February '09 seminar - The path to the Mictlan, Mexican lore

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Aelfarh
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February '09 seminar - The path to the Mictlan, Mexican lore

Postby Aelfarh » 30 Jan 2009, 10:35

When I was first invited to write a seminar for this forum, I was excited but at the same time unsure about what to write. What could I possibly share with people who have spent decades studying and living Druidry, people who are engaged in formal Celtic studies, etc. ?

Then the answer came right away, what they could not know was my own personal background, knowledge and way to approach this Celtic Path. So my choice was clear, to write something about the Native American lore of the people who lived in what is now Mexico to give some comparative mythology and traditions surrounding an important festival present in both Mexican and Celtic cultures. After that a new problem arose. I am not a Native American, most of my family came from Europe, was it honest enough that I write something about them?

Then I realized that I also have the right to write of that lore, since I’m the third generation of my family who has born in Mexico, so, not from a Native American point of view, but from a Mexican point of view. Mexican culture, the child of two great cultures, the indigenous culture of the American natives, mostly the Aztec ones and the European culture mostly of the Spaniards. This new culture, a product of a clash of worlds, of the iron sword and the obsidian mallet, is the one that I come from.

So, my seminar will be about that and how it is mixed with my spiritual path, the Druid way. Now to speak fully of that is too big, with enough material to write an entire book. So I decided to write about a specific topic, Death.

This seminar will not be a step by step kind of seminar, more like an essay, although I’ll try to put some practical things in it. So let’s begin.

The best way to understand the Mexican view of death is to understand the point of view of the father and mother of this my culture; and afterwards to try to explain how to integrate this to the Druid way I follow.

Firstly, I’m going to focus on the Nahuatl perspective on death. The Nahuatl culture was a culture shared by several tribes that lived on what is now Central Mexico. The most famous of this were the Aztecs, aka Mexicas or the people of the Anahuac Valley. But it also covers some of their allies as the kingdom of Texcoco or their enemies as the kingdom of Tlaxcala.

Since the Nahuas did not write text books and most of their lore were taught orally in the Calmecatl or the Tepochcalli (types of Universities), and just a little of their mythology was painted in codes on their temples (the pyramids and so on) what has come to us is through the first Christian monks that put it into writing. As with Irish lore, this was a great advantage to preserve the lore that otherwise it could probably have been lost in the oceans of time; but with the disadvantage of possible censorship or a biased point of view of the missionaries themselves. These texts, along with the artistic and architectural remains of the Nahuatl culture have made it possible to reconstruct their philosophical thinking.
Last edited by Aelfarh on 30 Jan 2009, 10:53, edited 1 time in total.
Bennacht Dé ocus ainDé fort!
(The blessings of the gods and the non-gods upon you!)

http://al-tirnanog.blogspot.com/
http://www.losceltas.org

"We see things only as we are constructed to see them, and can gain no
idea of their absolute nature. With five feeble senses we pretend to
comprehend the boundlessly complex cosmos"


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THE UNIVERSE AND THE NAHUATL COSMOLOGY

Postby Aelfarh » 30 Jan 2009, 10:36

First we have to understand the basic cosmology of the Nahuas, regarding space and time. On his book “La pensée cosmologique des anciens mexicains”, Jaques Soustelle; speaks about this in a clear way:

Therefore, the Aztec cosmology does not distinguish between space and time; it refuses above all to conceive space as a neutral and homogenous medium independent of duration. This moves through heterogeneous and singular media, whose particular characteristics accord to a determined rhythm and in a cyclical way. For the Aztec way of thinking there is no space and time, but space-times where the natural phenomena and human actions are submerged and impregnated continuously in their internal qualities.

Each “place-instant” made of site and event, creates everything that is inside *, everything that is inside it. The world** can be compared with a background decoration over which several light filters of different colours moved by a tireless machine, will show reflections that are superimposed and one after another, following forever an unalterable order.


In this world we can not conceive change as the result something that slowly happens in duration, but as a strong and total mutation: Today East commands, tomorrow will be the North; today we live a happy day and we will go to an awful day (nemontemi) without a transition. world’s ** law is the alternation of opposite qualities, radically separated, that are dominant, are vanished and reappear, eternally. This in contrast with the greek zodiac that give qualities to larger periods of time, not for a specific day.


That means that for the Nahuas there was no beginning or ending and this concept of space-time as a whole, alien to the western world until Einstein, was a day to day living form for the Nahuas. There was a particular time for each place, for each of the four cardinal points and the centre. Each person had a special destiny according to where and when they were born; each one associated a place, time, colour, virtues and powers; and likewise a place and time for when they die, and the way they die.

Also this continuity of events, of opposites that merge in to a new universe”, was reflected in their existence, death defines life, and life defines death. It was not an absolute opposition as defined by a modern western point of view; and it was not the natural end of life - it was only one phase of an infinite cycle. Life and Death are interlinked, they flow together for eternity as complementary ways, life had no higher function than to flow into death; death is not an end in itself, it is only a way to re-establish the universal balance, to re-establish the debts that the humans had with their gods, to ensure the continuous of society and the cosmos itself.
Last edited by Aelfarh on 30 Jan 2009, 11:21, edited 2 times in total.
Bennacht Dé ocus ainDé fort!
(The blessings of the gods and the non-gods upon you!)

http://al-tirnanog.blogspot.com/
http://www.losceltas.org

"We see things only as we are constructed to see them, and can gain no
idea of their absolute nature. With five feeble senses we pretend to
comprehend the boundlessly complex cosmos"


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Aelfarh
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THE SOCIETY, THE SELF AND THE NAHUAS

Postby Aelfarh » 30 Jan 2009, 10:37

The second thing that is important to take into account was the concept of individuals and society.

For the Aztecs, the individual plays a role in the web of life, part of this immense cosmos, interlinked with each and every creature, every mountain, river, etc. Sacrifice was not a form of individual salvation for the other world, but for cosmic health. The individual will sacrifice himself for his tribe, but also for his world. The need for human blood was not to feed the hungry gods in a literal way - it was a way of bringing equilibrium and salvation to the cosmos. Universal equilibrium was more important than the individual person’s life.

Western civilization views this as a cult of death, a savage and cruel religious practice. But that is just a lack of understanding of the meaning of death. Death was not worshiped as an entity, nor worshiped as an end in itself. It was part of the continuum, just a phase to go through. Warriors sacrificed themselves to the gods, there were ball games (very similar to today’s football but played with the hip instead of the foot) to symbolize the movement of the cosmos, and the winning team, the one who established how the cosmos will be moving, would give their lives as a reward, as a means to ensure that their way will be preserved.

I’m not going to begin to analyze the Western (Christian and Greco-Latin) point of view, since it is known worldwide, and I take for granted that the reader has studied this to some level in his or her schools, and can see it reflected in their own civilization. Whether you are Christian or not, the influence of Christian and Greco-Latin cosmology** has given form to the cosmology of today’s western world. So I leave it to the reader to make the comparisons.
Bennacht Dé ocus ainDé fort!
(The blessings of the gods and the non-gods upon you!)

http://al-tirnanog.blogspot.com/
http://www.losceltas.org

"We see things only as we are constructed to see them, and can gain no
idea of their absolute nature. With five feeble senses we pretend to
comprehend the boundlessly complex cosmos"


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THE DIVISION OF THE UNIVERSE

Postby Aelfarh » 30 Jan 2009, 10:37

Nahuatl people divided the Universe in Three: the Upperworld form of thirteen skies; the Middle world, formed of three realms and finally the Underworld, in the form of a pyramid with nine levels.

