Mircea Eliade "From Primitives to Zen": THE AZTEC FUNERARY RITUAL


When among the Aztecs a mortal died the 'straw death,' before the corpse the priest uttered these words: 'Our son, thou art finished with the sufferings and fatigues of this life. It hath pleased our Lord to take thee hence, for thou hast not eternal life in this world; our existence is as a ray of the sun. He hath given thee the grace of knowing us and of associating in our common life. Now the god Mictlancutli and the goddess Mictecaciuatl [Lord and Lady of Hell] have made thee to share their abode. We shall all follow thee, for it is our destiny, and the abode is broad enough to receive the whole world. Thou wilt be heard of no longer among us. Behold, thou art gone to the domain of darkness, where there is neither light nor window. Neither shalt thou come hither again, nor needst thou concern thyself for thy return, for thine absence is eternal. Thou dost leave thy children poor and orphaned, not knowing what will be their end nor how they will support the fatigues of this life. As for us, we shall not delay to go to join thee there where thou wilt be.' Then upon the head of the body, like another baptism, the priest let fall a few drops of water and beside it placed a bowl of water: 'Lo, the water of which in this life thou hast made use; this for thy journey.' And like another Book of the Dead, in due order certain papers were laid upon the mummy-form corpse: 'Lo, with this thou shalt pass the two dashing mountains. . . . With this thou shalt pass the road where the serpent awaiteth thee. . . . With this thou shalt pass the lair of the green lizard. Lo, wherewith thou shalt cross the eight deserts.... And the eight hills....... And behold with what thou canst traverse the place of the winds that drive with obsidian knives.' Thus the perils of the Underworld Way were to be passed, and the soul to arrive before Mictlantecutli, whence after four years he should fare onward until, by the aid of his dog, sacrificed at his grave, he should pass over the Ninefold Stream, and thence, hound with master, enter into the eternal house of the dead, Chicomemictlan, the Ninth Hell.


H.B. Alexander, The World's Rim (Lincoln, Neb.: University of Nebraska Press, 1953), PP. 201-2; translating and summarizing Bernardino de Sahagun, Historia de las Cosas de la Nueva Espana bk.III, App. I

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