The Perfect Victim makes an appearance in the 1964 Doctor Who story The Aztecs, in which Susan is nearly married off to him. He's "perfect" because the captive warrior chosen to embody Tezcatlipoca (his teixiptla
) had to be unblemished, ideal appearance.
But was his beauty, and other attributes, symbolic of divine androgyny? The chapter by Peter Sigal about which I blogged earlier makes that argument, and so does another chapter in the same book by Cecelia F. Klein. With the usual caveat that they're rather more likely to know what they're talking about than I am, let me go over the evidence they outline.
Firstly, the teixiptla
's hair, which fell to his waist or lower. Klein points out that "only girls and unmarried women... wore their hair both long and loose". Men who grew their hair long tied it at the nape.
However, as Klein notes, at the time of the sacrifice, his hair was cut and adorned like a leading warrior's. IIUC, she sees this as indicating that his physical sex was seen as male; but if his long hair indicated a feminine aspect to his gender, what happens to that femininity when his hair is given a masculine style? Does he perhaps become less divine at the time of his sacrifice, as he hands over the role to the next years' impersonator?
Sigal notes that, having played the flute all year, the teixiptla
shatters it as he goes to sacrifice, symbolically crushing his masculine self. Does this make him feminine? Sexless? Androgynous? What does it mean to wear your hair like a warrior but break your phallic signifier? Sigal also notes the teixiptla
's suspiciously long breechclout, but this seems to have gone with him to the sacrifice.
Sigal notes that the description of another ceremony speaks of the "beautiful hair" of the male victims, which the priests then cut off - "hair that signified their positions as warriors". Again I'm unclear on the significance here - was their hair female or male? Did "beautiful" for the Aztecs imply "feminine"? (I need to check the exact text in the Florentine Codex for the exact style in which these men wore their hair.) (ETA: bk 2 ch 29 refers to the victims' hair, locks of which were cut off, but it doesn't describe it nor laud its beauty.)
Klein notes that, along with the four wives he was given twenty days before his death, the god's impersonator lived with a slave who who also dressed as Tezcatlipoca and who was also sacrificed. She speculates this could have been a male sexual partner. She also mentions the young men who danced "just in the fashion of women" after the sacrifice.
Klein also points out the sexual ambiguity of Tezcatlipoca in myth; the god himself had a male sexual partner, introduced male-male sex to the Aztecs, and could change into a woman to seduce men. (Did the Aztecs think homosexual behaviour feminised a man? I don't think I trust the Florentine Codex on that one. Did they see the penetration of the male body by the sacrificial as "feminizing", as Sigal argues?)
Discussing another ritual, Sigal considers the ornamenting of male victims' bodies with flowers a "ritual feminization", and notes that Tezcatlipoca's impersonator "was required to wear an item termed the 'flowered garment', associated with women's dress, explicitly representing feminine sexuality" (specifically, he adds, "the clothing worn by prostitutes"). The Florentine Codex describes him as wearing a crown of popcorn flowers: "And he was dressed in these same on both side; they drew them out to his armpits. This was called 'the flowery stole'." OTOH, the description of the sex worker in the Florentine Codex doesn't mention this garment or adornment with flowers; and, like butterflies (sez the Oxford Encyclopedia of Mesoamerican Cultures), "flowers were strongly identified with the sun... and were central components in the solar war cult." So was the flower a specifically feminine symbol for the Aztecs? (ETA: The University of Oregon's online Nahuatl dictionary
remarks that Xochitl, "flower", was a boy's name.)
As so often happens, I've ended up with far more questions than answers - I don't know whether to understand these ambiguous gender cues as evidence of the Perfect Victim's androgyny, or as the projection of Western concepts - and a reading list as long as your arm. Oy.
On a related note, the Oxford Encyclopedia notes that although priests could appear dressed as goddesses, there aren't any known examples of priestesses costumed as gods. This reminds me of the argument that the Egyptian creator gods weren't so much androgynes as male gods who had incorporated female power. The cihuacoatl
, a priest second in rank only to the king, took his title (and sometimes his costume) from the patron goddess of a conquered city.
(btw, has anyone else tried to watch the BBC series The Feathered Serpent? Patrick Troughton does his best as the evil priest, but alas, unlike Doctor Who's The Aztecs, no research appears to have gone into it. And it's dull. I didn't make it past the first episode.)
Carrasco, Davíd (editor in chief). The Oxford encyclopedia of Mesoamerican cultures: the civilizations of Mexico and Central America
. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.
Klein, Cecelia F. "The Aztec Sacrifice of Tezcatlipoca and its Implications for Christ Crucified". in Peter Arnade and Michael Rocke (eds). Power, gender, and ritual in Europe and the Americas: essays in memory of Richard C. Trexler
. Toronto: CRRS Publications, 2008.
Sahagún, Bernardino de. General history of the things of New Spain: Florentine codex
Santa Fe, N.M : School of American Research ; Salt Lake City, Utah : University of Utah, 1950-1982.
Sigal, Pete. "The Perfumed Man: Sacrifice, Penetration, and the Feminization of the Male Body in Sixteenth-Century Mesoamerica". in Peter Arnade and Michael Rocke (eds). Power, gender, and ritual in Europe and the Americas: essays in memory of Richard C. Trexler
. Toronto: CRRS Publications, 2008.