The thirteen skies

These were the 13 skies for the Nahuas:

1. the sky of the stars given by Tonacatecuhtli, two stars, one male, one female, that will take care of humankind forever.
2. the sky of the 400 (meaning infinite) stars, Citlalco
3. the sky of the sun, Ilhuicatl Tonatiuh
4. the sky of Venus, called in Nahuatl ‘Citlalpol’ or ‘big star’
5. the sky of the comets, of flaming stars, ‘Citlain popoca’
6. the sky of day
7. the sky of night, these two were associated with of green and blue, or black and blue
8. the sky of tempest
9. The sky of white
10. The sky of yellow
11. The sky of red; these three skies (8, 9 & 10) were where the gods lived, the Teteocan.
12. and 13. The skies of Omeyocan, were the source of generation and life, where Ometeotl, the dual god who was at the same time male and female or a mixed neutral being created everything that existed.


The Middle world

There were three realms on the middle or horizontal world, the land called Anahuatl or Cem-anahuatl meaning ‘the ring surrounded by wate’r; the oceans called teoatl (teo meaning divine or godly and atl meaning water) and the heavens known as ilhuica atl (the water of the sky ) since it merged with the water that the men could touch.

The Underworld

Finally we arrived at the underworld, the Way to the Mictlan.

For the Nahuas, there were three ways to die:

The first was dying in battle; the warriors who were brave enough but could not defeat their enemies died in battle and went to the third sky, the one of the sun, Ilhuicatl Tonatiuh. There they merged with the sun god Tonatiuh as their companions for all eternity. It was the most prestigious way of departure from this world. To this sky also belonged pregnant women who died in childbirth, since childbirth was viewed as a battle between the mother and the child. They were known as cihuateteo and they were the ones who return to the earth to take the souls of the warriors who die in battle., Babies who died in childbirth were sent to the 12 & 13 skies, back to the source, back to Ometeotl.

The second way was dying because water caused death, or being killed by lighting. The ones who died like this were sent to the Tlaloctlan. It was described as the eternal summer place where Tlaloc, the god of water lived. This otherworld was full of wisdom and joy and the ones who died this way were meant to be the tlaloques or Tlaloc assistants.

The third one was the Mictlan, for people who died of any other cause. To get to the Mictlan, the dead people were supposed to pass through nine levels, that would prove they were worthy to reside forever in the Yolomictlantzinco or the Heart of the Mictlan.

First they needed to cross the Chignahuapan, a great river, where they meet Xolotl, a god in the form of a Xoloitzcuintle, a hairless dog original from Mexico that will guide them and help them to cross to the other side of the river. They were advised to not to follow the dog with white hair, nor the one with black hair, even when they offered them any treat, as they would never lead them to the other side.

Once they crossed, they would pass the path of the two mountains that demolish everything, there they were inflicted with great and several injuries, they lost their clothes and their bodies start to be broken.

Then they have to cross the obsidian mountain, where their bodies were cut down and they will start losing blood.

After this they will cross a valley where the freezing north wind which cuts everything like obsidian knifes, will attack them. Here the body will be cut until only the heart and bones survive.

On the fifth level, they have to deliver all their flags, to the ones who keep them.

After that they will arrive to the valley where the arrows are thrown.

The seventh level, is the place where the beasts eat the hearts, they were supposed to fight them to save their hearts, the only thing that they still have.

The eighth level is the place of the dark water, or the dark mist, where they have to find by themselves the way out, in almost complete darkness

Finally they will arrive to the heart of the Mictlan, the ninth level, where Mictlantecutli and Mictecacihuatl ,the lord and lady of the Dead lived. They were portrayed as human skeletons with little or no flesh, and dark hair, where the 400 stars reflected. They will welcome them and assure them a place in that level, where they will live without worry, with pulque (an alcoholic drink) and food will be given to them and they could party and have joy. They now will be light beings, with only their skeleton and heart united by their light energy.

Later on this essay, I’ll retrace this way to the Mictlan, to explain how we as living beings could access the Mictlan in Otherworld travelling, and how the way to the Mictlan needs to be remembered when creating the Ancestor’s altar for Samhain. But before that I will address the meaning of the Day of the dead, for the Mexican today.
Bennacht Dé ocus ainDé fort!
(The blessings of the gods and the non-gods upon you!)

http://al-tirnanog.blogspot.com/
http://www.losceltas.org

"We see things only as we are constructed to see them, and can gain no
idea of their absolute nature. With five feeble senses we pretend to
comprehend the boundlessly complex cosmos"


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THE DAY OF THE DEAD

Postby Aelfarh » 30 Jan 2009, 10:51

I have explained the view of death and the journey of the dead according to Nahuatl tradition. But this was also a matter for the living and there was a day - the day of the dead - where the souls of the ancestors were allowed to leave the Mictlan and visit their beloved ones. So the family gather together and put up an altar to the departed ones, with their favourite food and drinks and with flowers and bonfires. There was a special flower that was supposed to guide the dead ones because of it’s scent, this was the Cempaxóchitl (Tagetes erecta, aka known as Aztec Marigold in English). This yellow/orange flower was also used for cooking and was put all around the house and petals placed on the floor of the altar, which along with the bonfires, will lead the dead home to their house. These festivities were held at the time of the harvest, when a new cycle full of food and joy begins.

I’ll not give details of the Celtic Samhain festivity, but surely the reader could see the resemblances.

The Catholic Church originally celebrated “All Souls Night”, officially called Commemoratio Omnium Fidelium Defunctorum (Latin for Commemoration of the all faithful departed) on the 13th of May, but it was moved by Pope Gregor III to the 1st of November, in an attempt to eliminate the pagan Celtic traditions.

Spanish monks tried to eliminate the pagan Mexican tradition in the same way, and move the festivity to the 1st of November. So that was how the Celtic, Catholic and Mexican traditions were merged in a single date, actually a three day festivity, starting the 31st of October at night, and ending the 2nd of November at night.

I will borrow two excellent paragraphs from “The Labyrinth of Solitude” by the winner of literature nobel price , the Mexican writer Octavio Paz, who explains the meaning of this festival better than anyone I have ever read:.

”There are certain days when the whole country, from the most remote villages to the largest cities, prays, shouts, feasts, gets drunk (...) time comes to a full stop, and instead of pushing us toward a deceptive tomorrow that is always beyond our reach, offers us a complete and perfect today of dancing and revelry, of communion with the most ancient and secret Mexico. Time is no longer a succession, and becomes what it originally was and is: the present, in which past and future are reconciled. (...) The modern masses are agglomerations of solitary individuals. On great occasions in Paris or New York, when the populace gathers in the squares or stadiums, the absence of people, in the sense of a people, is remarkable: there are couples, and small groups, but they never form a living community in which the individual is at once dissolved and redeemed.(…) [Our] “Fiestas” are our only luxury. They replace, and are perhaps better than, the theatre and vacations, Anglo-Saxon weekends and cocktail parties, the bourgeois receptions, the Mediterranean café. (...) The Mexican opens out. They all give him a chance to reveal himself and to converse with God, country, friends or relations.

