The Eighteen Months of the Year

 

**Notes: The descriptions of the ceremonies associated with the months below are not taken from any one source, but rather are a distillation of a fairly large number of sources. Also, they have been written in a form that reflects the general concepts in the novels, particularly in terms of the sacrifices. The term "giving service" directly means allowing oneself to be killed in the interest of the gods, and it is not a euphemism, this is the way it was understood by the peoples of those cultures. The men and women to be sacrificed were not dragged kicking and screaming to the altar. These ceremonies were productions, there were often songs and dances the person designated for sacrifice was expected to perform, and he or she had to learn them. Excapt possibly in the last years of the Mexica empire (when sacrifice was apparently being used as a political tool), the "victims" evidently had the right of refusal, there is at least one story about a girl designated for the stone who, after falling in love with a young warrior, did just that.

But this was rare. It also should be kept in mind that, within the context of their religion, a death in sacrifice or on the battlefield meant the person's "soul" was destined for paradise, whereas a death from old age meant the person simply ceased to exist. Death on the altar was seen as a privilege. There is also a story about a captured Tlaxcalan war-captain who, after being offered a reprieve from the altar, demanded it as his right.

 

1 The First Month is Atlcoualco

The first month honors Tlaloc. During the ceremony for this month, the Aztecs offered their most precious possession to Tlaloc, their children.
2 The Second Month is Tlacaxipeualitzli

Honoring Xipe Totec. In this ceremony, men were flayed after having given their service, and their skins are then worn by other men until the beginning of Uei Tocoztli. At this time the gladiatorial sacrifices were held. Great warriors, captives, were tied to a stone by one foot and given a sword edged in cotton to defend themselves. One at a time, other warriors armed with real swords (an obsidian-edged wooden staff called a maquahuitl) would attack him. Once he had been wounded, he was thrown back on the stone and his heart was removed.
3 The Third Month is Tocoztontli.

Again, Tlaloc is honored, and again, children were offered to him. The rites for Xipe Totec, begun in the previous month, were continued.
4 The Fourth Month is Uei Tocoztli.

During this time, Centeotl, God of the Maize, and Chicomecoatl, Goddess of the Growing Crops, were honored. There was ceremonial bloodletting, and there was a dance, performed by young girls, to bless the seed corn. In the main squares at Tenochtitlan and Texcoco, images of Chicomecoatl made of amaranth dough were set up. In private, at the temple of the goddess, an impersonator of Chicomecoatl gave her service.
5 The Fifth Month is Toxcatl.

Honoring Tezcatlipoca. A month before the ceremony, a young man was chosen to be the ixiptla, the impersonator, of Tezcatlipoca. For a month he was treated with complete respect, given riches, given everything he wanted. He was taught to play the flute - sacred to Tezcatlipoca - and was given four beautiful wives. On the day of Toxcatl he walked up the pyramid alone, breaking his flutes as he went. There he gave his service, and following that was the serpentine dance, in which a large number of dancers moved in a weaving line to emulate the movement of a snake. Afterwards, the four girls who'd been his wives divided up his riches.
6 The Sixth Month is Etzalqualiztli

Again honoring Tlaloc. In honor of the Lord of the Storm, a canoe was sent out into Lake Texcoco, filled with the hearts of war captives who've given their service. A boy and a girl, richly dressed, were also in the canoe - which was then sunk, drowning the boy and girl. Also at this time, an impersonator of Quetzalcoatl gave his service, much as the impersonator of Tezcatlipoca did at Toxcatl.
7 The Seventh Month is Tecuilhuitontli.

Honoring the Goddess of the Salt and the Ocean, Huixtocihuatl. An ixiplta is chosen to play the part of Huixtocihuatl; at the appointed time she, along with four girls assigned to be her "fundament," give their service on the pyramid. As the ixiptla of Huixtocihuatl is giving her service, her throat was pierced with a special weapon made from the saw of a sawfish. The knife was left in her chest for a moment before her heart was removed, moving up and down with her breathing "like a boat on waves."
8 The Eighth Month is Uei Tecuilhuitl.

Xilonen, the goddess of the Young Corn, was honored during the eighth month. An ixiplta of Xilonen was chosen, and she was carried about for much of the day atop a litter covered with fresh vegetables and fruit. At the appointed time she was laid on her back atop the produce and her head was severed.
9 The Ninth Month is Tlaxochimaco.

