Aztecs are known as formidable warriors and religious specialists, but they were also accomplished folkbiologists. Aztec priests, for example, employed specialized knowledge of the natural world in ritual activities. In the following, I highlight Aztec perceptions of a few key species as examples of animals' overall significance in pre‐ and post‐Contact Mesoamerican cultures. In particular, I examine the description of the jaguar in the Florentine Codex to ground an understanding of indigenous folkbiology after Contact. Then I introduce recent archeological findings that underscore the importance of birds and feathers in Aztec religion. Finally, I suggest that studying animals as a point of reference for indigenous adaptations to colonial life highlights creatures' cosmological agency. Each example demonstrates the centrality of animals in Aztec cosmology.
Religion Compass – Wiley
Published: Jan 1, 2018