General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 18 Apr 2021/2 Flower
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Aztec commoner/farmer dressed in a Tlaloc mask for Etzalcualiztli festival. Tovar Calendar

‘Trick or Treat?’, Aztec style

The Tovar Calendar, a manuscript from around 1585, contains a relatively rare and particularly clear illustration of the use of face masks by Mexica (Aztec) commoners. We will soon be uploading a fine article by Professor Cecelia Klein on the use generally of masks by the Aztecs - focused largely on those worn by priests, deity impersonators, rulers, warriors and in death rituals. In the meantime, in this picture (plate VI) from the Tovar Calendar, we discover the Aztec equivalent of our ‘Trick or Treat’ tradition... (Compiled by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore)

The poor man’s Tlaloc mask...
The poor man’s Tlaloc mask...

Apparently, during the month of Etzalcualiztli, which was dedicated to the rain god Tlaloc, Aztec farmers placed grass hoops over their eyes that served as ‘poor men’s Tlaloc masks’ and proceeded to walk from house to house demanding ‘recompense’ for their labours, and threatening to destroy the owners’ homes if no reward was forthcoming. What they usually received for their trouble was a simple stew made of maize and beans. As the homeowners never failed to ‘cough up’, we can assume that the threats were very much a ritual, agreed to by Aztec authorities: a practice that reinforced the idea that those who wore masks in the name of the gods - however poor and simple those masks were - had the right to take from others. Of course, as Professor Klein tells us, ‘those masks made of the most precious materials and representing the important and powerful deities were controlled and kept in the hands of a few...’

Picture source:-
30289-120 “Yetzalqualiztli,” Juan de Tovar, Historia de la benida de los yndios apoblar a Mexico [Mexico, ca. 1585]. Courtesy of the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University (USA).

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