AZTEC RELIGION - CULTURAL

Companion reference material to the study of Aztec Gods

AZTEC RELIGION
AZTEC STUDENT RESEARCH GUIDE
(C)1997-2005 (Thomas H. Frederiksen)
All rights reserved


AZTEC MYTHOLOGY


INTRODUCTION

Other Aztec related links:
  • Aztec Life
  • Mexica Medicine
  • Religion of the Modern Aztlan Movement
  • Religion of the Mexica & Bibliography
  • Major Deitites of the Mexica
  • Minor Deitites of the Mexica
  • Aztec Cannibalism: An Ecological Necessity?
  • The Aztec Account of the Spanish Conquest of Mexico
  • This section on the Mexica focuses on various religious aspects associated with the Aztec (Mexica Tribe) and should be used as a companion to the Aztec Gods section of this work. The Mexica believed in complete fate. Their lives were in the hands of the deities and there was very little they could do about it. Your lot in life was set the day you were born according to the Astrological chart presented below.


    AZTEC ASTROLOGY - DAY SIGNS(* 8)

    The Aztec Astrology calendar consisted of 20 day signs with 13 houses (days) in each group for a total of 260 days (*9 ). The tenth and thirteenth houses (days) were ,generally in all the signs, considered good luck. The sixth house (day) was considered unlucky in all of the day signs(*10 ).

    As a parent of two I thought I had my share of problems and worry in the raising of my children. As I was researching and writing this section my thoughts and heart went out to the common Aztec parents and the anxiety and worry they must have felt. From all of my research I believe that the common Aztec family actually believed these prophecies to be true. After reading this section you may be of the same opinion. With all the problems I had I never had to worry about my children having a destiny to be crushed by rocks....TF

    1. CECIPACTLI(* 11)- Considered a good luck sign but the luck could be lost due to laziness. Wealth and prosperity followed these lucky people. By being a rogue or disobedient(* 12), overbearing a person would change their luck and be friendless and in want of contentment.

    2. OCELOTL- Considered a bad luck sign. A great many slaves had this unfortunate sign. Your fate(*13 ) could be changed by your intelligence. Fasting and not sleeping very much improved your lot in life. Women were believed to look forward to a life of poverty or having their heads crushed between two stones.

    3. CEMACATL- A good luck sign provided it was not lost due to carelessness. Some of the houses of this sign were considered bad. Bravery was considered a trait of this sign. If you were born under the second house of this sign. Umetochtli, you were believed to be destined to be a drunkard. People born on the sixth house, Chicucenmalinalli, were destined to live in poverty and their children would die early and in poverty.

    4. CEXUCHITL- Music, pleasure, and ingenious were some of the attributed associated with people born under this sign. Sign was indifferent, not good or bad. You stood a good chance of becoming a joker or a buffoon. You may be prosperous or lonely and forgotten by everybody and long for death to end you suffering. Women not paying proper homage, could look forward to a life of prostitution and poverty.

    5. CEACATL- Considered a bad sign and to foster gossiping, backbiting, and hypocrites. Said to be the sign of Quetzalcoatl. Liars were associated with the ninth house of this sign. The tenth through thirteenth houses were considered lucky and honesty and wealth and the respect of the community would be theirs. The Aztec in general disapproved of the practice of talking about someone behind their back.

    6. CEMIQUIZTLI- A good luck sign. Sign of Tezcatlipoca. If you were devoted to this sign you could look forward to the good grace of Texcatlipoca, the creator of the universe, and his good fortune. Slaves(*14) were treated well during this time. If you were born on the second house, Umemacatl, you had bad luck and were cowardly and scared easily. Cowardly behavior would doom a man for entry into the warrior classes.

    7. CEQUIAVITL- A horrible day sign. Necromancers, wizards, and swindlers were associated with this sign. Again the tenth through thirteenth houses were considered lucky. The seventh house, Cequiavitl, was horrible luck and associated with childhood diseases. Many prisoners were put to death during this sign in the hopes of staving off at least some of the bad luck that was sure to happen.

    8. CEMALINALLI- A bad luck sign, however the second and the ninth on were thought to be fortunate. People would be prosperous for a while then loose everything. Children would be a sorrow. The second house, Umacatl, was ruled over by Texcatlipoca and considered a good day. The ninth on were also considered to be good days.

    9. CECOATL- Good luck as long as it wasn't lost due to negligence. Merchants were particularly fond of this sign. This was considered a good sign for warfare and attain wealth. Merchants would wait for this day sign to begin travels or long journeys. The sixth house was considered very unlucky and you would become a tale-bearer, wary, deceitful and have poor health.

    10. CETECPATL- A sign of happiness and said to be the sign of Huitzilpoctli. All of the houses, (13 days of this sign), were considered lucky. Men would be valiant, honest and wealthy. Women would always have enough to eat and be vigorous.

    11. CEOCUMATLI- Generally considered a lucky sign. A time of sickness especially for children. If a good looking person fell ill during this time it was because of envy by a god. Born on the second house, Umemalinalli, and you could look forward to many children, however, none of them would live very long.

    12. CUETZPAILIN- A good sign that signifies the lizard. those born under this sign were considered strong. Good workers and wealth were to be expected. A strong and healthy body could be looked forward to. Like a lizard a man born under this sign could fall from a great height and land unharmed.

    13. CEOLLIN- Sign of indifference, some good and some bad. If the parents took good care of a child born under this sign he would prosper, but if not well educated the child would be unlucky, poor and unhappy. The parental education process of their child was very important in all aspects of society.

    14. CEITZCUINTLI- Good fortune and luck are associated with this sign as it was ruled by the fire god Xiuhtecutli. Chieftains elected under this sign would be lucky in office. Many slaves would be owned and a wealthy life awaited these lucky people.

