A book of poems and stark, vivid illustrations rooted in the female soul of indigenous Mexico.
This book of poems and stark, vivid illustrations is rooted in the female soul of indigenous Mexico. The Tzotzil women of the Chiapas Highlands are the poets and the artists. Ámbar Past, who collected the poems and drawings, includes a moving essay about their poetics, beliefs, and history.
In the 1970s, living among the Maya, Past watched the people endure as an epidemic swept through a village. No help came. Many children died. One mother offered her dead child a last sip of Coca-Cola and uttered a prayer:
Take this sweet dew from the earth, take this honey. It will help you on your way. It will give you strength on your path.
Incantations like this, poems about birth, love, hate, sex, despair, and death, coupled with black and white dream images, paintings which remind us of ancient rock paintings, provide a compelling insight into the psychology of these Mayan women poets. The Cinco Puntos edition of Incantations is a facsimile of the original handmade edition produced by the Taller LeÐateros. The New York Times, recognizing the importance of Incantations as a work of language and as a work of art, published an extensive piece on the original Incantations and Ámbar. Read The New York Times article on Incantations here.
At the age of twenty-three, Ámbar Past left the United States for Mexico. She lived among the Mayan people, teaching the techniques of native dyes and learning to speak Tzotzil. She is the creator of the graphic arts collective Taller Leñateros in Chiapas and was a founding member of Sna Jolobil, a weaving cooperative for Mayan artisans.
An excerpt from Incantations:
TO THE WILDWOOD
Holy Woman in Flower:
Wildwood, Sacred Pine, Holy Oak:
I'm going to build my house.
I must chop you down
and raise you up as my house post
so I'll have a place to sleep.
I'm going to daub my walls with your body.
Don't scold me, don't be angry,
don't fly off the handle, get hot under the collar.
Let us be of one heart when you give yourself to me.
Sacred Mother, Holy Coffer Where the Secrets are Kept:
I'm going to stand on your face.
I'm going to walk on you, Holy Mother Breast.
I am so poor.
I need to plaster my house with your mud, your earth.
Give me your body to make my walls
to keep the rain out, the mist, the frost, Holy Mother.
Otherwise Mother Pukuj will eat me,
Woman of the Woods will frighten me,
Monster With its Feet on Backwards will come to visit,
along with Boogey Man With a Hat Like a Griddle,
Charcoal Cruncher, Meat Stripper,
and snake, jaguar,
owl, night humming bird, bat.
Holy Mother, Sacred Wildwood, I need your tree, your oak,
so I'll have a place to live where I'm not afraid.