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Prayers for Justice

The following prayer is one addressed to the principal God, under his name Tezcatlipoca,Teiocoiani or Tehimatini, all aspects of Teotl (“God”)  asking favor for a newly elected ruler:

To-day, a fortunate day, the sun has risen upon us, warming us, so that in it a precious stone may be wrought, and a handsome sapphire. To us has appeared a new light, has arrived a new brightness, to us has been given a glittering axe to rule and govern our nation—has been given a man to take upon his shoulders the affairs and troubles of the state. He is to be the image and substitute of the lords and governors that have already passed away from this life, who for some days labored, bearing the burden of thy people, possessing thy throne and seat, which is the principal dignity of this thy nation, province, and kingdom; having and holding the same in thy name and person some few days. These have now departed from this life, put off their shoulders the great load and burden that so few are able to suffer. Now, O Lord, we marvel that thou hast indeed set thine eyes on this man, rude and of little knowledge, to make him for some days, for some little time, the governor of this state, nation, province, and kingdom. O our Lord, most clement, art thou peradventure in want of persons and friends?—nay verily, thou that hast thereof more than can be counted! Is it, peradventure, by error, or that thou dost not know him; or is it that thou hast taken him for the nonce, while thou seekest among many for another and a better than he, unwise, indiscrete, unprofitable, a superfluous man in the world. Finally, we give thanks to thy majesty for the favor thou hast done us. What thy designs therein are thou alone knowest; perhaps beforehand this office has been provided for: thy will be done as it is determined in thy heart; let this man serve for some days and times. It may be that he will fill this office defectively, giving unrest and fear to his subjects, doing things without counsel or consideration, deeming himself worthy of the dignity he has, thinking that he will remain in it for a long time, making a sad dream of it, making the occupation and dignity thou hast given him an occasion of pride and presumption, making little of everybody and going about with pomp and pageantry. Within a few days, thou wilt know the event of all, for all men are thy spectacle and theatre, at which thou laughest and makest thyself merry. Perhaps this ruler will lose his office through his childishness, or it will happen through his carelessness and laziness; for verily nothing is hidden from thee, thy sight makes way through stone and wood, and thine hearing. Or perhaps his arrogance, and the secret boasting of his thoughts will destroy him. Then thou wilt throw him among the filth and upon the dung-hills, and his reward will be blindness, and shrivellings, and extreme poverty till the hour of his death, when thou wilt put him under thy feet. Since this poor man is put in this risk and peril, we supplicate thee, who art our Lord, our invisible and impalpable protector, under whose will and pleasure we are, who alone disposes of and provides for all—we supplicate thee that thou see good to deal mercifully with him; inasmuch as he is needy, thy subject and servant, and blind; deign to provide him with thy light, that he may know what he has to think, what he has to do, and the road he has to follow, so as to commit no error in his office, contrary to thy disposition and will. Thou knowest what is to happen to him in this office both by day and night; we know, O our Lord, most clement, that our ways and deeds are not so much in our hands as in the hands of our ruler. If this ruler after an evil and perverse fashion, in the place to which thou hast elevated him, and in the seat in which thou hast put him—which is thine—where he manages the affairs of the people, as one that washes filthy things with clean and clear water, (yea in the same seat holds a similar cleansing office the ancient god, who is father and mother to thyself, and is god of fire, who stands in the midst of flowers, in the midst of the place bounded by four walls, who is covered with shining feathers that are as wings)—if this ruler-elect of ours do evil with which to provoke thine ire and indignation, and to awaken thy chastisement against himself, it will not be of his own will or seeking, but by thy permission or by some impulse from without; for which I entreat thee to see good to open his eyes to give him light; open also his ears and guide him, not so much for his own sake as for that of those whom he has to rule over and carry on his shoulders. I supplicate thee, that now, from the beginning, thou inspire him with what he is to conceive in his heart, and the road he is to follow, inasmuch as thou hast made of him a seat on which to seat thyself, and also as it were a flute that, being played upon, may signify thy will. Make him, O Lord, a faithful image of thyself, and permit not that in thy throne and hall he make himself proud and haughty; but rather see good, O Lord, that quietly and prudently he rule and govern those in his charge who are common people: do not permit him to insult and oppress his subjects, nor to give over without reason any of them to destruction. Neither permit, O Lord, that he spot and defile thy throne and hall with any injustice or oppression, for in so doing he will stain also thine honor and fame. Already, O Lord, has this poor man accepted and received the honor and lordship that thou hast given him; already he possesses the glory and riches thereof; already thou hast adorned his hands, feet, head, ears, and lips, with visor, ear-rings, and bracelets, and put yellow leather upon his ankles. Permit it not, O Lord, that these decorations, badges, and ornaments be to him a cause of pride and presumption; but rather that he serve thee with humility and plainness. May it please thee, O our Lord, most clement, that he rule and govern this, thy seignory, that thou hast committed to him, with all prudence and wisdom. May it please thee that he do nothing wrong or to thine offense; deign to walk with him and direct him in all his ways. But if thou wilt not do this, ordain that from this day henceforth he be abhorred and disliked, and that he die in war at the hands of his enemies, that he depart to the house of the sun; where he will be taken care of as a precious stone, and his heart esteemed by the sun-lord; he dying in the war like a stout and valiant man. This would be much better than to be dishonored in the world, to be disliked and abhorred of his people for his faults or defects. O our Lord, thou that providest to all the things needful for them, let this thing be done as I have entreated and supplicated thee.