    15. CECALLI- An unlucky sign. People born under this sign were to die an un-natural death. Unlucky, nasty, and obscenity were the traits of these people. You may die in war, burned alive, or thrown against a stone wall, but never have a happy life. You may get lucky and be made a slave but that was about all you had to look forward to. Cheaters, gamblers, and thieves were of this day sign. A woman born under this sign was thought to be stupid and overbearing and a lewd woman. She was apt to sell herself as a slave and be sacrificed.

    16. COZCAQUAUHTLI- A good luck sign. A long life awaited anyone born under this day sign. Your parents must have enough wealth to invite friends to a feast or your luck may change for the worse. As will most of the day signs your fate was not sealed but proper devotion and ritual must be observed or your good fortune and luck could easily turn to bad.

    17. CEATL- A bad luck sign. People who were connected to the water were devoted to this sign. An un-natural death awaited most. If you gain wealth you will most likely loose it in the end. People with this day sign were constantly worried that all of the good things that they had acquired in life would be destroyed or taken away from them.

    18. CEACATL- A bad luck sign, ruled by Quetzalcoatl. Swindlers were associated with this sign. A female might become a witch and practice witchcraft, men might become wizards.

    19. CEQUAUHTLI- A bad luck sign. A sign of arrogance, men would die in battle, women would be wicked and speak badly of people. Children and young girls were in danger from disease during this time. Males born under this sign were said to be valiant, bold and haughty. In the end males would die in battle.

    20. CEXUCHITL- A very lucky sign, those born under this sign would prosper. Abundance in all things awaited these fortunate people. They were good workers and harvesters and generally made good use of their time. The Mexica admiration of hard work is well noted.



    AZTEC CREATION MYTHOLOGY


    According to one legend the creation of the universe was the work of two primordial deities, Ometecutli, Lord of Duality, and Omecihuatl, Lady of Duality. As creators of initial life they produced four sons, Tezcatlipoca, Xipe Totec, Quetzalcoatl, and Huitzilopochtli. Each of these gods was associated with a different direction(*15 ), color, tree, bird, and other natural events.

    Quetzalcoatl and Huitzilopochtli were credited with the creation of all human and animal life as well as natural vegetation. Some of the other gods worshiped by the Mexica were also created by these two deities.


    THE FIVE AGES OF THE EARTH OR (SUNS)


    The Aztec believed that the world was destined to be created and destroyed a total of five times. The Aztecs Cortes found believed that they were living in the fifth and final creation period(* 16).

    1. Naui Ocelotl (Four Jaguar). The first age and was presided over by Tezcatlipoca. This age consisted of giant beings that lived on acorns and were eventually eaten by jaguars. The sun during this age was thought to be of only a half light and feeble. This age lasted 676 years.

    2. Naui Ehecatl (Four Wind). The second age and presided over by the benevolent Quetzalcoatl. World was populated by humans that lived on pinon nuts and food from a mesquite tree, and were then transformed into monkeys after being thrown into the woods by high winds. The world was destroyed by hurricanes. The sun itself was swept away by high winds. This age lasted 364 years.

    3. Naui Quiahuitl (Four Rain). The third age and presided over by Tlaloc. World was inhabited by humans who ate aquatic seeds. People were transformed into dogs, turkeys, birds and butterflies and then perished in a fiery rain of volcanic cinders falling from the sky. This age lasted 312 years.

    4. Naui Atl (Four Water). Presided over by Chalchiuhtlicue. Humans living on wild seeds and were transformed into fish. World destroyed by a great flood as the sky collapsed. This age lasted 676 years.

    5. Fifth and last age Naui Ollin (Four Movement). Presided over by Tonatiuh. Cortes found these people, the Aztec, living on Corn and fully believing they were eventually to be devoured by Tzitzimime, or celestial monsters. The world would then be destroyed by great earthquakes nevermore to be resurrected. The end will swallow all things and the stars would tumble down from the night sky. This end is said to occur when the earth becomes tired. The first people created in this final world were thought to be the Toltecs and their wars were seen as a service to the gods(*17 ). The fifth and final sun was to be stolen by Tezcatlipoca and all will go dark, forever(*18 ).


    THE HEAVENS OF THE AZTECS(*19 )


    There is a great deal of written material about the concept of Heaven and several discrepancies between authors. Sahagun, Duran, and Alcaron each seem to give a slightly different account even as to the correct number of levels associated with heaven. Listed here is a collection of notes I have taken.

    It is important to remember that the Mexica had no notion of eternity as we today may have. Their concept of Heaven or Hell must have been as a temporary storage place for the soul. Playing with humans, even after death by the the all powerful deities. Men were truly toys of the gods.


    1- realm of the moon(*20 ). Presided over by Xiuhteuctli, "Turquoise Lord".
    2- realm of the stars. In this level there were women who had no flesh, just bones, and were called Tetzuahcihua, or Tzitzimine. These women were to devour the people during the destruction of the fifth sun, or end of the world. According to Alcaron, notes p. 238, this level was presided over by Tlalteuctli, meaning "Lord of the Land". Duran also makes reference to this deity and the second level of heaven. There is some debate as to the gender of this deity and several spelling are common. Spelling may have been TLAHUIZCALPANTECUHTLI, Meaning "The Dawn Lord".
    3- realm of the sun
    4- realm of the planet Venus or birds
    5- realm of comets and fire serpents
    6- realm of winds and the color black
    7- realm of the color blue and dust. Presided over by Huitliopoctli.
    8- realm of storms. Presided over by Tlaloc.
    9- realm of the White god
    10- realm of the Yellow god. Presided over by Tezcatlipoca.
    11- realm of the red god
    12- Omeyocan, the Place of Duality, where the primordial creators lived, the lord and lady of duality. According to Alcaron's book(*21 ), this level of Heaven, or "Topan", as he refers to the concept was presided over by a deity referred to as Tlahuizcalpan Teuctli, meaning, "Lord at the Dawn". This may have been a representation of Quetzalcoatl.


