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Observations placeholder

Soustelle - Aztecs and Mexica - The Making of a High Priestess



Type of Spiritual Experience


Soustelle has taken the description lierally, no doubt because the Spanish described it literally, but this is 'beheading' a form of rebirth leading to ecstasy, it isn't literal.

Lewis Carroll knew all about beheading - 'off  with their heads' and the role of the other Queens in a achieving it.

What set of people celebrates in the way described here knowing there is going to be a ritual murder?  No one, logic should tell us that there would be no celebrations of this joy, there would be terror.

Soustelle of course, having no knowledge of the Mystery religions calls it 'sad and cruel', but in fact this was the high point of the Mysteries, as it was far more difficult to become a High priestess than a priest and if they succeeded they had a very powerful lass in their midst.

Red and yellow in the Aztec system = red and black

Note that the ceremony is almost identical in some respects to the Eleusinian mysteries

A description of the experience

The Daily Life of the Aztecs – Jacques Soustelle

During the first seven days of the month [there was feasting]……… On the tenth day there began a series of ……… ceremonies in which the central role was played by a woman dressed and adorned to represent the goddess of the young maize, Xilonen.

Her face was painted yellow and red; she wore a head-dress of quetzal-plumes, a turquoise necklace with a golden disk hanging from it, embroidered clothes and red sandals. In her hand she carried a shield and a magic rattle, the chicauaztli.

On the night before the ‘sacrifice’ everybody stayed up, nobody slept, and the women sang the hymns of Xilonen. And at dawn the dances began. All the men, indeed, the war-chiefs, the young men, the officers, everybody carried the maize-stalks that they called totopantli ('bird-flags'); and the women danced also, going with Xilonen.

Everybody, dancing and singing, advanced in procession through the twilight and the dawn towards the temple of the maize, Cinteopan, while the priestesses beat the two-toned gongs and the priests sounded their horns and conchs. The procession surrounded the woman who for a few hours was the incarnation of the goddess, and it carried her forward with it towards her fate: she had scarcely entered the Cinteopan before the officiating priest stepped forward, with his gold-hilted flint knife in his hand; and the headless Xilonen became a goddess in her death.

'Then, for the first time, they ate the cakes of young maize'; the women and 'the maidens who had never looked at any man'; danced and each person made maize-cakes and offered them to the gods.

The source of the experience

Aztecs and the Mexica

Concepts, symbols and science items



Science Items

Activities and commonsteps