To the modern Mexican death doesn't have any meaning. It has ceased to be the transition, the access to the other life which is more authentic than this one. But the unimportance of death has not taken it away from us and eliminated it from our daily lives. To the inhabitant of New York, Paris, or London death is a word that is never uttered because it burns the lips. The Mexican, on the other hand, frequents it, mocks it, caresses it, sleeps with it, entertains it, it is one of his favourite playthings and his most enduring love. It is true that in his attitude there is perhaps the same fear that others also have, but at least he does not hide this fear nor does he hide death; he contemplates her face to face with impatience, with contempt, with irony: 'If they're going to kill me tomorrow, let them kill me for once and for all'.

'If they're going to kill me tomorrow, let them kill me for once and for all'. That is part of a popular Mexican song, called Valentina. The paragraph that Paz quote is from this verse:

Dicen que por tus amores la vida me han de quitar, (They say that for you love they will take my life)
no le hace que sean muy diablos yo también me sé pelear. (It doesn’t matter that they are very bad (so devil) I also know how to fight)
Si es porque tomo tequila, mañana tomo jerez, (If it is because I drink Tequila, tomorrow I drink Jerez)
si es porque me ves borracho mañana ya no me ves. (If it is because you see me drunk today, tomorrow you’ll not see me like that)
Valentina, Valentina, rendido estoy a tus pies, (Valentina, Valentina, I surrender to your feet )
si me han de matar mañana que me maten de una vez. (If they're going to kill me tomorrow, let them kill me for once and for all)

To listen to the entire song click HERE

And that is part of the Mexican point of view of death, the fearless stand of death.

Death has lost its place on modern culture, it is not mentioned in casual talk, nor even taken into account in other spheres of life, it is suppressed everywhere: in political pronouncements, commercial advertising , public morality and popular customs. The western culture is a culture of life, or so they say. Death is still around, but to the popular view it’s just something that happens. People, criminal, or even countries kill no more under their own perspective, because the dead have lost their human qualities. First they are degraded, changed into mere objects; to numbers and statistics, then they are exterminated en masse.
As the Spanish band Mecano state in one of their songs:

Otro muerto, otro muerto (Another Dead, another dead)
Qué más da (Who cares for it)
Si está muerto, que lo entierren y ya está (If it is dead, bury it and that’s it)
Otro muerto, pero no es sin ton ni son (Another dead, but it is not without reason)
De momento se acabó la discusión (For the moment, it’s the end of the discussion)

Yo no sé, ni quiero (I don’t know, nor I want to know)
De las razones (Of the reasons )
Que dan derecho a matar (That allows killing)
Pero deben serlo (But they have to have a reason)
Porque el que muere (Since the dead)
No vive más, no vive más (Live no more)

Otro muerto, pero qué bonitos son (Another dead, but how beautiful they are)
Calladitos, sin querer llevar razón (Without making any sound, without trying to have the reason)
Otro muerto, pero tiene su porqué (Another dead, but it has a reason why)
Algo ha hecho y si no pregúntale (Something it has to be done, otherwise, ask them why.)

To listen to the entire song click HERE


So, death is feared on a personal level, but taken without any meaning in a social levelThat is one of the big differences between the Nahuatl and the Greco-Latin cosmologies*. Quoting Mr. Paz again:
(*I would clarify which two cosomologies are meant by stating “between the Nahuatl and Western Graeco/Roman cosmologies” if these are the two you are comparing)

”The cult of life if it is truly profound and total, is also the cult of death, because the two are inseparable. A civilization that denies death ends by denying life”.

Now, what do the chocolate or sugar skulls mean?, who is the Catrina? and why are the Catrin - the skeleton lady and gentleman dressed in XVIII century clothes?

The candies are a resemblance of the Tzonpantli, a wall of human heads put in honour of the dead in the Aztec temples, they also symbolize the sweetness of dead, even when they represent the sadness of that in a personal level.

The Catrina and Catrin represent Mictecacihuatl and Mictlantecutli the lady and lord of the dead. Who now walk along the fiestas, making fun of the living, and making fun of the dead, along with satire poems of the living portrait them as death, called ‘calaveritas’.

All this, the dead bread - a sweet bread with the shape of a tomb with bones, are part of the party, sadly for a lot of modern Mexicans they represent no more than parties, no more than fun. But if we get inside them we discover this ancient lore.

Another iconic character of the Day of the Dad is La Llorona (the weeping lady) ghost. I mention her, because she has a very special meaning for the Mexican traditions and a form to better understanding of the mixed culture that is Mexico today.

Cihuacoatl, aka Coatlicue or Cihuacoatlicue, was the mother goddess, the one who represented the earth. Coatlicue’s first child was Coyolxauhqui, the goddess of the moon, after that she gave birth to another 400 children and after that she retired to help as a servant of the temple. Once when she was cleaning she found a feather so beautiful that she kept it for herself under her clothes. When she arrived to her bedroom, the feather was no more, and she became pregnant. When Coyolxauhqui noticed that, she gathered with her 400 brothers and sisters, and decided to kill her mother, since no one knew who the father was and that was shameful for all of them.

Just before they could kill her, Huitzilopochtli, (the god of war) was born and defended his mother against his siblings. It was a great fight, but Huitzilopochtli killed them all and cut Coyolxauhqui into several pieces, dropping her down from the pyramid.

After that, Coyolxauhqui became the moon and her 400 siblings the stars: and every day, when the sun rises or sets, the sky became red to remember this eternal fight between the forces of light and the forces of darkness.

Huitzilopochtli ruled along with his mother Coatlicue and they were honoured by the Nahuas, along with Tlaloc (the god of water) as the more important gods. In Tenochtitlan, the capital city of the Aztec empire that was on the centre of what is today Mexico City, the Main Temple was dedicated to Huitzilopochtli and Tlaloc and a statue of Coatlicue was honoured in the Tepeyac hill where people from all over the Empire came and made processions to honour her.

When Moctezuma Xocoyotzin (or Moctezuma II) was crowned as Tlatoani (king) of the Aztec Empire, people started to listen and saw a woman dressed in white with her face covered by a veil, who wept in the nights and cried saying “My beloved children, it is time for our departure, it’s almost the time when we are going to lose you all, Oh my beloved children, where should I bring you now?!”
Then the Aztec priests acknowledged with other astronomical signs that it was Coatlicue their mother goddess who was foretelling a great disaster to them. The foretelling came to be true, and a few years later Hernán Cortés arrived and in an alliance with the enemy tribes of the Aztecs, defeated the great Tenochtitlan and their empire.

Then when Mexico City was found in 1521 and became the capital of the New Spain, stories of a weeping woman who walks in the Zócalo (the main square) in the night between the shadows and kneels viewing to the east, crying with a supernatural power that makes even the most brave men become insane in fear and then walks to the lake and disappears in the mist; were told over and over again. The crying scream of the woman was “Oh my children!!” (¡¡Ay, mis hijos!!)

