General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 1 Mar 2021/6 Grass
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A Mexica/Aztec family studying and learning together

Teaching children to GROW (up)

The Aztecs ‘valued love and discipline’. They seem to have taken a similar approach to teaching youngsters as we do today with nurturing plants - they literally ‘grew’ their children, whether at home or at school, pulling and pushing them into maturity...

The ‘Growth’ festival of Izcalli, Florentine Codex
The ‘Growth’ festival of Izcalli, Florentine Codex (Click on image to enlarge)

‘On the one hand, children were encouraged to express their feelings and attitudes openly, while on the other hand, they were watched carefully by their parents and given constant correction... When a child was four years old, the parents became more specific in the tasks they wanted their children to carry out, and girls and boys began wearing different clothes appropriate to their gender. This was the year that children underwent a special “growth ritual” that was repeated every four years in the month of Izcalli (“Growth”). Children of both sexes born during the previous four years were purified by fire and had their earlobes pierced and earrings inserted. The ceremony was called Quinquechanaya (“They stretch their necks”), in which the children were lifted by their foreheads and had their limbs stretched.

4-year-olds being taught by their Mexica parents, and receiving their daily ration of one tortilla, Codex Mendoza folio 58
4-year-olds being taught by their Mexica parents, and receiving their daily ration of one tortilla, Codex Mendoza folio 58 (Click on image to enlarge)

‘Another ceremony held every 260 days, on the day 4 Movement, saw the children’s noses, necks, ears, fingers and legs pulled to encourage proper growth during the next 260-day cycle. These two rituals reflect one of the key ideas in Aztec education: the Aztec equivalent of the verb “to educate” was tlacahuapahua or tlacazcaltia, which meant “to strengthen persons” or “to make persons grow”. This growing and strengthening was accomplished through a series of rituals that incorporated children into the work of the family and society. In these cases the children were introduced to the sacred numbers 4 and 260, which would continue to guide them even after death.’

Info from ‘Daily Life of the Aztecs’ by Davíd Carrasco with Scott Sessions, Greenwood Press, 1998.

Picture sources:-
• Illustration of a Mexica family studying at home drawn specially for Mexicolore by Felipe Dávalos
• 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
• Image from the Codex Mendoza (original in the Bodleian Library, Oxford) scanned from our own copy of the James Cooper Clark facsimile edition, London, 1938.

‘Instant exercise: the original “pull-ups”?’ - learn more about the festival of Izcalli

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