Blindfolds and the Eternal Return in Late Postclassic Central Mexico

Author(s): Cecelia Klein

Year: 2017


Scholars have invariably interpreted the blindfolds worn by certain figures in Aztec painted manuscripts as a sign of—in their words—"transgression," "sin," and "punishment." This talk challenges the simplicity and inherent Eurocentrism of that reading. It is true that the Aztecs perceived a person’s mistakes to plunge him into darkness and chaos, and that blindfolds, at one level, symbolized that disorder. The cause of a moral error, however, was embodied by certain objects and substances that also contained the power to cure the damage caused—and thus to restore order and wholeness to the social fabric. For the Aztecs the blindfold enabled this reversal. It did so, I argue, because, by blocking vision and light, it symbolically returned the wearer to the primordial darkness of the earliest years of the Creation when, sources tell us, "it had always been night." Blindfolds allowed their wearer to tap into the creative energy of this darkness, thereby undoing the damage caused. This new understanding of blindfolds as having ambivalent meaning for the Aztecs therefore resonates with Mircea Eliade’s concept of the "Eternal Return," in which people the world over symbolically return to the distant past in order to restart the present.

Cite this Record

Blindfolds and the Eternal Return in Late Postclassic Central Mexico. Cecelia Klein. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 431053)


Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

min long: -107.271; min lat: 12.383 ; max long: -86.353; max lat: 23.08 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 15589