General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 20 Sep 2017/9 Jaguar
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Traditional Náhuatl greetings

ORIGINAL QUESTION received from - and thanks to - Michelle: How did they greet each other? (Answered by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore)

The Aztecs were taught to be deeply humble and respectful of others
The Aztecs were taught to be deeply humble and respectful of others (Click on image to enlarge)

The Aztecs brought children up to be highly respectful of others, and to show moderation and restraint in everything - even in speaking. As the Florentine Codex recorded: ‘One must speak calmly, not too fast, nor heatedly, nor loud... keep to a moderate pitch, neither high nor low; and let your words be mild and serene...’

When walking down the street, you were encouraged to adopt a gentle, elegant pose: ‘Walk quietly, neither too fast nor too slow... those who do not observe this rule are called ixtotomac cuecuetz, people who go looking in every direction like idiots, without nobility or gravity; do not walk with your head down or leaning on one side or looking to right and to left, or else it will be said that you are an ill-bred, undisciplined fool.’

The Huehuetlatolli (Words of the Elders) records the following directions to be followed if you were invited for a meal at an important person’s house: ‘Take care how you go in, for without noticing it you will be watched. Come respectfully, bow and make your greeting. Do not make faces when you eat; do not eat noisily and without care, like a glutton; do not swallow too quickly, but little by little... If you drink water, do not make a noise, sucking it in; you are not a little dog. Do not use all your fingers when you eat, but only the three fingers of your right hand... Do not cough and do not spit; and take care not to dirty the clothes of any of the other guests.’

As to the actual words said in greetings, here are several different examples, from a range of sources:-
• ‘You have wearied yourself, troubled yourself in coming’
(much the most common when giving a welcome to someone): ihiyohuia in Náhuatl
• ‘We will cause you to become ill’ (by giving you loads of food!)
• ‘How did you dawn?’
• ‘What says your heart?’
• ‘Come (in) and rest’

• ’Daily Life of the Aztecs’ by Jacques Soustelle (Stanford University Press, 1961)
• ’A Scattering of Jades’ translated by Thelma D. Sullivan, edited by Timothy J. Knab (University of Arizona Press, 1994)
• Náhuat-l e-list
• ‘The Art of Nahuatl Speech: The Bancroft Dialogues’ edited by Frances Karttunen and James Lockhart (UCLA Publications 1987)

Picture courtesy of Felipe Dávalos, from ‘Cautivos en el Altiplano’ by Federico Navarrete (Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2000)

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