Guardians of Idolatry
Gods, Demons, and Priests in Hernando Ruiz de Alarcón's Treatise on the Heathen Superstitions
Published by: University of Oklahoma Press
Imprint: University of Oklahoma Press
224 Pages | 6 x 9 | 4 b&w illus.
Guardians of Idolatry offers readers a rare, in-depth look at the nahualtocaitl and the native cosmogonies, beliefs, and medical practices they reveal. Through close reading of four incantations—for safe travel, maguey sap harvesting, bow-and-arrow deer hunting, and divination through maize kernels—Díaz Balsera shows the nuances of a Nahua spiritual world populated by intelligent superhuman and nonhuman entities that directly responded to human appeals for intercession. She also addresses Jacinto de la Serna’s Manual for Ministers of These Indians (1656), an elaborate commentary on the Treatise.
Guardians of Idolatry tells a compelling story of the robust presence of a unique form of Postclassic Mesoamerican ritual knowledge, fully operative one hundred years after the incursion of Christianity in south Central Mexico. Together, Ruiz de Alarcón’s Treatise and de la Serna’s Manual reveal the highly sophisticated language of the nahualtocaitl, and the disparate ways in which both colonizers and resilient indigenous agents contributed to the conservation of Mesoamerican epistemology.
“In Guardians of Idolatry Viviana Díaz Balsera opens a new and unique window on the spirituality of the natives of Central Mexico before and after the conquest. This highly readable and engaging study will be of great value for a wide range of scholars. A significant accomplishment.”—John F. Schwaller, author of The History of the Catholic Church in Latin America: From Conquest to Revolution and Beyond