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Author Topic: Other Pagan: Aztec Religious Posts  (Read 530 times)

Yei

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Aztec Religious Posts
« on: September 11, 2018, 07:07:14 pm »
I don't think it would be controversial to say this, but Mesoamerican Reconstructionism isn't exactly popular. I think that it is just outside of most people's immediate thoughts. Hence, there isn't a lot of content about Central Mexican religions. However, I have noticed that people here do seem to be interested when the topic comes up. I'd like to make some longer, Aztec focused, posts, but I'm, not sure what anyone here would be interested in reading, and providing feedback on.

I've got several ideas already. One is to post 'biographies' of important gods, such as Quetzalcoalt (who people actually know). Or, I could write about more complex theological concepts such as 'Teotl.' Another option is to look at Central Mexico's religious history, and historical controversies (because that stuff is always interesting).

So, what do you all want to read/talk about?

ehbowen

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Re: Aztec Religious Posts
« Reply #1 on: September 11, 2018, 07:30:39 pm »
I don't think it would be controversial to say this, but Mesoamerican Reconstructionism isn't exactly popular. I think that it is just outside of most people's immediate thoughts. Hence, there isn't a lot of content about Central Mexican religions. However, I have noticed that people here do seem to be interested when the topic comes up. I'd like to make some longer, Aztec focused, posts, but I'm, not sure what anyone here would be interested in reading, and providing feedback on.

I've got several ideas already. One is to post 'biographies' of important gods, such as Quetzalcoalt (who people actually know). Or, I could write about more complex theological concepts such as 'Teotl.' Another option is to look at Central Mexico's religious history, and historical controversies (because that stuff is always interesting).

So, what do you all want to read/talk about?

Actually, I'm largely unfamiliar with the indigenous religious beliefs of our neighbors to the south. I'd be curious to listen to whatever you have to say. Caveat: "Curious" doesn't mean that I will reflexively think "indigenous good, European bad". OTOH, I'll attempt to keep from a priori assuming the reverse as well. Feel free to elucidate.
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EnderDragonFire

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Re: Aztec Religious Posts
« Reply #2 on: September 11, 2018, 10:13:37 pm »
So, what do you all want to read/talk about?

The Gods and Goddesses. Especially Tlaloc, and other Gods whose cults persisted across multiple cultures and time periods. I think it's fascinating how Mesoamerica kept, more-or-less, the same basic belief system even as various sociopolitical organizations rose and fell. That's not something you see very often in other parts of the world; often times, when a regime falls, especially one with a state religion, the religion goes with it.

The Mexica, the Maya, the Toltec, the Zapotec, the Teotihuacano culture, and many other groups spanning several millennia and a large geographic range, were remarkably consistent with their religious notions. Certainly, the Maya and the Aztecs, for example, had different religious practices, but the differences were relatively minor. I would argue that there was actually less variance between these than between the Greek and Roman religious systems.

That said, I know annoyingly little about the Gods themeslves. I've studied Mesoamerican culture at university, but we didn't really get too deep into the theology. We talked about Chicomoztoc, the Underworld, Tlaloc, and human sacrifice, and that's about the extent of it. I would love to know more about the specific, individual Gods and Goddesses that the Mexica worshiped.
"The worshippers of the gods go to them; to the manes go the ancestor-worshippers; to the Deities who preside over the elements go their worshippers; My devotees come to Me." ... "Whichever devotee desires to adore whatever such Deity with faith, in all such votaries I make that particular faith unshakable. Endowed with that faith, a votary performs the worship of that particular deity and obtains the fruits thereof, these being granted by Me alone." - Sri Krishna

Riothamus12

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Re: Aztec Religious Posts
« Reply #3 on: September 12, 2018, 04:29:49 pm »
I don't think it would be controversial to say this, but Mesoamerican Reconstructionism isn't exactly popular. I think that it is just outside of most people's immediate thoughts. Hence, there isn't a lot of content about Central Mexican religions. However, I have noticed that people here do seem to be interested when the topic comes up. I'd like to make some longer, Aztec focused, posts, but I'm, not sure what anyone here would be interested in reading, and providing feedback on.

I've got several ideas already. One is to post 'biographies' of important gods, such as Quetzalcoalt (who people actually know). Or, I could write about more complex theological concepts such as 'Teotl.' Another option is to look at Central Mexico's religious history, and historical controversies (because that stuff is always interesting).