That was until 1530 when an Aztec Indian called Cuauhtlatóhuac (renamed Juan Diego after being converted to Catholicism), was walking in the Tepeyac hill and had a vision of a beautiful woman dressed in white, red and green. She revealed herself to him as the Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus, and revealed several miracles to him. When Juan Diego was with a great sorrow, she told him these words:

“Listen and understand, my son the younger of all, that nothing shall scare you or make you feel uneasy, may your heart not darken, do not fear sickness or hopeless, Am I not here, the one who is your mother? Aren’t you under my shadow? Am I not your health? Are you not under my lap? May nothing more make you sad or uneasy. “

After that, the worship of Mary of Guadalupe was established and the people who worship Coatlicue realized that Mary of Guadalupe was no other than Coatlicue herself with a ‘change of clothes’, and embraced this new faith to protect their children and take care of them for now on.

The ghost appeared no more on the Zocalo but still it is said that sometimes this ghost appears in towns and villages, especially those near to the rivers: and scares children who are too close to the river so they don’t drown. But also, it makes mad, insane with fear, people of bad heart, people who are evil. Or they hear her cry when something bad is going to happen.

One of the most popular songs, that is sung on the Day of the Dead is the song entitled “La Llorona” (pronunced Joh-ro-na) whose lyrics I hope you will find very interesting.

Todos me dicen el negro llorona (Everyone calls me the Black skinned llorona)
Negro pero cariñoso (Black skinned but tender)
Todos me dicen el negro llorona (Everyone calls me the Black skinned llorona)
Negro pero cariñoso (Black skinned but tender)

Yo soy como el chile verde llorona (I’m like the green chili llorona )
Picante pero sabroso (Spicy, and oh so tasty)
Yo soy como el chile verde llorona (I’m like the green chili llorona )
Picante pero sabroso (Spicy, and oh so tasty)

Ay de mi, Llorona (Alas! Oh Llorona)
Llorona de ayer y hoy (Today’s and yesterday’s Llorona)
Ay de mi, Llorona (Alas! Oh Llorona)
Llorona de ayer y hoy (Today’s and yesterday’s Llorona)

Ayer maravilla fui Llorona (Yesterday marvellous I was, Llorona)
Ahora ni sombra soy (Now I’m not even a shadow)
Ayer maravilla fui Llorona (Yesterday marvellous I was, Llorona)
Ahora ni sombra soy (Now I’m not even a shadow)

Salias del templo un día Llorona (You were out of the temple one day Llorona)
Cuando al pasar yo te vi (And I see you passing by)
Salias del templo un día Llorona (You were out of the temple one day Llorona)
Cuando al pasar yo te vi (And I see you passing by)

Hermoso huipil llevabas Llorona (Beautiful huipill (dress) you were wearing Llorona)
Que la virgen te creí (That I thought that you were the Virgin)
Hermoso huipil llevabas Llorona (Beautiful huipill (dress) you were wearing Llorona)
Que la virgen te creí (That I thought that you were the Virgin)

Yo no se que tienen las flores Llorona (I don’t know what is with the flowers, Llorona)
Las flores del campo santo (The flowers of the graveyards. (aka Cenpaxóchitl))
Yo no se que tienen las flores Llorona (I don’t know what is with the flowers, Llorona)
Las flores del campo santo (The flowers of the graveyards. (aka Cenpaxóchitl))

Que cuando el viento las mueve Llorona (That when the wind moves them, Llorona)
Parece que están llorando (It seems that they are weeping.)

Ay, Llorona, Llorona (Alas! Llorona)
Llorona de azul celeste (Llorona of sky blue)
Ay, Llorona, Llorona (Alas! Llorona)
Llorona de azul celeste (Llorona of sky blue)

Y aunque la vida me cueste Llorona (And even if it costs me my life, Llorona)
No dejaré de quererte (I’ll never stop loving you)
Y aunque la vida me cueste Llorona (And even if it costs me my life, Llorona)
No dejaré de quererte (I’ll never stop loving you)

Dos besos tengo en alma Llorona (Two kisses I have in my soul, Llorona)
que no se apartan de mi (That never fade away)
Dos besos tengo en alma Llorona (Two kisses I have in my soul, Llorona)
que no se apartan de mi (That never fade away)
El ultimo de mi madre llorona (The last one of my mother Llorona)
Y el primero que te di (And the first one that I gave to you.)

To listen to the entire song click HERE
Attachments
DSC02805-a.jpg
Mictlantecutli at the Zocal (main square) of Mexico City in the public ancestor altar of 1st- 2th of November
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Last edited by Aelfarh on 30 Jan 2009, 11:19, edited 4 times in total.
Bennacht Dé ocus ainDé fort!
(The blessings of the gods and the non-gods upon you!)

http://al-tirnanog.blogspot.com/
http://www.losceltas.org

"We see things only as we are constructed to see them, and can gain no
idea of their absolute nature. With five feeble senses we pretend to
comprehend the boundlessly complex cosmos"


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HOW THIS LORE IS APPLICABLE TO DRUIDRY?

Postby Aelfarh » 30 Jan 2009, 10:52

I want to close this short overview of Mexican lore with some practical stuff, so you can understand also how all this is applicable to Druidry, as I take it in my path.

First at all, I recommend you that before applying this; you read more about the Mexican myths, lore, traditions, so that you can get immersed in this world. As Eilthireach had said in his June seminar (archived in the “Seminar Attic”), the approach to a new pantheon has to be done with a lot of work and be taken seriously. One of the biggest issues for Native American people with regard to cultural borrowing is the lack of respect in knowing the cultural background. So before trying a “shamanic” journey to the Mictlan, I strongly suggest you get more information about where are you going to go, and whom you may encounter there.

As for me this is what I have tried when approaching the Celtic deities, to be immersed in their culture and traditions, to know their stories and history; to be respectful and try this approach step by step. As you may have seen there are a lot of commonalities between the two cosmologies, which make easier to move between the two worlds. For me is an approach to my two root beliefs; the ones that my European ancestors had, and the ones that my indigenous cultural ancestors had. That doesn’t mean that a person without a Native American ancestor can’t approach this way, but has to connect with it by a lot of hard work and respect.

The otherworld journey to the Mictlan

You may want to read again the nine levels of Mictlan first and meditate about them for a while. Then sit comfortably, prepare yourself for an Otherworld journey, as if you were to enter the Tír na nÓg, make the meditations that you usually do, the light body exercise or whatever preparations you are used to making.

Then ask Mictlantecutli his blessing for the journey and start making the mental images of yourself walking to the first level.
You are now in front the great river Chignahuapan, where you are going to need the help of your inner guides. Ask Xolotl to help you as your guide. To be immersed in the cold river is to purify yourself:, to cast off all the worries and earthly problems you have to be strong and forget about the present life. Just focus on reaching the other side, follow the instructions of your guide.

Then when you are about to enter the road where the mountains clash, they will hurt you, but you have to be strong. They will set you naked, but you must not worry about it and focus on your final goal.

After that you have to climb the obsidian mountain, it’s going to be painful, but you have to be strong: you will lose blood, flesh, but this mountain represents all the obstacles in your mind to reach a higher state of self aware.

Then as you reach the valley where the freezing wind is going to get you, your body will lose corporal temperature, that means that you’re going to get out of your physicall body inside this realm. But remember that you have to travel in spirit, that your body is just flesh and bones and that you won’t need it where you are travelling. (Your actual physicall body will be safe enough, and living in this world, so don’t worry about it)
You keep walking and enter the valley when your flags have to be delivered, that means that you’ll resign your former loyalties, you are not an ambassador of anyone, you have no loyalty to a country, family, man or woman, you are there by yourself, and only representing yourself.

