General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 1 Mar 2021/6 Grass
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Aztecs smoking at a banquet, Florentine Codex

Fancy a puff?

In his description of the banquets held just before merchants departed on their travels, Sahagún (in the Florentine Codex, Book 9) writes: ‘As soon as they have finished eating, everyone washes their hands again and then each guest receives his own cup of cocoa, which they drink, and then the smoking tubes are handed round for sucking on.’ (Written/compiled by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore)

Pre-Hispanic pipes in a Mexican museum
Pre-Hispanic pipes in a Mexican museum (Click on image to enlarge)

Reed smoking tubes, an early form of pipe, were used for smoking tobacco and grasses, and were made as follows:-

The man who makes tubes for sucking smoke first of all cuts the reed and removes the leaves, cleaning it thoroughly. He grinds up the charcoal with which to line the reeds. Then he paints some and gilds others... The painting work on some is hidden and only appears when they begin to burn... There are lots of kinds of these tubes and they are filled with many different aromatic herbs, which are ground up and mixed together. They must be packed with rose petals, aromatic spices, bitumen, mushrooms ... and iztzyetl, which is a kind of grass...

And when they proffered the smoking tubes [see picture], they took the reed with their right hand, not at the uncovered end but the part covered with charcoal; and with the left hand they took the vessel on which the reed rested. The tube-server would say: ‘My lord, here is the tube of aromas’, and the guest would take it up, place it between his fingers and being to suck on it ... The tube was given and taken in the same way in which darts are thrown in battle. And the vessel stood for the shield, that is held in the left hand ... After this flowers were distributed...

In pre-Columbian Mesoamerica people smoked not only during banquets but also in religious ceremonies; besides pipes, which were filled with various herbs and grasses, they also smoked cigars made by rolling up tobacco leaves.

Info from ‘The World of the Aztecs in the Florentine Codex’ (Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana/Mandragora, 2007)

Picture sources:-
• Image from the Florentine Codex scanned from our own copy of the Club Internacional del Libro 3-volume facsimile edition, Madrid, 1994, Book IX
• Photo by Mexicolore

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Here's what others have said:

Mexicolore replies: It looks like the smoke was inhaled. Please read this article in the ‘Ask the Experts’ section of Mexicolore. The author has kindly supplied a good number of additional sources if you want to follow up more -
Mexicolore replies: Not that we know of!
Mexicolore replies: We think so! According to Fermín Herrera’s Náhuatl dictionary, ‘pipe’ would be huei cuauhcómitl; this means, basically ‘large stick-bowl’.