What Was An Aztec Confession?

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A. Sutherland - AncientPages.com - The Aztec religion offered a formal confession in case of sin or some serious crimes. According to tradition, the Aztecs had the possibility to confess their sins.

Tonalamatl sacred calendar

Tonalamatl Aztec divine calendar

Traditionally, according to Aztec laws, crimes were treated with  severe treatments; however, there was a possibility to make a confession, which automatically provided the confessor with protection. Since people were only able to make one confession during their lifetime, usually this life event took place when people were very old or knew they were about to die.

The exact date for the confession had to be established by a priest, who consulted the tonalamatl, , the 260-day sacred calendar book and the ceremony of confession usually took place during the Festival of Ochpaniztli.

This festival was an important Aztec celebration, which honored the mother goddess and the maize goddess, and was conducted with the help of five priests dressed in paper ornaments and standing on the steps of a pyramid. These priests represented the four cardinal points and the center.

The confession could only take place in front of the goddess Tlazolteotl, one of the most important goddesses of the Aztec pantheon. She was the goddess of human fertility, sexuality, purification, steam bath, midwives, filth, and a patroness of adulterers.

Aztec confessionAnother goddess who was authorized to accept the confession was Xochiquetzal, goddess associated with concepts of fertility, beauty, and female sexual power, serving as a protector of young mothers and a patron of pregnancy, childbirth.

The penitent had to confess its sins in the order he had committed them, then, he ceremonially burned incense using a copal tree, and performed an auto-sacrifice (or  blood-letting) as ordered by a priest.

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After confessing, the person – dressed only in a paper skirt decorated with designs related to goddess Tlazolteotl - had to fast, and then go at night to one of the shrines built for women who died during childbirth. He had to leave its skirt behind, at the shrine - a symbol that they had left behind their sins.

Without sins, he went home – naked in the dark. According to Aztec tradition, being naked in public was considered shameful, so this was a serious way to show guilt.

Written by – A. Sutherland  - AncientPages.com Senior Staff Writer

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References:

Kroger J, Granziera P. Aztec Goddesses and Christian Madonnas