What is Mexican-Indian spirituality? This is very hard to answer, for there is not just ONE Mexican-Indian nation, but many. Hence, when I ask the question what is Mexican-Indian spirituality, what do I mean? What is Tarascan spirituality? What is Huichol Spirituality? What is Yaqui spirituality? What is Nahua spirituality? And so forth. The answer that many people want to hear, is No, I don't want to hear about each Individual Nation, but, what all of the above nations have in common? Alas, this is a hard question to answer indeed.
Why is it hard to answer such a simple question? For one, we must understand that Mexican-Indians have nothing to do with Western-cultures and Peoples, and or, how such people view the world. Yet, most of the "Amerindian-Historians" tend to compare and contrast our worldview with theirs. Hence, when they speak of Mexican-Indian events, they tend to categorize such events in terms alien to us.
Let us take for instance, the concept of time. Western people [Jews included] tend to emphasize that time is Linear. In other words, for the European, there is such a thing as Classical Greek, Post Classical Greek, etcetera. Mexican-Indigenous, on the other hand, argue that Time is circular. That is, there is no Classical, or Post Classical events in our history. Western people tend to think of Progress and Evolution; Mexican-Indians tend to think of repetition of same events, and historical, human events are of little importance.
As I said in the beginning of this internal dialogue, to answer, what is Mexican-Indian spirituality is a very hard question to answer. For not only do we have to take into consideration the Europeans, but also, we have to take into consideration the differences that we also find in different cultures and different indigenous people living in Mexico. But to continue:
Let me start, then, by assuming something radical: I will write about the Nahua Nation [Mexicas included], and I will assume that because such community saw the material world as such and also saw the spiritual world as such, then, the other indigenous nation view the material and spiritual world as such.
To begin, to the Mexican-Nahua-Indians, there is no ONE creed, and there was no Priestly Hierarchy as we find today in the Roman Catholic Church [which by the way, many historians tend to compare our ancient spirituality with]. However, our people did indeed had Men and Women of knowledge, Philosophers, Metaphysicians, Poets, Teachers, Mathmaticians, Healers, Spiritual Leaders, and so forth, who had their own "sacred" scriptures, who understood such scriptures, and who taught such scriptures to others [and this was not a "men" thing, but a thing of knowing and understanding. Hence, when I say Metaphysicians and Mathmaticians, here I am also including Women; something very alien to the Western People-until now, of course]. Furthermore, I refuse to use the word Priest, for we had no Priests, but simply people of knowledge (the word which is translated as priest in the Nahua language is Tlamacazqui which literally means "Provider"; but provider of what, Provider of understanding and knowledge and wisdom)].
Moreover, it is also claimed that we worship many "gods", but this is, too, comparing us and contrasting us with the European mindset. There is a concept that many of you know which speaks of a Mystery above all Mysteries, which is Two, not One, and that is beyond our human understanding. It is also said that such sacred Mystery is the cause and representation of all material and non-material beings, and this mystery, and this power was termed OMETEOTL by our grandparents.
But it is here where I speak of such Mystery as God, but this is ignorance on my part. I cannot think of a better term that best describes Ometeotl. Some people have baptized such sacred name with the scientific term Energy, but this term too lacks the supreme essence or Sacredness of the cause of all causes.
To continue, the Nahua referred themselves as Tlaka-Nahua, The people of Order. And you do find them loyal to such term. There is order in everything they do. There is harmony in their worldview. But what else can you expect of a people that have perfected their spirituality over millenniums?
Some Historians say that the Nahuas in Mexico had their beginning not too long in the past. Less than three thousand years ago to be exact. Our people tell us that we have forever existed and lived in our beloved Anahuaka. True, some of our brothers like the Tenochkas migrated south, and brought with them also their teaching and creeds, and also adopted older cultural/religious ideas from the people already inhabiting central Mexico. But what kind of Spirituality was practiced in Anahuak before the Aztecs?
Mother Earth, will be my first answer. Grandfather Sun, will be my next. The Four directions of the Universe will be my third answer. The elements such as the Wind, Fire, and Water will be my fourth answer. Knowing very well, at the same time, that in venerating such sacred beings, one was also venerating the Cause of such beings [id est, Ometeotl. Speaking of Ometeotl, one would think that being all that important and all, to the lives of the ancient Nahuas, he would
have had many Temples built in his name. Yet, there is not one single temple, that I am aware of, that was built in his name. This I believe is because to the Nahua people in central Mexico, Quetzalcoatl, Tlaloc, and so forth were viewed as different manifestation of Ometeotl. Not only that, but also animals such as the Jaguar and the Eagle, these two were also considered manifestation of Ometeotl]. But this is very hard for many of us, acculturated Indians to comprehend. Moreover, many of our ancient beliefs were put into writings, and also were put to memory. Yet, what was left from the Diabolical Inquisition of the Invaders is little, compare to the many libraries that our people had. Hence, today we have a few remnants of hymns and prayers and poetry that tell us of how our people saw them selves, and how they view the
world around them.
