Making a foundational contribution to Mesoamerican studies, this book explores Aztec painted manuscripts and sculptures, as well as indigenous and colonial Spanish texts, to offer the first integrated study of food and ritual in Aztec art.
Aztec painted manuscripts and sculptural works, as well as indigenous and Spanish sixteenth-century texts, were filled with images of foodstuffs and food processing and consumption. Both gods and humans were depicted feasting, and food and eating clearly played a pervasive, integral role in Aztec rituals. Basic foods were transformed into sacred elements within particular rituals, while food in turn gave meaning to the ritual performance.
This pioneering book offers the first integrated study of food and ritual in Aztec art. Elizabeth Morán asserts that while feasting and consumption are often seen as a secondary aspect of ritual performance, a close examination of images of food rites in Aztec ceremonies demonstrates that the presence—or, in some cases, the absence—of food in the rituals gave them significance. She traces the ritual use of food from the beginning of Aztec mythic history through contact with Europeans, demonstrating how food and ritual activity, the everyday and the sacred, blended in ceremonies that ranged from observances of births, marriages, and deaths to sacrificial offerings of human hearts and blood to feed the gods and maintain the cosmic order. Morán also briefly considers continuities in the use of pre-Hispanic foods in the daily life and ritual practices of contemporary Mexico. Bringing together two domains that have previously been studied in isolation, Sacred Consumption promises to be a foundational work in Mesoamerican studies.
About the Author
ELIZABETH MORÁN is an associate professor of art history at Christopher Newport University. She has been a Fulbright-García Robles Scholar.
"Sacred Consumption vividly evokes the flavors of the Aztec feasts, fixing our attention—and, surely, the attention of future research—upon a fugitive but essential aspect of Precolumbian religion."
"[An] immensely useful resource."
— Renaissance Quarterly
"Morán...has produced an insight-filled, delectable contemplation of an amazing panoply of cultural practices...With ritual as the overarching theme, Morán presents Aztec food in all its varied and sun-dried dimensions."
"Morán answers important questions about Aztec food and religion…[she] skillfully analyses indigenous concepts around ancient food consumption and its envelopment within ritual practices, from rites of passage to celebratory feasts, in tandem with Aztec visual culture."
— Bulletin of Latin American Research
"[Sacred Consumption] is the first systematic, in-depth treatment of the interwoven roles of food and ritual in Aztec life…Morán has made available to us a welcome addition to the literature on a long-neglected topic."
— The Americas
"[Sacred Consumption] is an ambitious evaluation of the role of food, feasting, and fasting in Aztec rituals…Morán's book makes a novel and intriguing contribution to the field through its nuanced study of food in Aztec ritual."