General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 20 Sep 2017/9 Jaguar
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Did the Aztecs have coming-of-age rituals?

ORIGINAL QUESTION received from - and thanks to - Emily McCarthy: Did the Aztecs have any coming-of-age rituals? (Answered by - and thanks to - Dr. Caroline Dodds Pennock)

15-year-old Aztec boys are offered to school principals by their father (top), and at the same age a girl weds (bottom); scenes from the Codex Mendoza, fol. 61r
15-year-old Aztec boys are offered to school principals by their father (top), and at the same age a girl weds (bottom); scenes from the Codex Mendoza, fol. 61r (Click on image to enlarge)

There aren’t straightforward coming-of-age rituals, but the huehuetlahtolli [speeches of the elders] in the Florentine Codex contain speeches given to boys and girls by their parents at their ‘coming of age’, which I had always assumed from context was when they went off to get married. Boys have to request permission from the telpochcalli [commoners’ school] elders as well as parents, so there’s an element of ceremony there. And, of course, there are many warrior rituals which are part of ‘coming of age’ for many boys: first captive, etc.
In many ways, I guess the marriage itself is the coming of age ritual (for younger people/first marriages) anyway. It is the moment when a young man is inscribed in the register of the community, becoming eligible for labour/military service etc, and when a young woman sets up her own household. And the whole ritual is framed around the family and the community.

Image from the Codex Mendoza scanned from our own copy of the James Cooper Clark facsimile edition, London, 1938.

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