Seed | Xinachtli
¡Ábreme como una semilla para que yo pueda florecer!
¡Abre mi corazón, revientalo como una semilla a punto de germinar!
Open me up like a seed so that I can flourish!
Open my heart like a seed about to germinate!
Morning plegaria, prayer to Tonatiuh, our dearest father Sun
Semillita, xinachtzintli, dear venerable seed: How does it feel to be broken? How does it feel when you are about to germinate, when a new being, the new and tender plant, is about to come out from you to be kissed by the sun? Is it painful for you to be broken into pieces? Is it painful? How does it feel semillita, dear little seed? How does it feel to know that very soon you will no longer be? Do you cry? Do you scream?
I WOKE UP today feeling like a seed, one that is about to germinate, one that has been under the soil for some time patiently waiting in the sacred darkness, held by Tonantzin, our venerable Mother Earth. Notlahtol, my word, is like the new plant that is about to sprout from my seed/heart to be sunkissed. Notlahtol is about to sprout, and it is painful.
Does it hurt? Do you cry? Do you scream? How does it feel? Please forgive me: I hadn’t thought about this before. Until now. Hasta que te sucede a ti, until it is happening to you.
Now that my yollotl, my heart, is broken into a million pieces, my true voice is fighting to come out. My true voice, not the one I was told to use, not the one I have been imposed to use, not the one that uses syntax, verbs, and phrases that don’t belong to me. No, the one, THE one that was granted to me by Tloque Nahuaque, the energy for whom we all live, the energy of the near and the close. This true voice is struggling to come out in full force, as nature does, but in the process, I’m finding it painful to feel the brokenness of my heart-seed. In the process, I don’t know what to make of this pain. Maybe that’s the main difference between a xinachtzintli, a venerable seed, and my heart-seed? While sprouting, the seed knows what to make of the pain—but I don’t.
Root | Nelhuayotl
“Después de un año / Bajo la tierra
Igual que sobreviviente / Que vuelve de la guerra.”
After a year under the ground
like a survivor, who is coming back from war.
Mercedes Sosa, “Como la Cigarra” (“Like the Cicada”)
SITTING IN FRONT of my altar, I take four deep breaths, one for each corner of the cosmos. As I do so, I gently place my left hand over my navel, noxic (naw-sheec) in Nahuatl. This is my sacred connection to my mom, a connection so deep that it will never disappear, even after we have transitioned, even after our bodies are no longer here. Noxic, my navel, connects me with my abuelita too, and with her mom, and her mom, and her mom, and so forth until the beginning of time. Estas son mis raíces; these are my roots. Mis raíces son profundas; my roots run deep. Nelli (neh-lee) means truth in Nahuatl: that which stands tall and which cannot be destroyed because it has deep and strong roots. Nelhuayotl means root in Nahuatl.
My venerable mom and all my venerable abuelitas forged strong, deep roots for me.
“M’ijita,” said my abuelita, “come sit here with me next to the tlecuil, the hearth. You must be hungry; I’ll make some tortillas for you, my dearest.” That’s how I recall one of my earliest memories. I was maybe three or four, but I was already sitting with my beloved abuelita in front of the sacred fire, Chantico, the feminine energy of the fire in the Nahua tradition. I remember my abuelita sitting on her legs on a petate (mat) on the floor in the position Nahua women sit when making tortillas and other food on the tlecuil.
My beautiful abuelita! She is having a sacredly loving conversation with Señora Chantico, while making sacred food for us all, while making tortillas just for me. It smells delicious!
I attentively observed how she would massage the corn dough, then clap on it until she got a perfect circle, which she then placed on the hot comalli, or Nahua griddle. Then, I saw how the tortilla would puff up! Yes, it smelled delicious! And it was hot, too! But I never got burned. My mom and all my abuelitas have forged strong connections with the sacred fire.
Lots of years later, I learned that my mom had been the family’s “fire keeper” and tended with love and care to their temazcalli, the steam house. Yes, my roots run deep, my roots are strong. Chantico, the sacred energy of the fire, always tells the truth. I can stand tall in my truth, the same truth of my mom and all my venerable abuelitas. The truth of Señora Chantico. That truth is in my navel.
Stem | Quiyotl
“Varita bonita, varita de nardo / Cortada al amanecer”
Pretty little stick, freshly cut in the sunrise little nard stick...
Joaquín Pardavé, “Varita de Nardo” (Nard’s little stick)
LOOK! HERE COMES Quetzalcoatl, the energy of the precious knowledge, the matiliztli, coming back from his painful journey through Mictlan, the place of the death, to bring back the bones with which he would create us all, macehualtin, human beings.
It’s been a journey in the darkness, through dark waters, through the vastness of our consciousness, that for which the disappeared Jewish-Mexican maestro Jacobo Grinberg could not find a definition, but which he used to call “the backbone” that sustains us all. The backbone, the stem, el tallo, quiyotl (keeh-iotl).
