General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 29 Nov 2020/5 Flower
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Stone sculpture of Huehueteotl

104: a VERY special age for the Aztecs...

Old age for the Aztecs was reached at 52, when you had completed an entire cycle in the ancient Mesoamerican calendar round, and so been influenced by the fifty-two combinations possible in the thirteen numbers and four year signs. You enjoyed the privileges and respect of seniority. You might think that if you managed to reach 104, you would enjoy double the benefits. Not so...! (Compiled by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore)

Stone figure of an old Mexica man, National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
Stone figure of an old Mexica man, National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City (Click on image to enlarge)

Senior Mexican historian, scholar and member of our Panel of Experts Alfredo López Austin explains:-
’Today’s Nahuas [descendants of the Aztecs]... speak of the great animistic force of old people, something that can turn them into dangerous beings. The “shadow” of the elderly, according to the Nahuas, becomes more powerful as the years go by... The elderly are also said to hoard heat in their hearts...*
’The idea of the tonalli force appears as energy of a “hot” nature and related to honour and distinction... Because of their age they deserved honours, considerations and privileges... The usefulness of men of advanced age in sedentary [settled] communities made it necessary to surround them with a protective halo founded on respect. But fear accompanied admiration, a fear based on the very nature of the force old men continued to acquire with years and reputation...
’It sometimes happened that a man, after reaching old age, completed another cycle and achieved the age of 104. Then “they were frightened and avoided him, saying he was no longer a man but a fierce animal.”’

Quote from The Human Body and Ideology: Concepts of the Ancient Nahuas, vol. 1, by Alfedo López Austin, translated by Thelma Ortiz de Montellano and Bernard Ortiz de Montellano, University of Utah Press, 1988.
Photos by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore.

This article was uploaded to the Mexicolore website on Oct 27th 2020

emoticon *Q. What would we call someone in the UK today who was the equivalent of a ‘Heart Heat Hoarder’...?
A. A graduate from the University of the Third H.

Learn more about the tonalli and other Aztec animistic forces

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