    NOTE: Alcaron makes reference (* 22) to a deity called Tonacacihuatl, Meaning "Sustenance Woman", as presiding over the thirteenth level of Heaven, or Topan as he refers to the concept. The entry further makes reference to Tonacacihuatl being another name for Xochiquetzal, or "Flower Princess".


    THE NINE LAYERS OF HELL (*23 )


    The journey of the dead was seen as a trial and consisted of a series of tests. Often a red dog was killed and buried with the dead to help the traveler on his journey into the land of the dead. The Mexica had no concept of hell and the early Spanish priests would notice blank stares from the Indians when they preached that they would go to "Mictlan" if they did not accept the teachings of the Catholic faith. The priests should have used the term Ichantlacatecoloty, "Home of the Owl Man", meaning the home of Mictlantecutli, it would have gotten a better response.

    Level 1- the surface of the earth
    Levels 2-8 hazardous places that served as a challenge to the soul
    Level 9- Mictlan(*24 ), or Place of the Dead, (the soul rested here for eternity)



    ASSUMING HIGH POLITICAL OFFICE

    Political office among the Mexica was taken quite seriously as indicated in the translation of the text, verso 70, of the Magliabechaino Codex in Boone's book, p. 211-212. In this translation she relates that a selected, or elected high official would be stripped naked in front of council leaders who would lecture the individual about his expected behavior. He was then placed in front of the fire god, Xiuhtecutli where a sacrifice of incense was made and the man given a new name. This new official was then made to sleep nude outside in the weather. He was eventually given a ritual cloak and he fasted for four days on bread and water eating only at night. This ritual is further illustrated in a color painting on plate 71 of the Codex Magliabechiano.(* 25)


    _________________________
    8. The Tonalpouhqui, "He Who Reads the Day Signs", was an important member of the Mexica society. It was he with his predecessors in the Valley of Mexico who created the Tonalamatl, "The Book of Destinies". The Tonalamatl was considered quite ancient pre dating Quetzalcoatl.

    9. Sahagun gives credit to a woman named OXOMOCO and a man called ALPACTONAL or CIPACTONAL as having come up with this Astrology system. Sahagun further refers to this system as a form of Necromancy rather that Astrology. This belief system was in full force at the time of Cortes, when it started to take hold I have not discovered. Alcaron's book gives credit to the creation of this system to a man named Ohxococo, meaning "Two Pine Torches Smeared with Turpentine Ointment". Alcaron further mentions Cipactonal.

    10. This section derives heavily from the accounts of Sahagun and his spellings are used here. Brief accounts are listed . For full verbose listings consult his chapters on Astrology, see bibliography section.

    11. Cipactli, (swordfish), is the first day sign or house of this group. The second day was Acatl, meaning cane, the third was Calli, meaning house, the fourth was Cuetzpalin, meaning lizard, the fifth Coatl meaning snake, the sixth Miquiztli, meaning death, the seventh Mazatl, meaning deer, the eighth Tochtli, meaning rabbit, the ninth Atl, meaning water, the tenth Uzomatli, meaning female monkey, the eleventh Itzcuintli, meaning dog, the twelfth Malinali, meaning twisting, and the thirteenth Acatl, meaning cane (same sign as the second day). All of the day signs had thirteen days or houses, like the ones described here. For particular day signs of all the remaining day groups consult Sahagun's chapters on Aztec Astrology.

    12. Disobedient behavior was not tolerated in Mexica society. The Codex Mendoza relates the following punishments routinely handed out to un-ruly children: Pinching of arms, pricking the skin with maguey spines, spanking, holding over a fire of roasting peppers, and bound up and left in the cold or on wet muddy ground. Presumably the otherwise bureaucratic Mexica had not yet developed a Child Services division.

    13. The Mexica believed that fate was a predisposition for individuals and not men as a group. Your tonalli predetermined your destiny. Tezcatlipoca was known to meddle in the fate of an individual. Of interest the Mexica had special ceremonies for the disposal of hair cut during what we may refer to as a "haircut". The head was considered the focus of individual power, your tonalli, and of your vulnerability. Your spirit was called "teyolia", and was contained in your heart, your ihiyotl was considered your breath and was contained in your liver.

    14. During the day sign one death, for Tezcatlipoca, the wooden collar of slaves was removed and the slave bathed and treated like royalty and were treated like "ixiptlas", or an image of Texcatlipoca. It was not allowed to strike a slave or otherwise mistreat him as you could expect to become covered with open sores. Clendennen p. 352, makes reference to only slaves who were flayed or adorned and given the name of a deity were actually called "xiptlas".

    15. The significance of directions comes from the shooting of four arrows by Xolotl. The Mexica universe consisted of five directions, the center where Xolotl stood on a mountaintop. Xolotl then burned a ring of dried grass and scattered the ashes to the four directions.

    16. The Aztec had no notion of eternity.

    17. The earth was thought of as a personification of chaos or unstructured matter called Cipactli, a monstrous alligator, or shark who lived in the ocean. Cipactli was bisexual and quite alone. Often considered a type of dragon considered female and known as Tlalteuctli, "Earth Lady". Often Tlalteuctli was considered as a giant toad with many mouths each dripping blood. Legend has it that in the beginning Quetzalcoatl and Texcatlipoca assumed the shape of snakes and squeezed Cipactli into two parts. The top part they made into the sky and the lower part became the earth. There are other similar legends such as entering Cipactli by the mouth and navel, but the essence of the story is the same. Quetzalcoatl and Tezcatlipoca then placed great trees at the corners of the earth to hold up the sky. From the skin of Cipactli flowers and grasses were formed, from her eyes, springs, from her mouth, rivers, from her nose, valleys, and from her shoulders, the great mountains of Mexico. There are many creation myths, this is but one. Other myths concern creation by blood sacrifice and creation by theistic design or a divine mind.

