Paper Example on The Flower and the Scorpion: Sexuality and Ritual in Early Nahua Culture

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  4
Wordcount:  873 Words
Date:  2022-07-29


Sexuality makes many a society cringe with horror and disgust especially considering the delicate nature of the very difficult subject. Worse still, looking at the sexual imagination of a distant culture and people in past centuries could well put one in trouble especially if written in a bad light or where the context and interpretation are wrong. Pete Sigal, in his book, "The Flower and the Scorpion: Sexuality and Ritual in Early Nahua Culture," has crossed these lines to bring to perspective the Nahua of early Mexico and their sexuality. He discusses the period before and after European entry and conquest and how these cultures affected each other's cultures, beliefs, and rituals especially where sex is concerned. This paper is aimed at reviewing "The Flower and the Scorpion: Sexuality and Ritual in Early Nahua Culture," with the aim of identifying the author's argument and critiquing the historical argument.

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Before the Spanish conquest into Mexico, the Nahua, an indigenous tribe in central Mexico did not have any semblance or notion of sexuality or sex equivalent as those promoted by modern Western societies or developed by their colonial masters at the time. Pete Sigal brings to light the Nahua concepts of sex which were previously unchartered while focusing less on the modern Western concept of sexuality and sex. The book is an analysis of clerical documents which he ultimately finds that the Spanish concepts of gender, sexuality, and sin do not align with those of the Nahua. Of particular interest is the Nahua concept of "tlazolli" which is translated to mean 'excess' or 'trash.' The concept was prominent in Nahua's culture. "Tlazolli" needed to remain in proper balance as it was fundamental to fertility. It captures the time of the Spanish conquest 1519-1521 and the period to 1650 when the Spanish culture and its influence became apparent and led the Nahua's culture to near oblivion.

The "flower" and the "scorpion" which form the title of the book were a titular figure that created the doorway towards the understanding of Nahua's rituals. The "flower" pertained to noblemen's role in Nahua's culture in enhancing and fostering the fertility of the universe. The "scorpion" on the other hand symbolized punishment from the gods for a number of infractions. It also had healing rituals featuring prominently.

The primary sources used include Spanish missionary journals as well as Nahua art. Comparison of these documents, particularly the Nahua art pre-contact with the Spanish and the clergy's journals among other documents revealed a shift in the assimilation and understanding that took place at the time. Gender as a theme was a huge aspect which had a huge gulf or disparity when compared with the Nahua and their Spanish lords. The Nahua's depiction of "Tlazoteotl," their main god, was that of a hermaphrodite. She was the goddess of trash and excesses. The Spanish missionaries sought to change and transform the notion while bringing in the concept of sex and sin using the Nahua god. Indeed, they were successful overtime and images produced after colonization depict the addition and incorporation of sin and sexuality during the Nahua ritual ceremonies.

Not only were the Nahua influenced by the Spanish but they also had an influence on their colonial masters. For instance, the Nahua's ritual, the "sweeping ceremony" meant to clear trash and control excesses was copied by the Spanish to identify and relate sin to trash. Indeed, although the Spanish culture and beliefs assimilated much of Latin America, the sweeping ceremony is still part of Mexico's way of life done commonly as a ritual to this day. Sigal identifies that there has been an exaggeration of Catholicism power especially focusing on the colonization of indigenous Mexican tribes. Rather than the accepted notion that the Spanish embellished Christianity and Spanish culture easily and with little time to the Nahua, the true picture is that the assimilation of culture was slow and largely inconsistent. The above example is a fine example of predominant Nahua practices that refused to die down even with the assimilation and near oblivion of Nahua cultural practices.

Sigal also refutes the notion that confession, a ritual in the Catholic Church had an influence on Nahua's indigenous behavior and how they perceived themselves. Up until the mid-17th century, the Nahua practiced their culture without any influence or significant change. From the findings from documents and art, it is clear as described earlier that the Spanish had their way in influencing the Nahua culture and ultimately changing it. However, rather than what has been reported, Sigal shows us through his perspective and understanding of the documents that it took more time than earlier indicated.


In conclusion, it is important to note that we cannot take Sigal's perspective at heart because most of his arguments were based on art which is open to individual understanding and perception. Worse still, it is impossible to challenge his perspective, or anyone's for that matter because the culture that came up with the art does not exist. However, his contribution to the subject pertaining sexuality and indigenous populations, lost culture while comparing it to modern concepts is important especially because it focuses on unchartered territory rather than the Spanish domination which has been overdone by many scholars.

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Paper Example on The Flower and the Scorpion: Sexuality and Ritual in Early Nahua Culture. (2022, Jul 29). Retrieved from

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