Etzalkwaliztli – “the Eating of Maize and Beans”
Etzalkwaliztli falls when the rains are at their peak, and is therefore sacred to Tlalok and the Tlalokeh, and to Chalchiuhtlikwe, Our Lady Water. It is a time of abundance, for the gardens are lush and full, and the trees heavy with fruit. Therefore, it is a time of feasting. It is called Etzalkwaliztli because etzalli, a stew made of beans and corn, is eaten at this time. The combination of these two ingredients in the same dish symbolizes the abundance and fertility of the season.
Tlalok is given offerings and ceremonies throughout the year, for without his precious rains we cannot live. We thank him for the rains which fall daily during Etzalkwaliztli and give life to the crops, and we beg him not to bring hail, or flood, or disastrous storm, or drought.
During Etzalkwaliztli we give thanks to the tools of our work, in the ceremony of Tekiloni Zewiliztli, or “the Repose of the Tools.” Most things possess will, agency, and “soul.” Our tools aid us in our work and guide our hands and our minds. They are made with wood, leather, metal, plastic (which once was oil and before that the body of a living being), or any of a thousand other things, which were taken from the body of Tlaltekuhtli, Our Mother the Earth, or which had once lived on Her surface. When our ancestors made their tools, they understood that they were conscious, and possessed will, and that a being had given up their life to produce them, whether that being was a tree that had been killed for their wood, an animal for its leather, or an ore which had been melted and transformed into metal. The process of making tools was a sacred and ceremonial act. Today our tools are made in factories, and Tlaltekuhtli or the other beings, such as trees, are not asked permission or given honor for the gifts of their lives. Many indigenous tribes in Mexico continue to think of tools as living beings, but do not regard factory made tools as such, especially when they were made with artificial materials like plastic or chemicals. These things were made by pillaging the oil and metals which live in the entrails of Tlaltekuhtli and are considered too distant from Her to possess a soul, agency, and will. An object made of wood, like a paint brush, or of metal, like a machete or a knife, still contains the “soul” of the tree or the Earth of which they were made. But an object made of plastic, or the highly processed and refined materials of a computer, cannot.
One day should be set aside, on which the things we use for our work are placed on a tlamanalli, and given offerings of incense, flowers, and food. If you are a painter, your paints and paint brushes, if a gardener, your hoe, and your rake, if a scholar, your pencils and books. These tools are alive, and it is their day of rest. You might incense your computers, cell phones, or cars, for these things are also implements of work, and while we do not honor them, we honor the lives that were given up making them, and Tlaltekuhtli who gave us the gifts of metal and oil. We contemplate the use of our tools, and ask ourselves if our work is honorable, and if it helps us to repay our debt. Living beings gave up their lives for the sake of the tools you honor during Tekiloni Zewiliztli, and Tlaltekuhtli was exploited for her oils and metals. The work these tools create must be worthy of the great sacrifice by which they were made. We make offerings to the Teteoh, and to the tools themselves, to guide us in this endeavor.
From the Florentine Codex (Book 2, page 84):
“And when it was already the feast day, all the common folk made cooked maize and beans for themselves; they made etzalli for themselves. They fell to it as one. There was no one who did not prepare maize and beans for himself.
When they were cooked, then they were continually eaten; they continually presented it to one another; they continually invited one another to meals.
And some of the happy ones, the pleasure girls, and some of the brave warriors danced from time to time. Thus they just diverted themselves.
Thus were they adorned: they had circles about their eyes; they had their maize staves. They kept going to enter each one’s home. They danced the etzalli dance. With them they went grasping a handled jar, the etzalli jar.
And as they kept on dancing they chanted: “When I do, when I do, give me a little of your etzalli. If thou give me none, I shall break a hole into your house.”
And the householders then gave them a pile of etzalli. They went placing it in the etzalli jar.
Those who kept on dancing gathered some in fives, some in sixes, some in sevens.”
Modern Interpretations of Etzalkwaliztli (adapted with permission from the work of micorazonmexica)
For this feast, a tlamanalli is made for our tools, and another is made in honor of Tlalok. The house and tlamanalli are adorned with pine boughs, and blue papers and adornments are used as decorations. A bed of pine needles is spread out before the tlamanalli of Tlalok, and four balls of masa or corn dough are placed there. These symbolize Tlalok’s gift of water for the life-giving corn, which flows to the four directions. Offerings in groups of four of tomatoes or green chiles are also made.
This is a time of washing, as the rains wash the fields. Agricultural implements or other tools which it is practical to clean are taken from the tlamanalli and ceremonially washed, and those who can go to a spring, lake, or seashore, and bathe themselves there.
Pots of etzalli are made. In the past this was a communal celebration, like Halloween today. Every family made a pot, and the entire community would go from house to house, carrying their bowl with one hand and a staff in the other, and ask for a spoonful, and playfully threaten those who had not prepared any or who had run out. They dressed in costume, wearing Tlalok’s goggles made of paper or woven grass, or costumes of aquatic creatures, like ducks, fish, and turtles, which are sacred to Tlalok. They painted themselves blue, and all joined in feasting and merriment, and they danced holding a stock of the corn-plant in their hands.
Today, it is unlikely that one’s neighbors will also be celebrating Etzalkwaliztli, but, until such a time as the ceremonies and festivities of our ancestors shall again become widespread, invite your neighbors, friends, and family, and together partake of the meal of etzalli. Perhaps you can go in procession, dressed in costumes of aquatic creatures, and give little cups of etzalli to the strangers you pass, and give thanks with your loved ones to Tlalok, for the abundance of which you partake, which is his gift to you.