Toward a poetry and poetics of the Americas (7)

Francisca Juana, 'Of the Remedy Which They Use for What They Call 'Reconciliation'' (1617, Aztec)

[From Aztec Sorcerers in Seventeenth Century Mexico: The Treatise on Superstitions,

assembled with commentaries, circa 1617, by Hernando Ruiz de Alarcón. English version edited by Michael D. Coe and Gordon Whittaker. Presented here as a further installment of a work in progress coedited by myself and Heriberto Yépez. (J.R.)]


When the illness has been judged, the remedy remains to be dealt with. Although they use various methods for it, I am reducing them to one chapter, since they coincide in their purpose and manner, and almost all of that is reduced by means of words and spells. It is assumed that the water always enters as principal agent and sine qua non; they might join to this fire and perhaps tobacco or tobacco-with-lime. They cast a spell on all of this, and always begin the invocation by speaking to the water and perhaps to the earth, because they attribute the main role in the child’s birth to the water, by being the first thing that he touches (in their opinion) on being born, and to the earth, because on birth he falls upon it. The invocation and spell then begin, as follows:


Well now, please come forth,

My mother Jade-skirted One,

White Woman;

Dark Sign,

White Sign,

White Emotion,

Yellow Emotion.

For now I have come to set up here

The Yellow Priest,

The White Priest.

I, I have come,

I the Priest,

I the Lord of Enchantments.

Already I have fashioned you,

I have quickened you.

My mother Dewdrop-skirted One,

You who have made him,

You who have quickened him,                                                                                                                         Even you are rising against him,                                                                                                                       You are turning against him.                                                                                                                          
Dark Sign,                                                                                                                                                                
In the greatness of the waters,

In the expanse of the waters,

I shall leave you.

I myself,

I am the Priest,

I am the Lord of Enchantments.

Please come forth,

My mother Jade-skirted One;

Please go,

Please go to look for,

Please go to see

The Priest Light,

There in the House of Light.

What deity,

What marvel

Is already covering him with siftings,

Is already covering him with dust?

Blue-green Sickness,

Dark Sickness:

Wherever you go,

Wherever you disappear,

You will cleanse,

You will improve

The Priest Light.

Please come forth,

Blue-green Sign,

Dark Sign;

Throughout the mountains,

Throughout the plains

You have been wandering.

Here I seek you,

Here I entreat you,

O Master of Signs.

Please come forth,

Nine Pounded,

Nine Struck;

May you not shame yourself.

Please come forth,

My mother Jade-skirted One;

1 Water;

2 Reed;

1 Rabbit,

2 Rabbit;

1 Deer,

2 Deer;

1 Flint,

2 Flint;

1 Lizard,

2 Lizard.

My mother Jade-skirted One,

What will you do?

Go and cleanse my vassal;

In some whirlpool,

In some circle of water,

In some flow of water,

Please put the Lord of Tlalocan.

I have come,

I the Page,

I the Crackler.

Do I think anything of it?

The stone is intoxicated,

The wood is intoxicated;

They walk here,

And you also,

And I also.

What deity,

What marvel

Now seeks to destroy

The infant of the gods

The child of the gods?

I have come to take up

The Blue-green Sign,

The White Sign.

Wherever has it gone?

Wherever has it gone to rest?

Wherever in the Nine Beyonds,

In the Nine Junctures.

Has it gone to rest?

I have come to take it up,

I have come to cry out to it:

You will make good,

You will make right

The heart,

The head!


After this charm and spell have been completed, they brag that they have discovered the tonal, and try to restore it to the child. They usually do this by taking the conjured water in the mouth and putting it on the crown of the child’s head; or, having placed themselves face to face with the infant, they spray him with it, startling him with the shower. Others also put the water between his shoulder blades. With these vain ceremonies, they say that they have restored his tonal and,

fate to him, and that he is already well. Next they prove it, some placing his face over a vessel of water in which they look at it, and say that the bright face, the maize kernels, and the hand measurement come out favorably — all being manifest frauds, but sufficient to dazzle such simple people, since they still have not taken notice that the outcome of such divinations is always at the volition of the one who makes them.


After judging the sickness and casting the preceding spell or one like it, others differ in the manner of the cure, which they make by censing. For this, they cast a spell, on the fire, on the smoke, and on the copal with which the censing is carried out, as follows:


Please come forth,

You the Old Man,

You the Old Woman.

Please go to soften

The jewel,

The plume.

What is happening?

Already it wants to shatter.                                                                                                                               Please come forth,

White Woman;

Please soften

The jewel,

The plume.

Please come forth,

Blue-green Jaws of Sleep,

Dark Jaws of Sleep.


Francisca Juana, wife of Juan Bautista, of the settlement of Mescaltepec, used this among others.  After this spell has been said, they cense the child with the conjured copal and fire, upon which they assert that his tonal and genius have returned to him and that he is perfectly healthy.