Then you’ll arrive to the valley where the arrows are thrown. One last painful journey to cast off the last remaining thoughts of fear and earthly emotions.

After that you’ll face the beast that eats the hearts, this represents your deepest instincts - the beast inside you that feeds on rage, anger, selfishness. You have to defeat your inner wild beast.

Finally the last stand: you will enter the place of darkness, where you will not see anything, hear anything, feel anything. You have no guides there and the only way to find your path is to follow your heart, your soul, to be confident in yourself, in your inner light, that will show you the way.

If you pass the tests, you will arrive to the heart of the Mictlan, where Mictlantecutli and Mictecacihuatl the lord and lady of the Dead live. Now you are free to ask them what ever you want, you are free to search for the answers that you are looking for, you are free also to rest and enjoy: now you are free to find yourself.

This journey could seem easy on reading, but it will be very hard if you try it, that I can assure you. A lot of work has to be done.Do not expect to reach the heart of the Mictlan on the first attempt, but be patient, keep working and you eventually will.

The Ancestor’s altar

An alternative way to honour your ancestors is in this way.

Make an altar in the form of a pyramid with nine levels. On each you must put something that helps you to meditate about each level of the Mictlan.
Also put offerings to your beloved ones, food, drinks. Make it festive: death is not only about being sorrow, is about celebrating being alive.

Use flowers, use tissue-paper and make collages with figures, they have to be festive, they have to be laughing about death. Imagine what you make when you’re having a party and make a portrait of skeletons and skulls with that attitude. Use festive colours, along with the black or purple ones.

Honour your three levels of ancestors, your spiritual ancestors, your blood-line ancestors and the ancestors of the land. Use your imagination to represent each one. Figures, photographs, everything is allowed.

Honour the three levels of death and journey:

The first one is the concept of death and life itself; you may use petals to symbolize death and a live plant of the same flowers to represent life.

The second one is the concept of the otherworld, that is the spiritual journey, your spiritual path, that leads you to the otherworld to be enlightened.

The third one is the actual place where the body and the spirit goes. Imagine how it should be, put there the offerings to your beloved ones, and the figures, statues, pictures or paintings of your main gods.

You can use three levels of the pyramid per level of death journey.

Optionally, if you don’t have enough space, reduce the altar to a three level one, as shown on the picture attached on the bottom of the message
The attached photo was my 2008 altar:

The ground level represents the duality life-death. There are Cempaxóchitl (Tagetes erecta) petals to represent death and a live plant, to symbolize life.

The first level represents the spiritual journey through life and death, also the walk to the Mictlan and here are various elements (I explain them later) of the spiritual path

The second level represents the actual place where the spirit remains, the end of the journey. Here is the offering to the ancestors themselves, with five candles to bring them light and peace in the five directions (NSEW and centre).
Also, I made the altar to honour my three levels of ancestors.

1) The three Celtic realms are represented by a seagull feather (sky) a stone from Brighton's seafront (earth) and a shell (sea), and a candelabra with three candles each to illuminate each realm; there are also five oghams representing the five directions. This represents my spiritual ancestors, my Celtic spirituality. All this can be placed on the first level of the altar.

2) There’s also a pyramid representing the sun pyramid on Teotihaucan and an image of Coatlicue the mother goddess, as well as colours, sugar and chocolate skulls, sugar graveyards and the cempaxóchitl petals, all this to honour my cultural ancestors and at the same time the ancestors of the land. This can be encountered * on the three levels.

3) There are photographs of the ones who departured earlier (my grandfathers) to honour my blood-line ancestors. You may notice there are some Christian crosses around, since my ancestors where Catholics I feel very appropriate to honour their faith in the altar,and also because Christianity is part of my own background; so that even if I have nothing to do with that faith now, it makes sense to me to honour the faith of my grandparents and great grandfathers. This can be encountered on the second level.

This altar is not complete: on the night of 31st of October until the night of November 2nd, food and drinks must be placed there, to welcome the ancestors who will come to the festivity. I do not put that earlier than these dates to ensure the food doesn't go bad. This will be placed on the ground level for reasons of space.
Attachments
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My ancestors' altar for Samhain 2008
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Bennacht Dé ocus ainDé fort!
(The blessings of the gods and the non-gods upon you!)

http://al-tirnanog.blogspot.com/
http://www.losceltas.org

"We see things only as we are constructed to see them, and can gain no
idea of their absolute nature. With five feeble senses we pretend to
comprehend the boundlessly complex cosmos"


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CONCLUSION

Postby Aelfarh » 30 Jan 2009, 10:52

Death is just a phase, is a journey to other places. Either you believe that the soul returns to life by reincarnating, or that it is born to life in the otherworld where it will live forever; have no fear of that. Do not deny death, in that way you’ll be denying life, instead embrace it, play with it, joke with it, respect it. Acknowledge that you are part of a web of life, that every life is sacred, that no killing is justified if it’s not for your own survival. See that every being that dies is not a statistic, nor collateral damage; they are part of our cosmos.

Finally I want to share a Mexican short film with a Day of the Dead theme. You can see the Catrina singing a small part the Llorona song. Enjoy it

WATCH IT HERE


And Remember:

Death is the mirror of life; life is the mirror of death.
Bennacht Dé ocus ainDé fort!
(The blessings of the gods and the non-gods upon you!)

http://al-tirnanog.blogspot.com/
http://www.losceltas.org

"We see things only as we are constructed to see them, and can gain no
idea of their absolute nature. With five feeble senses we pretend to
comprehend the boundlessly complex cosmos"


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Re: February seminar - The path to the Mictlan, Mexican lore

Postby Dryadia2 » 30 Jan 2009, 21:09

Wonderful seminar, Aelfarh! :clap:

You have done a superb and thorough job of explaining it in great detail! I've also enjoyed your other posts on this subject, and this seminar has tied it all together.

I have an interest in Aztec and Mayan cultures, and am fascinated by how much of the traditions are still alive today, especially the 'Day of the Dead' theme.

I've seen photos of several altars, and they are very beautiful and elaborate. For those folks interested, here's a link about altars that includes what items are put on a four-level altar (with more links on the left side about creating, preparing, offerings, and more):
http://www.olvera-street.com/html/altar.html

Thank you again for sharing your unique understanding of Mexican Lore and how it relates, and parallels Celtic Lore.

Peace and Blessings,
:dryadia: /|\
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Re: February seminar - The path to the Mictlan, Mexican lore

Postby Corvin » 01 Feb 2009, 01:27

Some history, folklore, astro-theology, cultural comparison, discussion of personal practice, with a personal touch...

Hope this stays up and doesn't get deleted.

Thanks for your effort.

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Re: February seminar - The path to the Mictlan, Mexican lore

Postby Beith » 01 Feb 2009, 01:39

It's a wonderful seminar Aelfarh (and you managed to post a little early too!).
I have so many comments and questions and observances from comparative traditions but will leave them to another time...given the eve that's in it, I have things to do tonight!

Beannacht ort ar Lá Fhéile Bríde.

