Guardians of Idolatry: Gods, Demons, and Priests in Hernando Ruiz de Alarcón’s Treatise on the Heathen Superstitions by Viviana Díaz Balsera
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Overview: In 1629, Catholic priest Hernando Ruiz de Alarcón produced the Treatise on the Heathen Superstitions That Today Live among the Indians Native to This New Spain to aid the church in its abolishment of native Nahua religious practices. The bilingual Nahuatl-Spanish Treatise collected diverse incantations, or nahualtocaitl, used to conjure Mesoamerican deities for daily sustenance and medical activities. Today this work is recognized as one of the most significant firsthand records of indigenous religious practices in postconquest Mexico. Yet, as Viviana Díaz Balsera argues in Guardians of Idolatry, the selection process for the incantations recorded in the Treatise reflects two sites of agency: Ruiz de Alarcón’s desire to present the most flagrant examples of Nahua “demonic” practices, and Nahua efforts to share benign nahualtocaitl in order to preserve their preconquest traditions while negotiating with colonial Christian hegemony.
Genre: Non-Fiction > Faith, Beliefs & Philosophy > Church History