| Chapter XI -- The Nahual (no illustration) |
The news aroused deep satisfaction rather than sorrow: the witch doctor of the village, who had been especially feared for his powers as a nahual,* was dead. Everybody knew that one of the families in the feud had brought a powerful witch from a distant village, so the death of the local medicine man was attributed to the craft of a stranger.
| Tales of the dead nahual's powers included his evil eye, how he would turn himself into a jaguar or a bear, or an enormous serpent, to go growling unmolested through the fields and ranches, stealing the most valuable things he found. That is why there was always plenty of meat and grain in his house. . . Here was another being struck down in the kind of war that had been going on for centuries of superstition -- a family feud that would be handed down like a legacy of hate.|
Chapter XII -- Yoloxochitl
The dispute between the families over who the young girl would marry has now brought sickness to the young bride, a pain in her chest. The medicine man relates the story of a princess who marries not her true love, but another suitor, out of obedience to her father's wishes. She grows ill and dies, but from her grave a strange plant sprouted. A flower equally strange bloomed on it, shaped like a heart, and so they named it yoloxochitl, the flower of the heart. The girl's husband, the same hunter who had found his enemy dying in the forest after being tortured by the whites sets out to find this flower, for surely the flower of the heart should be good to cure illness of the heart.
*Nahual -- a supernatural human being who can become any animal at will, assuming its appearance and powers, with special magic of his own besides. Also, a human being whose soul dwells at the same time in some powerful animal. The widespread belief has many varients in American Indian lore. The main idea is of a 'loose' or detachable spirit, which can house its powerful magic in many forms. In Mexico it is frequently pictured as a bird with a human head, an image found also in ancient Egypt.