Macuahuitl

In The Legend Of Zip, the hero is gifted with a Peregrino’s Staff, or walking stick. It is made of wood and has rubies set into a carved eagle’s eyes. During the journey he discovers that the staff can be used as a macuahuitl when he places an obsidian blade along its edge. Following are some of the facts I learned while researching this fascinating weapon.

Macuahuitl is a Nahuatl word meaning hand stick, or wood, and is a weapon that predates the Aztecs in Mesoamerica. Made of either oak or pine it has grooves carved along the edge of a paddle where obsidian blades would be embedded and secured with an adhesive, probably bitumen. It was widely used by the Aztecs and other groups in Mesoamerica.

Obsidian is a naturally occurring volcanic glass and was used extensively in Mesoamerica in utility and ritual. Hunting, weaponry, agriculture and butchering are among some of its uses, as well as grave goods and artwork. Obsidian blades can be sharper than a high- quality razor blade.

Only one example survived the Conquest of Mexico and it was part of the Royal Armory of Madrid until it was destroyed by fire in 1884. Drawings of the weapon do exist and there is a carving of a warrior holding one at Chichen Itza.

The Macuahuitl was used for close range battle and was designed to maim rather than kill, though surely it did do that also. There are reports of decapitated horses, though modern experiments didn’t necessarily prove that.

The American Southwest has a deep history and during the course of writing this book I learned so much more than I was taught in school. It seems that our focus is only on European history and our stories and legends are centered in that structure. There is a deep history here that we are only now beginning to learn and understand. I was excited to learn so many new things and I hope that this article will pique your interest Enough that you will learn some new things also.

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