So, what do you all want to read/talk about?

I wish to know more about the theological and philosophical aspects of it. To me that is the most important part of it. The ethical dimension of such religions is of great interest to me as well. Also, I'm curious as to how one would handle someone who is not specifically, first and foremost an adherent being called by or taking up the worship of some of the old Deities of the ancient Mexica and their modern descendants.  I'm also curious as to how the issue of sacrifice is handled since it seemed to be a central practice. I know that reconstructionists do not participate in human sacrifice but have made offerings of their own blood and offerings one might find in other religions that practice the giving of offerings such as food, drink, and other such things.

Click it or something.It just seemed like it would be fun to toy around with.

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Re: Aztec Religious Posts
« Reply #4 on: September 12, 2018, 06:19:49 pm »
I'm also curious as to how the issue of sacrifice is handled since it seemed to be a central practice.

I'm actually most curious about all the stuff other than the human sacrifice, since that is frequently the only aspect of these religions that gets much discussion.

Festivals? Folk magic? Prayers? Education? Did Mayan glyphs have magical significance, like Egyptian hieroglyphs?

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Re: Aztec Religious Posts
« Reply #5 on: September 12, 2018, 10:46:28 pm »
I'm actually most curious about all the stuff other than the human sacrifice, since that is frequently the only aspect of these religions that gets much discussion.

Festivals? Folk magic? Prayers? Education? Did Mayan glyphs have magical significance, like Egyptian hieroglyphs?

This as well. I am curious to know what Mexica, Mayan, and Incan magic looked like. Albeit, these are three distinct cultures and there are other similar notable ones in the Mesoamerican umbrella aside from them, but those are the three people tend to be most familiar with. Aside from sacrifice and prayer, what did worship look like? Also Naguals. I am curious about this concept.

Click it or something.It just seemed like it would be fun to toy around with.

Yei

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Re: Aztec Religious Posts
« Reply #6 on: September 14, 2018, 06:31:35 pm »
I'm actually most curious about all the stuff other than the human sacrifice, since that is frequently the only aspect of these religions that gets much discussion.

Festivals? Folk magic? Prayers? Education? Did Mayan glyphs have magical significance, like Egyptian hieroglyphs?
This as well. I am curious to know what Mexica, Mayan, and Incan magic looked like. Albeit, these are three distinct cultures and there are other similar notable ones in the Mesoamerican umbrella aside from them, but those are the three people tend to be most familiar with. Aside from sacrifice and prayer, what did worship look like? Also Naguals. I am curious about this concept.

To be perfectly honest I don't know much about Mesoamerican magic. I don't practise magic myself so its not something I read up on a lot. Of course, magic played a role in ancient Mesoamerica. Interestingly, the famous texts such as Duran's Historia and Sahagun's Forentine Codex don't connect magic to religion. Sorcerers show up though. Nezahualpilli, son of Nezahualcoyotl, was said to be a seer and a prophet, but this could just be on account of his wisdom. Tzutzutzamin, lord of Coyoacan, was able to transform himself into a giant serpent and a whirlwind at one point, top thward assassins. Sorcerers were also employed by Motecuhzoma. At one point, he sent them on a journey to Aztlan, the Mexica's mythical homeland to meet their ancestors (they were successful, but at great cost. Most did not return). He also used sorcerers to bewitch the Spaniards approaching Tenochtitlan, an attempt which failed. However, this story may not be entirely accurate. The Spanish do not mention attacks by wizards, and the legend only appears in Book 12 of the  Forentine Codex. Instead, I expect Motecuhzoma sent spies and diplomats, although some of them may have known magic. The most harrowing description of sorcerers tells of how they would steal the thigh bones of women who died in childbirth, and use them to paralyse households during the night, leaving the victims helpless against attacks. They could then enter the house and loot its contents.

I also know that magic is practised in modern communities, often by people described as 'shamans' in western society. I think they are thought of as 'healers' in their own communities. Becoming a healer happened in several ways. Of course it could be taught, passed on from father to son and the like. The Tlaloque, servants of the rain god, Tlaloc, who reside in mountains, could also just decide to make someone a healer at random. They would just decide, 'this guy, make him a healer.' These healers are sort of like a country doctor/lawyer, in that in addition to healing they head ceremonies and prayer, and often represent their communities to outsiders. This is interesting, as Aztec medicine was largely plant based, and in the hands of professional doctors, not priests (though some overlap could occur, and medicine was not completely secular).

