Theatricality and power in ancient Mexico. The tóxcatl festival celebrated by the Mexicas

Martha Julia Toriz Proenza

México, 2011
288 p.

The ceremonial festivities of the ancient Mexican State cult are studied from a theoretical framework which analyzes the interrelation between socio-economic and political factors and religion and culture. The study also emphasizes the role of religious rituals as the most powerful ideological control mechanism used by the groups in power in ancient Mexico. The ceremonial festivities of the state cult are studied, which were celebrated during the 18 sets of 20 days of the Mexica sun calendar. Special attention is paid to the Tóxcatl festivity, the fifth in the annual calendar, and devoted to Tezcatlipoca, “Greatest of all the Gods” and protector of rulers. Starting from the testimonials left by fray Bernardino de Sahagún and fray Diego Durán, a detailed description of the preliminary, introductory and concluding stages of the ritual is deployed. Said ritual represents the life cycle of Tezcatlipoca ―his birth, his life in the world, his blending with Huitzilopochtli and his death. The efficiency of the visual and auditory encoding of theatricality is remarked upon, as well as the communicative quality of its resources: rhetoric, music, drama, attire and apparel, processions, dance, singing, smoking. This is a ritual with a clear intent, and carefully prepared to re-create the several stages in the career of a tlatoani, and to update foundational myths in Mexica culture; such myths as the migration, the war victories and their consolidation as the dominant power in the central plateau of Mexico. Out of the table of contents: 1. “Society, Ideology and Power Expressions in Ancient Mexico”, 2. “Mythical Passages and Rituals in the Meanderings of a God”, 3. “Theatricality in the Tóxcatl Festivity”.