The Precious Night Turkey (Wayne Ferrebee, 2015, Mixed Media)
Longtime readers know that one of my favorite animals is the turkey. I am not alone. We Americans have a whole month dedicated to devotions of the magnificent bird: the turkey is literally at the center of our third (or second?) most important festival. However there is a distinctly Aztec aspect to the turkey’s key role in the holiday. The fowl is not just a sacred animal of autumn—it is a sacred sacrifice of the dying year.
I love turkeys. I love their appearance. I love their personalities. I love their furtive mastery of the eastern woodlands. I…uh…I love their flavor. A lot. This strikes me as a noteworthy juxtaposition of its own: a troubling aspect not of turkeys, but of humankind. Our kindness is always streaked through with appetite. Our admiration is dark and terrible.
Anyway, I figured I had better make an artwork to capture some of these mixed feelings (and as a personal devotion to the consecrated bird). Here is a picture of Chalchiuhtotolin, the jeweled night turkey of the Aztecs. You can revisit the post here—the deity is a trickster, a sacrifice, a shapeshifter. I made it with paper cutouts, markers, colored pencils, and rhinestones—in the artistic style of an alimentary schoolchild, er, I mean an “elementary” schoolchild. I wanted it to be like a Faberge jeweled egg, glistening in the purple night, but perhaps I should have made it more Aztec instead of Rococo.
Ominously, as I was pasting it all together I accidentally tore off the head (you can see the seam of where I glued it back if you blow up the work). It was an artistic mistake—but it works perfectly to capture the true ritualistic nature of November’s spirit animal.