Wampus house is where you go to get body-crushing, soul-lifting hugs
Horned serpents may be scholars, but they are also some of the keenest observers. They watch the whole school from afar and quietly play matchmaker to all of their friends. No one suspects them because - what, horned serpent? No. They don’t know about emotions. Meanwhile, the house president makes a killing on the bet she made to predict the homecoming king/queen.
Thanksgiving at Ilvermorny is a spectacle that has to be seen to be believed. It’s almost bigger than Christmas. The thanksgiving feasts at Ilvermorny put Hogwarts to shame. Turkey, ham, real cranberry sauce, pies - oh my god so many pies. They’ve got cider, and tea, and cocoa like you wouldn’t believe. There are New English dishes and Southern dishes and Native dishes and Mexican dishes and Canadian dishes and West Coast dishes - essentially it’s a gigantic continental potluck, and it goes on all day long. Also, their pumpkin juice tastes 1000 times better.
While things like dueling and fighting with wands may be frowned upon at Hogwarts, at Ilvermorny it’s kind of just assumed that stuff happens, and the profs are very chill about it. “Just don’t kill each other okay” “just take it outside” “no casting destruction spells indoors” “bring some band-aids with you” “if you break your nose don’t bleed on your homework”
Pukwudgies are a pretty agreeable house over all, if not a bit salty and surly around the edges, they’ll still help you with your homework and bring you soup when you’ve got a cold. But all bets are off when they step onto the lacrosse field. Maybe its a pride thing, but pukwudgies are frikkin animals when playing lacrosse.
Wampus beats pukwudgie at lacrosse fairly often. They don’t actually practice that much, they just kind of win.
This fact has fueled a sports rivalry - friendly in wampus’ eyes, bloodthirsty in pukwudgie’s eyes.
At wampus/pukwudgie games, horned serpents sell special blends of popcorn. Thunderbirds purchase, hoard, and eat 89% of this popcorn.
Horned serpents and pukwudgies often, though not always, end up having an unspoken rivalry in potions class.
Contrary to popular belief, wampus is not full of athletic jocks. However, they are the most body-positive of all of the schools, and, somewhat ironically to the stereotype, will never judge anyone for their athletic ability. They want everyone to be able to enjoy athleticism and bravery and adventure in the ways they are most able and gifted.
That being said, they do have the kind of student body who, if called upon, could become a minute militia.
When there is a freak hurricane or tornado headed headed for the school, it will be a wampus student who is patrolling the halls and telling students where to go for safety. If there is a bully in school, you had better bet your bottom dollar that s/he will be beaten to a pulp by the next day, and it will be a wampus student sporting mysteriously bloody knuckles.
Pukwudgies are the ones who patch up the bully; they might accidentally wind the bandages a little too tight.
Thunderbirds love a good game of hide-and-seek. They have a tradition of, every halloween, playing hide-and-seek in the dark in the woods.
Horned serpents are the students least often caught for sneaking in contraband into school. Caught being the key word. Most students learn at some point in their education that if you want a nice stiff drink, you go to horned serpent. During secret designated holidays, horned serpent common room turns into a speakeasy.
Unexpectedly, it is pukwudgies who carry the most weapons and dangerous materials on their person at any given time. If a group of Ilvermorny students were going through a security check, it would be the pukwudgies held at the line while they emptied their pockets (bigger on the inside, of course) of various poisons and weapons. When asked, they would just shrug and say “just in case”.
The town around Ilvermorny is home to several franchised chain restaurants that, although they are no-maj brands, have been taken over by Ilvermorny alumni and thus serve predominantly wizarding patrons. Cups levitate to customers in the Starbucks, there are magic-only options on the menu; the chik-fil-a floor sweeps itself; at dominos the pizzas assemble themselves while the one clerk waits, bored, at the register. There are in-house cues for magic patrons whenever a no-maj walks in. The clerk rings a bell or taps loudly on the counter, or yells out an order than is actually a code word for stop doing magic stuff. It’s like red light green light.
There are some old service tunnels beneath the school left over from WWII and the Cold War. They’re like a labyrinth, and Thunderbird has a monopoly on the maps to the tunnels. Some of the more obscure tunnels have large rooms that are perfect for parties and impromptu speakeasies (lookin at you, horned serpent). Thunderbirds will rent out these rooms to fellow students at a fair and competitive rate.
Unlike hogwarts, Ilvermorny students are more apt to use modern technology. Electrics can be weird around witches and wizards, but they still enjoy a lot of no-maj programming. They use computers instead of quills (but still have to print off their essays, ugh,) and listen to music, and watch TV.
Star Trek has long been a school cult favorite. Pukwudgies have adopted Bones as their pop culture mascot; Kirk is Thunderbird’s, Spock, horned serpent. Wampus vacillates on which of these three they like most, though it must be said, when they start watching Next Gen, many wampus students find themselves enamored with Worf,
There has only been one no-maj to ever make it past the magic shields of Ilvermorny unaided. This instance was in 1985. His name was Chad, who at the time was 1) stoned out of his mind and 2) delivering chinese takeout to a horned serpent pulling an all-nighter. School admin found out later, and there was hell to pay. They never did track down Chad to wipe his memory.
Pukwudgie house does have more than its fair share of healers, so they are definitely the ones to go to for cold remedies, home made soup, the best cures for menstrual cramps, and really good back rubs.
However, they are also the ones to go to for less medical remedies: the best hot cocoa, the most gourmet teas, and home made food.
Each house has a class president who is elected for a two-year term (unless they’re a final year student, in which case they will serve one before being taken over by their VP). They have some influence within their houses, but never as much as they’d like. For instance, the thunderbird president once attempted to institute mid-day dancing parties, but school admin said no.
Pukwudgies are usually not super athletic, but are often very good at things like darts, archery, and waterbaloon fights.
Wampus takes ultimate frisbee very, very seriously.
Thunderbird hosts an ongoing scavenger hunt throughout the semester.
The women of horned serpent blow off steam and the stuffy acadmic pressures of their house by making pillow forts and watching rom coms with each other.
Back in the eighties some wizard created a magic version of D&D, and it has become a weekend favorite of many students across all of the houses.
After graduation, instead of having a class ring, it has become tradition for Ilvermorny students to make a pendant out of their golden cloak buttons.
Ilvermorny may be separated by inter-house squabbles much like at Hogwarts, but at the end of the day, they all leave school wearing the same blue and cranberry robes, sporting the same skill with a wand, raised to the same scrappy, witty, mod-podge tenacity that American witches and wizards embody so well.
When I was a student, all that was told to me was how much my cultura didn’t matter. How important European art and standards are, and how totally dominant their aesthetic should be. All I wanted to do was tell my story. And I looked nothing like what is considered relevant or beautiful or important by society’s ideals. But I JUST.KEPT.GOING. Here are some of my pieces. I’m here to uplift and change who is in the spotlight. Powerful womyn of color. My indigenous sisters.