Mircea Eliade "From Primitives to Zen": AZTEC CONFESSION AND PENITENCE

FROM BERNARDINO DE SAHAGUN


. . the confessor speaks to the penitent saying: 'Oh brother, thou hast come to a place of great danger, and of much work and terror. . . . thou hast come to a place where snares and nets are tangled and piled one upon another, so that none can pass without falling into them. . . . these are thy sins, which are not only snares and nets and holes into which thou hast fallen, but also wild beasts, that kill and rend the body and the soul. . . . When thou wast created and sent here, thy father and mother Quetzalcoatl made thee like a precious stone . . . but by thine own will and choosing thou didst become soiled . . . and now thou hast confessed. . . . thou hast uncovered and made manifest all thy sins to our lord who shelters and purifies all sinners; and take not this as mockery, for in truth thou hast entered the fountain of mercy, which is like the clearest water with which our lord god, who shelters and protects us all, washes away the dirt from the soul. . . . now thou art born anew, now dost thou begin to live; and even now our lord god gives thee light and a new Sun; now also dost thou begin to flower, and to put forth shoots like a very clean precious stone issuing from thy mother's womb where thou art created. . . . It is fitting that thou do penance working a year in the house of god, and there shalt thou draw blood, and shalt thou pierce thy body with cactus thorns; and that thou make penance for the adulteries and other filth thou hast done, thou shalt pass osiers twice a day, one through thine ears and one through thy tongue; and not only as a penance for the carnal sins already mentioned, but for words and injuries with which thou hast affronted and hurt thy neighbours, with thy evil tongue. And for the ingratitude in which thou hast held the favours our lord hast done thee, and for thy inhumanity to thy neighbours in not making offering of the goods bestowed upon thee by god nor in giving to the poor the temporal goods our lord bestowed upon thee. It shall be thy duty to offer parchment and copal, and also to give alms to the needy who starve and who have neither to eat nor drink nor to be clad, though thou know how to deprive thyself of food to give them, and do thy best to clothe those who go naked and in rags; look that their flesh is as thine, and that they are men as thou art.'


Laurette Sejourne, Burning Water, trans. Irene Nicholson (London, 1957), pp. 9-10; quoting from Bernardino de Sahagun, Historia de las Cosas de la Nueva Espana (Mexico, 1946), VOL. II, P. 275

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