General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 28 Feb 2021/5 Monkey
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A Mexica woman sings, speaks to or just breathes onto maize as she prepares to cook it, Florentine Codex Book V

Superstitious? (8)

‘Maize, like fire, was a god who lived in one’s home and had to be accorded due respect. Women warmed the maize with their breath before cooking it, claiming that this way it would not fear the fire’s heat. If maize spilled onto the ground, where it was thought to suffer and weep, it had to be gathered up with care...’ The picture, from the Florentine Codex (Book 5) shows a Mexica (Aztec) woman singing to, speaking to, praying to, or perhaps simply breathing on maize as she pours it from a basket into a cooking pot. (Compiled by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore)

Drawing by Alberto Beltrán of an Aztec woman preparing maize dough to make tortillas
Drawing by Alberto Beltrán of an Aztec woman preparing maize dough to make tortillas (Click on image to enlarge)

‘Like the fire... the maize could convey messages to the housekeeper. If a tortilla became folded over on the griddle, the woman expected the arrival of a guest or the return of her husband; this approaching person was said to have kicked the tortilla.
’Certain ritual precautions had to be taken when consuming food. If girls did not sit down to eat, their mothers worried that they would marry far from home - as if the mystical link to their central place, the floor by the fire, would be broken. Cooking is, again, linked to warfare: the cook had to keep her menfolk from dipping food directly into the cooking pot, or they would lose their (future) war captives... And she must not eat tamales that stick to the cooking pot, lest a foetus adhere to her womb and she die in childbirth...’

Quote from ‘Mexica Women on the Home Front’ by Louise Burkhart, in Indian Women in Early Mexico edited by Susan Schroeder, Stephanie Wood and Robert Haskett, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, 1997, pp. 42-44.

• Main pic: Image from the Florentine Codex (original in the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Florence) scanned from our own copy of the Club Internacional del Libro 3-volume facsimile edition, Madrid, 1994
• Illustration by Alberto Beltrán scanned from The Sun Kingdom of the Aztecs by Victor W. von Hagen, Brockhampton Press, USA, 1960.

This article was uploaded to the Mexicolore website on Jun 05th 2020

‘The view from the metate’ - women and the Aztec world

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