    18. The Mexica religion reflected a mood of darkness and this mood carried over into the day to day life. Even the god of fire and light lives in blackness in the underworld. Tezcatlipoca was the "Prince of Darkness"

    19. A competing tradition of only nine heavens was practiced in the communities of Chalco and Tlascala. Maya ruins at Chichen Itza also has references to a nine level heaven concept as evidenced by recent findings in the interior of the Castillo, or temple of Quetzalcoatl. According to Alcaron's book a general term for Heaven was Topan.

    20. The moon was thought to be a cowardly symbol to the Mexica, probably due the creation myth surrounding the moon. The moon was thought of in several ways. One as Lady Golden Bells, Coyolxauhqui, sister of Huitzilopochtli. Also thought of as Tlazolteotl, Eater of Filth.

    21. Notes p. 236

    22. Notes P. 240

    23. For an in-depth account of burial rites and rituals associated with the Aztec concept of hell, consult Sahagun's writings.

    24. Mictlan was called "Land of the Unfleshed", "The Place of Our Common Sleep", "Our Universal Home, Where There is no Way Out", "Land of the Dumb", "The Extensive Land". Sahagun referes to Mictlan as a dark place of ill fortune, without end, a fearful place. A cave in the mountain was the entry into the underworld. Upon entering you came to a river where a red dog would carry across your soul and would act as a guide through the various levels of Mictlan. Dogs were killed and buried with the Mexica for this reason. Many dangers awaited the soul including deserts, high mountains, dragons, hurricane force winds. The journey took four years to reach the Lord of the Dead. The soul would be destroyed at the end of the journey. For this reason there was no ancestor worship among the Mexica as a soul would not be believed to exist after the four years. Grave sites were unmarked in Mexico. The underworld had many layers including a force just below the ground that pushed plants upwards to flower.

    25. There are very few practices of the Mexica that I would like to see in common use toady, this is one of them.

    The name Mictlan may have meant "Deadmans Land", or "Beside the Deadman". For additional reading on the Nahuatl breakdown of this and other Nahuatl words and phrases see Alcaron's book, appendix B.

    This section is a problem in that almost every book researched will put a different spelling or emphasis on certain words. One of the problems is that the early documentation of the native language of the Aztec, Nahuatl, was first translated into Spanish, then Latin, then to English and due to a lack of serious study during the 16 th century the spellings, meanings and thought have been corrupted.




     

    AZTEC SACRIFICE - The Children of Templo Mayor


    The material presented here is actual archaeological evidence of the sacrificial rites of the Mexica tribe. For years there has been academic debate over the facts of this issue. I am staying away from early sources and presenting actual fact here.

    Within these seven caves lived the Four Hundred Mimixcoa, a group of giants born from the earth goddess. Their father was the sun and taught them to use weapons. The Mimixcoa defied their parents and learned to make wine from cactus. The parents bore five more children and gave them better training and weapons and the new children conquered the Four Hundred and fed the blood to the sun and the earth. The hearts were torn from the Four Hundred and this is the first recorded event of sacrifice. The seven caves were given to the head of the five children, Mixcoatl, singular form of Mimixcoa. The name Mimixcoa translates to "Cloud Serpents". These five were the beginning of the Chichimec deities.


     The article below relates to medical examination of the recently discovered remains of sacrificed children in the Templo Mayor excavation project. I have asked someone I respect a great deal to translate a portion as well as pen a few paragraphs about the actual going ons inside the Templo Mayor excavation project. I want to thank Elizabeth for her help. ...TF




    Interdisciplinary Studies: (part four) trans.

    From the perspective of Physical Anthropology (the branch of Anthropology that dedicates itself to the study of the biological being in its socio-cultural context) the Osteological analysis contributed to a series of data and coincided with the contents of sources . (Osteololgy: the study of the structure and function of the skeleton and bony structures)

    In the three discoveries, the children's ages fluctuated between 2 and 8 years old. Although, in Tlateloco, there were also sacrifices of new born children, which collaborates with Sahagun in the sense that he wrote the children sacrificed themselves..."niños de teta" nursing children. One source speaks of the sex of the children, but it is not possible to determine for certain, since the characteristics of sexuality are not present in the bones until after puberty. Some investigators consider that such an estimation would be merely guesswork.

    In our case, unfortunately, the techniques employed to test the characteristics are not absolutely reliable, and there then exists a reasonable margin of error in the matter. Anyway, the results point out that the majority of the children were masculine, which coincides with the written testimonies to a certain point, in the the sense that the cause of death was beheading.

    Yet, several aspects of the sources do not mention this, the study of Physical Anthropology has shown that most of the individuals discovered displayed indications of having undergone some type of suffering. Marks of certain pathologies observed in the bones indicate that the individuals were ill. In this case, for example, more than 50% of the subjects presented/displayed anomalies in the skull and in the roof of the orbits; a condition caused by anemia, a deficiency of iron. 60% of all the children displayed dental pathologies, decay and problems with abscesses. Also, pathologies indicated the presence of infection in the various bones of the skeletons, and cerebral tumors. Moreover, it was observed that 63% of the children exhibited 'hipoplasias' striations in the enamel, evidence that the children were severely undernourished.


    PUBLISHED TEXT IN ORIGNAL SPANISH




    "arqueología mexicana" vol. VI - num.31 Mayo - Junio 1998
    ... a publication of the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia...INAH address: Administración Postal Núm. 77 C.P. 11200. Mexico, D.F.

    authors :
    * Juan Alberto Román Berrelleza, Antropólogo físico, Investigador del Museo del Templo Mayor, INAH
    * Alfonso Torre Blanco, Doctor en bioquîmica. Investigador del Departmento de Biología de la Facultad de Ciencias de la UNAM.




