Incorporating human sacrifice, flaying, and mock warfare, the
pre-Columbian Mexican ceremony known as Ochpaniztli, or "Sweeping,"
has long attracted attention. Although among the best known of
eighteen annual ceremonies, Ochpaniztli's significance has
nevertheless been poorly understood. Ochpaniztli is known mainly
from early colonial illustrated manuscripts produced in
cross-cultural collaboration between Spanish missionary-chroniclers
and native Mexican informants and artists.
Although scholars typically privilege the manuscripts' textual
descriptions, Sweeping the Way examines the fundamental
role of their pictorial elements, which significantly expand the
information contained in the texts. DiCesare emphasizes the primacy
of the regalia, ritual implements, and adornments of the patron
"goddess" as the point of intersection between sacred, cosmic
forces and ceremonial celebrants. The associations of these
paraphernalia indicate that Ochpaniztli was a period of
purification rituals, designed to transform and protect individual
and communal bodies alike. Spanish friars were unable to apprehend
the complex nature of the festival's patroness, ultimately
fragmenting her identity into categories meeting their
expectations, which continues to vex modern investigations.
Taken together, the variety of Ochpaniztli sources offer a
useful tool for addressing myriad issues of translation and
transformation in pre-Columbian and post-conquest Mexico, as
Christian friars and native Mexicans together negotiated a complex
body of information about outlawed ritual practices and proscribed
Subjects: Sociology, Anthropology, History
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