General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 28 Feb 2021/5 Monkey
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A good Aztec farmer, from the Florentine Codex Book 10

The good farmer

There are hardly any images of and references to Mexica (Aztec) people directly studying the moon, yet we know the moon had a huge influence on their lives. They worshipped a moon goddess (the moon was the female counterpart of the sun), the rabbit visible in the moon was an important day/year sign, the popular alcoholic drink pulque (octli in Nahuatl) was associated with the moon, and there was a close link between the moon and growth of all kinds - from human hair to plants and crops... (Written by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore)

Pic 1: The rabbit on the face of the moon
Pic 1: The rabbit on the face of the moon (Click on image to enlarge)

The rabbit on the moon (pic 1) was associated with the south and with rain and the cold, damp nature of things (compare with the hot, dry sun). Because of the link to pulque, the moon was the main influence on fertility, reproduction, fermentation, pregnancy, birth and the human life cycle in general, including decay and death: the constant waxing and waning of the moon in the sky demonstrated this every month and gave rise to more superstitions and fears than the brighter sun. This in turn led to its connections with divination and medicine. According to tradition, the moon sleeps when invisible during the day. It was seen as a container full of liquid (pic 3), emptying itself - and spilling out light and rain (‘tears’) onto the earth - in the rainy season, full and bright in the dry season. Many people around the world believe that humans, animals, trees and so on contain slightly more or less water according to the phases of the moon.

Pic 2: ‘The good farmer’, Florentine Codex, Book 10
Pic 2: ‘The good farmer’, Florentine Codex, Book 10 (Click on image to enlarge)

Not surprisingly, then, the peoples of ancient Mesoamerica - and this still holds in many rural places even today - will not cut down a tree when it’s full of water, and will only cut human hair and harvest crops according to the moon’s phases. Knowing this, we can see this ‘in action’ in the main picture above, where a Mexica farmer studies a book (calendar, or farming almanac) below an image of the moon. Indeed the Florentine Codex describes a ‘good farmer’ or horticulturist (one who grows and tends plants - pic 2) as one who is ‘careful of things, dedicated, able; a knower of books, a reader of day signs, of the months, of the years.’

Pic 3: The rabbit in the moon, which is a vessel full of liquid; Codex Borgia pl. 10
Pic 3: The rabbit in the moon, which is a vessel full of liquid; Codex Borgia pl. 10 (Click on image to enlarge)

Some experts believe the moon is the driver of the ancient tonalpohualli or ‘count of days’, the sacred calendar based on 13 cycles of 20 days (13 being the number of heavens, 20 the number of fingers and toes on a human being), giving a total of 260 days or roughly 9 months - approximately equal to the development of a human foetus in the mother’s womb, and to the time between planting and harvesting of crops - so central to Mesoamerican life.

The Rabbit on the Face of the Moon by Alfredo López Austin, Uni of Utah Press, 1996
El culto a los astros entre los mexicas by Yolotl González Torres, SEPSetentas/Diana, Mexico, 1975
Florentine Codex Book 10 - The People, trans. Dibble & Anderson, Uni of Utah, 1961.

Picture sources:-
• Main picture and pic 2: Images 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
• Pic 1: Image courtesy of and thanks to Jim Mikoda, Adler Planetarium and Astronomy Museum
• Pic 3: Image from the Codex Borgia scanned from our own copy of the ADEVA facsimile edition, Graz, Austria, 1976.

This article was uploaded to the Mexicolore website on May 03rd 2018

‘The Creation of the Moon’ by Ben Traven

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Mexicolore replies: Yes! As Alfredo López Austin puts it in his book: ‘It is not a good idea to cut down a tree when its trunk [in parallel with the moon] is filled with water.’ ‘As a container, the moon both holds and releases. It retains when it is solid. It is empty when it gives off almost no light. It retains in the dry season; it spills out in the rainy season.’