Monthly Rituals


Toxkatl – “Dryness”

Toxkatl is the 4th Zempowaltonallapowalli of the year, and takes place during the season of rain, and gives honor to Tezkatlipoka, the lord of destruction and the whims of fate. He rules over the most critical period of the year, when the rains must fall, or the people die. Therefore, this Zempowaltonallapowalli is called Toxkatl, or “dryness,” for we petition Tezkatlipoka to save us from drought, and not to bring death to his people. 

Just as Tonalko begins with a ceremony of sweeping and cleaning the home, so begins Xopan. But here, the house is cleansed with smoke of Kopal. At the beginning of Toxkatl, the entire house must be incensed, every corner, window, and doorway. After the house has been blessed with the smoke of Kopal, the things within the house are blessed as well, such as the pots and utensils for cooking, which give us life through the food we eat, and the tools of our work, such as computers, and the cars which take us to our jobs. We give thanks to our home for sheltering us, and thanks to the things we use, for cooking, working, and transportation, for feeding and aiding us. Thus, the home is cleansed with fire and smoke just as the rains descend, so that the male fire and the female rain are joined in harmony in this ceremony of blessing. 

Tezkatlipoka is also the patron of the nobility. All who find themselves in a high position owe their success to him. Therefore, during Toxkatl the wealthy give him offerings, and share their wealth with the poor. It is he who raised them up, and it is he who brings them down, therefore on these days they tremble for their future, and beg him to keep the wheel of destiny from grinding them into the dust. Before the coming of the Spaniards, it was understood that the role of the nobility was to fight in war, and to give up their lives in battle. This was seen as a sacrifice, made for the sake of Tonatiuh the Sun, Tlaltekuhtli the Earth, and their community. The fine plumes, the gold and turquoise with which they adorned themselves, were earthly rewards, given at the price of their own lives, for which they must ultimately pay. Today many of those who are wealthy and powerful mistakenly believe they won their position through their own merits. But without the gifts of the Teteoh, the usually high position of their parents, and the support of the society around them, they could not have achieved anything. Toxkatl is a time for the wealthy to remember how they arose, to whom they owe their debt, and to pay it, with gifts and largesse to the poor, else Tezkatlipoka rip them from their high position and cast them to the dust.

Tezkatlipoka, whose foot has been taken by Tlalteotl, earth teotl. Codex Féjérvary-Mayer

We also give honor to Witzilopochtli, who is Our Lord the Sun. Before the coming of the Spaniards, wars were fought during the dry season of Tonalko. These wars were sacred, as the force of teyollia contained in the hearts and blood of the warriors was spilled, feeding the dry and hungry Earth, and giving Her the power to bring life back to the maize. These wars were a sacrifice, demanded of us by the Teteoh. Today, we no longer fight the Flowery Wars in which the blood of brave warriors was spilt. But Tlaltekuhtli still demands sacrifice from us. During Tonalko we danced for her, spilled our own blood for her with maguey spines, and burned Kopal for her. And we have made her other sacrifices, such as donating money, volunteering, picking up trash in the wild places, or have otherwise found ways to sacrifice and pay our debt. With the ceremonies of Toxkatl, we give honor to Witzilopochtli, and remind him that we have paid our debt to Our Mother the Earth, so that she might bloom once more.

Witzilopochtli in the Codex Borbonicus 

From the Florentine Codex (Book 2, pages 9-10)

This feast was the most important of all the feasts. This youth, reared as hath been said, was very comely, and chosen from many. He had long hair down to the waist.

When, on this feast, they slew the young man who had been reared for the role, they at once produced another, who was to die after one year. He walked everywhere in the town finely arrayed with flowers in his hand, and with people who accompanied him. He greeted with good grace those whom he met. All knew that this one was the likeness of Tezkatlipoka, and they bowed before him and worshiped him whenever they met him.

Twenty days before this feast came, they gave this young man four comely young women reared for the part, with whom for all the twenty days, he had carnal relations. And they changed his array when they gave him these young women: they clipped his hair like a war captain and gave him more finery even braver than what he had had.

