Sunday, August 7, 2011

Aztecs and Incas are More Like Us Than You Know. (Part 1)

So since Jessika can't post today, I decided that I will force you all to learn about Aztecs and Incas. While history books spend maybe a page on each, I think that they are large cultures that are not taught enough about. While we spend whole sections learning about China or Russia, why not Aztecs and Incas? We seem to know plenty about them from what I've seen and they were just as civilized as we are, in a sense.

You see that temple there in the picture? Yeah there's some really cool things about Chichen Itza, and here's a video to show you!

Random video anyways, here in front of this Mayan temple, if you stand in front of the stairs and clap, you will hear the sound of a bird and the rattle of a snake. This bird was very special, it is called the Quetzal and can make over 400 noises. The bird also represented one of the Aztec supreme gods, Quetzalcoatl, The Feathered Serpent. Amusingly, the year the Spaniards came to Central Mexico happened to be the year Quetzalcoatl was suppose to return to earth. So when the Spaniards came, guess who the Aztecs thought they were! Yep, Cortes, they thought, was a god.

Although the Aztecs are famous for their bloody sacrifices, they had some other interesting things that did not involve sacrificing people. But we'll start with their beginning. While the Aztecs get their name from a land called Aztlan, they actually called themselves Mexica. They at first were a wondering tribe that came onto the lands of a great kingdom, when the kind agreed to let them settle down there, they invited his daughter to come to one of their rituals to please their gods. Later, when they invited the king to come, the Mexica priest danced in front of the king in his daughter's flayed skin. Gross right?

Anyways, the kind became very angry and banished them from his land. After searching around, the Mexica were given a vision of a eagle perched on a cactus holding a snake. When the saw the symbol that's where they were to live. And it was on Lake Texcoco on an island that they built their city which would later become the famous floating city of Tenochtitlan.

One of the most interesting things about the Aztecs I think is their slavery (this next part about slaves and stuff is taken from my Inkpop profile). Slaves (called tlacotin) was a personal thing. An Aztec could become a slave because of debt (Some Aztecs were big on gambling), criminal punishment, or as war captives. They could have possessions and sometimes have their own slaves. However, all their animals and money went to their buyer. Slaves could buy their own freedom or become free if they had children with their masters or were married to them (any children a slave might have with their master or without were free). A slave could also earn his freedom if they could prove that they were abused. They could also not be sold without their consent.

If slave could escape from his master in the marketplace, and reach either the temple or the palace before his master he would be set free on the spot. A runaway who also stepped on dung outside the marketplace while escaping would be brought before judges who would determined if they were free. People normally wouldn't help a master catch his slave because anyone not related to the master could be sold into slavery themselves for helping.

Sometimes slaves who had attempted to escape multiple times or were dangerous became incorrigible. This means that they could be sold without their consent, their buyer had to be told how many times they were sold, and they were forced to wear a wooden collar. This collar was not only a symbol of shame, but it was to make it harder to escape because of two handles on either side of the collar. If a slave was sold four or more times they could be sold to the temple as sacrifices.

An Oracle's Book of Days (called the tonalamatl) is true to Aztec culture. Mothers were honored as warriors after given birth and many speeches, gifts, and parties were held in honor of a newborn. After the baptism (yes they had one) older children really would run through the streets shouting the name of the new born. The Book of Days was not considered a book of fate, but more of a guide telling them family good days and bad days for their children.

The Aztecs had many gods and goddesses. One was their goddess of filth, Tlazoteotl, meaning Sacred Filth Eater. If one committed something very bad that they would probably be killed for, they could go to the temple and ask forgivenessBecause this forgiveness wiped their slate clean of all past crimes, they could never use it again. Because of this, most Aztecs tried to never use it unless they had to.

Unlike our centuries which are one hundred years, the Aztec century was 52 years. Every Aztec century they would hold a special ceremony called the New Fire Rites or Binding of Years (Toxiuhmolpilia in their language, Nahuatl. Did you know that Nahuatl is still taught and spoken? Yep!). During this ceremony all activities would cease, all fires put out, old clothing and utensils thrown out, and quietness and fasting occurred. If there was any pregnant women, they would be locked up in grain houses because the Aztecs believed that if the Binding of the Years failed or didn't occurs, the pregnant women would turn into monsters. 

Anyways, this ceremony was on Uixachtlan Hill, where there would be a giant bonfire. And at midnight, they would sacrifice someone by throwing him in. After that, runners would take torches lit by this fire and run to every major city and light fires with the now "sacred" flames. If this ceremony didn't occur, not only would the world end, but evil monsters would be released and kill everyone. 

Aztecs believed that this world is the "fifth age". According to their belief there was four other "worlds" before this one. In each world something went wrong and so the gods destroyed it. In this fifth one, the gods said that we needed a moon and a sun. So two gods volunteered themselves. After fasting for a certain number of days, when the first one tried to throw himself into the fire, the fire was so strong that he turned back. But the other one threw himself in fearlessly. After he did so, the second did then. The gods waited a while afraid that something had gone wrong, but then suddenly, the first god to throw himself in came as the moon, the second god came as the sun. 

Well this is kinda long now, so I'll stop. But if you'd like to know anything else, please contact me on the About page! Anyways, next time, we'll talk about Incas. 

Learn more:
Crystalinks: Aztec
History.comAztecsPyramids in Latin America

So, did you learn anything from this? What do you think is the most interesting part about Aztecs, Incas, and Mayans? Do you think they're cool or they don't get enough recognition?   


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