I suspect the difference reflects the rural/urban divide. The Mexica and Acolhua living in 16th century Mexico found themselves in cities with schools, botanic gardens, and other doctors. They had the resources to specialise in pharmacology. Meanwhile, priests were also trained en mass in dedicated schools, and so could specialise. In the countryside, the professional networks were smaller, and so priest/doctors had to pull double duty. Access to resources was also more limited, and so doctors likely resorted to more magical means to make up the shortfall. As the economy contracted in the wake of the Spanish Conquest, the fallback to magic probably became even more important.

Alas, this is all I know. The actual magic practises remain obscure to me. And of course, modern Mesoamerican magic is infused by folk Christianity, which I want to keep out of my personal practise. Sorry I can't be more helpful.

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Re: Aztec Religious Posts
« Reply #7 on: September 18, 2018, 09:14:13 pm »
So, what do you all want to read/talk about?

As someone who wrote an honors paper on Aztec religious practices besides human sacrifice (it was a Latin American culture course, and we spent the semester diving deep into Aztec and Incan sources... to this day one of my favorite college classes ever), I'm immensely interested to see where you take this. 

I had to go dig the paper out to refresh myself (it has been a few years), but in writing it, I gained a soft spot for Quetzalcoatl as a divinatory god (I work with him when I do my Earth oracle workings), and the tonalamatl, a divinatory almanac with its feast days and calendar gods (deities who we have little to no detail on, except that they exist on specific days in the tonalamatl).  I've got a strong fondness in general for deities and entities who we have lost the knowledge of, save a few scarce mentions in historical sources or in depictions.

Also interesting to me is the concept of nauhualli, written about in a treatise regarding the Aztec people in the 17th century by Priest Hernando Ruiz de Alarcon.  Nauhualli were people tied to an animal of the day of their birth, who could feel what was done to the animal they were connected with, and he relates a wonderful account from a Father of the Dominican Order, who says a bat flew into his monks' cell and they tried to kill it.  The next day, an old woman came to the monks to asked why they had tried to kill her.  The woman then disappeared while they puzzled over whether they were going to detain and question her.  This took place almost a century after Europeans and all they brought with them landed in Mesoamerica.  As someone who does a lot of animal work, this sort of intimate connection with a particular animal really resonates with me, probably because I do quite a lot of astral animal-shifting work, and her encounter feels familiar, even these centuries later.

I would like to end this by saying, I am no expert in any sense, and if you want sources, I will happily copy-pasta them out of my old research paper, but I am not hiking all the way back to Michigan State to hit any books (figuratively).  And I cannot wait to see what threads come out of this!  Religious history is fascinating.
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Yei

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Re: Aztec Religious Posts
« Reply #8 on: September 23, 2018, 07:18:56 pm »
Also interesting to me is the concept of nauhualli, written about in a treatise regarding the Aztec people in the 17th century by Priest Hernando Ruiz de Alarcon.  Nauhualli were people tied to an animal of the day of their birth, who could feel what was done to the animal they were connected with, and he relates a wonderful account from a Father of the Dominican Order, who says a bat flew into his monks' cell and they tried to kill it.  The next day, an old woman came to the monks to asked why they had tried to kill her.  The woman then disappeared while they puzzled over whether they were going to detain and question her.  This took place almost a century after Europeans and all they brought with them landed in Mesoamerica.  As someone who does a lot of animal work, this sort of intimate connection with a particular animal really resonates with me, probably because I do quite a lot of astral animal-shifting work, and her encounter feels familiar, even these centuries later.

I would like to end this by saying, I am no expert in any sense, and if you want sources, I will happily copy-pasta them out of my old research paper, but I am not hiking all the way back to Michigan State to hit any books (figuratively).  And I cannot wait to see what threads come out of this!  Religious history is fascinating.

