Société des Américanistes de Belgique














"Image and Ritual in the Aztec World. Selected papers of the 'Ritual Americas' conferences, organized by the Société des Américanistes de Belgique in collaboration with the Red Europea de Estudios Amerindios. Louvain-la-Neuve (Belgium), 2-5 april 2008", éd. S. Peperstraete. Oxford, Archaeopress, BAR International Series n°1896.

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1) Lenguaje ceremonial en los códices mixtecos (Maarten E.R.G.N. Jansen and Gabina Aurora Pérez Jiménez)

This article discusses the importance of parallel constructions (difrasismos) in ancient and contemporary ceremonial language in Mesoamerica, and examines a series of examples in the Mixtec historical pictorial manuscripts (mainly Codex Vindobonensis and Codex Selden). The focus on this element of literary style helps us to better understand the composition of pictographic scenes and confirms the idea that the codices were read as an act of oral performance.
Keywords: Mixtec codices, pictography, difrasismos, ceremonial language, oral performance.

2) El lenguaje ritual de los mexicas: hacia un método de análisis (Danièle Dehouve)

The ritual language of the Mexicas included a verbal part - the prayers - and a non verbal part which consisted of ceremonial deposits, dramatic representations and sacrifices. This contribution offers a reflexive thought about the categories of analysis in order to decipher the meaning of the non verbal part of these rites. Starting from the hypothesis that the same principles govern the verbal and non verbal parts, the contribution begins with reviewing the studies concerning ritual speeches, and especially the "parallelism" whose reach is discussed. Then it appeals to a cognitive process, the definition by extension, which allows to appoint a thing or a matter by means of the enumeration of its constituents or components, in an eminently representational and metaphoric way. So, the Nahuatl speakers could establish the complete inventory of the components of a thing or express only one of them. In the second part, the contribution shows that the components of the enumeration were materialized during the rites by objects on which actions were exercised. Several examples taken among the annual festivals such as Panquetzaliztli and Izcalli show that the realization and the dramatization conjugated to deliver messages and to represent mythical episodes. The analysis takes as examples the representation of the sacrificial death, the ritual and collective consumption of the god and certain offerings.
Keywords: Aztec, Nahuatl, ritual language, parallelism (difrasismo), metaphore.

3) Ritos y rituales en torno a Mictlantecuhtli (Nathalie Ragot)

In this article we offer to study a very particular ritual conducted in honor of Mictlantecuhtli, which was to pour jars filled with blood on the statue of the deity. The confrontation of archaeological material with the comments of the codices that illustrate this practice allows us to suggest several hypotheses related to possible meanings and motivations of this surprising ritual.
Keywords: religion, Aztecs, Mictlantecuhtli, rituals.

4) Los textiles y el calendario tenochca (Montserrat Bargalló Sánchez)

This paper focuses on the role of the textiles and all the objects connected to textile arts in the liturgical rites of the Mexica culture. The study we offer here takes into account the rites and the gods such as chroniclers like Sahagún, Motolinía or Durán described them when they wrote about the festivals of the Mexica calendar, and compares the information with our object of investigation: textiles and textile arts.
Keywords: Aztec rituals, textile arts, textiles.

5) Los tocados de Tlaloc en el Códice Borgia (Karla Rámirez Rosas)

Tlaloc, the god of rain, fertility and thunder, was one of the most worshipped Mesoamerican deities. Numerous festivals, rituals, offerings and sacrifices were held in his honor, in order to ensure beneficial weather for agriculture. The present paper describes the formal differences among various headdresses of Tlaloc in the Codex Borgia, and their principal components, with the aim of localizing the deity in the structural context of this pictographic manuscript. This will allow us to find the meaning and context for the “dentado” headdress of Tlaloc, depicted at pages 16, 19, 20 and 25 of the Codex. The aspect of Tlaloc represented by this attire will be related with some stone figurines found in offerings of the Great Temple of Tenochtitlan.
Keywords: Tlaloc, headdress, attire, Codex Borgia, rain, fertility.

6) 4-Ollin, the Aztec Creation of a Fifth Sun (Arnold Lebeuf)

According to Hans Ludendorff (1930), the Tzolkin/Tonalpohualli of 260 days is a cycle created for the prevision of eclipses because of its congruency with the period of the sun passage on alternative nodes of the moon orbit every 173,333 days. This congruency divides the 260 days cycle in three equal parts (86, 86, 87 days). Moreover, because the real duration of the solar passage on successive nodes of moon orbit is slightly inferior to a third of a double Tzolkin/Tonalpohualli, i.e. 173,1 instead of 173,3, the conjunctions of the Sun and the nodes of moon orbit regress by one day for twenty Tun. It takes then 260 x 20 = 5200 Tun for a complete regression of the Sun nodes conjunctions in the 260 days almanac. Ludendorff claims then that the duration of the Long Count is the cycle of correction of the Tzolkin/Tonalpohualli eclipse cycle at long term. Because the three eclipse zones in the 260 days almanac count 35 days each, the remaining three zones safe of eclipses are of 52 days each. Thus, any day of the Tzolkin/Tonalpohualli escaping an eclipse zone will be free of any eclipse danger for 1040 years until it enters the next eclipse zone 52 days further in the almanac (20 x 52 = 1040). The names of the five Suns of Aztec cosmology prove to be arranged in order to show a logical succession of five periods of 1040 years each. Every time a sun’s day name enters an eclipse zone, the next Sun’s day name enters a new 1040 years epoch free of eclipses. The start of the first sun takes place in the year 3119 B.C., in the same year as the start of the Venus table in the Dresden Codex. All dates fall in accord with the well documented years of the New Fire Ceremony. This is what the present article exposes with some complementary details.

7) Los ritos aztecas en imágenes. Textos y representaciones de los dioses y fiestas en la obra de Fray Diego Durán (Sylvie Peperstraete)

This article focuses on the relationship between the text and the drawings of Fray Diego Durán’s Book of the Rites and Ancient Calendar. Completed in 1579, these books are accompanied with 56 figures representing Aztec deities and festivals. Although the style of the figures is strongly influenced by the contemporary European art, their iconography clearly goes back to the prehispanic period. The discussion shows us that, far from being confined to a purely illustrative role as it may seem at first sight, Durán’s drawings were often a starting point for the descriptions and explanations - sometimes exact, sometimes fanciful - the dominican friar gives in his work.
Keywords: ethnohistorical sources, codices, iconography, Aztec festivals, Diego Durán.

8) Importancia e interés del Códice Florentino en la medicina novohispana del XVI (Cristina López Ortego)

The medical knowledge of the native wise men is reflected in the Florentine Codex and especially in Book X, Chapters 27 and 28. The first of these chapters refers to the human anatomy; it is descriptive in its definitions and it sometimes stresses the role of a particular organ. The second chapter mentions a number of diseases, all of organic origin and potentially treatable either by medical or surgical means, depending on the necessities of the times. These chapters are not the only ones to reflect Nahua medicine. In other chapters, the text mentions other ways of understanding medicine in a non-Western manner, and we find a relationship with the deities, the sympathetic magic, etc. Concepts, as will be discussed, more prehispanic than those described in the previously mentioned chapters.

Keywords : medical matter, human anatomy, likeable magic, Florentine Codex, health – disease dichotomy.