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Binding of the Years

Execution

Preparation

  1. Preparations for the ceremony begin during the last five days of the last year of the cycle (the nemontemi). Preparations involve
    • abstinence from work
    • fasting
    • ritual cleansing
    • ritual bloodletting
    • observance of silence
    • destruction of old household items
      • clothes
      • jars
      • cooking vessels
      • idols
      • other household goods
  2. Temples are expanded and renovated in the spirit of renewal
 

Human Sacrifice

  1. A procession of priests starts by sunset on the last day of the year: 1 Tecpatl of 2 Acatl
    • The fire cult of Huehueteotl walked from the ceremonial center of Ocumtit across the eastbound causeway towards the Sacred Precinct
    • Other settlements have their own established route the fire precessions make on the day:
      • Coyo to the Wave
      • Plot to Cholula
      • Epexos to Bad Slopes
      • Cuauhnāhuac to the surrounding mounds
      • Soconusco to Huix
  2. At this time all fires in the sang realm were put out and everyone looked toward the Triple Tier Temple, representative of a mountain's summit
  3. When the "fire drill" rises above the horizon, a man was sacrificed on the top with a fire drill placed on his chest
    • A fire is started on the sacrifice's chest
    • When it catches, the man's chest is sliced open and their heart taken out to fuel the fire
    • When the first sparks spring from the fire drill, a New Calendar Round is declared
    • Bonfire torches are lit and carried by runners to every ward of the city at the major temple;
      • with the first being at the pyramid roof
      • later the fires are lit at the Calmecac of Huitzilopochtli
      • then the lesser temples
      • fires at the Calmecacs and Telpochcallis are next
      • lastly private households
  4. Once the home fires are lit, people celebrated the renewal by making offering to the heart fire
    • cutting their tongues and throwing the blood in the nearest fire
    • cutting the ears of their children and throwing the blood in the nearest fire
    • throwing heart stones (representative of the old year) in the nearest fire

Components and tools

Red Salt

As people in the valley believe the sun might not come back if the heart does not catch, red salt is a highly desirable alternative to ensure the heart sets on fire.  

Hearth Stones

The sang want to symbolically and literally purify and 'renew' their lives for the beginning of the next 52 year cycle. Therefore, items that represent anything from the past cycle, called hearth stones, are thrown out in order that they not be carried over to the new cycle in any way. This time is also used for a 'spring cleaning' to honor the old and prepare for the new.  

Heart Fire

The ceremony itself entailed all the fires in the city being put out. Then atop the highest point, for al to see, the priests started a fire on the chest of a captive and cut out his heart to place it in to fuel the fire. This is the Heart Fire.   The fire then was taken all over the city to celebrate because the sun would return. Thus the New Ceremony started the new cycle and ensured the sun would return each day for another 18,980 days. It is this fire that acted as the Binding of the Years.

Participants

Priests

The priests would dress as various deities to perform the ceremony. During which, they would carry a victim to the highest spot above a settlement and attempt to start a fire in the chest of a sacrificial victim. If the fire did not light there is fear shared amongst everyone that the world would be consumed by the power and forces of the night.  

Valley People

As the purpose is to give birth to the sun so that it would continue to move along its path for another fifty-two years. In continuation of the ceremony's renewal, people bought new clothes and accessories to replace their day-to-day tools and utensils.

Observance

Calendar Round

The calendar round is the combination of the 260-day ritual calendar and the 365-day solar calendar. As a result, the Binding of the Years occurs every 52 years, or every 18,980 days, as part of the two combined.   This ceremony coincided with the start of the dry season. Before the ceremony began, all of the fires in the empire are extinguished to symbolize the beginning of a new era: a new flame.

Date
Day-sign 1 Tecpatl
Year 2 Acatl   Alternate Names
  • Tie of the Years
  • New Ceremony

High Sites

The Great Temple of Tonatuih
Building / Landmark | Jun 3, 2020
Bad Slopes
Geographic Location | Apr 29, 2021

Where the range merges with the valley floor.

Tlopetla
Geographic Location | Jan 6, 2021

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Cover image: The Aztec Gold by Dominik Mayer

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