The Calendar Ending and Calendar Inaugurating Postclassic Aztec 52-year Ritual as a Rite de Passage

The 52-year calendar was organised as a cycle incorporating a last and first day of the 52-year. The 52-year calendar ritual was, like the New Year rituals of the cyclic 365-day calendar, both a calendar ending and a calendar inaugurating ritual.

Hasso Von Winning has argued that the ceremony embodies two separate events: the drilling of the new fire and the burial of a stone-carved firewood bundle, which symbolised the terminated old 52 year-cycle. These two ceremonial undertakings were conducted on different locations (Von Winning 1979: 17). I assert that the celebrations of the termination and renewal of the 52-year calendar is structured as a rite de passage.

Considering the cyclic principle of the 52-year calendar, it is evident that the 52-year calendar ritual was a termination and inauguration ritual of time where a symbolic transition from an old to a new calendar cycle was completed. The rationale of the ritual sequence of a rite de passage is a transition of status. The structure of this kind of ritual may therefore, as demonstrated with the postclassic Yucatec 365-day New Year ritual, incorporate an inter-connected sequence of rites within a coherent ritual. In the following I argue that I have identified a structure or pattern of a tripartite sequence in the ceremonial proceedings of the Aztec 52-year calendar ritual.

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