First, we notice that they were a PROUD people. They were also a people of VALOR, and a people of Knowledge and Wisdom and Understanding. They were also a very Ritualistic people, and a very tender and compassionate people who speak in great detail of how they venerated what they considered as Holy [see above].
For instance, there are those writings, composed after the so-called "Conquest," that tells us of the worldview of our people. In such writings they clearly tell us of the concept of DETERMINATION. [For those people who believe that we have FREE WILL, I have a sad reply to you: according to the Nahuas, Your life has already been decided]. I will touch upon this topic as we go on.
There are also those writings that speak of Cultural Heroes [like our beloved Ketzalkoatl or Precious Twin], and also, about creation, and struggle.
There are these other writings, furthermore, that give honor to great warriors, and or these great warriors speak of their most tender longing: TO DIE IN THE FIELD OF BATTLE!
There are poems of friendship and beauty.
There are Sayings that a father would have said to his son, or Sayings that a mother would have said to her daughter.
There are Laws: Religious Laws, Social Laws that must be respected.
Ah, there is philosophy and metaphysics as is understood today.
One of those philosophies speaks of respecting Nature, and other Beings that have made this wonderful earth their home. For instance, even though many people here will laugh at the idea: My people the Nahua believe that the worst offense that one can do is to kill a Vulture. Holy people like Healers will look at you and despise you if they see you Killing a Vulture. A vulture they say is Sacred. A Vulture is a helper to the community. [But let me tell you something, a Vulture according to the Grand mothers, is also Medicine. I cannot go in detail, but there are some funny stories about people eating cooked vultures, or little babies wearing Vulture bones in their wrist thinking that this will cure their maladies.]
Another philosophical tradition is the Warrior tradition. The Jaguar and Eagle Tradition. This tradition says that a man can make a name for himself in the field of battle. This tradition says that the defense of the elders [by this, of course, I mean our grand mothers, and grand fathers, our mothers, and aunts], and the defense of the defenseless, like children and babies, is a Sacred Duty.
Another philosophical view states that a person is composed [to my dismay] of two entities: body and spirit. It also says that when the body ceases to exist, the spirit continues a long journey, passing through many stages [nine to be exact] until it unites with the Cause of all Causes, which is Ometeotl. I believe that such stages can be compared with the stages of development that an individual goes through: Child, Youth, and Old Person. But this is just an after thought. But what about this nine stages? And what can one say about Mictlan-Tecutli? What about the Flint Knifes, the Crushing Mountains, the Dreadful Wind, what about all the other fearful passages? I DO NOT KNOW!! I have no Idea what all this means.
Furthermore, I have already stated that my people believe in what today is termed DETERMINISM [id est, that you life has already been determined]. Hence, we are a fatalistic people by nature. If you speak Spanish or Nahuatl, or any Mexican-Indigenous language, for instance, and listen to the songs sung by my people, alas, you will say as this Hispano-Cuban once told me, YOU MEXICANS CRY TOO MUCH IN YOUR SONGS!! Not only do we "Cry" too much in our songs, but we also accept our FATE and live it! Also, we celebrate NOT LIFE, but DEATH. The Death of a person, as a present day Mexican Philosopher has stated, is a big event or a Fiesta. Or, as Octavio Paz tells us in his Labyrinth of Solitude, "Tell me how you die, and I will tell you how you lived."
Finally, regarding the deities:
Our deities were Cosmic in nature. We have the Cosmic sun as represented by Huitzilopochtli or Cosmic Energy. We have the Cosmic Serpent as represented by Quetzalcoatl, or the Cosmic Twin. We have the Cosmic Night Wind which is represented by Tezcatlipoca, Lord of the Near and the Far. We have the Cosmic Mother, which is both tender and compassionate and Terrifying at the same time, or Cuauhtlicueh who is depicted as wearing a skirt made of Serpents, whose head is the connection of two serpents, and whose center is composed of Hearts and Skulls.
Also, we worshipped such beings by offering flowers, and by chanting prayers. We, the Nahuas, have still retained this tradition. Not as we used to, but we still offer flowers and chant our prayers to what we now consider as holy and eternal.
To recapitulate and conclude, the Mexican-Indian do not worship many gods, but we do not worship a One-god either: it is a Two-god that is manifested in all things. Hence, we worship all things, thinking of them as the representation of a Two-God.