It's Alive: Gambling, Animatism, and Divination Among the Aztecs
Author(s): Susan Evans
Gambling and divination both pit the hopes of the petitioner against an uncertain future outcome. Popular for millennia, they seem to inhabit distinct spheres of interest, secular and spiritual, but overlap as the individual tries to assess the odds and garner available forces of knowledge, luck, or patronage of the spirits. In Aztec culture, this overlap linked the spiritual realm of divination and the base entertainment presented by gambling (which they regarded as dissolute, though common). The Aztecs lived in a rich, nuanced environment which they perceived as alive, its vitality evidenced by its animated aspects. The Aztecs responded with patterns learned since childhood: the rites and fates of the calendars of nature and culture, the good and bad omens, and the appropriate chants, adages, or exorcisms to restore a balance if chaos should threaten. One could seek advice from "wise ones" (as Aztecs referred to those with specialized knowledge) to interpret phenomena and their bearing on the future. Similarly, the movement of a few beans and a little time in a game of patolli might radically alter one’s fortune. Gambling and divination depended on animated phenomena, and Aztec practices reveal their methods of communicating with this living world.
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This Resource is Part of the Following Collections
- Society for American Archaeology 80th Annual Meeting, San Francisco, CA (2015) •
- Games People Play: Prehistoric Games of Indigenous North Americans
Cite this Record
It's Alive: Gambling, Animatism, and Divination Among the Aztecs. Susan Evans. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 394870)
min long: -107.271; min lat: 12.383 ; max long: -86.353; max lat: 23.08 ;