Ololiuhqui, the seeds of coatl xoxouhqui (morning glory, Turbina corymbosa), contain a nonhuman life force within them that Central Mexican Nahua specialists have used to diagnose and prognosticate cocoliztli (illness) and help guide cocoxqueh (sick people) back to pactinemiliztli (health). In the seventeenth century, Spanish priest Hernando Ruiz de Alarcón went on a campaign against ololiuhqui and its users that lasted more than two decades. Early in his war against ololiuhqui, the priest became ill, and some Nahuas in his parish viewed his cocoliztli as a result of his contempt toward the seed. This further fueled his rage toward ololiuhqui and drove him to uncover and punish specialists and their clients. After 1617, when the archbishop of Mexico licensed Ruiz de Alarcón to investigate Native “heterodoxy,” the zealous priest quickly found that non-Native people were also involved in ololiuhqui networks and seldom wished to comply with his investigations. As a result, well into the 1630s the priest courted the Holy Office of the Inquisition in Mexico with the goal of obtaining jurisdiction over all colonial racial and ethnic categories in New Spain. Ruiz de Alarcón failed to extirpate the relationship Nahuas had with ololiuhqui, and he also failed to become an official member of the Holy Office’s networks.

You do not currently have access to this content.