Imagining Cihuacoatl: Masculine Rituals, Nahua Goddesses and the Texts of the Tlacuilos

Journal Article (Journal Article)

'Imagining Cihuacoatl' examines the conundrum of the multiple identities of the 'serpent woman', a Mexica goddess, analysing her relationship with other goddesses in the Nahua pantheon. She and the others were marked in a particular sexualised and gendered manner in the Nahua world. This article argues that Cihuacoatl and the fertility goddesses cannot be conceptualised in a symbolic universe that has binary divisions between male and female, nor can they be analysed by the methods currently employed in the social and cultural history of sexuality. This article follows images of various goddesses of warfare and fertility from pre-conquest and early post-conquest texts, suggesting ways in which the Spanish attempted to reconceptualise all of them into a framework of demonic sin. 'Imagining Cihuacoatl' will interrogate the sexual performance involved in Nahua ritual, lost in the translation not just from Nahuatl to Spanish but from a system that linked sex with rites of fertility to one that linked sex with sin. 'Imagining Cihuacoatl' shows that Gayle Rubin's call to develop a theory of sexuality separate from gender is a project fraught with contradictions, and one that remains incomplete. © 2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Sigal, P

Published Date

  • November 1, 2010

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 22 / 3

Start / End Page

  • 538 - 563

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1468-0424

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0953-5233

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1111/j.1468-0424.2010.01610.x

Citation Source

  • Scopus