    "Los sacrificios de niños en el Templo Mayor: un enfoque interdisplinario"



    "Estudios Interdisciplinarios"

    Desde la perspectiva de la antropología física -rama de la antropología que se dedica el estudio del ser biológico en su contexto sociocultural-, el análisis osteológico aportó una serie de datos coinciden con los contenidos en las fuentes. En los tres descubrimientos se trató de niños cuyas edades fluctuaban entre los dos y los ochos años de edad, si bien en Tlateloco también fueron sacrificados niños recién nacidos, con lo que se corroboraría lo dicho por Sahagún en el sentido de que se sacrificaban "niños de teta". En lo que se refiere al sexo de los niños, no fue posible determarlo con certeza, lo cual se debe a que los caracteres sexuales secundarios no se manifiestan en los huesos sino hasta después de la pubertad. Algunos investigadores consideran que tal estimación en poco menos que una adivinanza.

    En nuestro caso, desafortunadamente, las técnicas empleadas sólo tienen el carácter de prueba u no son del todo confiables, por lo que persiste un razonable margen de error al respecto. De cualquier forma, los resultados apuntan a que se trara mayoritariamente de niños de sexo masuclino, lo que hasta cierto punto coindiciríria parcialmente con las fuentes. De la misma manera, los testimonios escritos concuerdan con los análisis efectuados,en el sentido de que la causa de la muerte de esos individuos fue el degollamiento.

    Con todo, existen varios aspectos que las fuentes no mencionan. El estudio antropofísico mostró que la mayoría de los individuos descubiertos presentaba indicios de haber sufrido una serie de padecimientos; esto es, las huellas de ciertas patologías observadas en los huesos señalan que se trataba de individuos enfermos. Así, por ejemplo, más del 50% de los sujetos presentaba anomalías en el cráneo y en el techo de las órbitas, condución derivada de la anemia por defiencia de hierro. El 60% de los niños presentaba patologías dentales, entre las que destacan las caries y los problemas parodontales, como son los abscesos. Asimismo, otra patologías estuvieron representadas por procesos infecciosos en diversos huesos de los esqueletos y por tumores cerebrales, entre las más importantes. Además, en un 63% de los niños se observaron líneas de hipoplasias del esmalte en las coronas de los dientes, lo cual indica que se trataba de individuos afectados por la desnutrición



    Para leer más (for more reading)
    GONZALES TORRES, Yolotl, "El Sacrificio Humano entre los mexicas", FCE/INAH, Mexcio 1988

    ROMAN BERRELLEAZA, Juan Alberto, "Sacrifioio de niños en el Templo Mayor", GV Editores/INAH Mexico 1990





    LETTER

    I want to thank mchavezs@guanajuato.gob.mx for taking the time to send in the following letter for posting. The content of the letter is by the author. This letter contains several interesting theories and references, most of which I am un-familiar with.

    Mr. Frederiksen,

    1) The children sacrificed at the Templo Mayor, according to your description, were decapitated, but according to the reports by the anthropologists, their death was most certainly caused by several wounds on the neck that caused them to bleed white. Also, there were put forward some other theories regarding the method used to sacrifice those children, including dismembering them, either while still alive or when they were already dead, or extracting their hearts.

    I believe that some of the children had their throats slit as the anthropologists say, but at least 11 of them could have had their hearts removed, either as the method used to execute them or as a complement of the slashing of their throats. I base this assumption on the presence of 11 stone jars with the effigy of Tlaloc, that had a very shallow opening on their top. I believe that the hearts of those children were placed on those jars as part of the offerings.

    Another piece of evidence that suggests this to me is that in some of the skulls and mandibles (11 of them) they found a large bead of green stone placed inside the mouth. As I have read, this was usually done with the victims of heart sacrifice on many prehispanic cultures.

    2) When excavating the offering, the anthropologists at first believed they had found an ossary, but at the bottom of the grave they found two rather complete skeletons, seated and with their arms and legs placed very closely to their bodies. According to the reading, those children were complete except for the absence of the hands and/or feet. Could it be possible that in some part of the ritual the victims had their hands and feet cut? In Cholula (Puebla) the archaeologists found several offerings on which the charred bones of hands and feet were placed on decorated dishes. Could this had been the case with at least this two children?

    3) There was also found a femur that had been cut just over the knee; that is, at least one of the children had at least one of his legs amputated above the knee with a stone knife that had to cut through the flesh, serrate and fracture the bone, and destroy the ligaments and tendons. Though there are no written records of this kind of treatment of the victims of sacrifice, specially children, it might be interesting to examine that femur under a microscope to see if there are blood intrusions on the bone tissue, because that could indicate the presence of blood pressure at the moment of the amputation and by extension, show if the boy had his leg amputated while still alive or once he had died. The same could be applied to the left ribs, breastbones and vertebrae, because apart of finding possible cut marks on the bones they could find evidence showing that the children were mutilated while still alive or not.

    4) How could the children had been dressed for their execution? According to the report, there were stone beads and remnants of thread, so the archaeologists deduce that the children wore bracelets and necklaces. The question is: they found organic matter preserved along with the bones, that is, a lot of cabbage, some wooden pieces and the thread used to form the jewelry. Would not it be expected to have found also traces of cloth? Does it indicate that, save for the necklaces and bracelets, the children were nude when they died? And could the bracelets have been placed on the bodies just after their death? I assume this because some of the bones were found painted on blue, indicating that the bodies or corporal segments were placed in the tomb and then covered with mineral pigment, and that the beads were found dispersed at the bottom of the grave, though some formed groups that clearly indicated the figure of the jewels.
    Another question:

    What did the Aztecs do with the corpses once the children had been executed? There are several representations on stone drawings nearby in Mexico that depict a pole from which hang what seem to be two sacrificed children. Their bodies are hanged upside down, tied by the feet to some sort of rotating device. I found that description on another archaeological paper; I will try to locate it and send it to you also.

    I hope you can contribute with some more ideas.

