Just before I left for Oaxaca, I started collecting Zapotec (and other Oaxacan) myths and legends. I just happened to come across this book called The Legend of Lord Eight Deer: An Epic of Ancient Mexico by Dr. John M. D. Pohl. I ordered a second-hand copy on Amazon.com and received it a while before I left for Mexico.
The story is based on Dr. Pohl’s interpretation of the Codex Nuttall, and on his research in the Oaxaca area. Apparently, Lord Eight Deer was an important historical figure of the area’s past. Here is a brief description:
“The Codex Nuttall is made of deerhide, pieced together to make one continuous strip over 40 feet long and roughly 6-1/2 inches high, then folded fan-wise into 10 inch sections to form a compact, 98 page “book”. Both sides were coated with fine lime plaster and 88 of the pages were painted with the vivid little scenes and date glyphs in bright colors.”
The book is very well-written, and actually helped me to understand some of my high falutin’ readings on the codices. When I bought it, I planned on taking it with me in my suitcase, but my husband scanned it and made PDF’s for me. It was a really good idea, but…
The first night that we all met as colleagues, the NEH Mesoamerican Studies people threw us this fabulous party at the Casa de la Cultura here in Oaxaca. There was food, and mezcal, and honored guests… including Dr. Pohl. Of course, after he was introduced, and they had finished talking, I made a beeline to speak to him. I told him how much I enjoyed his book and he said, “Oh, if you have your copy with you, I could sign it for you!”
Um, er, well…
I explained to him about the scanning (purely to save space – I DO own a copy of the book) and we had a little chuckle about it. Since then, of course, we have been honored with his presence at a talk last Monday on Mixtec Codices. He happens to be here with a group of his students and accompanied our group on tours of Coixtlahuaca and the ruins nearby.
I have also bought this book: Ocho Venado, Garra de Jaguar, héroe de varios códices by Krystyna Magdalena Libura – It is in Spanish, but has great illustrations and descriptions. I plan on buying a copy of the Codex Nuttall, which Dr. Pohl told us that he used as a “guidebook and map” of the Mixtec Valley of Oaxaca.
I know that I have spoken a lot about Lord Eight Deer, but have not given much information about him. I have really enjoyed, however, testing my knowledge of the calendar naming system of the Aztecs – so that I can at least read some of the names. Dr. Pohl, Dr. Spores, and Dr. Wood have also given us some basic instructions on reading the codices, as well.