At this time, in Tenochtitlan, a great sacrifice of captives to their patron, Huitzilopochtli, was made. There and elsewhere there were ceremonies to honor Yacatecutli, patron of merchants. The merchants purchased slaves for this ceremony, of both sexes, looking for those who were attractive and who could sing and dance as well. After they have entertained the merchants and the god, they were asked to give their service...
10 The Tenth Month is Xocotl Uetzi

Xiuhtecuhtli, the Old Fire God, and Cihuacoatl were honored at this time. To give their service to the Old Fire God, men and women were put into the fire. Before they burned to death, though, their bodies were pierced with hooks and they were dragged out by the priests. Then their hearts were taken on the stone.
11 The Eleventh Month is Ochpanitzli

Ochpanitzli is dedicated to the honor of Toci, Teteo Innan, Tlazolteotl. At this time there were many ceremonies, many dances; an ixiptla of Tlazolteotl led several of them. At the appointed moment, a priest lifted her on his back so that she was facing away from him, their arms interlocked. Another priest then severed her head. After that, she was flayed, and a priest or priestess danced in her skin.
12 The Twelfth Month is Teotl Eco

Teotl Eco celebrated the "Return of the Gods." In most places, there were no sacrifices associated with Teotl Eco. An amaranth flour body representing Tezcatlipoca was made, and when a footprint was discovered on it it was understood that he had arrived. The serpentine dance, like the one performed at Toxcatl, then began.
13 The Thirteenth Month is Tepeilhuitl

During Tepeilhuitl, the spirits of the mountains were honored. Five ixiptlas, four women and one man, were selected to impersonate the spirits of the mountains. At the appointed time, they walked up the pyramid to give their service.
14 The Fourteenth Month is Quecholli

Quecholli honored the God of the Hunt, Mixcoatl, and his lady, Yeuatlicue. At that time, chosen women impersonate the deer, wearing deer costumes, and were hunted by archers using small bows. Four of the deer impersonators, the ixiplta of Mixcoatl, and the ixiptla of Yeuatlicue, all gave their service on this occasion.
15 The Fifteenth Month is Panquetzalitzli

Panquetzalitzli was dedicated to Huitzilopochtli is Tenochtitlan, and to the patrons of the cities in other places; to Tezcatlipoca in Texcoco, to Quetzalcoatl in Cholula, to Mixcoatl in Tlaxcala. At that time, in Tenochtitlan especially, a large number of war captives, mostly men, were required to give their service.
16 The Sixteenth Month is Atemoztli

Again honoring Tlaloc. A young girl was offered to the Rain God; she was named Quetzalxoch, and she walked up the steps of the pyramid all dressed in blue. At the top she offered her service.
17 The Seventeenth Month is Tititl

Tititl honored the Old Princess, Ilamatecuhtli, the spirit of the maize at harvest. A woman acted as the ixiptla of Ilamatecuhtli, and she gave her service atop the pyramid...
18 The Eighteenth Month is Izcalli

At Izcalli, the Old Fire God, Xiuhtecuhtli was again honored. In Tlaxcala there was another ceremonial hunt of deer-women; in Cuahtitlan there was an arrow-sacrifice, a man tied to a scaffold and shot to death with arrows.

 

The Festivals of the Sacred Calendar

 

There were also a number of ceremonies which are timed according to the sacred calendar rather than the solar calendar, as shown above; that is, they occur whenever a day has a certain name. Some examples are given below, showing the day-name on the left and the God or Goddess honored on the right:

1 Acatl Quetzalcoatl
1 Atl Chalchihuitlicue
1 Miquiztli Tezcatlipoca
1 Tecpatl Huitzilopochtli
2 Acatl Tezcatlipoca
4 Acatl Xiuhtecuhtli
4 Ollin Tonatiuh
7 Xochitl Xochiquetzal

The ceremonies associated with these were often as elaborate or more so than those celebrating the months. As an example, in Tenochtitlan, two teenage girls, the lovliest pair available from a family dedicated to Xochiquetzal, were offered in sacrifice every time a day 7 Xochitl took place. In Tlaxcala and in some of the other cities, on that same day, it was traditional for a number of prostitutes from the local brothel to volunteer themselves for the altar.