Five days before he was to die, they celebrated feasts for him and banquets, in cool and pleasant places. Many of the leading men accompanied him. On the arrival of the day where he was to die, they took him to a pyramid or sanctuary which they called Tlakochkalko; and, before he arrived there, at a place which they called Tlapitzawayan, the women with-drew and left him. Arrived at the place where they were to kill him, he ascended the steps himself; on each of them he shattered one of the flutes which he had played as he walked, all during the year. When he had reached the summit of the temple, they threw him upon the sacrificial stone; they tore out his heart; they brought down the body, carrying it in their hands; below, they cut the head off and ran through it [the crosspiece of the skull rack] which is called tzompantli. Many other ceremonies were enacted in this feast.”

The human ixiptla (representation) of Tezkatlipoka is prepared for Toxkatl. Florentine Codex Book 2, illustrations 18-20

Modern Interpretations of Toxkatl (adapted with permission from the work of micorazonmexica):

On Toxkatl we give honor to Tezkatlipoka Titlakawan, the Smoking Mirror, He Whose Slaves We Are, who is night, darkness, and the whims of fate. Likewise, we pray to Witzilopochtli, the Hummingbird on the Left, who is day, light, and war. We have fed Witzilopochtli with war and sacrifices over the dry metztin of Tonalko, we have paid our debt, and now, with the coming of Xopan, we beg Tlalok to release the beneficial rains, and Tezkatlipoka to spare us from disaster. 

Amaranth or bread figures of Tezkatlipoka and Witzilopochtli are made and placed on their respective tlamanallis. They are dressed in paper regalia, and hearts which are stones of jade, crystal, or turquoise, or some other precious stone, are inserted into their chests. Witzilopochtli is placed atop a platform painted with writhing snakes, which represents the skirt of Our Mother the Earth, Koatlikwe, from whom he is born every morning. A tekpatl or knife emerges from his headdress. Offerings of arms and legs made of amaranth, or bread are offered to both Teteoh. Before Tezkatlipoka, they are the arms of the mighty whom he first raised and then brought low. Before Witzilopochtli they are the body of his sister the Moon and his brothers the stars, whom he has defeated in battle. Food is offered to Them, many delicious things to eat, and quail, which symbolize the starry night sky. They are night whom Witzilopochtli has conquered, and night embodied by Tezkatlipoka. 

The young women who join the ceremony anoint themselves with perfume, and paint their arms and legs red, and wear red feathers in their kopilli, which symbolizes fire and sacrifice and the light of Witzilopochtli, and they carry banners painted with black stripes on a white ground, which symbolize the darkness of Tezkatlipoka. Only the women bear banners and are painted red, for we are in Xopan, the season of rain and the female principle, and it is they who rule. Small cages of woven cane decorated with paper flags are given to the women, and within are placed the dried, paper-wrapped corncobs which had been blessed on Wey Tozoztli, and which are the heart of the kitchen and granary. They tie them to their backs with shawls, as one ties a baby, and they dance about the tlamanallis, giving honor first to Tezkatlipoka and the powers of night, then to Witzilopochtli and the light of the Sun.  

The men wear crowns of feathers and flowers, both white, and dress simply in white, without adornment. They carry wands adorned with black feathers. They wear popcorn chains about their necks, and crowns made of popcorn. After the women have finished dancing, the men join them, dancing in a chain with their arms about one another. Thus, do we dance with our arms linked, for we embrace Witzilopochtli and Tezkatlipoka with our steps. We ask Them to bless us, to guide us, and to spare us from harm. 

The small cages of maize worn by the women are removed, placed upon the tlamanallis of the two Teteoh, and smoked with Kopal. Then, Witzilopochtli and Tezkatlipoka are taken from the tlamanallis, their paper regalia removed and carefully placed in a box, and their hearts cut out with the blade in the crown of Witzilopochtli. They are broken to pieces, and they and the food on their tlamanallis shared among all who have participated in the ceremony, who are blessed by the powers of darkness and light. 

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