Flowers in the Religious Ideology of Contemporary Nahua of the Southern Huasteca

Author(s): Alan Sandstrom

Year: 2019


This is an abstract from the "The Flower World: Religion, Aesthetics, and Ideology in Mesoamerica and the American Southwest" session, at the 84th annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology.

Flowers are a central feature of religious rituals among today's Nahua of the southern Huasteca. They are associated with the sun, growing corn, life-giving water, the bounty of the living cosmos, and ancestors who visit their relatives during Day of the Dead. For the Nahua, flowers are far more than simple expressions of beauty; they are seen as evidence of a beneficent universe that, although unstable and filled with forces of chaos and destruction, is responsible for children, abundant crops, health and well-being, and the very possibility of human existence. The word for ritual in Nahuatl is xochitlalia, which means "to put down flowers," and no ritual is ever held without incorporating copious blossoms in elaborate altar displays. While we have no evidence for a well-developed Flower World conception among contemporary Nahua peoples, we have documented the importance of flowers in many areas of their lives, both within and outside the religious context. The privileged place of flowers in myths, chants, and ritual practices of the Huastecan Nahua is most likely an example of the ancient and widespread idea of a Flower World in Mesoamerica.

Cite this Record

Flowers in the Religious Ideology of Contemporary Nahua of the Southern Huasteca. Alan Sandstrom. Presented at The 84th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Albuquerque, NM. 2019 ( tDAR id: 450454)

Spatial Coverage

min long: -98.987; min lat: 17.77 ; max long: -86.858; max lat: 25.839 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 23833