this culture, and the mentality of the mercenary or the soldier of fortune. It was these people who held sway over the sedentary groups and effected a certain measure of symbiosis by syncretizing various elements, without achieving the degree of unity visible in the cultures of Eurasia or Africa. Uranic and chthonic elements were syncretized by hunting peoples who were gradually changing their way of ife and settling down as agriculturalists. The short duration of the Aztec empire enables us to see that it was a culture which was still at an embryonic stage but evolving steadily; it had not yet attained complete maturity when the Spaniards arrived.
A characteristic feature in the primitive mentality is quite evident among the Aztecs: namely, the a-historicity of human existence. The "Great Year" and the repetition of creation are themes which underlie the developing theology proposed by the priesthood in the Aztec empire. To this must be added belief in the predestination that applies to every life. This belief and its attendant rites produced familiar effects: concrete existence was elevated to the realm of the sacred. Every action was lived out in "mythical time," being a repetition of the archetypal sacred action performed by the gods.
Three categories of people possessed life in "the beyond": the warrior slain in battle, the victim sacrificed to the gods, and the woman who died in childbirth. All three were made equal to the gods, or at the very least immortalized as companions of the Sun, since the Sun was the first paradise. The conquistadores were horrified by human sacrifice, regarding it as an offense against human dignity. In fact, however, it signified a false exaltation of the human person based on a faulty appreciation of divine dignity. Mircea Eliade points up the deeper underlying motif: "To find the meaning of these human sacrifices we must look into the primitive theory of the seasonal regeneration of the forces of the sacred... A regeneration sacrifice is a ritual
"repetition" of the Creation. The myth of creation includes the ritual (that is, violent) death of a primeval giant, from whose body the worlds were made, and plants grew The object in sacrificing a human victim for the regeneration of the force expressed in the harvest is to repeat the act of creation that first made grain to live. The ritual makes creation over again "1 The mythical scheme is identical whether we are dealing with the creation of the cosmos, of all humanity, of a particular race of people, or of other species. Nothing can be created without immolation. Sacrifice brings about an awesome transference in which the life concentrated in one person is diffused to others, manifesting itself on a collective or even cosmic scale.
When the Aztecs ate the flesh of a victim who had undergone voluntary self-immolation, they were eating the flesh of a god because the victim was apotheosized. Not only were they gaining a hold over the will of the gods, they were actually ensuring the existence of the gods, the world, and the human race. It was not simply a matter of ensuring their military power and supremacy; it was a matter of ensuring the continuance of cosmic and biological existence. A typical instance was the annual feast to the god Tezcalipoca. A similar outlook is evident in the pilgrimage which took place at the end of each "Great Year" (comprising fifty-two solar years). The people journeyed to the "hill of the star" near Colhuacan. At night, after all the fires of the land had been extinguished, they sought to light the "new fire" over the blood of a victim. If the priests succeeded, it meant that the gods would grant cosmic and biological existence for another period of fifty-two solar years. In orgiastic revelry the "new fire" was distributed throughout the region. It was the divine fire symbolizing and ensuring heat and life.
The monuments and documents left behind by this civilization give us a glimpse into the cosmic "home" which the Nahuatl peoples fashioned for themselves. The key to their symbolic world is to be found in their ancient myths, in their religious doctrines, and in the thinking of their sages, the tlamantinime. We cannot go into great detail about the beliefs and doctrines of the Aztec world, which indicate some first steps towards self-conscious rationalizing. Here I shall merely allude to four tlamatinime whose thinking indicates certain basic elements in the Toltec and Aztec vision of the cosmos. All four are historical personages. They deserve the same study and attention that is now accorded to such figures as the pre-Socratic thinkers.
