I am currently seeking representation for a completed manuscript, a women’s contemporary fiction project titled, The Spellbinding Properties of a Broken Promise, or Twisted Spells.
John Irving, Salmon Rushdie, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Gunter Grass
Novel-in-Progress: The Codex, working title
Several codices exist which were compiled following Cortes’ conquest of the Aztecs, none exist which preceded it. Of those documents, the Barbarini Codex was intended to impress the royal Spanish Court. Because the work was influenced by European medical opinion of the time, and therefore not so far removed from magic, another manuscript, the Florentine Codex, by Friar Bernardino de Sahagún, is preferred by those who wish to make a serious study of Aztec herbal medicine. THE CODEX borrows from both historical documents to create one fictionalized narrative. In Sahagún’s case, he learned Nahuatl so he could speak directly to Aztec elders, documenting the lives of the Aztecs “in the hope of protecting something of their culture from the crushing weight of Spanish occupation”. Sahagún’s monumental General History of the Things of New Spain – or the Florentine Codex – is almost an Encyclopaedia Britannica of Aztec Mexico. In the case of the Barbarini Codex, the document was created by a young Aztec noble trained as a shaman-priest in service to Lord Monteczuma, and considered a talented botanist and physician. Martinus de la Cruz, had full access to the knowledge of other native shamans, and training in the ritual preparation of treatments; and in some ways, most importantly, he had the ability to identify materials which were unfamiliar to Spanish scholars. The Franciscan friars educated de la Cruz in Latin, Spanish, European art history, bookbinding and illumination to ensure he would be capable of compiling the extensive work, Libellus de Medicinalibus Indorum Herbis, at the direction of Fray Tourqemada. One of the most fascinating areas of research in medical pharmacological advancement are being made with the very same elements described extensively by de la Cruz’s compendium: Psychoactive flowers including mushrooms (Psilocybe aztecorum), tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum), morning glory (Turbina corymbosa), sinicuichi (Heimia salicifolia), possibly cacahuaxochitl (Quararibea funebris), and one unidentified flower.
It’s interesting to imagine what we might have found in those many codices burned by Hernan Cortes and his conquistadores who faithfully destroyed every shred of documents written before they arrived, or had they?
Martinus’ other-world name was Pactli Toltecatl. Medicine Artist. It was a name that reminded him of not only another world, but an entirely different universe. What they had lost. As a newborn infant, a Nahua priest had arrived the same day Pactli arrived to greet his parents. The priest painted Pactli entirely black, a beaded necklace had been placed about his neck, removed and placed in the temple to which he was expected to pursue ecclesiastic training; no one doubted this would happen, his sister had told him the story many times, because they believed the beads held his soul and he would be drawn to it. He had trained, had retrieved that necklace which he wore now. Had even gone so far as to embrace the religion of the Spaniards, but many memories that surfaced, of that child known as Pactli, were from his time spent at the summer imperial gardens of the Texococo king, Netzahualcoyotl. Because of that time, he would always believe what had been placed in his heart, since it was this which fed his soul.
How many Aztec Moons had grown only to recede since that time? How many sunsets smudged cinnabar and ochre had burned brightly only to relinquish their hold in the heavens with the same futility his people had? How many words had been written on paper made from the bark of the Amatyl tree only to feed the seemingly unquenchable inferno, the auto de fe?
Patli’s training as a man of medicine stopped at the time of the overthrow, of course, and was replaced by the monks with their own brand; it was constructive in its way. Unfortunately, it required of him a thing which was disturbing, and never stopped disturbing him. He was required to accept Jesus Christ into his heart and soul while relinquishing his body in a sacrament called baptism, eerily similar to what the Mexica civilization called bathing. The only theory Martinus could ever develop for this ritual’s extreme significance was the Spaniards’ habit of bathing so infrequently it was all but pointless.
Prevailing against the Franciscan lord, it turned out, was futile; like remaining upright, standing on the beach at the tide line as it sucks away the swirling the sand from your feet, disappearing into the ocean from beneath your wobbling stance, undermining your balance tumbling you into the tidal water.
Martinus had been taught to observe the sacred days of his elders, then demanded to repudiate them by the monks. They had paid particular attention to him. He had cured wasting sickness many times, it was one of the reasons the Franciscans sought him out when they arrived in Santa Cruz. And as he had explained to them the many ways of recovering your body without the spirit, it means the same thing, it leads to the same death. But he knew the friars believed his heathen talent could be rehabilitated into a useful Christian one, to help peddle conversion, and tithes. They imagined it could be translated into holy miracles, as if it was the same as translating words, cures of their missionary conversions, and their importance in their homeland.
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On the day I met my second destiny, there were no cataclysmic signs, no omens. I had received no indication from the gods of my ancestors, or the One True Lord in whose Almighty Name I was to receive the most exhaustive education in New Spain. How was I to know that my future was about to veer from the path on which it had been set? There was no death moth, black and tissuey hovering near my door that morning. No sound from the woodman’s axe signaling that He Who Causes Things to be Seen in a Mirror was recalibrating my Fate. There had been no indication that my tonali was about to shift irrevocably, unlike the prophecies given to our people regarding their destiny and its ultimate collision with that of the Spaniard Hernán Cortés.
Our nation was extinguished within two years of his arrival. It took only six hundred stinking, sweating conquistadores to destroy a nation on that day.
An apparition. That was all The Spaniard and his cortège should have been to us; a palmfull of inconvenient, plague-carrying invaders. How could we have let such men redirect the destiny of an entire nation? They were not fierce, but clumsy; they were not wise or calculating. They were so very few in number.
Why would we be afraid?
Gardening by moonlight, rescuing wildlife (this may or may not include human males), reading to children, and talking back.
American Autoimmune Related Disorders, American Myositis Association, The City of Hope, ASPCA
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