Monthly Rituals


Atemoztli – Water Descends

During Atemoztli, we return once more to the mountains and Tlalok and the Tlalokeh. Atemoztli is during the dry season of Tonalko, but there are occasional showers during this time, and so Tlalok is thanked once more for his waters. During the ceremony of Tepeilwitl, the Feast of the Mountains, offerings were made to the mountains and Tlalok. Amaranth images (Ixiptla) of them were made, sacrificed, and eaten, in recognition of the sacrifices that the Teteoh make for us. They are our life, and so we must constantly give them honors and sacrifices. We remind the Teteoh that we are paying them our debt, and make offerings so that the rains return, now, and in the season of Xopan which is to come. We again make amaranth images of the mountains, and again partake in their sacrifice and death, and again consume their flesh, just as we drink their waters. 

At the center of the Atemoztli ceremony is a paper flag, which is given their own tlamanalli and their own offerings. Likewise, the amaranth mountains are also adorned with paper flags. The amaranth mountains represent the abundance of the Tlalokeh, and their gift of water and life. The white paper flag spattered with liquid rubber, the aztapantli, represents all that we owe the mountains for their gift of life. The aztapantli reminds us that we must live in balance with Tlaltekuhtli, Our Mother the Earth, and that we must pay our debt to the Mountains and the Lords of Rain. The banner carries the message of our sacrifice to the Teteoh. Offerings are made to them, and after the ceremony has ended both the aztapantli and the paper flags which had adorned the amaranth mountains are taken to a sacred hill, spring, or river, and there returned to the source of creation and life. 

Atemoztli, Códices Matritenses, f. 252v

The amaranth mountains are sacrificed in the ceremony with a weaving batten. This instrument is used by weavers to compress the threads while weaving their cloth. It represents our destiny, woven by the Teteoh, and by Tlazolteotl and Ziwakoatl in particular, who are manifestations of Our Mother the Earth. They weave our destiny, and likewise that of all being. The mountains are pierced with the weaving batten, and their hearts of jade removed, for Ziwakoatl has ordained that They, just like us, must die, and be reborn. We remember in Atemoztli that we and the mountains are linked, and our lives and well-being depend upon one another. We were born to protect the mountains and wild places, just as they protect us. We are asked to partake in the honorable harvest, and to live according to the principles of reciprocity our ancestors have taught us.  

Atemoztli in the Códice Magliabechiano, f. 44r

From the Florentine Codex (Book 2, Page 29):

“In this month they celebrated a feast to the rain gods, because for the most part in this month it began to thunder and to threaten rain; and the priests of the Tlalokeh began to do penances and to offer sacrifices, so that the rains would come.

When it began to thunder, the priests of the Tlalokeh, with great industriousness, offered copal and other fragrances to their gods and to all the statues of these. They said that then they came to give rain. And the common folk made vows to fashion the images of the mountains, which are called tepiktli, because they are dedicated to those gods of the rain. And on the sixteenth day of this month, all the common folk prepared offerings to offer before Tlalok. And during these four days they performed penances, and the men abstained from women, and the women from men.

Having come to [the time of] the feast, which they celebrated on the last day of this month, they cut lengths of paper, and they bound them to poles, from bottom to top. And they set them up in the courtyards of their houses and made the images of the mountains of tzoalli. They fashioned for them their teeth of squash seeds, and their eyes of some beans which are named ayekotli. And then they offered them their offerings of food, and they worshipped them.

After having kept a vigil for them, and beaten drums and sung for them, they opened their breasts with a tzotzopaztli, which is an instrument with which the women weave, almost like a machete; and they took out their hearts and struck off their heads. And later they divided up all the body among themselves and ate it; and the ornaments with which they had arrayed them, they burned in the courtyards of their houses.

After, they carried all the ashes and the ornaments with which they had provided them to the shrines which they call ayakalko. And then they began to eat and drink, and to make merry. And thus ended the feast. Many other ceremonies remain to be related, which are set down at length in the account of this feast.”

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

A paper flag is glued to a staff of cane, spattered with liquid rubber or black ink, and amaranth or bread images of the local mountains are made, in preparation for the ceremony. The amaranth mountains are adorned with paper flags, paper heads, and paper glyphs which indicate who they are. Buried in the center of each figure is a bead or stone of jade, turquoise, or some other precious stone. All the materials used to make these objects are smoked with Kopal beforehand, and offerings are given to the objects, for they are sacred, and will be possessed of teyollia, of will and agency.

The ceremony opens at sunset with the paper banner, which is held up and presented to the gathered guests, and which is then placed in the inner courtyard of the house, or, if such a space is not to be had, a tlamanalli set up in the middle of the living room or some other common space. As the banner is placed at its tlamanalli, and given offerings of fruit and flowers, conch shells and a teponaztli are played. These are feminine instruments, for the shell is akin to the womb, and the teponaztli is the female counterpart to the male Wewetl drum. As such, these instruments summon the presence of the female Teteoh, and of the forces of humidity, darkness, and life. 

The amaranth mountains are then placed on the tlamanalli, arranged so that the tallest and most important mountains are at the center. Food is offered to them, in tiny sizes. The tamales are tiny, and kernels of corn on tiny plates. Chocolate is served in tiny glasses, and pulque in tiny jugs. The small size of the offerings acknowledges the small size of the symbolic mountains made of dough, and of the smallness of humanity before the greatness of the mountains. Green squash, cooked and raw, is likewise offered to them. The ceremony, on the level of the kalpulli, lasts until midnight. More tiny offerings are made to the mountains four times over the course of the ceremony, and songs are sung to them throughout, thanking them for their generosity and life-giving waters. A weaving batten is also placed upon the tlamanalli and given offerings. 

At midnight, the guests gather around the tlamanalli. The weaving batten is removed from the tlamanalli, to the sound of conch shells and shaking rattles, and the playing of the teponaztli. The figures of the mountains are taken up, one by one, with the greatest and most important going last. Their paper adornments are removed and placed in a basket. The weaving batten is inserted into the “chests” of each mountain, and the jade or precious stone hearts removed, as we cry out in honor of the Tepemeh, of the Mountains, and thank them for their sacrifice. The women who have hosted the ceremony enter, with their wipiles and kechkemitl filled with maize, candies, bread, fruit, and other good things to eat, and pass out their abundance to their guests. Pulque is served, from a black jug painted with the moon and from black clay cups, to give honor to the darkness from which life springs. 

After, on an auspicious day as indicated by the Tonalamatl, the paper flag placed in the courtyard, and the paper adornments of the mountains, are taken to a spring, hill, or mountain, and left there as an offering to Tlalok and the Tlalokeh.

Atemoztli in the Tovar Codex

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