The Politics and Social Ritual Practice of Time

Calendars are social constructions which function to serve the needs of a culture. The notion of time and its ritual practice reflects therefore the prevailing view of the existing socio-political system. The ideology of the political, socio-economic and military elite creates the social patterns and the fundamental understanding of time. Consequently, time not only reflects social patterns and behaviour but also the political system. Time can, as a cultural and social product, be organised and systematised in calendars to exercise political and social control (Hassig 2001). Political authority and charisma of the sovereign can be associated with the performance of rituals of time as they were a part of the supernatural and ceremonial foundation of the religious-political system. But were the Aztec temporal ritual practice of 52-year calendar only observed by a male political, socio-economic and military authority? An aristocracy, of religious specialists and of higher civil officials, might partake in the ceremonies thus challenging the position and status of the regent. As I have underlined in part I both the role and status of women should not be underestimated or disregarded in an examination of the ritual practice of time.

The ritual practice of time of the 52-year calendar has hence sociological and political implications. I shall first examine how and what kind of role the members of the different social groups of the postclassic Aztec society played in the 52-year calendar ritual. An explication of in what manner the political power and the state influenced this ritual practice will ensue. Along these lines, an analysis of the sociology and politics of the ritual practice of time will be undertaken.

The meaning and content of rituals change with the passage of time. The 52-year calendar ritual exhibit, due to the extensive time interval of when it was conducted, this more than other more regular celebrated rituals. In view of the fact that its significance has undergone a dramatic historical reform, the 52-year calendar ritual of the year 1507 AD (Ome Acatl, 2 Reed) has to be analysed within the economic, political, military and social context of Central Mexico at the beginning of the 16th century.

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