In his journey to and from Mictlan, Quetzalcoatl travels through a series of butterflies, seemingly static and fragile, but at the same time strong and flexible, which, in our bodies’ taxonomy, translate to the vertebrae. The function of the vertebrae is to protect and support the spinal cord, which, along with our brain, forms our nervous system. Our brain is like the command center, and the spinal cord is like the messenger between our brain and our body. Our brain: our thoughts, our intellect, our tonalli (taw-nah-lee), the energy we carry, the energy we were bestowed with at birth; the first part of our body that was sunkissed after we came out from the sacred waters, from the sacred cave of our moms; our crown, our mollera, the place in our body where our tonalli is located. But it is not fixed there, and it could easily be detached with a susto (a fright or shock), so we need to give it maintenance and protection.
For example, during limpias (cleansing ceremonies), it is of utmost importance to clean our molleras, our crowns, so that Tonatiuh, the Sun can continue blessing it with his sacred kisses. I like to perform a special limpia with flowers, healing yerbas, sacred smoke, and agua florida (special cleansing water prepared with flowers and yerbas) to our whole tonalli system—the head, the neck, the back—so that Quetzalcoatl can travel freely between our own Mictlan and so that he can come back full of wisdom to our brain, so that our knowledge can flourish, so that our sacred knowledge can be sunkissed once again.
Leaf | Xihuitl
¡Tatita Ehecatl, viento sagrado!
¡Señor Ehecatl, el sembrador!
¡Tatita Ehecatl, mil bendiciones me has dado tú!
Dearest father Ehecatl, sacred wind!
Lord Ehecatl, the sower!
Dearest father Ehecatl, thousands of blessings I have received from you!
Chicueyi Coatl, “Prayer to Ehecatl, the Wind”
I WAS BORN during the Anahuacan thirteen day period called Ce-Ehecatl. One wind. You see, we Anahuacan people, original people of this continent, count the time and space in a very different way than our European-descended settler relatives do. For thousands of years, we have known, among other things, that the Earth is not flat and that time and space form two axes that when intersecting create what we call “nican axcan” (nee-can ash-can), the here and the now. Mother Earth is not flat, nor are time and space. The sun does not gravitate around us; rather, the opposite. Neither does life gravitate around us; rather, the opposite.
Ehecatl (eh-heh-caw-tl), the energy of the wind, is so directly related to Quetzalcoatl, the energy of precious knowledge, that together they create yet a third energy called Ehecatl-Quetzalcoatl. Ehecatl, the energy of the wind, can be a nice and soothing wind, a devastatingly strong hurricane, and everything in between. Ehecatl, the breath of life, comes to us for the first time minutes or seconds after we have been born lest we suffer great physical damage to our brain, our tonalli.
Ehecatl—the breath of life, the essence, the force that is with us all our whole lives, and which we usually do not pay much attention to—is the single force that can bring us back to earth, back to our center when we are “navigating” through the dark waters of our ego, of our pain, of detachment from whom we really are. Ehecatl, the breath of life, is that which abandons us at the precise moment of our last breath. Ehecatl, the breath of life, is the sower, the sacred energy that transports the seeds, that helps the pollination of the plants, the one that allows the sound to travel. We can hear each other thanks to Ehecatzin, the venerable wind. Ehecatzin is my cosmic father, as I was born under his tutelage and guidance. In our tradition, the force that rules during the first day of the thirteen-day period when we’re born is the one that commands our whole lives. Es el jefe, or jefa. He is the leader of many lives; he is my guiding force.
Have you heard Ehecatzin talking to us through the tree leaves on a sunny day? Have you dared to suddenly stop your regular, mundane activities to pay attention to how the wind moves the leaves? Have you paid attention to the celestial chorus sung by millions of leaves when rocked and rhythmically caressed by Ehecatzin? Have you ever noticed how the sunlight falls through the leaves when they are dancing the sacred dance with Ehecatzin, their lover? I dare you to listen.
It can be overwhelming at first if you have never done it. But I can assure you that once you surrender to the strong and powerful beauty of millions of voices singing to you—for you and only for you—the backbone, the vastness of our collective consciousness that sustains us all, will make your heart-seed open up, explode, and flourish, and you will finally be able to receive the sacred knowledge of Quetzalcoatl. You might be able to start listening, through the sacred voices of the leaves, to the voices of all your dearest abuelitas and abuelitos, your dearest grandmas and grandpas. Pay attention, pay close attention. Ehecatzin, the wind, the sower, is bringing the voices of your ancestors, and in the process is planting the seeds of their knowledge in your heart. Listen closely to Ehecatzin, my beloved cosmic father. Pay attention to him. Then, humbly thank him, for he will continue bringing the voices of your ancestors as long as you remain willing to open up your heart to him like a blooming, blossoming seed.
Dedicated to my mom Paulita, to my beloved abuelita Loretito, and to all my grandmas whom I never met in person, but whom I know I have met many times in my dreams.