From now on repeating every
Caturday Saturday, I will present to you a Codex page with several explanations. Thanks to the efforts of Mesoamericanists all around the world and especially the site famsi.org, it’s today possible to have a look at every single Codex page still existent. I will always mention the Codex’ name, the edition and the page number; if there are any collectors amonst the readers, you can easily start your own Codex library with explanations.
The first Codex-Day will cover page 78r from the Codex Magliabecchiano in the Loubat 1904 edition. Now have a look at this:
But what do we see here? Please first note the poor individual in the lower right corner. He’s crying! And saying something; probably describing the reason for his tears. That he is describing something you can see by realizing of the speech symbol, that also the two other patients upper left emit from their mouths. I said patients, cause this page is about an Aztec medicine ritual. As we will see in a later post about Nahua philosophy, a sickness was considered being out of balance.
A lot of what we see here is explained on another Codex page, but I want to save you the annoying 16th century Spanish and describe it in my own words. You can clearly determine three different types of people on this page: patients, doctors and some kind of a masked guy. The masked guy is in fact an idol symbolizing the god Quetzalcoatl, one of the most famous Aztec deities nowadays. After a sick person called for a doctor, he was brought in front of the idol of Quetzalcoatl for determination of his sickness and if it can be cured. The interpretation of the god’s opinion is depicted in the lower part of the page.
If we switch to the lower row, we see a doctor throwing something on a cotton wool blanket, which lies on a carpet. The pieces that he throws are maize grains. Depending on the pattern of how they fall, he can interpret the sickness of the poor crying guy. If I tell you know, that it were always 20 grains, you will notice some serious counting issues of the one who depicted it, but we understand the symbolism at least. There were three distinguishable patterns in how the grains could fall. If they formed a circle, the patient was doomed to death by his sickness. His chances were a bit better, if one of the grains landed on another. That signified his sickness to have a somatic cause; in contrary to some specialities of Aztec philosophy. The patient could however be passed to the doctors that created curing remedies from herbs and similar things.
The best sign was definitely grains falling to two sides with a clear, free line in the middle. With such a result, the patient could be sure to get healthy again soon. Try the method yourself, next time you get a flu. If you want, send me a picture of your thrown grains. I wish all of you, that you will have a clear line between two sides of grains.
We will discuss the reason for asomatic sicknesses next week, when it’s about Aztec philosophy. Philosophy and Medicine can’t be separated in old Mesoamerica.