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<< Back to Feathered Serpent, Dark Heart of Sky

Feathered Serpent, Dark Heart of Sky

La Bloga

David Bowles’ Feathered Serpent Dark Heart of Sky Myths of Mexico deserves to be a best-seller for all the right reasons: accessible, informative, essential. It’s destined to be the cultural anthropology equivalent to Occupied America for C/S majors.

Literary compilers will appreciate that Bowles translates primary source material to craft a unique narrative that could be the transcript of an ancient rhapsode reciting long into the night. In place of epic poetry, Bowles offers solid educational foundation in ancient Mexican beliefs in a conversational, one-to-many style. The subtitle on the cover reads "Myths of Mexico" while the publisher's webpage lists it as "The Origin Myths of Mexico." The latter is more explanatory.

The catechism-like voice of the narrator would get this book banned where books get banned. Belief underlies myth and this narrator speaks from belief about the ancients. That this narrator presumes readers share that belief is the most interesting element of an absorbing book. Mexican ontology grows out of a different paradigm and a reader can enjoy going with the flow. For other readers, the point of view will be reaffirming and delighting.

Seven “Convocation” chapters open each of seven thematic divisions. Themes include primordial origin stories, Toltecs, Maya, Aztecs, Conquest. The convening narrator introduces the theme, previews the content, qualifies the sources of the story. In the Convocation to the third theme, The Fifth Age And The Reign Of Demigods, the narrator relates.

We look into this distant past through the tales of the ancients ….words of the Aztec elders were themselves written down after the Conquest on the broad leatherbound pages of what we know today as the Florentine Codex and the Codex Chimalpopoca. Let us turn to those precious books, friends, casting our eyes from time to time as well as the Popol Vuh and that lovely collection of Maya verse from the heart of the Yucatan, the Songs of Dzitbalché.

The author makes no attempt at laying down a translation but clearly weaves what he’s learned into a narrative of his own fashion. One back cover blurb mentions Robert Fagles’ Iliad in the publisher’s endeavor to get readers to open this book and not be knocked on their nalgas at what Bowles is doing to them with this style.

The comparison to Fagles—or Lattimore’s—treatment in English of epic texts, fits David Bowles. Unlike the epics, Bowles’ material is little-known and then, fragmented. Here's a chance for readers to put it all together because it's here, in one place. Plus, there’s an excellent bibliography at the end, and a glossary that doubles as a name index when the multisyllable dieties start disputing.
- Michael Sedano, May 8, 2018  Visit Website

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