@ Corvin - Hi! Just to let you know that this seminar by Aelfarh is part of a "Seminar Series" I have been organising for the last year. A monthly seminar was delivered since Bealtaine to Imbolc and will continue this year. Each one posted in turn, each month, here in Discuss Druidry. The older seminars are moved at the end of each month to The Seminar Attic - a subforum of Discuss Druidry. They don't get deleted and you can continue conversations in there after the seminar has been moved from here.

Best wishes
Beith

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Re: February seminar - The path to the Mictlan, Mexican lore

Postby Corvin » 01 Feb 2009, 02:20

Thanks Beith.

Would you be so kind to as do one on Ancient Druidry. Perhaps utilizing articles you have already posted? This would be most appreciated.

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Re: February seminar - The path to the Mictlan, Mexican lore

Postby Bracken » 01 Feb 2009, 22:20

Aelfarh, thank you.
Your seminar is fascinating. :shake:
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Re: February seminar - The path to the Mictlan, Mexican lore

Postby Eilthireach » 04 Feb 2009, 08:27

Hello Aelfarh,

my congratulations to this wonderful seminar! :tiphat:

Everything fits admirably together: the scholarship part, the practical exercises and the good and informative pictures.

In the 'old' seasonal rites of the OBOD there was often a passage where certain basic principles of Druidry were explained. Among others, there were
"The three objectives that every druid strives to uphold:
The cultivation of expression.
The preservation of ancient knowledge.
The enlightenment of the people."
You have done very well in all three disciplines!

*

I have had the pleasure to visit Mexico on several occasions. It is a fascinating country with very friendly inhabitants.

I remember visiting the baroque church of Tlacochahuaya in the Central Mexican Highlands. The sun was burning hot on that day and inside the church it was comfortably dark and cool. It was the week before Easter and the organist was rehearsing some classical European organ music for the festive Easter masses. In a second, I was transplanted into some European cathedral.
When I left the church I stepped onto a plastered plaza with some huge trees. In the shade of one tree a local man was sitting, dressed in colourful native garments and blowing on something that sounded like a Native American eagle pipe. In a second, I was back in Mexico.

I remember this occasion so vividly because it is symbolic of the two defining strands of Mexican cultural heritage: European and Native Mexican. Those two strands do not exclude each other, but weave together into one colourful and shining piece of fabric.
I wonder sometimes if we in Europe, who we often also are of diverse cultural heritage (Celtic, Germanic, Slavic, Roman, Viking etc. etc.) and who often ask ourselves how all this can go together, shouldn't take Mexico as an example. It works there.

Muchas gracias y buena suerte!

Eilthireach /|\.

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and understand their nature
and to know God.
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Re: February seminar - The path to the Mictlan, Mexican lore

Postby Aelfarh » 04 Feb 2009, 10:34

Thank you all for your comments

Nice to know that you find it interesting... I know is a long one, but I couldn't manage to make a coherent summary without leaving out a lot that I was willing to say.
Bennacht Dé ocus ainDé fort!
(The blessings of the gods and the non-gods upon you!)

http://al-tirnanog.blogspot.com/
http://www.losceltas.org

"We see things only as we are constructed to see them, and can gain no
idea of their absolute nature. With five feeble senses we pretend to
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Re: February seminar - The path to the Mictlan, Mexican lore

Postby Magrathea » 04 Feb 2009, 17:58

Hello Aelfarh.
That was excellent :applause:
Well written, easy to understand, informative.

Thankyou

Magrathea
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Re: February seminar - The path to the Mictlan, Mexican lore

Postby lotuswelcome » 06 Feb 2009, 12:29

Hola Aelfarh!

I just loved your seminar! Gracias! :applause:

'Hermoso huipil llevabas, llorona, que la virgen te crei'.I remember my Dad singing this, being 'Llorona' one of his favourite songs. I didn't know its origins, so thanks for that too!

Blessings by the Sea

maca


P.S Aren't you in Brighton now?
'Please believe me,
the River told me ,
very softly, want you
to hold me'
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Re: February seminar - The path to the Mictlan, Mexican lore

Postby Aelfarh » 09 Feb 2009, 11:13

:hiya: lotuswelcome Really? I didn't know that La Llorona was famous overseas... :grin: I have moved to London to start a new job, jus a few weeks ago...
Bennacht Dé ocus ainDé fort!
(The blessings of the gods and the non-gods upon you!)

http://al-tirnanog.blogspot.com/
http://www.losceltas.org

"We see things only as we are constructed to see them, and can gain no
idea of their absolute nature. With five feeble senses we pretend to
comprehend the boundlessly complex cosmos"


Image Speaker's Corner February 2009

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Re: February seminar - The path to the Mictlan, Mexican lore

Postby lotuswelcome » 10 Feb 2009, 22:25

yes,' La llorona' is well known in Spain. My Dad also liked another song called 'Tenochiclan' (I think this is the wrong spelling... :oops: ) but I don't remember the lyrics.

Good luck on your new job! Do you miss Brighton? Let us know next time you are at this neck of the woods


Peace and light

maca
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the River told me ,
very softly, want you
to hold me'
-Jim Morrison-

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Re: February seminar - The path to the Mictlan, Mexican lore

Postby Beith » 11 Feb 2009, 00:57

Hello Aelfarh,

Again, a fascinating seminar - thank you so much for it. I wanted to come back to you on it regarding some thoughts I had on various points in your seminar that could be compared with Celtic traditions; and also I have some questions for you to further my own understanding of some information in your seminar.

RE: Concept of time and space
That means that for the Nahuas there was no beginning or ending and this concept of space-time as a whole, alien to the western world until Einstein, was a day to day living form for the Nahuas. There was a particular time for each place, for each of the four cardinal points and the centre. Each person had a special destiny according to where and when they were born; each one associated a place, time, colour, virtues and powers; and likewise a place and time for when they die, and the way they die.
Can you explain to me a little bit more about the "particular time for each place, for each of the four cardinal points and the centre"
- I am not sure I follow the concept entirely. How does a particular time correlate to each place? is it that for example, the north is assigned to night, the east to morning, the west to evening, the south to daytime, the centre to noon, or something like that? - I am basing that on analogy from western Europe where these things could be defined based on movements of the sun and amount of light in different seasons. Or is it more akin to astrology theory where specific birth time and birth places are influenced by planetary/solar/lunar alignments and movements - and therefore each place and time can be related to an event in the sky which in turn influences the lives of individuals governed by it?

Perhaps Eilis, if she's reading this, might also like to join in as I think she mentioned something similar previously in relation to concepts of space and time and their inter-relation in Polynesian tribal lore?
Also this continuity of events, of opposites that merge in to a new universe”, was reflected in their existence, death defines life, and life defines death. It was not an absolute opposition as defined by a modern western point of view; and it was not the natural end of life - it was only one phase of an infinite cycle. Life and Death are interlinked, they flow together for eternity as complementary ways, life had no higher function than to flow into death; death is not an end in itself, it is only a way to re-establish the universal balance, to re-establish the debts that the humans had with their gods, to ensure the continuous of society and the cosmos itself.
In Nahuatl culture, do you know did they have an "end-times" belief? A concept of total destruction and anihilation of life and the world? As you probably know in Celtic cosmology, there is an end-times belief that appears: the belief in the destruction of the realms of land, sea and sky by transgression of natural boundaries of the ocean, the quaking earth and falling-in of the sky - the breakdown of the natural and social order.

