General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 26 Sep 2020/6 Vulture
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Netzahualpilli holds a bouquet of flowers, Codex Ixtlilxochitl

Fondness for flowers...

Flowers played an important role in Aztec/Mexica life, not only as decorations for ceremonial events but also in each individual’s life. The Dominican friar Diego de Durán (1537-1588) commented on the Aztecs’ fondness for flowers:- (Compiled by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore)

Pic 1: Bouquet of flowers - detail from Codex Mendoza folio 70r
Pic 1: Bouquet of flowers - detail from Codex Mendoza folio 70r (Click on image to enlarge)

They become the happiest people in the world smelling them, for these natives in general are most sensuous and pleasure loving. They find gladness and joy in spending the entire day smelling a little flower or a bouquet made of different kinds of flowers; their gifts are accompanied by them; they relieve the tediousness of journeys with flowers. To sum up, they find the smelling of flowers so comforting that they even stave off and manage to survive hunger by smelling them.

Pic 2: Garlanding with flowers: Florentine Codex Book 11
Pic 2: Garlanding with flowers: Florentine Codex Book 11 (Click on image to enlarge)

Book 11 of the Florentine Codex contains a lengthy paragraph on the ‘offering of flowers’; what follows gives a good feel for Aztec ‘flower power’:-

I offer flowers. I arrange flowers. I thread a flower. I string flowers. I make flowers. I form them to be extending, uneven, rounded, round bouquets of flowers.
I make a flower necklace, a flower garland, a paper of flowers, a bouquet, a flower shield, hand flowers. I thread them. I string them... I provide one with a flower necklace. I place a garland on one... I clothe one in flowers... I cover one with flowers...
When I incite just with words, when I am beguiling him, it is said: “I caress him with flowers. I seduce one. I extend one a lengthy discourse. I induce him with words”...

Pic 3: Probable representation of the goddess Xochiquetzal in small ceramic figurines from Teotihuacan; drawings by Laurette Séjourné
Pic 3: Probable representation of the goddess Xochiquetzal in small ceramic figurines from Teotihuacan; drawings by Laurette Séjourné (Click on image to enlarge)

UPDATE JULY 2020
Inspired by Meño’s question (see comments, below) we’ve decided to add more to this little entry...
There can be little doubt that the Mexica DID wear floral crowns in their ceremonies! The great scholar of ancient Mesoamerica Doris Heyden noted that the calendar of monthly festivals was ‘marked by an abundant use of flowers’; the seventh, eighth and ninth months were in fact in themselves celebrations of flowers, in which participants adorned themselves with floral garlands - after ceremonial dances, these were offered to the gods, and youths competed to climb temple steps to ‘win’ the floral wreaths or crowns of maidens.
At Teotihuacan in particular, ceramic figures have been found depicting both flowers (xochitl in Nahuatl) and precious birds (quetzal[li]) (see pic 3).

Pic 4: The goddess Xochiquétzal wearing a garland of flowers in her hair; from a restored version of the Codex Borgia (pl. 59, detail)
Pic 4: The goddess Xochiquétzal wearing a garland of flowers in her hair; from a restored version of the Codex Borgia (pl. 59, detail) (Click on image to enlarge)

Together, Xochitl and quetzal(li) form the name of the goddess of love, youth and beauty Xochiquétzal - learn more about her in our ‘Aztec Gods’ section, link below. She features several times in the codices - particularly in the Codex Borgia (see pic 4) - wearing a garland of flowers on her head. It seems inconceivable that the Aztecs, who loved to dress like and to imitate their gods, would not have worn similar floral crowns on their heads in festivals dedicated to her.

And a ‘PS’[ from expert Chloe Sayer: ‘Of course the modern-day wearing of flower crowns probably owes a lot to the Catholic Church as well as to pre-Hispanic beliefs and practices. One thinks of all the religious paintings from colonial-period Mexico and of the paintings of ‘monjas coronadas’ (dead nuns, brides of Christ, laid out with their flower crowns)...

INFO from: ‘The Essential Codex Mendoza’ by Frances F. Berdan and Patricia Rieff Anawalt (University of California Press, 1997); ‘Florentine Codex: Book 11 - Earthly Things’ trans. with notes by Charles E. Dibble and Arthur O.J. Anderson (School of American Research and University of Utah, 1963), and ‘Mitología y simbolismo de la flora en el méxico prehispánico’ by Doris Heyden, (UNAM, Mexico City, 1983).

Picture sources:-
• Main pic: image (portrait of Netzahualpilli) from the Codex Ixtlilxochitl scanned from our copy of the ADEVA facsimile edition (Graz, Austria, 1976)
• Pic 2: image from the Codex Mendoza scanned from our copy of the James Cooper Clark facsimile edition (London, 1938)
• Pic 2: image from the Florentine Codex scanned from our copy of the Club Internacional del Libro 3-volume facsimile edition (Madrid, 1994)
• Pic 3: image scanned from Heyden, Mitología..., above
• Pic 4: image scanned from The Codex Borgia: a Full-Color Restoration of the Ancient Mexican Manuscript by Gisele Díaz and Alan Rodgers, Dover Publications, New York, 1993.

emoticon Typical! Just at this point in writing and illustrating Book 11 of the Florentine Codex, the artist(s) ran out of colour ink. Imagine the b/w image above in full colour...!

Aztec pleasure gardens

Learn more about Xochiquétzal...

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Here's what others have said:

Mexicolore replies: Many thanks for your kind words. Excellent question: we’ve tried to answer it here, above! Hope it helps...
Mexicolore replies: Thanks for this! Actually, you’ve hit the nail on the head: the Aztecs par excellence had two totally contrasting sides to them: a fierce, fanatical religion and a gentle, caring and loving side. Flowers were a metaphor for songs, poetry and philosophy, in which they indulged at a serious level. And they say that every Aztec house was decorated with flowers...
Mexicolore replies: We hadn’t heard of Bunnings either! It must be some funky Australian garden shop chain; or are we missing something here...?!