Saturday, 28 March 2009

The legend of the Agave or Maguey

I live in Edinburgh and it is one of my favourite cities. Scotland has been my home for the past 15 years but sometimes, I get homesick for the warmth of my native Mexico and particularly for the site of agave plants. I used to work in a place close to the National University of Mexico UNAM campus in the south of Mexico City and from my office window I could see several majestic agaves. In my mind I always associate warmth and sun with the agaves. So, whenever I really get homesick and the cold and dampness get to my heart, I escape to the Royal Botanical Gardens in Edinburgh, where they have a wonderful collection of agaves in the glasshouses. If you come to Edinburgh, please visit the Botanical Gardens and the glasshouses. IOnce you are there and the warmth gets to your bones, and you contemplate the majesty of the agaves, please remember the story of Mayahuel and the way the agave became a part of Mexico. I found the bones of this story in the website of the Red Escolar ILCE. I think there are a lot of similarities between this story and the story of the coca plant....

The Legend of the Agave

Mayahuel, the beautiful maiden

Mayahuel was a very beautiful young girl. She had been kept hidden since she was a little girl in the furthermost corners of the universe by the goddess Tzitzímitl. Tzitzímitl was a fearful goddess who lived in the second heaven. She loved human hearts so very very much that she wore them as a headpiece and also as a necklace. She was truly feared by the Aztecs because a prophecy said that during a solar eclipse, when the moon would swallow the sun, Tzitzímitl would come from the second heaven unto the earth and devour all of humanity. Mayahuel was very unhappy living in the corners of the universe with only the fearful goddess, her grandmother as a companion. She longed to escape, and be free.

One day, Ehecatl, the serpent god of the wind, went to explore the furthermost corners of the universe and spotted Mayahuel. He fell in love with Mayahuel and curled his breezy soft body around her. Mayahuel, felt the soft ruffling caress of Ehecatl and was enchanted. She loved being lifted up in the air and softly balanced amongst the clouds. She fell in love with the serpent god of the wind.
 Every night, Ehecatl would visit Mayahuel and transport her in a soft flow of air to wonderful corners of the universe that neither had never visited before. In the air, their bodies became one and they were lovers for life.

However, Tzitzímitl had many demons who were helping her guard Mayahuel and she soon found out that the young maiden was being secretly visited by the god of the wind. She was furious. She decided to take Mayahuel to a secret hiding place. Ehecatl, who had been floating around Tzitzímitl as she was giving instructions to her demons, heard what she was plotting and silently rushed towards Mayahuel. He envelopped her in a gust of powerful wind and floated down to the earth with
Tzitzímitl and the cohort of demons in hot pursuit.

The Desguise

Ehecatl felt trapped. He felt he could not protect Mayahuel against the goddess and the demons.
The lovers embraced and as their bodies melted, they fused into a plant that looked a lot like a tree. One side of the plant was the feminine side, Mayahuel, the other side was masculine and corresponded to Ehecatl. The maguey was born. The lovers hoped that in becoming the new plant, they would be able to escape from Tzitzímitl and the demons. However, there was no forest to hide in, and the plant stood proud and majestic on the desertic landscape. They were soon spotted by the demons. Tzitzímitl cursed the plant and wielding a large machete broke it in half, forever separating the lovers. The demons then chopped the plant into pieces and cooked it making a broth of the leaves and the pulp. The demons ate the broth made from the plant which had been the fusion of Ehecatl and Mayahuel.

Ehecatl the Serpent God
After the meal was was finished, and the demons had left, little bits of Ehecatl lay scattered on the ground. However, as Ehecatl was a serpent god, the bits slithered towards each other and became the serpent nature of the god. Ehecatl thus lived again as a serpent, to search the ground in search for the bits of the plant that were Mayahuel. The serpent found little bits of Mayahuel here and there and planted them. He then flew to the sky and convinced Tlaloc, the god of the rain, to send some clouds from time to time, to look over Mayahuel. Soon, the Mayahuel came back to life, transformed as a maguey which became the symbol of the love between Ehecatl and Mayaguel. The juice of the maguey is called octli or pulque, and it is still drunk all over Mexico.

The picture of the row of agaves was done by youarea0. The picture of Ehectal was taken by Derek Vineyard. The photo of the solitary maguey was taken by Vladimix.. The photo of the serpent was taken by Sean Dreilinger. The photo of the embracing couple was taken by Hard Rock.


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