    Regards!!!

    REFERENCES

    Sacrificio de Ninos en el Templo Mayor Juan Antonio Roman Berrelleza Coleccion Divulgacion Instituto Nacional de Antropologia e Historia Mexico, 1991

    This was the author's degree dissertation on the theme, and was later published as a book.

    El Sacrificio Humano entre los Mexicas Yolotl Gonzalez Torres México, 1985


    RELIGION EN MESOAMERICA XXII MESA REDONDA SOCIEDAD MEXICANA DE ANTROPOLOGIA MEXICO, 1972

    These are the memories of the XXII round table disertation regarding prehispanic religion. You might find interesting the following articles, related in some measure to ritual child sacrifice by the aztecs.

    Chapter 11: Pinturas rupestres aztecas en el Popocatepetl Virve Piho y Carlos Hernandez Instituto Nacional de Antropologia e Historia pages 85 - 90

    This article describes a set of mural paintings found on the Popocatepetl mountain some years ago, and it suggest some kind of ritual treatment for the corpses of sacrificed children.

    Chapter 21: Santuarios y peregrinaciones en el mexico prehispanico Carlos Martinez Marin Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico pages 161 - 178

    This essay describes the diverse sacred places on which the aztecs used to offer sacrifices. It describes among other things the sites on the lake, mountains and caves were children used to be sacrificed.


                                                                                                           end of letter

     
     




    AZTEC CREATION, HEAVEN, & HELL

    AZTEC CREATION MYTHOLOGY



    According to one legend the creation of the universe was the work of two primordial deities, Ometecutli, Lord of Duality, and Omecihuatl, Lady of Duality. As creators of initial life they produced four sons, Tezcatlipoca, Xipe Totec, Quetzalcoatl, and Huitzilopochtli. Each of these gods was associated with a different direction(*8), color, tree, bird, and other natural events.

    Quetzalcoatl and Huitzilopochtli were credited with the creation of all human and animal life as well as natural vegetation. Some of the other gods worshiped by the Mexica were also created by these two deities.


    THE FIVE AGES OF THE EARTH OR (SUNS)



    The Aztec believed that the world was destined to be created and destroyed a total of five times. The Aztecs Cortes found believed that they were living in the fifth and final creation period(*9).

    ____________________
    8 The significance of directions comes from the shooting of four arrows by Xolotl. The Mexica universe consisted of five directions, the center where Xolotl stood on a mountaintop. Xolotl then burned a ring of dried grass and scattered the ashes to the four directions.

    9 The Aztec had no notion of eternity.



    1. Naui Ocelotl (Four Jaguar). The first age and was presided over by Tezcatlipoca. This age consisted of giant beings that lived on acorns and were eventually eaten by jaguars. The sun during this age was thought to be of only a half light and feeble. This age lasted 676 years.

    2. Naui Ehecatl (Four Wind). The second age and presided over by the benevolent Quetzalcoatl. World was populated by humans that lived on pinon nuts and food from a mesquite tree, and were then transformed into monkeys after being thrown into the woods by high winds. The world was destroyed by hurricanes. The sun itself was swept away by high winds. This age lasted 364 years.

    3. Naui Quiahuitl (Four Rain). The third age and presided over by Tlaloc. World was inhabited by humans who ate aquatic seeds. People were transformed into dogs, turkeys, birds and butterflies and then perished in a fiery rain of volcanic cinders falling from the sky. This age lasted 312 years.

    4. Naui Atl (Four Water). Presided over by Chalchiuhtlicue. Humans living on wild seeds and were transformed into fish. World destroyed by a great flood as the sky collapsed. This age lasted 676 years.

    5. Fifth and last age Naui Ollin (Four Movement). Presided over by Tonatiuh. Cortes found these people, the Aztec, living on Corn and fully believing they were eventually to be devoured by Tzitzimime, or celestial monsters. The world would then be destroyed by great earthquakes nevermore to be resurrected. The end will swallow all things and the stars would tumble down from the night sky. This end is said to occur when the earth becomes tired. The first people created in this final world were thought to be the Toltecs and their wars were seen as a service to the gods(*10). The fifth and final sun was to be stolen by Tezcatlipoca and all will go dark, forever(*11).

    ________________________
    10 The earth was thought of as a personification of chaos or unstructured matter called Cipactli, a monstrous alligator, or shark who lived in the ocean. Cipactli was bisexual and quite alone. Often considered a type of dragon considered female and known as Tlalteuctli, "Earth Lady". Often Tlalteuctli was considered as a giant toad with many mouths each dripping blood. Legend has it that in the beginning Quetzalcoatl and Tezcatlipoca assumed the shape of snakes and squeezed Cipactli into two parts. The top part they made into the sky and the lower part became the earth. There are other similar legends such as entering Cipactli by the mouth and navel, but the essence of the story is the same. Quetzalcoatl and Tezcatlipoca then placed great trees at the corners of the earth to hold up the sky. From the skin of Cipactli flowers and grasses were formed, from her eyes, springs, from her mouth, rivers, from her nose, valleys, and from her shoulders, the great mountains of Mexico. There are many creation myths, this is but one. Other myths concern creation by blood sacrifice and creation by theistic design or a divine mind.



    THE HEAVENS OF THE AZTECS



    There(*12) is a great deal of written material about the concept of Heaven and several discrepancies between authors. Sahagun, Duran, and Alcaron each seem to give a slightly different account even as to the correct number of levels associated with heaven. Listed here is a collection of notes I have taken.

    It is important to remember that the Mexica had no notion of eternity as we today may have. Their concept of Heaven or Hell must have been as a temporary storage place for the soul. Manipulation even after death by the all powerful deities. Men were truly toys of the gods.


    1- realm of the moon(*13). Presided over by Xiuhteuctli, "Turquoise Lord".