Quetzalcoatl (9th century A.D.), a solitary young man from the region of Tulancingo, was sought out by the people of Tula. He became their governor, wise man, and priest; and he was also the first great Toltec thinker. He ta ught that the world was an immense island horizontally divided into four directions, with a navel at its center. The east was the region of light, fertility, and life-symbolized by the color white. The west was the home of the sun, symbolized by the color red. The north was the land of the dead, symbolized by the color black. The south was the region of seedland, symbolized by the color blue. Above the earth was the blue sky which was formed by all the waters and in which the sun, moon, and stars travelled along their paths. Below the earth was Mictlan, the realm of the dead. This world, filled with gods and invisible forces, had existed on and off four different times. In their cosmogonic battles the gods produced different periods or ages of the world, each age coming to an end in a cataclysmic upheaveal. The present age was the age of the "sun in motion," and the chief god was Ometeotl, the god of duality. As a Toltec poem expresses it:
The Toltecs knew quite well that there are many heaverl.5, that there are twelve divisions superimposed above where lives the true god and his consort, the celestial god, the Lord of Duality.
This great sage gave form and structure to the whole complex of Toltec wisdom (Toltecayotl), which would be idealized in later ages:
The Toltecs were wise peoPle. Toltectiyotl, the whole body of their arts and wisdom, came from Quetzalcoatl The Toltecs were very rich and happy
The most well-known of the Nahua tlamatinime, Nezahualcoytl, was born in Tezcoco in 1402. After serving as the leader and ruler of that city, he died in 1472. He may be regarded as a real Solon by virtue of his creativity as a legislator; but he was also a sage thoroughly acquainted with Toltec tradition because he had studied at Calmecac, the educational center for the nobility. Opposing the official ideology of the Aztecs, he had a temple built to Tloque Nahuque, the one god who overcomes change and death. This sage described him as "the one who is fashioning himself (Moyocoyatzin). But it was the tragic contingency of human life that preoccupied this sage:
Togetherness lasts only for a moment, glory for but a brief period Your beautiful flowers ... are nothing but dried-up flowers. Where shall we go that death does not exist?
Perhaps the sage who had the greatest practical impact was Tlacaelel, who was born in 1398. He fashioned a theoretical system that served as the basis for real-Iife action, and he was the undisputed counselor of the first Aztec king, Itzcoatl. It was he who gave the Aztec empire its mythical, warrior vision of the cosmos. To do this, he rethought all the theogonies of the valley area. All the codices of opposing groups, those of the city of Azcapotzalco in particular , were burned. The utmost unity was needed to weld the Aztec empire together; to integrate its religious, economic, educational, military, and socio-political life. Huit-zilopochtli, a forgotten god, would now take first place.
This god of war was born as the son of Coatlicue on the "Mountain of the Serpent." It was he who led the Mexica-Aztecs through the northern plains to Lake Tezcoco. While this sage modified earlier traditions, he took great care to provide continuity with Toltec tradition also. Thus he made Huitzilopochtli the god who presides over the age of the Sun in motion. In fact, this god was the Sun itself. Ifhe died, the fifth age of the world would come to a catastrophic end. To get back the vital energy he needed, this god had to have blood. Blood was the "precious water" (chalchihuatl) that would restore his vitality. By offering victims to him, the Aztecs carried out a sacred and important duty. Their battles were sacred functions, their wars were "holy wars." In short, Tlacaelel worked out a whole theology of the Aztec military conquest:
This is the office of Huitzilopochtli, our God.
For this has he come. To bring into his service all the nations by the strength of his brave breast and head.
The fourth tlamatinime we shall mention here was Tecayehuatzin. He ruled Huexotzinco around 1501. He might well be regarded as the sage of Nahuatl poetry, symbol, and speech.
The principal divinity of the Inca empire was called different names at different points in history. In an earlier period the people of the coastal area had called him Pachacamac, but later the Incas called him Huiracocha (or Viracocha). This creator god, too, was a product of syncretism. We must remember that the Incas cannot be viewed as a non-specialized people. Nor were they simply hunters or herdsmen. They were a settled, sedentary civilization with a highly developed culture.
Uranic religions-that is, religions with sky gods-are typical of non-specialized peoples or peoples at an early stage of development. Their limited su pply of tools and their freedom with respect to nature enables them to evince an attitude of supreme respect for the "heavenly father." This god is a creator god, at least in the sense that he has formed or shaped the world and other gods. Huiracocha certainly was the great sky god. In the eyes of the Inca elite he was an abstract, spiritual god who was also present. In
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