Re: Day of the Dead celebrations
But this was also a matter for the living and there was a day - the day of the dead - where the souls of the ancestors were allowed to leave the Mictlan and visit their beloved ones. So the family gather together and put up an altar to the departed ones, with their favourite food and drinks and with flowers and bonfires. There was a special flower that was supposed to guide the dead ones because of it’s scent, this was the Cempaxóchitl (Tagetes erecta, aka known as Aztec Marigold in English). This yellow/orange flower was also used for cooking and was put all around the house and petals placed on the floor of the altar, which along with the bonfires, will lead the dead home to their house. These festivities were held at the time of the harvest, when a new cycle full of food and joy begins

Spanish monks tried to eliminate the pagan Mexican tradition in the same way, and move the festivity to the 1st of November. So that was how the Celtic, Catholic and Mexican traditions were merged in a single date, actually a three day festivity, starting the 31st of October at night, and ending the 2nd of November at night.
Two things here:
(1) Am I right in understanding that the underlying pagan tradition here is a one-day celebration of the dead at harvest time? if so, did this one-day celebration also have a beginning at night and is celebrated until the following night? And when does the harvest time fall in Mexico (or when would it have fallen at the time of contemporary celebration in Nahuatl culture?) ie. what calendar month is associated with harvest or the main staple harvest crop? (Is the original harvest month different to that of October/Nov? would it be more akin to a Lughnasadh timeframe for ripening of wheat etc?)

(2) So the movement of the one-day harvest time celebration was mediated by Catholic adoptation of the three-day festival of the dead that concurs with Samhain tradition. You mention that it begins at night on 31st Oct until the night of Nov 2nd. Is the night defined as when darkness falls or 'after sunset'?

Re: Coatlicue
Then the Aztec priests acknowledged with other astronomical signs that it was Coatlicue their mother goddess who was foretelling a great disaster to them.
Firstly, regarding the astronomical signs - do you know what they were/is there mention of it in mythological/analytical info? eg. the presence of the planet Venus or a bright star in the sky? - something with correspondence to a feminine Mother-Goddess? or could it have been an eclipse or appearance of a comet - both of which are associated with bad omens and disasters?

Secondly, on Coatlicue - is there something that could be described as similar to a "banshee" here? eg. the characteristic of a female supernatural presence who weeps and predicts disaster and death?
Then when Mexico City was found in 1521 and became the capital of the New Spain, stories of a weeping woman who walks in the Zócalo (the main square) in the night between the shadows and kneels viewing to the east, crying with a supernatural power that makes even the most brave men become insane in fear and then walks to the lake and disappears in the mist;...The crying scream of the woman ...
The ghost appeared no more on the Zocalo but still it is said that sometimes this ghost appears in towns and villages, especially those near to the rivers: and scares children who are too close to the river so they don’t drown. But also, it makes mad, insane with fear, people of bad heart, people who are evil. Or they hear her cry when something bad is going to happen.
It's interesting here that the association of the supernatural presence is to water - she disappears in a mist, she walks to the lake, she appears in towns and villages close to rivers and has a protective function to scare children away from rivers.

On the association of the woman kneeling to the east - Is it possible that there is an underlying astronomical reason for this in the myth. eg. there may be a correlations to the appearance of some object in the eastern morning sky at a time when rivers are prone to flood? eg. the Egyptians used the appearance of the star Sirius in the morning sky (constellation Canis major) to predict the flooding of the river Nile. I was thinking perhaps this may be the reason for the woman who is associated with waters and protects against drowning, facing east.

Lastly, re: the public ancestor altar in the main square of Mexico city
(picture: Mictlantecutli at the Zocal (main square) of Mexico City in the public ancestor altar of 1st- 2th of November)

- Is this a permanent altar that is visited during the festival or is it something erected for the duration of the festival each year?

A lot of questions and comments above! Many thanks for any further light you can shed on them!

best wishes
Beith

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Re: February seminar - The path to the Mictlan, Mexican lore

Postby Aelfarh » 11 Feb 2009, 14:13

:hiya: Beith

interesting questions. I'll try my best to answer them

RE: Concept of time and space
Can you explain to me a little bit more about the "particular time for each place, for each of the four cardinal points and the centre"
- I am not sure I follow the concept entirely. How does a particular time correlate to each place? is it that for example, the north is assigned to night, the east to morning, the west to evening, the south to daytime, the centre to noon, or something like that? - I am basing that on analogy from western Europe where these things could be defined based on movements of the sun and amount of light in different seasons. Or is it more akin to astrology theory where specific birth time and birth places are influenced by planetary/solar/lunar alignments and movements - and therefore each place and time can be related to an event in the sky which in turn influences the lives of individuals governed by it?
Actually both interpretations apply, there were correlations between cardinal points and times of the day and the year indeed, as you mention. But I was referring more to the second one, that the astological events depend of the exact time and place where they are produced. For example, the greek zodiac associates certain characteristics to people born between certain months.. so people say "I'm a psicis that's why I'm like that" but for Aztecs the characteristics of a person depends of the day, year and even hour and place you were born and could be even opposite to a person who was born the same day, but different year or place.
In Nahuatl culture, do you know did they have an "end-times" belief? A concept of total destruction and anihilation of life and the world? As you probably know in Celtic cosmology, there is an end-times belief that appears: the belief in the destruction of the realms of land, sea and sky by transgression of natural boundaries of the ocean, the quaking earth and falling-in of the sky - the breakdown of the natural and social order.
Despite of the rumours of the end of the world predicted by Mayan calendar, which was the basis for the Aztec calendar also, there is no concept of the end of times. They believed in the end of cycles. So for example on the winter solstice of 2012 it ends a cycle, the one the Aztecs called the fifth sun. According to their traditions there were 4 previous cycles before the one who started 5200 years before (around 3188 BC, btw close to some events like the construction of new grange, isn't it? ).

The mayan/Aztec calendars have two different counting forms, one of 260 days that were use for astronomical ritual and magic purposes (called tonalpohualli in Nahuatl) and one of 365 days (called xihuitl) who has used for civil matters. The combination of both take place every 52 years, when they made a ceremony called “Fuego Nuevo” (The New fire) were a small cycle ends and a new begins. They had a lot of purification rituals for that ceremony. The Fuego Nuevo were grouped on cycles of 20 (remember that the base number for them were 20, since they use a base 20 numeral system, not a base 10 like ours) and every Sol (sun) is formed of 5200 years.

So there is no really an end of times, the cycles will go on and on forever, as an eternal spiral. Even when every end and beginning of a new cycle usally is followed by some kind of big natural change, (a flood , a great fire, an earthquake, etc.) it doesn’t destroy everything as a kind of end-of-times apocalyptic one.