The nahualli is certainly an interesting concept, although I'm not at all an expert. I know that one of the earliest examples is Xolotl, who is the nahualli for Quetzalcoatl. Interestingly enough, it doesn't appear in the historical record as a personal belief (that is, a belief that individuals have a nahualli) until Ruiz de Alarcon. Earlier chroniclers, such as Sahagun, Duran, and Motolinia, don't seem to mention the concept (at least not as a defined belief). This might be due to the fact that their work was conducted in the urban heartland, and their informants were generally the descendants of the nobility, so maybe the belief had become something of an abstraction rather than a personal relationship. Then again, Mesoamerican cities were pretty green anyway. Personally, I think that earlier priests didn't realise that it was a thing.

Nahualli has been further complicated by language changes. The nahualli concept is now called 'tonal' or 'tonalism,' despite the fact that 'tonal' in Nahuatl means day/sunlight. In addition, the word nahualli seems to have morphed into the term nagual, which refers to a shape-shifting witch. This might be a result of language difference. Nahualli is of course, Nahuatl. However, the terms tonalism and nagual are used to describe features of other Mesoamerican cultures, such as the Mixtec and the Maya, who did not speak Nahuatl. Furthermore, according to Lucille Kaplan, although tonalism/the nahualli are fully indigenous, the nagual is really a mestizo idea. It came from the blending of Nahua nahualli with European beliefs about witchcraft. And that's the extent of my knowledge.

Additionally, I'm thinking (among other things), of tackling a few religious 'controversies' that exist in Mesoamerican history. Would anyone find this interesting? I've got a few ideas, and the one I'm thinking of might make a good episode of Our Fake History.

arete

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Re: Aztec Religious Posts
« Reply #9 on: September 24, 2018, 02:55:38 pm »
So, what do you all want to read/talk about?
human sacrifices. what is the logic behind it?

arete

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Re: Aztec Religious Posts
« Reply #10 on: September 25, 2018, 03:23:12 am »
human sacrifices. what is the logic behind it?
I did a little search and I found this very informing article. https://www.historyonthenet.com/aztec-culture-and-human-sacrifice/ It seems human sacrifice was a norm?

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Re: Aztec Religious Posts
« Reply #11 on: September 25, 2018, 04:09:05 am »
It seems human sacrifice was a norm?

If general historical consensus is to be believed, yes very much. All the pre-contact mesoamerican peoples did it to some extent or another, but the Aztecs specifically made a large scale cultural enterprise out of the practice.
"The worshippers of the gods go to them; to the manes go the ancestor-worshippers; to the Deities who preside over the elements go their worshippers; My devotees come to Me." ... "Whichever devotee desires to adore whatever such Deity with faith, in all such votaries I make that particular faith unshakable. Endowed with that faith, a votary performs the worship of that particular deity and obtains the fruits thereof, these being granted by Me alone." - Sri Krishna

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Re: Aztec Religious Posts
« Reply #12 on: September 25, 2018, 06:50:20 am »
human sacrifices. what is the logic behind it?

That is a big question and I really should put it in a separate, more developed article/thread.

I did a little search and I found this very informing article. https://www.historyonthenet.com/aztec-culture-and-human-sacrifice/ It seems human sacrifice was a norm?

Basically yes.

If general historical consensus is to be believed, yes very much. All the pre-contact mesoamerican peoples did it to some extent or another, but the Aztecs specifically made a large scale cultural enterprise out of the practice.

Now that could be an interesting discussion! Were the Aztecs/Mexica especially bloodthirsty compared to other Mesoamerican people. I argue, not really. And here's why:

Obviously, the idea of the Mexica being super into sacrifice comes from some of the oldest written source we have. Obviously, Conquistadors report numerous sacrifices, so we know it was going on. But to get to the gore we have to turn to Diego Duran's History of the Indies of New Spain. This text contains two points that create the impression that the Mexica loved sacrifice more than anybody. The first is a story about an official named Tlacaelel, who is credited with increasing the frequency and quantity of sacrifice through a policy known as the 'Flower Wars.' The second is the 1486 dedication of the Templo Mayor by Ahuitzotl, who is alleged to have killed about 80 400 people over 4 days. Before the 1980's historians largely took their cues from Duran. However, there are several problems with the original source. First, Tlacaelel's policy reforms are kind of dubious historically. I mean, he was an important official, but according to Duran's tale he was mainly motivated by the 'desire to eat human flesh.' This is such a Spanish stereotype which is hugely questionable historical speaking. Furthermore, several historians such as Ross Hassig and Barry Issac have argued that the Flower Wars were really an attrition strategy intended to weaken tough opponents, and the human sacrifice element was a smokescreen at best. That's if the Flower Wars ever really existed at all. In other words, the Mexica probably did not fight wars just to take captives for sacrifice.