The next prayer, directed to the god under his name Tezcatlipoca Titlacaoamoquequeloa, is to ask, after the death of a ruler, that another may be given:

O our Lord, already thou knowest how our ruler is dead, already thou hast put him under thy feet; he is gathered to his place; he is gone by the road that all have to go by, and to the house where all have to lodge; house of perpetual darkness, where there is no window, nor any light at all; he is now where none shall trouble his rest. He served thee here in his office during some few days and years, not indeed without fault and offense. Thou gavest him to taste in this world somewhat of thy kindness and favor, passing it before his face as a thing that passes quickly. This is the dignity and office that thou placedst him in, that he served thee in for some days, as has been said, with sighs, tears and devout prayers before thy majesty. Alas, he is gone now where our father and mother the god of Hades is, the god that descended head foremost below the fire, the god that desires to carry us all to his place, with a very importunate desire, with such a desire as one has that dies of hunger and thirst; the god that is moved exceedingly, both by day and night, crying and demanding that all go to him. There, with this god, is now our late-departed ruler; he is there with all his ancestors that were in the first times, that governed this kingdom, with Acamapichtli, with Tyzoc, with Avitzotl, with the first Mocthecuzoma, with Axayacatl, and with those that came last, as the second Mocthecuzoma and also Mocthecuzoma Ilhuicamina. All these lords and kings ruled, governed, and enjoyed the sovereignty and royal dignity, and throne and seat of this empire; they ordered and regulated the affairs of this thy kingdom—thou that art the universal lord and emperor, and that needest not to take counsel with another. Already had these put off the intolerable load that they had on their shoulders, leaving it to their successor, our late ruler, so that for some days he bore up this lordship and kingdom; but now he has passed on after his predecessors to the other world. For thou didst ordain him to go, and didst call him to give thanks for being unloaded of so great a burden, quit of so sore a toil, and left in peace and rest. Some few days we have enjoyed him, but now forever he is absent from us, never more to return to the world. Peradventure has he gone to any place whence he can return here, so that his subjects may see his face again? Will he come again to tell us to do this or that? Will he come again to look to the consuls or governors of the state? Peradventure will they see him any more, or hear his decree and commandment? Will he come any more to give consolation and comfort to his principal men and his consuls? Alas, there is an end to his presence, he is gone for ever. Alas, that our candle has been quenched, and our light, that the axe that shone with us is lost altogether. All his subjects and inferiors, he has left in orphanage and without shelter. Peradventure will he take care henceforward of this city, province, and kingdom, though this city be destroyed and leveled to the ground, with this seignory and kingdom? O our Lord, most clement, is it a fit thing that by the absence of him that died shall come to the city, seignory, and kingdom some misfortune, in which will be destroyed, undone, and affrighted the vassals that live therein? For while living, he who has died gave shelter under his wings, and kept his feathers spread over the people. Great danger runs this your city, seignory, and kingdom, if