Re: Day of the Dead celebrations
Two things here:
(1) Am I right in understanding that the underlying pagan tradition here is a one-day celebration of the dead at harvest time? if so, did this one-day celebration also have a beginning at night and is celebrated until the following night? And when does the harvest time fall in Mexico (or when would it have fallen at the time of contemporary celebration in Nahuatl culture?) ie. what calendar month is associated with harvest or the main staple harvest crop? (Is the original harvest month different to that of October/Nov? would it be more akin to a Lughnasadh timeframe for ripening of wheat etc?)
Actually there are some contradictions in the chronicles some say that it was an entire month of celebrations, another say that it was a three day festival. What it’s certain is that was celebrated on the ninth month of the xihuitl, approximately at the beginning of August

BTW Day for the Aztecs unlike celtic that starts at sunset or our own modern one who starts at midnight, they started with the sunrise.
(2) So the movement of the one-day harvest time celebration was mediated by Catholic adoptation of the three-day festival of the dead that concurs with Samhain tradition. You mention that it begins at night on 31st Oct until the night of Nov 2nd. Is the night defined as when darkness falls or 'after sunset'?
That’s right it was moved from August to November due to the Catholic adaptation. To make it coincident with the all souls festival.


Re: Coatlicue
Firstly, regarding the astronomical signs - do you know what they were/is there mention of it in mythological/analytical info? eg. the presence of the planet Venus or a bright star in the sky? - something with correspondence to a feminine Mother-Goddess? or could it have been an eclipse or appearance of a comet - both of which are associated with bad omens and disasters?
Bernardino of Sahagun refers on his “Historia general de las cosas de la Nueva España” (General History of the things of the New Spain) about the other seven omens.

1) The Triangle of Flame : This omen appeared in 1509, ten years before the arrival of the Spanish, some kind of "boreal aurora" but that is pretty unusual for that latitudes. A huge flame rose up into the sky in the east. It was jagged on top and wide on the bottom, and it was both marvellous and terrible to behold. Although it only appeared after midnight, it shone with the strength of the sun, its tip reaching the middle of the sky, whilst the base sat on the horizon. At dawn, it would disappear without trace. People who saw the flame, would feel great unrest because it was considered to mean great evil. This flame appeared every night during one year and started in the year 12 House (or mahtlactli omome calli).

2) The destruction of Huitzilopochtli’s temple called Tlacatecan: Huitzilopochtli was the sun and war god of the Aztecs, of great importance, the Main Temple of the city was dedicated to him and Tlaloc (the water god) and there were small temples called Tlacatecan in other places of the city. The temple suddenly burst into flames, fire springing from within the wood in the temple’s columns, reducing everything to ashes in no time at all. Whilst it burned, the temple’s priests shouted out for the Aztecs to come quickly and put out the flames with pitchers of water. When the cool liquid was thrown on the fire the blaze was not smothered, but flared up even more angrily. The temple was reduced to smouldering coals.

3) Lightning strikes with no sound. A bolt of lightning hit the fire god Xiuhtecuhtli’s temple (called Tzummulco). This temple was made of straw and even though it was raining lightly, not the right type of rain for lightning, it burned down. Since no sound was heard after the lightning the Aztecs were shocked by this event, and declared that the sun had ’touched’ the temple.

4) A comet appears: This also knew as Moctuezuma’s comet, appear just before the Spaniard arrival. One day, while the sun was in the sky, a fire burst out of the west divided into three shooting stars. These stars moved towards the east, sparks flying from their long tails. Those who witnessed this caused great uproar for it was an unlucky sign.

5) Disturbance on the main lake (Tezcoco) of the city: The fifth sign brought tremendous disturbance in Lake Tezcoco. According to the Aztecs, it looked like the water was boiling and broken into little pieces even though there was not enough wind to cause the slightest ripple. The waves were so large that they came into peoples’ houses and swept them over, ruining their foundations and flooding everything nearby. Remember that Tenochtitlan was founded over several lakes, the reason why Bernal Diaz del Castillo on his “Historia verdadera de la Conquista de Nueva España” (True history of the conquest of New Spain) said that Tenochtitlan was like Venice, but several times bigger, greater and spectacular.

6) The wailing woman: As explain before Coatlicue cry over the city, was refer like this by Sahagun: The mark of the sixth sign was the voice of a woman carried by the wind at night. She called out, "Oh my children, now we must move far away", Sometimes she said, "Oh my children, where will I take you?".

7) Moctezuma and the mirror : Moctezuma II was the Aztec Tlatoani (kind of Emperor) at the arrival of Cortes. In the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan it was the custom to hunt birds that lived on the surrounding Lake Tezcoco. An ash coloured crane was caught one day and taken before the emperor Moctezuma, who was in his palace hall. It was midday and the sun was high in the sky. The reason this bird was shown to the Aztec leader was because it had a special marking: a round mirror on its head that displayed the sky and the stars. As Moctezuma peered at its reflection he became fearful, averting his gaze. When he looked a second time, he saw a great multitude of men, moving hastily forwards, fighting with other men along the way. Moctezuma called together his wise men and seers, asking "what is it that I saw?", "many people were fighting each other". When the wise men tried to look into the mirror the bird disappeared, leaving them unable to answer him.

8) The Chicueyi: Appearance of strange beings that disappear suddenly ; One day many deformed and monstrous bodies started to appear. Some even had two heads. The Aztecs took them to Moctezuma’s palace and the second he looked at them, they would disappear.

Secondly, on Coatlicue - is there something that could be described as similar to a "banshee" here? eg. the characteristic of a female supernatural presence who weeps and predicts disaster and death?
Yep, the goddess have then the characteristic of a banshee. It came to my mind also that there were on their myths, female spirits similar to celtic banshees and Nordic valquiries. The Cihuateteo (singular cihuateotl) were the spirits of human women who died in childbirth. Childbirth was considered a form of battle, and its victims were honored as fallen warriors. The strengthen soldiers in battle and accompanied them when they die in the battle field to be reunited with Tonatiuh, the sun. But if they are sight on the night or one can hear they cry, it’s because someone near to the person who saw them or hear them is going to die. They also haunted crossroads at night, causing sicknesses, especially seizures and madness, and seducing men to sexual misbehavior. They are depicted with skeletal faces and with eagle claws for hands.

It's interesting here that the association of the supernatural presence is to water - she disappears in a mist, she walks to the lake, she appears in towns and villages close to rivers and has a protective function to scare children away from rivers.
Water was a very powerful element to Aztec mythology, it was governed by Tlaloc, god of rain and water, he is the one who keeps the gate of the Tlaloctani a summer paradise where selected souls go after dead (different from Mictlan the “general” place for the dead to go) or when they day due to a water accident. After Huizilopochtli, Tlaloc was the most revered god of them.
On the association of the woman kneeling to the east - Is it possible that there is an underlying astronomical reason for this in the myth. eg. there may be a correlations to the appearance of some object in the eastern morning sky at a time when rivers are prone to flood? eg. the Egyptians used the appearance of the star Sirius in the morning sky (constellation Canis major) to predict the flooding of the river Nile. I was thinking perhaps this may be the reason for the woman who is associated with waters and protects against drowning, facing east.
Sounds logic, but I’m afraid I have no further information on that, I'll search and come back to you later. However Tenochtitlan was not really close to any big rivers, but a lot of lakes.
- Is this a permanent altar that is visited during the festival or is it something erected for the duration of the festival each year?
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The altars are set at the last weeks of October and remain on the main square until mid November, open to the public. After that is removed until next year.

Hope this clarify something

Cheers!
Last edited by Aelfarh on 11 Feb 2009, 17:46, edited 1 time in total.
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