As for Ahuitzotl, that might be even more dubious. First of all, no one has found the physical evidence for such a large number of victims, and no one knows where the remains are. This applies to all sacrificial remains. Although some remains have been found, there are nowhere near as many as chroniclers claimed. Second, the entire story strains credibility. The Mexica had to have killed people faster than Auschwitz. Considering the elaborate ritual nature of sacrificial rituals this is impossible. And where you the Mexica put such people until they were sacrificed. 80 000 people is a lot, and they had to wait somewhere. Furthermore, other sources such as Sahagun's
Quote
Florentine Codex
and even Duran's own
Quote
Book of Gods and Rites
does not suggest that Mexica rituals were especially large. Were talking a handful victims, not hundreds.

Now, this does not mean that the Mexica never had an occasional big ritual, and they probably did sacrifice more people than other groups. However, they also had a much greater population and power structure than any other group, possibly by an order of magnitude (depending on how you measure such things). Thus, even if their rituals are larger in raw terms, they were probably not that large relative to the Mexica's population size, although no one really knows for sure.

EnderDragonFire

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Re: Aztec Religious Posts
« Reply #13 on: September 25, 2018, 02:21:32 pm »
I mean, he was an important official, but according to Duran's tale he was mainly motivated by the 'desire to eat human flesh.'

...

However, they also had a much greater population and power structure than any other group, possibly by an order of magnitude (depending on how you measure such things). Thus, even if their rituals are larger in raw terms, they were probably not that large relative to the Mexica's population size, although no one really knows for sure.

Regarding Duran, as someone who works with historical documents in a professional context, I understand the problem. It would be much better if we had archaeological remains to support every theory in the field, but in many cases they just aren't available. It then become a question of "how much of this is bullshit?  Were they just mistaken, or is it intentionally misleading? Does it even sound plausible?" Every historical document is tainted with some degree of bias, it's just a matter of how much bias and what kind. Documents from the conquests of Mexico and Peru are particularly problematic in this way, because with a few exceptions, the other side of the conflict didn't leave any written records with which to compare the Spanish ones.

Regarding your point about population size, that's always made sense to me as an explanation for the scale of Aztec sacrifices. The Maya, and most other groups, were either small confederations or city states, the Aztecs had proper, albeit small by Eurasian standards, empire, with a much larger population and more infrastructure.
"The worshippers of the gods go to them; to the manes go the ancestor-worshippers; to the Deities who preside over the elements go their worshippers; My devotees come to Me." ... "Whichever devotee desires to adore whatever such Deity with faith, in all such votaries I make that particular faith unshakable. Endowed with that faith, a votary performs the worship of that particular deity and obtains the fruits thereof, these being granted by Me alone." - Sri Krishna

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Re: Aztec Religious Posts
« Reply #14 on: September 30, 2018, 07:40:56 pm »
I don't think it would be controversial to say this, but Mesoamerican Reconstructionism isn't exactly popular. I think that it is just outside of most people's immediate thoughts. Hence, there isn't a lot of content about Central Mexican religions. However, I have noticed that people here do seem to be interested when the topic comes up. I'd like to make some longer, Aztec focused, posts, but I'm, not sure what anyone here would be interested in reading, and providing feedback on.

I've got several ideas already. One is to post 'biographies' of important gods, such as Quetzalcoalt (who people actually know). Or, I could write about more complex theological concepts such as 'Teotl.' Another option is to look at Central Mexico's religious history, and historical controversies (because that stuff is always interesting).

So, what do you all want to read/talk about?

As a follower of several lowland Maya gods (Ku'ob? Kulob? Iirc Mayan dialects don't have a term analogous to 'Teteo'.) I'm ALL for hearing more from my Mesoamerican reconstructionist fellows, as a lot of the blogs on the subject that I've followed have mostly stopped updating over the past few years.

I'd definitely read your blog if you started one.
rotwork: on devotion to lesser-known and un-known gods, transplanting genus loci, art, and modernity

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Site Assistants
[Non-Staff Positions]
Webmaster:
Randall