All posts tagged Dioscuri

X is for Xbalanque

Published April 28, 2016 by Iphis of Scyros


(Throughout the following post, please remember that in most Mesoamerican languages, the sound indicated by the letter “x” is actually “sh.”)

Xbalanque’s story, if you want the whole story, is very long, and it begins with his father and his uncle.  These two, Hun Hunahpu and Vucub Hunahpu, were very talented at the ball game, and very excited by the the game, and their own skill at it.  Since the game involved running back and forth across a stone court and trying to get a stone ball through a stone hoop, it could get very noisy, and the gods who ruled in Xibalba, the spirit realm below our own, were not pleased at all the noise.  They called the brothers down to their realm, and challenged them to a ballgame.  But their ball had a blade on it, and they used it to cut off the heads of noisy surface dwellers, which is just what happened to Hun Hunahpu and Vucub Hunahpu.  Since Hun Hunahpu was the elder of the two, the lords of Xibalba hung his head from a calabash tree as a trophy to celebrate their victory, and the return of peace and quiet to the lands above.

That should have been the end of the story, but it wasn’t.  One of the lords of Xibalba had a daughter named Xquic, and one day she went to the calabash tree, looking for its fruit.  As she reached up towards the tree, the head of Hun Hunahpu spat in her hand.  From this, Xquic ended up pregnant.  Ashamed of her condition, she fled from Xibalba, and went to the surface world, where she was taken in by Hun Hunahpu’s reluctant mother.

In due time, Xquic gave birth to twins, Hunahpu and Xbalanque.  These twins were not well regarded by their grandmother, or their cousins, who also lived with their grandmother.  In fact their cousins — who were quite a few years older than they were — tormented them mercilessly.  Eventually, the twins grew so fed up with this torment that they tricked their cousins into climbing a tree, which suddenly began to grow higher and higher, and then they told their cousins to take off their loincloths and tie them around their waists with the end trailing behind them.  The twins claimed this would help their cousins climb down…and in a way it did, because as soon as they had done so, the loincloths became tails, and the cousins became monkeys.  They were able to get down that way, but they couldn’t return to their homes and their lives.

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C is for Catequil

Published April 4, 2016 by Iphis of Scyros


Catequil is one of the Incan gods of thunder.  (The other, Illapa, was originally the primary deity of the Qulla kingdom, added to the Incan pantheon after they conquered it.)

His methods of creating thunder and lightning were, of course, violent:  he beat the winds with a club to make thunder, and used a sling to throw thunderbolts.  (My sources were very vague here:  I’m not sure if this meant they saw thunder as starting out like a sling pellet, or if the source meant something more akin to an atlatl than a sling.  Though I’m not actually sure, now that I come to write that, that they had atlatl in the Andes.  They should have had them, given that there was trade that passed up well into Mesoamerica, but…I’m feeling doubt.   Possibly because I got really delayed and did very little pre-writing, so instead of writing this two weeks ago, I’m writing it yesterday.  (Well, yesterday to you reading it on April 4th.  It’s obviously today for me as I write it.  And yesterday (my yesterday) was spent hiking all over a pretty big convention center on about three hours of sleep.  So I’m still pretty exhausted, and therefore a teensy bit out of it.)  Still, I feel like I’ve seen atlatl-like devices in Moche art, so the Inca should have had them….or am I losing my mind?)

Okay, anyway, moving on.  Pretty much all polytheistic cultures have thunder gods — and many non-polytheistic cultures had spirits and such that were assigned credit/blame for thunder and lightning — so I will not be going into the generic comparisons here, because there’s just too many to list.

But there was one other thing I detail I found about Catequil, though I admit that my source may not be the best here.  (Unfortunately, “C” did not turn out to be a good letter for me, somehow.  Most of what I found didn’t compare well.)  Anyway, according to that source, Catequil sometimes would turn into a lightning-bolt himself, and enter into a woman’s body as she was having intercourse with her husband.  This would result in twins, one belonging to the husband, and the other to the god.

Now that gives me something to go on!

Seeing twins as belonging one to a mortal man and one to a god was not all that unusual, I’m sure.  (Unfortunately, I only just now thought of looking that up, and I’m headed back to the convention in about ten minutes, so I can’t really research it right now.  Ugh.  Hopefully this will be the month’s low point…)

But there’s one that screams out “hey, don’t forget about me!”  Because there’s one set of twins born one to the woman’s husband, and one born to a thunder god.

And I’m sure — if you know anything about me or my blog — that you know I’m talking about the Dioscuri.

As is well known, the horny sky-god Zeus took on the form of a swan in order to have his way with Leda, Queen of Sparta.  (This has been well — perhaps over — celebrated in art, in ancient times as well as from the Renaissance onwards.)  But she also had sex with her husband Tyndareos on the same day.  (In reality, to bear twins to two men, sleeping with them on the exact same day would not be required, but…how could they know that?)

The result, as is well known, was two sets of twins, the Dioscuri Castor and Polydeuces, and the femme fatale pair Helen and Clytemnestra.  (Naturally the women get the bad side of the arrangement.  I love Greek myths, but I hate the misogyny so rife in the myth — and culture.  And yes, I realize that doesn’t make a lot of sense.)

I feel like I had more to say on this when I started it.  However, that was an exhausting day ago, and I no longer remember.

Sorry this sort of petered out and died.

Hopefully it won’t happen again.

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