Quails, deer and wolves are some of the animals that were offered in celebrations of the Mexica ritual calendar

Quails, deer, and wolves are some of the animals that were offered in celebrations of the Mexica ritual calendar, as the ancient document refers.

Quails, deer and wolves are some of the animals that were offered in celebrations of the Mexica ritual calendar
Faunal specimens that were used in ceremonies in the Sacred Precinct of Tenochtitlan, among them the quail, which was sacrificed in almost all the festivities to use its blood. Image by Jim Black from Pixabay

Birds, such as quails, as well as deer and wolves, were animals that, according to Book II of the Florentine Codex, were commonly offered in various ceremonies of the ritual calendar of the Mexica, in honor of deities such as Tlaloc (of rain), Toci or Tlazoltéotl (the mother goddess), Xiuhtecuhtli (of fire) or Mixcóatl (of hunting).

This bird, for example, was offered in the Ochpaniztli ceremony, which took place during September dedicated to the Mother Goddess, and in the Izcalli and Xócotl Huetzi festivities dedicated to Xiuhtecuhtli or Huehuetéotl (god of fire). The quail had a great symbolism, since being practically terrestrial it was linked with the earth, and therefore, with the regeneration of life, being its blood food for the Mother Goddess.

In the case of the deer -prey par excellence-, it was offered to Mixcoatl, god of hunting, during the Quecholli ceremony held in November. Meanwhile, in the Tlacaxipehualiztli festival dedicated to Xipe Tótec, god of corn and war, the skin of enemy combatants who were sacrificed acquired a value as a trophy, comparable to that of the deerskin among hunter-gatherer groups.

Likewise, in the pictographs of the Primeros Memoriales, Fray Bernardino de Sahagún refers that in the main sacrificial ceremony of the Tlacaxipehualiztli feast, an individual served as 'godfather' of the victims, who was called cuitlachhuehue (old wolf), who wore the skin of that animal; most probably it was a priest.

Regarding the big cats like the jaguar and the puma, of which bone remains have been found in offerings deposited around the Templo Mayor (recovered between 1978 and 2007), in the Florentine Codex it is mentioned that in the feast of the Mother Goddess (Ochpaniztli), the tlatoani met in a ceremony with the warriors who began their military exercise to grant them weapons, and in which the Mexica ruler rested on a seat with eagle skin and jaguar skin as a back, symbols of sacred warfare.

Likewise, it is mentioned that the priests carried tobacco pouches made with jaguar skin. This feline represented the night among the Mexica, and was the representation of the god Tezcatlipoca; although in the Florentine Codex there is no more information about the pumas, likely that they had a symbolism similar to that of the jaguar, although with greater presence in the offerings because they were easier to obtain in the Basin of Mexico.

Plant species such as pericon, mesquite wood, and amaranth that were used in Tenochca ceremonies, as well as marine elements such as shells and snails, stand out.

Sahagún's chronicles mention that some flower first fruits were offered in the Tozoztontli feast -between March and April- to deities related to rain, agriculture and harvest, such as Tláloc and the tlaloques, as well as Cintéotl (god of corn) and Chicomecóatl (of agriculture), as part of a propitiatory ritual to renew corn and flora. During this celebration, yauhtli or pericon flowers were also offered, which were sometimes burned in braziers together with copal.

Furthermore, during the feast of Tóxcatl, dedicated to the god Tezcatlipoca, held in May, an effigy of the god Huitzilopochtli was made with mesquite wood. It was also common to use amaranth dough to make figures of gods, among them, Huitzilopochtli.

Marine elements, such as snails and shells (very common in the offerings found in the Templo Mayor Archaeological Zone), are referred to in the Florentine Codex as characteristic artifacts of several ceremonies, either as musical instruments or as attire for priests or those who personified deities, for example, it was used in the Títitl celebration, dedicated to the goddess Ilamatecuhtli, which took place in January.

It is possible that these materials symbolized among the Mexica the underworld, a space of the cosmos located below the surface of the earth, which was aquatic par excellence. Most of the ceremonies of the ritual calendar took place in the Sacred Precinct of Tenochtitlan, where the Tenochca population congregated to celebrate the festivities in the various temples located there.

Source: INAH