another ruler be not elected immediately to be a shelter thereto. What is it that thou art resolved to do? Is it good that thy people be in darkness? Is it good that they be without head or shelter? Is it thy will that they be leveled down and destroyed? Woe for the poor and the little ones, thy servants, that go seeking a father and mother, some one to shelter and govern them, even as little children that go weeping, seeking an absent father and mother, and that grieve, not finding them. Woe for the merchants, petty and poor, that go about by the mountains, deserts, and meadows, woe also to the sad toilers that go about seeking herbs to eat, roots and wood to burn, or to sell, to eke out an existence withal. Woe for the poor soldiers, for the men of war, that go about seeking death, that abhor life, that think of nothing but the field and the line where battle is given—upon whom shall they call? who shall take a captive? to whom shall they present the same? And if they themselves be taken captive, to whom shall they give notice, that it may be known in their land? Whom shall they take for father and mother, so that in such a case favor may be granted them? Since he whose duty it was to see to this, who was as father and mother to all, is already dead. There will be none to weep, to sigh for the captives, to tell their relatives about them. Woe for the poor of the litigants, for those that have lawsuits with those that would take their estates. Who will judge, make peace among, and clear them of their disputes and quarrels? Behold when a child becomes dirty, if his mother clean him not, he must remain filthy. And those that make strife between themselves, that beat, that knock down, who will keep peace between them? Those that for all this go weeping and shedding tears, who shall wipe away their tears and put a stop to their laments? Peradventure can they apply a remedy to themselves? Those deserving death, will they peradventure pass sentence upon themselves? Who shall set up the throne of justice? Who shall possess the hall of the judge, since there is no judge? Who will ordain the things that are necessary for the good of this city, seignory, and kingdom? Who will elect the special judges that have charge of the lower people, district by district? Who will look to the sounding of the drum and fife to gather the people for war? who will collect and lead the soldiers and dexterous men to battle? O our Lord and protector see good to elect and decide upon some person sufficient to fill your throne and bear upon his shoulders the sore burden of the ruling of the state, to gladden and cheer the common people, even as the mother caresses the child, taking it in her lap; who will make music to the troubled bees so that they may be at rest? O our Lord, most clement, favor our ruler-elect, whom we deem fit for this office, elect and choose him so that he may hold this your lordship and government; give him as a loan your throne and seat, so that he may rule over this seignory and kingdom as long as he lives; lift him from the lowliness and humility in which he is, and put on him this honor and dignity that we think him worthy of; O our Lord, most clement, give light and splendor with your hand to this state and kingdom. What has been said I only come to propose to thy majesty; although very defectively, as one that is drunken, and that staggers, almost ready to fall. Do that which may best serve thee, in all and through all.



What follows is a kind of greater excommunication, or prayer to get rid of a ruler that abused and misused his power and dignity:

O our Lord, most clement, that givest shelter to every one that approaches, even as a tree of great height and breadth, thou that art invisible and impalpable; that art, as we understand, able to penetrate the stones and the trees, seeing what is contained therein. For this same reason thou seest and knowest what is within our hearts and readest our thoughts. Our soul in thy presence is as a little smoke or fog that rises from the earth. It cannot at all be hidden from thee, the deed and the manner of living of any one; for thou seest and knowest his secrets and the sources of his pride and ambition. Thou knowest that our ruler has a cruel and hard heart and abuses the dignity that thou hast given him, as the drunkard abuses his wine, as one drunken with a soporific; that is to say that the riches, dignity, and abundance that for a little while thou hast given him, fill him with error, haughtiness, and unrest, and that he becomes a fool, intoxicated with the poison that makes him mad. His prosperity causes him to despise and make little of every one; it seems that his heart is covered with sharp thorns and also his face: all of which is made apparent by his manner of living, and by his manner of talking; never saying nor doing anything that gives pleasure to any one, never caring for any one, never taking counsel of any one; he ever lives as seems good to him and as the whim directs. O our Lord, most clement, protector of all, creator and maker of all, it is too certain that this man has destroyed himself, has acted like a child ungrateful to his father, like a drunkard without reason. The favors thou hast accorded him, the dignity thou hast set him in, have occasioned his perdition. Besides these, there is another thing, exceedingly hurtful and reprehensible: he is irreligious, never praying to the gods, never weeping before them, nor grieving for his sins, nor sighing; from this it comes about that he is as headstrong as a drunkard in his vices, going about like a hollow and empty person, wholly senseless; he stays not to consider what he is nor the office that he fills. Of a verity he dishonors and affronts the dignity and throne that he holds, which is thine, and which ought to be much honored and reverenced; for from it depends the justice and rightness of the judicature that he holds, for the sustaining and worthily directing of thy nation, thou being emperor of all. He should so hold his power that the lower people be not injured and oppressed by the great; from him should fall punishment and humiliation on those that respect not thy power and dignity. But all things and people suffer loss in that he fills not his office as he ought. The merchants suffer also, who are those to whom thou givest the most of thy riches, who overrun all the world, yea the mountains and the unpeopled places, seeking through much sorrow thy gifts, favors, and dainties, the which thou givest sparingly and to thy friends. Ah, Lord, not only does he dishonor thee as aforesaid, but also when we are gathered together to intone thy songs, gathered in the place where we solicit thy mercies and gifts, in the place where thou art praised and prayed to, where the sad afflicted ones and the poor gather comfort and strength, where very cowards find spirit to die in war—in this so holy and reverend place this man exhibits his dissoluteness and hurts devotion; he troubles those that serve and praise thee in the place where thou gatherest and markest thy friends, as a shepherd marks his flock. Since thou, Lord, hearest and knowest to be true all that I have now said in thy presence, there remains no more but that thy will be done, and the good pleasure of thy heart to the remedy of this affair. At least, O Lord, punish this man in such wise that he become a warning to others, so that they may not imitate his evil life. Let the punishment fall on him from thy hand that to thee seems most meet, be it sickness or any other affliction; or deprive him of the lordship, so that thou mayest give it to another, to one of thy friends, to one humble, devoted, and penitent; for many such thou hast, thou that lackest not persons such as are necessary for this office, friends that hope, crying to thee: thou knowest those for friends and servants that weep and sigh in thy presence every day. Elect some one of these that he may hold the dignity of this thy kingdom and seignory; make trial of some of these. And now, O Lord, of all the aforesaid things which is it that thou wilt grant? Wilt thou take from this ruler the lordship, dignity, and riches on which he prides himself, and give them to another who may be devout, penitent, humble, obedient, capable, and of good understanding? Or, peradventure, wilt thou be served by the falling of this proud one into poverty and misery, as one of the poor rustics that can hardly gather the wherewithal to eat, drink, and clothe himself? Or, peradventure, will it please thee to smite him with a sore punishment so that all his body may shrivel up, or his eyes be made blind, or his members rotten? Or wilt thou be pleased to withdraw him from the world through death, and send him to hades, to the house of darkness and obscurity, where his ancestors are, whither we have all to go, where our father is, and our mother, the god and the goddess of hell. O our Lord, most clement, what is it that thy heart desires the most? Let thy will be done. And in this matter in which I supplicate thee, I am not moved by envy nor hate; nor with any such motives have I come into thy presence. I am moved only by the robbery and ill-treatment that the people suffer, only by a desire for their peace and prosperity. I would not desire, O Lord, to provoke against myself thy wrath and indignation, I that am a mean man and rude; for it is to thee, O Lord, to penetrate the heart and to know the thoughts of all mortals.

Source:  Bernardino de Sahagún, Hist. Gen., tom. i., lib. iii.

Categories: Aztec Hymns & Prayers Aztec Religion

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The Orly

As Fray Bernardino de Sahagún observed: the Mexicans “are held to be barbarians and of very little worth; in truth, however, in matters of culture and refinement, they are a step ahead of other nations." We explore the history and legacy of the Nahua and Maya civilizations, both of which challenge our preconceptions.