    ____________________
    11 The Mexica religion reflected a mood of darkness and this mood carried over into the day to day life. Even the god of fire and light lives in blackness in the underworld. Tezcatlipoca was the "Prince of Darkness"

    12 A competing tradition of only nine heavens was practiced in the communities of Chalco and Tlaxcala. Maya ruins at Chichen Itza also has references to a nine level heaven concept as evidenced by recent findings in the interior of the Castillo, or temple of Quetzalcoatl. According to Alcaron's book a general term for Heaven was Topan.



    2- realm of the stars. In this level there were women who had no flesh, just bones, and were called Tetzuahcihua, or Tzitzimine. These women were to devour the people during the destruction of the fifth sun, or end of the world. According to Alcaron, notes p. 238, this level was presided over by Tlalteuctli, meaning "Lord of the Land". Duran also makes reference to this deity and the second level of heaven. There is some debate as to the gender of this deity and several spelling are common. Spelling may have been TLAHUIZCALPANTECUHTLI, Meaning "The Dawn Lord".
    3- realm of the sun
    4- realm of the planet Venus or birds
    5- realm of comets and fire serpents
    6- realm of winds and the color black
    7- realm of the color blue and dust. Presided over by Huitzilopochtli.
    8- realm of storms. Presided over by Tlaloc.
    9- realm of the White god
    10- realm of the Yellow god. Presided over by Tezcatlipoca.
    11- realm of the red god
    12- Omeyocan, the Place of Duality, where the primordial creators lived, the lord and lady of duality. According to Alcaron's book(*14), this level of Heaven, or "Topan", as he refers to the concept was presided over by a deity refereed to as Tlahuizcalpan Teuctli, meaning, "Lord at the Dawn". This may have been a representation of Quetzalcoatl.


    NOTE: Alcaron makes reference (*15) to a deity called Tonacacihuatl, Meaning "Sustenance Woman", as presiding over the thirteenth level of Heaven, or Topan as he refers to the concept. The entry further makes reference to Tonacacihuatl being another name for Xochiquetzal, or "Flower Princess".



    THE NINE LAYERS OF HELL



    The (*16)journey of the dead was seen as a trial and consisted of a series of tests. Often a red dog was killed and buried with the dead to help the traveler on his journey into the land of the dead. The Mexica had no concept of hell and the early Spanish priests would notice blank stares from the Indians when they preached that they would go to "Mictlan" if they did not accept the teachings of the Catholic faith. The priests should have used the term Ichantlacatecoloty, "Home of the Owl Man", meaning the home of Mictlantecutli, it would have gotten a better response.

    Level 1- the surface of the earth
    Levels 2-8 hazardous places that served as a challenge to the soul
    Level 9- Mictlan(*17), or Place of the Dead, (the soul rested here for eternity)

    ____________________
    13 The moon was thought to be a cowardly symbol to the Mexica, probably due the creation myth surrounding the moon. The moon was thought of in several ways. One as Lady Golden Bells, Coyolxauhqui, sister of Huitzilopochtli. Also thought of as Tlazolteotl, "Eater of Filth".

    14 Notes p. 236

    15 Notes P. 240

    16 For an in-depth account of burial rites and rituals associated with the Aztec concept of hell, consult Sahagun's writings. There are also web site links to this interesting aspect located in the Aztec Links section.

    17 Mictlan was called "Land of the Unfleshed", "The Place of Our Common Sleep", "Our Universal Home, Where There is no Way Out", "Land of the Dumb", "The Extensive Land". Sahagun reefers to Mictlan as a dark place of ill fortune, without end, a fearful place. A cave in the mountain was the entry into the underworld. Upon entering you came to a river where a red dog would carry across your soul and would act as a guide through the various levels of Mictlan. Dogs were killed and buried with the Mexica for this reason. Many dangers awaited the soul including deserts, high mountains, dragons, hurricane force winds. The journey took four years to reach the Lord of the Dead. The soul would be destroyed at the end of the journey. For this reason there was no ancestor worship among the Mexica as a soul would not be believed to exist after the four years. Grave sites were unmarked in Mexico. The underworld had many layers including a force just below the ground that pushed plants upwards to flower.

    The name Mictlan may have meant "Deadmans Land", or "Beside the Deadman". For additional reading on the Nahuatl breakdown of this and other Nahuatl words and phrases see Alcaron's book, appendix B.


    AZTEC RELIGION - Omens and Dreams


    It is hard to understand the Mexica religion without a quick look at the devotion they had toward what we might consider Omens. Also included here is a brief example of how the Mexica viewed their dreams. For a student interested in further research into this area, I suggest reading Diego Duran as well as the Sahagun sources reference listed in this section Bibliography.



    The first omen was that if someone heard a wild animal cry out, it was said already he will die in war or he will sell himself.

    The second omen was that if the night heron (or laughing falcon) laughs, it was said already he will die in war.

    3rd, that of the night axe, as if someone splits something, cuts wood. So it was said perhaps something will befall him.

    4th, the owl cries out on the edge of the roof terrace: it was said perhaps he will die in war or his son will die.

    5rh, The owl strikes the front of the house; it was said that already the owner of the house will die.

    6th, If the barn owl entered anyone's house, it was said that already (the owner) would commit adultery.

    The 7th omen was that of the weasel. It was said that if it crosses someone's path, he can not go where he wishes to go; he will be killed; into others' hands he will go falling (i.e. be captured) on the road.

    The 8th omen was that of the rabbit. If if it entered anyone's house, it was said that his house will be destroyed, or (the owner) will flee.

    (the 9th -if there was one and not just a mistake in numbering - is missing from the original manuscript)

    The 10th omen was that of the chafer which one met on the road or saw (in) the house. It was said that perhaps somewhere one will be chidden before others; he will be shamed.

    11th. The skunk. If it entered someone's house or bears its young there, it was held that already the house-owner will die.

    The 12th omen was that of the ants. If they were swarming in someone's house, it was said that the house-owner already dies.

