Mesoamerican Culture, History, and Religion

Tigre Boxing In Acatlan: Jaguar & Tlaloc Masks

Up today is another video about the Mexican Tigre combat phenomenon I discussed  a few weeks ago.  This one shows a style of fighting practiced in Acatlan.  Instead of rope whip-clubs as in Zitlala, these competitors duel with their fists.

Courtesy link to ArchaeologyTV’s page on YouTube for this Tigre combat video.

A particularly interesting feature of this video is the variety of masks.  Not only do you see the jaguar-style masks, but you’ll also see masks with goggle eyes.  Goggle eyes are, of course, one of the signature visual characteristics of Tlaloc, the very Teotl this pre-Columbian tradition was originally dedicated to.  (And still is in many places, beneath the surface layer of Christian symbols.)  If you look closely, you might notice that some of the goggle eyes are mirrored.  The researchers behind ArchaeologyTV interviewed one of the combatants, who said that the significance of the mirrors is that you see your own face in the eyes of your opponent, linking the two fighters as they duel.

This idea of a solemn connection between two parties in sacrificial bloodshed was of major importance in many  of the pre-Conquest religious practices of the Aztecs.  It can be seen most clearly in the gladiatorial sacrifice for Xipe Totec during Tlacaxipehualiztli.  During this festival, the victorious warrior would refer to the man he captured in battle as his beloved son, and the captive would refer to the victor as his beloved father.  The victim would be leashed to a round stone that formed something of an arena, and given a maquahuitl that had the blades replaced with feathers, while his four opponents were fully-armed.  As the captor watched the courageous victim fight to the death in a battle he couldn’t win, he knew that next time, he might be the one giving his life on the stone to sustain the cosmos.

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One response

  1. Shock

    Mirrors, mirrors, mirrors. This has only been studied in regards to Tezcatlipoca before, to my knowledge, but we know it’s had specific fertility/war connections since at least Teotihuacan. Taube has identified Mexican Rain God iconography in Copan sporting a mirror head dress. Mirrors of that time were typically pyrite, and the Teotihuacanos were crazy about the stuff for decoration. While I can’t of any Teotihuacano deity eye examples done in pyrite off the top of my head, I know the Olmec did it and so did the Aztec. In fact, notice how eyes, stars and mirrors all have similar iconography in the codices?

    As for other fun, shiny stuff, I’ve also heard rumors of liquid mercury being found in Tlaloc vessels. I need to look into this one more.

    February 5, 2009 at 2:51 AM

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