San Pablito, Puebla, Mexico: 1978 (but later). Square format, original amate bark covers with overlay, cloth spine. 18 x 14 cm. 28 numbered "pages," all but three featuring cutouts of deities as issued. This copy is tape-bound with single leaves and created in probably created after 1978. Red ink on front cover VERY faint and almost illegible, otherwise in very good condition. Very good. Item #3520
The Story of Ancient Healing: an extraordinary hand-made Mexican book that almost defies description. Such a book demonstrates the continuity of traditional practices of papermaking, book arts, and mystical healing in the everyday life of ancient and contemporary indigenous Mexican peoples. Our manuscript comes from the personal collection of Alan and Pamela Sanderson, authorities on Otomi manuscripts and traditional ritual paper cuttings. The Sandersons were among the first American ethnologists to visit and interview the great witch / healer / artist Alfonso Garcia Tellez at his home in San Pablito, Puebla (April-May 1986).
The manuscript is written on amate bark paper, with the Spanish text lettered by hand, and illustrated with amate bark paper cutout figures of deities. The paper for the pages and cutouts from the inner bark of the ficus tree and comes from the primary amate producing village, San Pablito, Pahuatlan (Puebla). The book itself is a manual of ritualist cures / mystical healing for diseases induced by witchcraft; included are potions derived from amati wood itself. The cutouts are figures from the indigenous mythology, including the Lords of the Night, Lords of the Mountain, and of the Nagual. The final pages describe rituals honoring Mother Earth, with offerings of native foods and the Christ Child with the burning of incense and wax.
Garcia Tellez's text is practical and direct:
Religious ceremony against Witchcraft:
For the people that believe in the ancient custom, this is the sickness of seizure (attack), for example: If a man finds a sickness in the field, this sickness is called an attack. To heal this sickness, we have to call a Healer and the Healer will do a spell (cure). [Illustration: The bed of the attack].
The Spell (cure / divination):
The Healer is going to ask the heart of the mountain what sickness (sorcery) this person has. If it is witchcraft, an offering must be done in the following manner: make 24 beds (reams) of amate paper, 24 spirits of amate paper that are achieved by guns, machete, or hand-knife, and 24 good spirits that died by fever, vomiting, diarrhea, 24 bad Shadow Spirits (sic).
First layout 12 beds (reams) of amate paper inside the house of the sick person. Form a frame over the bed of the spirits. Extend and put four drops of boiling water, and light four cigars so the Shadow Spirits can smoke them. Cut a chicken and the blood that comes out falls over the bed of the dolls. Add more boiling water, that way the Shadow Spirits may be baptized. Light four candles so that they can illuminate the Shadow Spirits and the dolls and that way they will leave the home.
¶ Our copy of the "Historia de la curacion de Antigua" is accompanied by a complete, unpublished English translation of the Spanish text -- please inquire. Alan Sandstom, "Traditional Curing and Crop Fertility Rituals among Otomi Indians of the Sierra de Puebla, Mexico: The Lopez Manuscripts," provides an elegant translation on pp. 25-53 along with an insightful discussion of the significance of this text.
LITERATURE: "Ecrits: Manuscrits à miniatures otomi Alfonso Margarito García Téllez" (2018), pp. 43-102. Pierre Déléage, "Les livres d’Alfonso García Téllez" in: Traverser. Chantier littéraire. Bois-Colombes: Carnets Livres (2015), p. 118-129. Bodil Christensen and Samuel Marti, "Witchcraft and pre-Columbian Paper / Brujerias y Papel Precolombino" (1979).
FURTHER LITERATURE: "Amate manuscripts of the Otomi of San Pablito, Puebla," Mexicon, Journal of Mesoamerican Studies – Revista sobre Estudios Mesoamericanos, Vol. XXXIV, Nr. 6, December 2012. Sandstrom, Alan R., and Pamela Effrein Sandstrom. Traditional Papermaking and Paper Cult Figures of Mexico. University of Oklahoma Press: Norman, OK. 1986.