    The 13th omen was that of the giant. If someone saw him, it was held that already he will die in war.

    The 14th omen was that of the "bundle of ashes." If someone saw it, it was said that he already will die.

    The 15th omen was that of the one completely pressed down. If someone saw it, it was said that already he will die.

    The 16th omen was that of the coyote. If somebody met it or crossed its path, it was said that already he will die.

    And it was an omen for the city when it came to pass that a cliff crumbled or a mountain crumbled. And still others there are which we do not know [i.e.(probably), do not understand]. The when fierce beasts roar it was also an omen for the city. But still others there are which we do not know [or understand].


    Further Omens



    He who dreamed that the devil calls him, made a vow to him.
    He who dreamed that his house burns, it was said, will already die, and if he dreamed that he is swept away by the water, he already will die.
    He who dreamed, who saw in a dream that there is singing in his house, it was said, will already die.
    And he who dreamed that the mountain crumbles on him, it was also said, will already die.
    He who dreamed that a tree breaks over him, it was said, will already die.
    He who dreamed that he has a house built for him, it was also said, will already die.
    He who dreamed that the sun was eclipsed, it was also said, will go blind or will sell himself.
    He who dreamed that a fierce beast eats him, it was held, that he will already die.
    He who dreamed that he flies, it was said, already he will die in war. But of still other dreams we do not know. There are many.

    The soothsayer declared the dreams to one as he looked in the book of days, and he set forth that there be paying of one's debt, and he established the payment debt, and the payment of debt was in paper, copal, rubber.


    Concerning the grains of dried maize: in many things still by them are the women affected. First, when they cook it or set it on the ashes, here is their folly: when already they will place it in the ash-olla, still at first they warm it with their breath. It is said thus it will not be afraid; thus it will not fear the heat. It is said thus they habituate it to the heat.

    Second, thus do they delude themselves. If they saw or went to come upon grains of dried maize lying scattered on the ground, then they at once pick them up. They say: "Unfortunate is our sustenance. It lies weeping at intervals. For if we shall not pick it up, it will complain about us before our lord. For it will say to him: 'O our lord, this commoner did not pick me up when on the ground I lay all spread out. Punish him.' Or perhaps we shall starve."

    And also when the woman is pregnant, when the sun is eclipsed, or the moon, she could not look at it. It is said that if she will look at it, harelipped her child will be. And thus did the pregnant woman mitigate it: she placed obsidian in her bosom. It is said that with it the small child will not be harelipped.

    This metate people here took as an omen. When someone there is extended grinding, when it breaks: thus it appeared, it was said, that already will die the one who was grinding, or the house owner, or his children, or some of their house folk will die.



    ..Omens, dreams (Tetzauitl, temictli) From "Primeros memoriales", by Sahagún





    SHORT PASSAGE IN NAHUATL......

    "Tetzauitl, temictl from: "Primeros memoriales", Sahagún


    Inic centlamantli tetzauitl yehoatl yn aca quicaquia tequani choca, mitoaya ye yaumiquiz, anoco monamacaz. Inic vntlamantli tetzauitl yehoatl yn vactli vevetzca mitoaya ye yaumiquiz. Inic etlmantli yehoatl in yiovalteputzli iuhquin aca tlaxeloa quauhtequi iuh mitoaya aco ytla ipã muchivaz. Inic nauhtlamantli in teculotl choca y tlapãtenco mitoaya aco yaumiquiz anoco ipiltzin miquiz. Inic macuillamantli yehoatl in chicuatli in calixquatl quivitequi, mitoaya ye miquiz in chane. Inin chicuacentlamantli yehoatl in chichtli in aca ichan calaquia mitoaya ye tetlaximaz. Inic chicontlamantli yehoatl in cozatli cozamatl mitoaya in aca quiyacaviltequi amo vel yaz in campa yaznequi, mictiloz temac vetzitiuh otlica. Inic chicuetlamantli tetzavitl catca yehoatl in tochtli in aca ichan calaquia, mitoaya ye tlalpoliviz in ichan, anozo ye choloz. (No. 9 is missing in the M.S.) Inic matlactlamantli tetzavitl catca yehoatl in pinaviztli in otlica oquinamic, anozo calli oquittac, mitoaya azo cana teixpan ayoz, pinauhtiloz. Inic matlactlamantli once yehoatl in epatl in aca ichan callaquia, anozo uncan mopilhoatia, motenehuaya ye miquiz in chane. Inic matlactlamantli omome tetzavitl catca yehoatl in azcame in aca ichan molonia, mitoaya ye miqui in chane. Inic matlactli tlamantli umey tetzavitl catca yehoatl in tlacaveyac in aca quittaya, iuh motenevaya ye yaumiquiz. Inic matlactli unnavi tetzavitl catca yehoatl in tlacanexquimilli, in aca quittaya, mitoaya ye miquiz. Inic caxtollamantli tetzavitl catca yehoatl in centlapachto in aca quittaya, mitoaya ye miquiz. Inic caxtollamantli oce tetzavitl catca yehoatl in coyotl in aca quinamiquia, anozo quiyacaviltequia, mitoaya ye miquiz. Auh in altepetl itetzauh catca inic mochivaya yehoatl in texcalli xitinia, anozo tepetl xitinia: yoan oc cequi in amo vel ticmati. Niman yeevatl in tequanime choca no itetzauh catca in altepetl. Auh oc no cequi in amo ticmati.

    Other Aztec related links:

    Religion of the Modern Aztlan Movement

    Religion of the Mexica & Bibliography

    Major Deitites of the Mexica

    Minor Deitites of the Mexica

    Mexica Medicine

    Aztec Life

    Aztec Cannibalism: An Ecological Necessity?

    The Aztec Account of the Spanish Conquest of Mexico


    Commons Island Community History Visitor Center Goods & Services Search Messages



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