Happy new year again for all the dear readers of this blog. Being New-Year today according to our Gregorian calendar, there is nothing closer than talking about the new year celebration in the Aztec calendar. And there we already have a problem: Which calendar should we choose? The Tonalpohualli, the 260 day count? Or better the Xiuhpohualli, the year count calendar with 365 days? Well, we should definitely take the latter, cause this was the one the Aztecs used for planning the agricultural season.
Traditionally it is said, that this year started with the month of Izcalli, “Encouragement for the Land & People”. Newer discussions talk about different ones, many about no real start at all. But for the sake of that day let’s simply stick to Izcalli, which began with a 1 Rabbit from the day count. The according picture of the Codex Borbonicus looks like this:
We’re talking about the left side of this page, where you can see the Rabbit and one ball on the top. Ce Tochtli means 1 Rabbit and it shows us, that we have found the right page. Also, the month part of the Codex Borbonicus begins with this page. In other Codices, namely Telleriano-Remensis and Vaticanus A, the month section begins with Atlcahuallo, instead of Izcalli.
Atlcahuallo can be seen on the right side of our page. There sits the god of the rain, a well known man with the name Tlaloc. To his feet and in complementary colours we see a vase with four maize cobs. It promises the harvest of maize and therefore this month was dedicated to the deities of rain.
It’s hard to tell a real beginning of the year, as I pointed out. The problems are several, especially:
– the imprecise Julian calendar
– the European paradigm of a new-year celebration and
– the missionary agenda, that Duran and Sahagun had, when those two noted details about celebrations.
The imprecise Julian calendar gets an issue, if we want to correlate the Aztec date to our owns. Duran sets the month of Izcalli from February 4th to 23rd. Sahagun sees the same month from January 8th to 27th! If those two men, who were there at the time, when the feasts were still celebrated already are unsure, how could we be? Then they came with the idea, that there is a new-year celebration, since we also celebrated it in Europe. Newer discussions see the probability, that there was no really significant day for that. As Gordon Brotherston puts it in his work The year in the Mexican codices: “Indeed, the wish to identify the Feast in which ‘the year began’, and which the other 17 [feasts/months] would simply follow, has in itself been a major an unnecessary complication since the Spanish commentaries in the 16th century.” And we won’t be able to solve it today.