Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Aztecs Had It Right

It's a big consumer orgy, a celebration of life that is also a season of buying lots and lots of stuff. Sure, it's lots of fun (except for the people who work hard to make it happen for all the rest of you), but it is also exhausting and expensive. We do it every year, year after year, and we call it Christmas. And I say it is just too much. Buying ourselves into debt in December, then paying for it all year until the next December, is madness. Which is why I'm advocating a return to a simpler, more American time. I say we should look to Mesoamerica for our authentic traditions and embrace the ways of our Aztec forefathers. Now they knew how to have a consumer orgy/celebration of life.

First of all, they didn't do it annually. They did it only once every 52 years.

The Aztecs knew that the earth would eventually come to an end. Their religion taught that there had been four previous worlds and they had all died. They knew that this one would be destroyed by earthquakes. They knew that this destruction would happen at the end of one of their calendar's 52 year cycles. They just didn't know which cycle it would be. So once every 52 years they would would spend five days getting ready just in case history was ending. They'd get all their stuff, plates and pots and whatnots, break them, and throw them away. They'd clean up, make the house all spick-and-span, douse any fires they had burning, and then climb up on the roof to watch the end of the universe. It was like everybody going off to visit Milliways at the same time.

The priests were also looking to the skies, but they weren't just sight-seeing. They were looking for the Pleiades. When it reached its zenith and continued on they knew that the world had not come to an end and it was time to begin the New Fire ceremony.

First they had to light a fire. This was terribly important because if the fire was not lit the sun would not rise in the morning, having been destroyed forever. Since it was so important they naturally started the fire on some guy's chest. Everyone was pretty nervous as they did their best boy scout imitations, including the guy they were using as a hearth. Once the fire got going everyone would breathe a sigh of relief, then they'd take the fire off the guy and get it good and roaring. The fellow with the burned chest was then cut open and his heart would be removed and thrown into the fire. Let the party begin!

The fire would be carried to a temple in the capital city where it would be used to light specially made torches. Runners would then take the flame to all parts of the empire and it would eventually light every hearth in the land. Imagine the beauty and joy of the ceremony, the New Fire being carried into town, the warmth of the flames, the renewal of life and the connection of every home in country to one another and to the universe.

Then, of course, came the consumer orgy. Since everything had just been broken up and thrown away everybody would need to buy all new stuff. Happy New Fire! Here's a pot. Here's a new obsidian knife. Here's a floor mat. And we've got to pick up a whole new set of household idols.

There would be much rejoicing, especially among the makers and sellers of stuff. And I imagine that everyone was pretty thankful that this wonderful day usually only happened once or twice in a lifetime.

So I say, let's get back to the good old days, the old time religion of the Aztecs. Sure, it had some gruesome bits, but it still beats having to go through Christmas every year.

By the way, what's the Nahuatl word for humbug?


Pat Tillett said...

Great story! You are so right, why suffer each and every year!
Can you imagine how crazy "black Friday" would be if it only happened once every 52 years?
a great post!!!

Glenn Whidden said...

Thank you Pat, I appreciate it.