Now I write of this for a reason, though it has nothing to do with me, for it seems that as Dionysus possessed Agave, driving her to unnatural murder, so did Huitzel possess Otomie, and indeed she said as much to me afterwards. For I am sure that if the devils whom the Greeks worshipped had such power, a still greater strength was given to those of Anahuac, who among all fiends were the first. If this be so, as I believe, it was not Otomie that I saw at the rites of sacrifice, but rather the demon Huitzel whom she had once worshipped, and who had power, therefore, to enter into her body for awhile in place of her own spirit.
Taking Otomie in my arms, I bore her to one of the storehouses attached to the temple. Here many children had been placed for safety, among them my own son.
‘What ails our mother, father?’ said the boy. ’And why did she shut me in here with these children when it seems that there is fighting without?’
‘Your mother has fainted,’ I answered, ’and doubtless she placed you here to keep you safe. Now do you tend her till I return.’
‘I will do so,’ answered the boy, ’but surely it would be better that I, who am almost a man, should be without, fighting the Spaniards at your side rather than within, nursing sick women.’
‘Do as I bid you, son,’ I said, ’and I charge you not to leave this place until I come for you again.’
Now I passed out of the storehouse, shutting the door behind me. A minute later I wished that I had stayed where I was, since on the platform my eyes were greeted by a sight more dreadful than any that had gone before. For there, advancing towards us, were the women divided into four great companies, some of them bearing infants in their arms. They came singing and leaping, many of them naked to the middle. Nor was this all, for in front of them ran the pabas and such of the women themselves as were persons in authority. These leaders, male and female, ran and leaped and sang, calling upon the names of their demon-gods, and celebrating the wickednesses of their forefathers, while after them poured the howling troops of women.
To and fro they rushed, now making obeisance to the statue of Huitzel, now prostrating themselves before his hideous sister, the goddess of Death, who sat beside him adorned with her carven necklace of men’s skulls and hands, now bowing around the stone of sacrifice, and now thrusting their bare arms into the flames of the holy fire. For an hour or more they celebrated this ghastly carnival, of which even I, versed as I was in the Indian customs, could not fully understand the meaning, and then, as though some single impulse had possessed them, they withdrew to the centre of the open space, and, forming themselves into a double circle, within which stood the pabas, of a sudden they burst into a chant so wild and shrill that as I listened my blood curdled in my veins.